On the surface, colorful eyeshadow seems intimidating. It’s one thing to see an Instagram makeup artist blend eight shades across her lid and call it a Tuesday afternoon, and another to pick up a bright color yourself and go at it with confidence. But with more stars by the day making bold eyeshadow look approachable and fun, the trend at long last feels not only aspirational—but doable.
Which is why it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that searches for purple eyeshadow are up on Pinterest this season by 52 percent. Offline, celebrities are embracing the trend as well with purple lids making more than one appearance on the Met Gala red carpet. Add to the fact that brands like Glossier, Anastasia Beverly Hills, and Flesh are throwing their weight behind purple-centric launches, and it’s no wonder that women are looking for ideas of how to play with the shade.
The good news is that purple has been on the back burner for so long that any way you wear it feels fresh. Celebrity makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown recommends beginners start with a sheer wash of purple, either in a creamy formula or with a shimmery color that bounces off some light (Glossier Lidstar in Lily and Fenty Match Stix in Unicorn were basically built for this). Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes coined the hashtag #biglilacenergy for her purple-loving looks, the most instantly recognizable being a wash of glossy, pastel purple shadow across her lids (below). It’s stunning, but an investment, so she suggests another approach to get started: a winged-out liner using eyeshadow to see how you like the color on yourself.
Hughes says that pretty much any pastel or medium-tone purple eyeshadow will work; her trademark look came from the now discontinued Kat Von D Pastel Goth palette. Lighter skin tones can stay in the range of soft colors, while people with medium and deep skin tones can pick from light to deep shades (though too-light pastels do run the risk of looking ashy on medium skin tones, she warns). Makeup artist Maddie North says she’s a fan of the Hourglass Graphik Eyeshadow Palette in Expose, thanks to its spectrum of beautiful, unintimidating purples.
A gentle wash of warm lavender looks both sophisticated and lighthearted, while increasing the intensity and choosing a cool-tone pastel shade creates a mod sixties vibe, like Lily Collins’ look at the Met Gala. For the glossy Instagram finish above, Hughes topped her look with a clear lip gloss like Shisiedo Crystal Gel Gloss, while North says Kevyn Aucoin Diamond Eye Gloss doesn’t leave her side.
For a more smoky, jewel-tone purple look, Brown suggests using a cream shadow like Maybelline’s Vintage Plum on your lids first, packing it on with a tightly bristled eyeshadow brush. Give it a minute to set, and then dab a tiny squeeze of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream above your iris to bring light to your lids. Sweep on a peach blush if you want something else on your face, Hughes says. And as long as your skin looks fresh and moisturized, she says to go wild and put on lipstick too, if you want. You’re wearing purple eyeshadow. There’s nothing you can’t do.
Scroll on to see more of our favorite takes on the trend.