How To Wear Cream Eyeshadow Like A Pro

I’m just going to throw it out there – I think cream eye shadow gets a bad rap. Put one next to a traditional powder formula, and nine times out of ten the powder gets picked. Cream formulas just seem daunting to dab on your face. 

But here’s the thing: Once you learn the tricks of the trade, cream shadows are a cinch to apply. Not only that, Celebrity Makeup Artist Laura Dillon says they last longer and are easier to blend than powder. No wonder makeup artists swear by them.

Ready to look like the cream of the beauty crop? Here are a few rules:  

NEVER use your finger to apply cream shadow. Even though it’s your first instinct, it’s just not precise, and the oils in your skin can promote creasing and fading. 

ALWAYS apply your color with a brush, even when you’re using a cream shadow “stick.” A brush will give you much more control over where the color goes and just how much color goes there. Then, you can easily layer. A small, stiff brush with synthetic bristles works best. 

ALWAYS use a formula that’s richly pigmented, meaning the hue has a high color payoff. 

ALWAYS stick with thicker textures. If the formula feels like lip balm between your fingers, chances are it will slide right off your eyes. Dillon says many of the best cream shadows look compressed, just like powder in a compact. 

ALWAYS use an eyelid primer or a shadow infused with one. It will moisturize and hydrate. To neutralize the skin, Dillon recommends a nude colored primer. It will give you a clean canvas to work with.  

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NEVER use your foundation as an eyelid primer. It promotes creasing and slippage. 

ALWAYS keep in mind that powder shadow can be drying and less forgiving with fine lines, so for aging eyes, creams can often be more flattering. Just steer clear of frosty or shimmery shades. 

NEVER think you have to use either powder shadow or cream shadow. In fact, dusting the former over the latter will give your whole look mega stay-put power, not to mention amp up the color intensity.

ALWAYS remember that cream shadow can easily double as eyeliner. Smudge it out to give your peepers an uber-pretty, smoked out look. 


D200 Cozzette Bullet Brush, $12.75; Smashbox Definer Brush #15, $24; Lancome Dual End Smudger/Liner Brush, $20; Laura Mercier Angled Eye Liner Brush, $24

Now that you know the rules, here are a few easy looks to play with:  

  • For a dewy, springtime look, apply a clear gloss (yep, lip gloss will do the trick) directly over your cream shadow. Avoid extending the look from lash to brow. It’s a sticky looking (literally) style that’s really only found in the glossies. 

  • For something simple, yet striking, apply a black cream shadow as liner. Pair it with clear gloss on the lids and multiple coats of mascara. 

  • Multi-task and use a sheer, cream blush on lids, cheeks, and lips. Cream blush has more pigment, but you still get that “sheen” only cream color can give. (Try: Stila Convertible Color, $25, below) 

  • Apply a sheer wash of color from the lid to the crease, or all the way up to the brow bone, for a low maintenance look that’s high style. 

RELATED Makeup Tips to Look 10 Years Younger

Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow, $20; Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo Metal 24HR Crea, Gel Shadow, $6.99; Make Up For Ever 12 Flash Color Case, $99; NARS Cream Eyeshadow, $24; Stila Convertible Color, $25

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With 13 years of experience in the fashion and beauty industry, Laura Dillon admits she is a true artist to her core. After transitioning from fashion design to a successful career as a Bumble and Bumble trained hairstylist and later as a color educator for Aveda, it only came natural for her to pick up her brush and paint faces. She has worked on a variety of famous faces, inclduing Nicole Richie and Cyntha Nixon, and has done editorial work in glossies like Improper Bostonian and Self Magazine. Laura Dillon is with Team Artist Representative, Inc. 


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