Brown eyeshadow, is it right for you?

Don't feel plain and boring anymore.

Don’t feel plain and boring anymore.

Have you always thought of  the brown eyeshadow shade as the “safe” shade? While they can be conservative, browns are far from boring. In fact, there may be no more universal color family for giving you everything from a work-friendly polished face to a sultry, smoldering look for a night out.

Playing around with textures and finishes is the key to wearing brown. Which ones will catch the light? Which ones will look like shadows when contouring is necessary? Undertones are also important for warming up your skin tone, bringing out your eyes, or even creating that aforementioned illusion of a shadow for more expressive eyes or the look of lush lashes.

Look for browns with a metallic edge, shades with shimmering gold, copper, or silver threaded through them. When placed on the lid, even if blended out with no additional colors involved, these shades can bring light to your eyes and make you look awake and playful.

If your undertones are warm, you’ll love a tinge of gold (Urban Decay’s Smog, $18 at Sephora) or rosy copper (Josie Maran’s Coconut Watercolor Eyeshadow in Beach Sand or Rio De Rose Gold, $18 at Sephora). Light-catching taupes like Maybelline’s Silken Taupe (about $3 in drugstores) and some copper-toned browns will be beautiful on cool-toned ladies. All three look gorgeous with any eye color. Apply some just below the center of the lower lashes and blend toward the outer corner to make your eyes glow.

Creamy, smudgy warm brown liner (Rimmel’s Soft Kohl Kajal Eyeliner Pencil in Sable Brown, $3.97 at Walmart) may be all you need to make your eyes look warm, inviting, larger, and more expressive than usual. Line the outer three-quarters of the upper lids and outer one-quarter of the lower ones, then smudge with a sponge-tipped applicator or pencil brush. Tightline if desired, and smudge the color into the roots of the lashes. Finish off with brown or black volumizing mascara like Too Faced’s Better Than False Lashes Extreme ($35, Sephora).

If you want more drama with a similar effect, swipe a single warm chocolatey bronze shade across your lids (like Urban Decay’s Roach, $18 at Ulta) with a fluffy brush, diffusing the color into the crease and toward the outer corners. Use black gel liner and an angled brush to create a thick cat-eye shape, then smudge black shadow across the line to blur the edges. Line the lower lashes with the same warm brown shadow, softening the edges until there’s no obvious line. This line will give the appearance of a shadow created by thick lashes.

Wish your eyes were a little more deep-set and mysterious? Dust a light shadow from the lash line to crease (think of your work-appropriate shadow palette; you may be able to use the same lid shade). Apply a matte or satin taupe shade that’s deeper than your skin tone to the crease using a domed fluffy brush like MAC’s 217 or 286 ($24 and $32 respectively, Start at the center of the crease so most of the color will be deposited there. Follow the crease toward the inner corner, then back toward the outer corner and up, as if you’re creating an elongated, sideways S-shape from the inner corner to just under the outer tip of the brow. Blend any obvious edges. This will give your eyes an exotic, uplifted appearance while giving the illusion of a deeper crease. Place a thin strip of a shadow that’s one shade lighter than your skin tone just below the arch and under the tail of each brow to highlight.

While you may not want to swear off color forever, you can portray almost any vibe or mood you want with brown shadows — especially if you have a palette full of neutral shades with a variety of finishes (try the Too Faced Chocolate Bar or Semi-Sweet palette, $49 each at Ulta). Pair these brown shadow looks with sculpted cheekbones, a dusting of bronzer, and a little blush, then swipe on your favorite lipstick, from the palest nude to the boldest plum.

Crystal Schwanke

Crystal has been a freelance writer and editor since 2005. Her work has appeared on multiple channels at, as well as Mia, M Magazine, Moultrie Magazine, and others. Her interests include fashion, beauty, history, hiking, reading, and spending time with her husband and daughter. You can find her blog at