The 12 Best Liquid Eyeshadows Are So Incredibly Easy to Apply

From mattes to shimmers.

best liquid eyeshadows
(Image credit: Future)

Eyeshadow application can sometimes feel like an Olympic sport. There’s a race to buff and blend before your product dries down and it seems like fall-out is enemy number one. Practice makes perfect with cream eyeshadows and powder pigments, but if you’re looking for an easy, efficient, and stunning alternative, the best liquid eyeshadows should be your go-to.

“Generally, the appeal of liquid eyeshadows is very user-friendly,” says celebrity makeup artist Ehlie Luna. “This means you can use it straight from the applicator onto the lid and use your finger to blend out any edges or seams.” Professional makeup artist Jenny Patinkin adds that liquid eyeshadows are typically formulated to be and marketed as long wear, which adds to their appeal.

There’s no shortage of options—you’ll find matte finishes, shimmers, and glitter eyeshadows on the market in almost every shade imaginable. Some offer more play time than others, and a handful will deliver a crazy intense pigment with all-day wear. To determine which swipe-and-go shadows are the best, we tapped a handful of professional makeup artists to share their favorites—and did extensive testing of our own.

The Best Liquid Eyeshadows

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What to Look For

  • Formulation

"There's a bunch of different types of liquid or creamy eyeshadows, and they're all formulated differently," says Patinkin. Glosses, for instance, are shinier with "more of a slick consistency and texture." The downside of this formulation is that you're more likely to end the day with a crease.

Very opaque options on the other hand can wind up looking dry and pucker on the eyelid. "If your skin is starting to thin or getting a bit looser, this texture can accentuate some of those issues," she shares.

  • Play Time

By nature, liquid eyeshadows start out with some flexibility. How fast it transforms from a wet liquid to a dry finish however varies greatly. “For liquid shadows with a faster drying time, it's best to do one eye at a time,” explains celebrity makeup artist and brand founder Danessa Myricks. “For more opaque coverage with your liquid shadows, choose to build up the color in layers letting one layer dry before applying the next or tap on color with your finger or a brush to build coverage.”

  • Payoff

Liquid eyeshadows are versatile at their core. On the one hand, they can be used as a quick wash of pale color that primes your lid for additional powder shadows or more intense liquid pigments. However, they can also be a one-and-done product that provides a pop of color or shimmer lid. A pro tip from Myricks? Use a “flat, more dense brush for more color pay off.” Finger application will inherently give a more sheered out finish.

  • Longevity

Perhaps the trickiest criteria to nail with a liquid eyeshadow is staying power. By nature of liquid formula, the product is more prone to creasing and fading. Every item on this list however is guaranteed to provide at least 12-hour wear.

How to Apply Liquid Eyeshadow

Of course you can apply liquid eyeshadow with the doe-foot applicator it comes with. However, Patinkin recommends using a brush for optimal precision, blending, and product distribution. "I think applying anything with a brush is going to be better than applying with a doe foot," she says. "When you're using a brush you can get a much more even, smooth distribution of the product. You can sheer it out and get a softer look than you might be able to with a doe foot, because the product can cling to the doe foot and it might not spread as evenly on your lid."

But how do you transfer the product to the brush? Patinkin explains, "I like to either put a dot from the doe foot on the lid and then use a brush to blend, or I put it on the back of my hand and then put the brush into that and then apply."

Meet the Experts

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Danessa Myricks

Starting out as a self-taught makeup artist, Danessa Myricks learned how to use products in unconventional ways to create stunning looks. Ignoring industry norms, she began to teach other artists about her techniques and product selections, and created a name for herself in the beauty world.

After turning heads at some of the largest brands, Danessa led product development for some of the most successful launches in history at brands like KISS and Benefit Cosmetics. But she knew the world of makeup still felt exclusive, so she launched her own brand, Danessa Myricks Beauty.

Danessa has created looks for celebrities, worked with entertainers in music and film, and collaborates with other brands and artists to push the beauty industry forward. She trains makeup artists and enthusiasts worldwide and continues to create some of the most innovative and inclusive beauty products on the market.

Ehlie Luna
Ehlie Luna

Ehlie Luna is a celebrity makeup artist and creator.

Jenny Patinkin
Jenny Patinkin

Jenny Patinkin is a professional makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur. Products from her line have been featured on Oprah's Favorite Things, and she is revered for her sustainable approach to beauty. She is currently based in Chicago.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art