While I love the self-esteem boost I get with a full face of makeup, it’s usually not worth the time for me. (I’m a Leo sun, so I have enough confidence with a bare face, thank you very much.) To apply concealer, foundation, contour, eye shadow, lashes, eyeliner, and lipstick—I’m getting tired just thinking about it.
You can imagine my delight, then, when I come across small hacks that allow me to reap the benefits of wearing makeup without giving up hours of my time. The newest item on that list? Eyeshadow sticks.
In case you’re unfamiliar, eyeshadow sticks are “typically creamy formulas that are in a pencil form. They glide on easily and smoothly on your eyes,” says international makeup artist and beauty expert Lauren O’Leary. Eyeshadow sticks are the perfect sweet spot between cream eye makeup, which can sometimes smudge a little too easily, and traditional powder eyeshadows, which can be hard to blend. Additionally, eyeshadow sticks are multi-functional. “They also can work as an eyeshadow base,” says O’Leary. “Plus, some people feel like they are easier and faster to use than a powder eyeshadow.”
To see if I could give myself the full face of my dream with minimal effort, I spent four weeks testing some of the best shadow sticks on the market. Not only did they survive four flights in a checked bag (my palettes were… not so lucky), but they also made my makeup routine a whole lot more fun.
My experience using eyeshadow sticks as a low-maintenance girlie
A few months back, I experimented with colorful eyeliner to see if the pop of pigment would lead to increased dopamine. It did. Similarly, blending eyeshadow sticks like a pro helped me want to create bold looks that boosted my confidence.
At first, I started with low-stakes, monochromatic shades. With the Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener ($25) in hand, I softly covered my eyelids in Sky Blue Shimmer and topped it off with NYX’s Vivid Brights Eyeliner ($9)—also in blue. I wore this simple look (which took me all of five minutes to complete) to my best friend’s Western-themed party. The girlies were paying me compliments all night.
Seeing how easy eyeshadow sticks were to use, I wanted to up the ante—but I still opted for looks that landed on the neutral side of the color scale. So I used the Charlotte Tillbury Colour Chameleon Eye Shadow Pencil ($29) to create my version of a smokey eye. Grabbing Amethyst Aphrodisiac—which I put on my lid—and Champagne Diamonds (moment of gratitude for those monikers)—which I put on the corners of my eye and below my brow—I gave myself a simple and eye-catching look.
Once I realized that eyeshadow sticks were, in fact, the easiest way to trick people into thinking I got my makeup professionally done, I decided to get creative. I reached for the Thrive Causemetics eyeshadow sticks in Champagne Shimmer, Opalescent Shimmer, and Sky Blue Shimmer—which I applied on my eyelid, crease, and upper eye, respectively. To tie it all together, I lined my lids with NYC Vivid Brights in a light green.
Final thoughts? I am a very low-maintenance makeup girlie. And that’s precisely why eyeshadow sticks have earned their place as staples in my beauty routine.
The best eyeshadow sticks for an effortless and glamorous look
This eyeshadow stick is highly pigmented, easy to blend, and long-lasting—and I don’t mean that it’ll stay on as you sit through a full day of work at an office. I mean that you can go out on the town, accidentally fall asleep without taking off your makeup, and wake up seeing the Colour Chameleon still on your eyelids. (Pro tip: if you plan on blending this, be quick about it as it takes about 30 seconds for it to set.)
The pencil is available in nine shades that are either slightly shimmery or straight-up metallic. Because its pigmentation is top-notch, each shade looks great on multiple skin tones. One thing to note about the Color Chameleon, however, is that you have to sharpen it to get more product out of the pencil. If you prefer a pencil that pushes out with an effortless twist, this is definitely not up your alley.
- Highly pigmented
- 9 shades
- Requires a sharpener
About-Face, Halsey’s makeup line, is one of those celebrity brands that actually lives up to the hype. The products are all mindlessly easy to apply, and this shadow stick is no exception. Unlike the Tilbury pick, it’s got a self-sharpening mechanism that allows you to twist up when you need more product, which I love.
However, while the product page describes the formula as “powerfully pigmented,” I found that I had to build up the formula a bit. On first swipe, the color goes on rather sheer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If you’re looking for a lighter look, this is a great option—and it’s helpful to know you can layer it on for a bolder pop of color.
- 14 shades
- Not as pigmented as some of the other options
If you’re the type of makeup aficionado who appreciates earthy tones, Rare Beauty’s collection of eyeshadow sticks is definitely for you. There are six shades on offer, all of which are shimmery neutrals. I found that this formula was creamier than others, which required a softer touch when it came to application.
What I liked best about it, though, is that it also came with a built-in sharpener—which is helpful because the cream tends to get dull after a few uses.
- 6 shades
- Creamy formula
- Great for creating a natural look
- No bold color options
- Stick gets dull quickly
I always do my best not to play favorites, but when something is head and shoulders above the rest, you have to let the people know. In my opinion, the Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener is the best of the bunch. It’s a highly pigmented shadow stick that glides smoothly, which makes it easy to apply and build. At 16 color options—including purple, pink, blue, and green—this pick has the widest shade range of any item on this list.
Candidly, I didn’t find much wrong with the Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener. Even its ingredients are impressive, as it contains macadamia oil to hydrate your eyelids. It’s even ophthalmologist tested so you can be sure it won’t irritate your eyes. If I have to nitpick, I’d say I wish they made a non-shimmer option to create a more textured eye makeup look.
- 16 shades
- Easily blendable
- Skin-friendly ingredients
- Only shimmery shades
Quality makeup doesn’t have to break the bank, and the E.L.F. eyeshadow stick is proof. It comes in a number of neutral and metallic shades—like Golden Goddess, Copper Chic, and Perfect Pearl—as well as bright colors like purple, green, and blue.
Just like its pricier counterparts, the No-Budge Shadow Stick is designed with a twist-up dispenser and comes with a built-in sharpener. The only down-side is that it doesn’t last as long as some of the more expensive options, but at $5 a pop, you can reapply as frequently as you want.
- 9 shades
- Doesn’t last very long
I’ve been a fan of NudeStix, the original “sticks” company, since 2018. The brand’s blushes, eyeshadows, and contour sticks are always no-nonsense, and when I order them, I know I’m going to get a high-quality makeup product. One of my all-time favorite NudeStix products is this eyeshadow. It comes in nine neutral shades, all of which deliver a matte finish. Moreover, since they’re highly pigmented, the sticks will pack a punch on a variety of skin tones.
By now, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of sharpening eyeliners or eyeshadow sticks. And as big a supporter I am of NudeStix, I have to say that I wish this product was designed as a twist-up shadowstick instead of one you have to sharpen. At least the brand provides the sharpener for you, though.
- 9 neutral shades
- Matte finish
- Highly pigmented
- Requires a sharpener (included)
As iconic as Urban Decay’s Naked Palette was, these 24/7 shadowsticks may be even better. Unlike the OG palette, the shade range here is wide—we’re talking royal blue, lime green, and all of the neutrals you can imagine. Regardless of which color you opt for, though, you’ll get a rich, shimmery pigment that’ll last pretty darn close to 24 hours.
The best part about this product line, though, is that it offers three types of finishes—matte, shimmer, and metallic—all of which will pack a powerful punch all day (and night) long.
- 14 shades
- Matte, neutral, and shimmer options