These Are the Best (And Worst) Eyeshadow Colors for Every Skin Tone

The best shade pairings to accentuate your biggest feature.


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Part of what makes makeup (particularly eyeshadows and lipsticks) so fun is experimenting with new products and colors—after all, there are hard and fast rules. But similar to a carefully curated wardrobe, it’s helpful to have a few factors that you can consistently count on to look good on you and accentuate your features. And much like clothing, the biggest indicator of which eyeshadow colors will look best on you—according to makeup artists—is skin tone.

“Just like everyone needs a flattering tee and jeans, everyone needs an eyeshadow color that’s ideally several shades lighter than their skin tone for highlighting their brows and lids, along with a deeper shade that can be used for adding drama to (or dressing up) the outer corners of the eye and smudging liners,” explains Andrew Sotomayor, a celebrity makeup artist based in New York.

If you’re looking for some shadow shade inspo, we asked Sotomayor to break down some of the shades, products, and techniques he relies on to create personalized looks for every skin tone.

Eyeshadow Colors for Light/Fair Skin Tones

When it comes to eyeshadow on fair skin, less is more. Sheer colors of pigment can make a big impact, so opt for soft colors, such as taupe, champagne, or soft plum. Avoid highly pigmented or very dark colors as these can look stark and overwhelming—when contouring your eyes, you’ll want to choose something that is only a few shades darker than your skin color. You might also want to steer clear from reds and pinks (which can make you look tired or ill) and gray hues (which can give a bruise-like finish).

“Shades of beige (like a latte) are great on the lid since they can hide redness, while still adding brightness,” says Sotomayor. “For a natural look, ivory, bone, and eggshell shades are useful for waking up and defining the brow bone in light and fair tones.”

Get the Look: For light and fair skin tones, Sotomayor says you can’t go wrong with KVD Beauty Dazzle Long-Wear Eyeshadow Stick in Hail Surge. “Apply it directly on the lids and smudge it out with your finger or a brush. It's great on its own or with other colors layered on top—and it eliminates the need for a shadow primer!”

Eyeshadow Colors for Medium/Honey Skin Tones

Consider yourself blessed—according to Sotomayor, medium and honey skin tones tend to work well with a lot of eyeshadow colors without appearing too stark. Generally speaking, warm, illuminating shades and pigmented, metallic finishes will be your best bet. “Rose gold is especially great on the lids because it can be worn during the day and then be dressed up with dark eyeliner or a stronger lip at night,” he says.

There aren't many colors to avoid, though matte brown and mauve shades too similar to your skin tone may give a washed-out look. For contouring, Sotomayor suggests incorporating a medium bronze (like an aged penny) that’s a couple shades darker than your skin tone. “Apply it to the outer corner of your eyes and smudge it over black liner for a softer effect.”

Get the Look: Consider Covergirl’s Clean Color Eyeshadows for creating dimension with ease. “It’s a vegan formula that generally comes with two medium and two dark shades for mixing and matching. I especially like Golden Toffee for medium tones,” says Sotomayor.

Eyeshadow Colors for Deep/Dark Skin Tones

When it comes to amplifying deep and dark skin tones, it’s best to go with shades that pop. “Don't be afraid to create contrast. Choose eyeshadows that mimic the way your skin glows on your cheekbones on a sunny day,” Sotomayor advises. “I also like adding a 24-karat gold or copper shade to the lids and using a dark espresso, plum, or black eyeshadow to smudge out the liner for higher impact.”

Vibrant, cool shades in green and blue can look especially flattering, but if you’d rather stay neutral, Sotomayor loves to take advantage of copper, bronze, and warm autumnal shades. You should avoid eyeshadow with an ashy or white color, which can look dull or come up invisible on dark skin.

Get the Look: Sotomayor suggests checking out the Mented Everyday Shadow Palette for creating a core makeup look on dark skin. “It has all the essentials, and there are some almost duplicate shades so you don't run out of the most important colors too soon.”

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