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The Biggest Comeback in Beauty? Palettes

January 1 | 2 minute read

Memo Best Palettes Hero 16x9

Words by Christie Sinclair

Originally published on | May 14

If you came of age in the heyday of Youtube tutorials and Instagram glam, you’ll remember a time when palettes were, well, everything.

The obsession started in 2010 with the release of Urban Decay’s original Naked palette. No-one could have predicted that a 12-pan collection of neutral eyeshadows would redefine the standards of beauty forever, but it put palettes on a pedestal, and for the best part of a decade beauty enthusiasts lived by the mantra: ‘The more shadows, the merrier.’ Until, like most trends, we moved on...

“Palettes had their golden years during the YouTube tutorial age where makeup was much more formulaic – you used up to five different shadows on the eye and god forbid you applied any of them in the wrong order!” says Sally, MECCA's Makeup Education Lead.

In contrast, “Makeup today is more about championing skin and our natural beauty," she explains, highlighting that it’s less of a transformative exercise – changing both the types of products people reach for and the amount they apply.

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You only need to open TikTok to see content creators showcasing more simplified looks; often taking cheek or lip products to the eyes, or vice versa, while stick and crayon-style cream products have become hugely popular, offering convenience and ease of use for those short on time.

"People love a multiuse product; if they can use their contour or bronzer on the eye, they will, [with a] single eyeshadow only to use as their 'going out' additional shade," Sally explains.

And yet…

As much as the ‘clean aesthetic’ and minimalist beauty have earned a devoted following, there are legions who insist you’ll have to pry so-called ‘2016 makeup’ out of their hands (witness this vocal contingent in the comments section of every ‘Now vs Then’ beauty tutorial) as well as those embracing the return of soft glam and the rise of the ‘UK Baddie’ full beat.

Enter: the modern eyeshadow palette – compact and simplified, yet offering the same versatility that has always been the palette’s main strength. (And for those of us with the oiliest of eyelids, the unmatchable, uncreasable staying power of powders.)

Charlotte Tilbury was ahead of the game when she launched her petite, four-pan Luxury Palette, featuring complementary hues that work as well alone as they do together (conveniently numbered so you know your order of application) – and ensuring no shade is left behind. Similarly, Kevyn Aucoin – another artist-founded brand – has released four variations of the Contour Eyeshadow Palette Collection to suit different skin tones.

Meanwhile, Morphe has managed to pack nine everyday neutrals into a cute compact that will slip into your bag almost unnoticed alongside your phone. And somehow, M.A.C Cosmetics’ Connect In Colour 12 Pan Eyes puts a dozen silky smooth everyday shades quite literally in the palm of your hand.

Equally, face palettes solve the space issue, with a curation of makeup products – blush, bronzer, contour and highlighter – in one. They're a great way to streamline your routine (“No rummaging around in your beauty bag for that single blush,” says Sally) offering both efficiency and variety, while avoiding the expense of buying products individually.

NARS satisfies all your colour and contour needs with the neat Laguna Ultimate Face Palette, while Morphe turned the ‘quad’ on its head with these stackable, multi-use cream formulas for eyes, cheeks, lips and face.

Interestingly, Sally notes that custom palettes have been rising in popularity in-store, giving people the freedom to create their own edit of shadows and avoid ‘wasting’ unused shades: "People are more likely to buy a palette if they’d use all or most of the colours in it,” she explains.

Hourglass is one brand that makes it possible; once you have your five-pan palette case, you’re free to build your own shadow wardrobe from 40 single options.

As for the palette that may be collecting dust in your drawer? Sally recommends bringing it into a MECCA store for a 1:1 lesson with a Makeup Specialist: “Your artist can show you how to use those colours you never touch – for example, as eyeliner with a damp brush, as a pop of colour in the lash line or double-dipped with other colours to get your own unique shade,” she suggests.

Whether it’s failsafe simplicity, wedding guest glamour or embracing new trends and techniques, no other beauty product offers endless possibilities like a palette – and gosh, isn’t opening up a compact filled with the full spectrum of glittery, shimmery shades (look at TooFaced’s latest) still a thrill?!

After all, there’s a reason we went crazy for them in the first place…

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