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Beauty: the best budget eye shadows | Sali Hughes

I have spent one of my more satisfying working weeks playing with high-street palettes. Satisfying, because budget makeup is now often of such excellent quality that I can barely spot the difference between posh and pish. You could always respectably scrimp on pencils, mascara and blusher (where a subtle wash of colour is ideal), but eyeshadow (which requires denser pigment and easy blending between multiple shades) was previously where you got exactly what you paid for. Cheaper shadows tended to have less colour payoff, dry, talcy textures that either blended into one generic, dishwater hue, or sat tight, refusing to soften and blend at all.

Technology and lower production costs, however, have now changed budget shadows beyond recognition. There are some great examples within the remarkable Elf brand. This multi-award-winning US favourite was slow to get here, but well worth the wait, even if price points are a little higher than they are across the Atlantic, where some products from the vast line sell for a buck a pop. Eye Shadow Palette in Necessary Nudes (£7.50, Superdrug) comprises five suit-everyone neutral shadows: two matte, two shimmer and one satin base colour. This rare mix of finishes is ideal, because all matte and blending is a pain, the finish is flat. All shimmer, one loses boldness and definition between colours and gains it on eye wrinkles. Just a couple of the Elf shades work well for day and provide a good canvas for layering on darker, shinier shadows for evening (not that I always feel like waiting).

Nip + Fab’s Sculpted Eye Palette is a little pricier at £10.95, but with 12 shadows and only one shade I’ve no interest in (on lids, I’m uncharacteristically opposed to claret), it represents excellent value. Again, this has a mix of finishes, and good colour payoff (even the pale taupe is punchy). I often think that, had I been starting out in beauty now, rather than in 1990, my kit would be packed with Zoeva’s extraordinarily good professional-quality brushes and makeup palettes. The new Basic Moment Eye Palette (£17.50) contains five mattes, five shimmers (at £1.75 a shadow), and has everything I desire in a neutrals collection: perfectly pressed powders (neither too hard and fine, nor too soft and flaky) in cool, sophisticated tones à la Catherine Deneuve in Belle Du Jour. All three palettes are cruelty-free and vegan friendly.

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