No Makeup Bag Is Complete Without a Neutral Eyeshadow Palette

From smokey eyes to everyday looks, these little kits can do it all.

product collage of neutral eyeshadow palettes from patrick ta, makeup by mario, tarte, and bobbi brown overlaid a purple and blue watercolor background
(Image credit: Courtesy)

Just like fashion, makeup trends come and go. The ‘80s were all about neon eyeshadow, the ‘90s saw ultra-thin brows. We're still trying to forget the fake tan craze that plagued the early aughts. But there's one makeup look that’s been a staple through the decades: neutral eyeshadow. Nudes, taupes, browns, and blacks complement every skin tone and eye color. Think of the best nude eyeshadow palettes as the makeup equivalent of a white button-up—a timeless classic.

Given a neutral shadow's versatility, it should come as no surprise that makeup artists reach for these palettes time and time again. “In my personal experience with neutral eyeshadow palettes, they are remarkably versatile, and I have a habit of blending and utilizing all the shades,” says celebrity makeup artist Dominique Lerma. The best palettes can create anything from a glamorous glittery eyeshadow look and dramatically defined eyes to the more subtly contoured makeup that's great for daytime wear.

If you’re looking to refresh your nude eyeshadow palette selection or don’t have one yet, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve consulted the experts on how to weed out the best palette for you. From Charlotte Tilbury’s The Sophisticate to the cult-favorite Urban Decay Naked, these are the best neutral eyeshadow palettes of all time.

The Best Neutral Eyeshadow Palettes

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What to Look For in a Neutral Eyeshadow Palette

Not every nude eyeshadow palette on the market is going to fit your needs—and that's ok! To narrow them down, Rosado says to ask yourself two questions: "First, do you like warm or cool tones? Then, do you prefer mattes, shimmers, or both?" Here, we dive into both factors to help you answer those questions.

  • Tones

First and foremost, the most important factor to consider when shopping for your next favorite neutral eyeshadow palette is the tones and shades it offers. For Garcia, nude, skin-like shades are a must, as is a taupe shade. “I love a taupe shade to make sure I have my soft defining shade for my crease and under the eye,” she explains.

Lerma recommends a wide range of brown shades. “When I am on the hunt for a new eyeshadow palette, I like to look for one that carries a few matte, neutral brown, warm brown, and rust-colored shades,” she explains.

Nude palettes also typically fall under one of three categories: cool-toned, warm-toned, or true-neutral. While Rosado says the best for you boils down to personal preference, you may find that the palettes that match your skin's undertone will complement you the best.

  • Finishes

Having a variety of eyeshadow finishes will ensure you can create any look your heart desires. I, for one, am a huge fan of glitter eyeshadows for both daily wear and going-out looks. I also recognize the power of matte shades though. “Matte eyeshadows tend to be the most universal shades and can be used for daily eyeshadow looks," Lerma says. Unless you have a strong preference, you can't go wrong with a palette that has a mix of finishes.

How to Use a Neutral Eyeshadow Palette

The best neutral eyeshadow palettes can create a multitude of looks; use them to nail your smokey eye makeup, create monochromatic looks, or add subtle contour to your eyes.

These palettes are true multitaskers, but Lerma has two easy recommendations to get you started. First, she suggests choosing a brown shade two to three shades darker than your skin tone and going over your crease in a windshield motion. This will create major depth to the eye and is what Lerma calls "a primed eye." She adds, “This technique is an old makeup hack and has been used by educators for decades.”

The beauty pro also has a go-to look that uses just three shades: A creamy light color to use across the lid and brow; a light brown or caramel-colored brown to add definition in the crease; and an espresso shade to smoke out the outer corners. “The result of using the right tools and intentional technique is remarkable, and that’s only using three eyeshadow shades,” she explains.

Meet the Makeup Experts

Dominique Lerma

Dominique Lerma a Hollywood bred Internationally published Makeup Artist and Beauty Educator, known for her ability to create flawless complexions and innovative beauty looks. She grew her love for makeup artistry at a very ripe age and began beautifying faces for her fellow classmates at her all girl parochial high school. Her self taught passion flourished while she was given the opportunity of working with the world reknowned Mac Cosmetics and soon became a Viva Glam Ambassador. Her 9 years in the beauty industry has landed her on the pages of Instyle, Nylon, Runway, and Photo Vogue Italia. Dominique’s vast resume includes Beauty, editorial, celebrity, advertising, rebranding and bridal. She serves as a Beauty Educator for Frankie Rose Cosmetics and is a bilingual traveling sales representative for both Enzo Milano Professional Hair Styling Tools and Royal Langnickel Brush. Her creative expertise consists of Makeup artistry, hairstyling and men’s grooming.

Portrait of Cassandra Garcia, pro makeup artist
Cassandra Garcia

Cassandra Garcia is a New York-based makeup artist. As an optimist and naturally curious person, Garcia is at ease working across all types of mediums and creating a broad range of looks, whether it’s an effortlessly undone or an iconic red carpet moment. Her celebrity clients include Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Heidi Gardner, and Vanessa Bayer, and her work can be found in publications such as Glamour, Marie Claire, GQ, and Hollywood Reporter. In addition, brands such as Reem Acra, Cynthia Rowley, Jenny Packham, Tibi, and Veronica Beard have called on Garcia’s expertise for runway looks. Garcia represents Bobbi Brown Cosmetics as its resident editorial makeup artist.

Portrait of Isabel Y Rosado
Isabel Y Rosado

Isabel is a pro makeup artist born and based in New York City. She's worked with brands and publications such as Yves Saint Laurent, Hill House, Moda Operandi, Teen Vogue, Elle Mexico, Glossier, Levi's, Office Magazine, and more. Her work has graced the red carpet with the likes of Sarah Hoover, Michelle Hellman, and Mollie Acquavella. Isabel is also a member of the Latinx Creatives Collective.

Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. She also tackled shopping content as Marie Claire's Editorial Fellow prior to her role as Associate Commerce Editor.

She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.