Beauty Road Test: Find Out If Expensive Eyeshadow Is Really Any Better Than The Cheap Stuff

December 13, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

When you’re addicted to beauty products, it’s crucial to know what you should splurge on and what you can buy at your local drugstore. I don’t like to discriminate when it comes to beauty purchases because some of my all-time favorite skincare products (love you, Cetaphil) and cosmetics (Maybelline Eye Studio Gel Liner, I’m talking to you) are as affordable as they are effective, but I’ll admit that I’m partial to name-brand eyeshadow palettes. I’ve always found that they offer a more complex, diverse, and rich assortment of shades; after all, “nude” can take on many different meanings, depending on the beauty brand.

But there are days when, admittedly, I could probably get away with a few solid beiges and browns. So as an experiment, I tried two eyeshadow palettes with very different price tags over the course of two days–Urban Decay’s Naked3 and Jesse’s Girl Runway Eye Shadow Collection in London–to find out whether there were any major differences between them (aside from cost, of course).

I should start off by saying that despite the fact that I chose these palettes based on their similar pink-based hues, Jesse’s Girl features three small shades, all of which are matte, and doesn’t include a brush. Meanwhile, Urban Decay’s palette boasts 12 rose-hued neutrals that include mattes, pearls, and metallic finishes and one heck of a brush. Aside from all of the extra shades you’re getting for your money, here’s how they fared over the course of a day.

Urban Decay Naked3

I mixed together a bouillabaisse of neutral matte shades that corresponded, as closely as possible, to those in the Jesse’s Girl palette. At around 7:30am, I dusted a bit of Limit (a light rose), Nooner (a medium brown-pink matte), and Factory (a deeper pink-brown) onto my lids. Here was the result.

ud before

Over the next 12 hours, I chased a toddler and 4-year-old around the house, worked from home and worked out for about one hour with a pilates DVD. I also cooked a huge pot of jambalaya and the steam from the pot most assuredly opened up my pores at one point–so imagine the damage it could do to eyeshadow.

Here’s what my shadow looked like at around 8pm, right before I removed it.

UD after

Granted, the lighting is different, but here’s all you need to know: the shadow color neither faded, nor slid around the way eyeshadow sometimes can. I feel it looks identical to the way it did in the morning and sustained a workout and mediocre Cajun cooking.

Jesse’s Girl

Right off the bat, I was impressed with how vivid the shades in this palette appear, even without an eye shadow primer. Like Urban Decay, they could be easily applied with an eyeshadow and smudge brush. Overall, they delivered less of a shimmery punch than UD, but the color was vibrant (maybe even a little too vibrant for daytime). Here’s the Jesse’s Girl shadow at around 8am:

jesse before

My day was a doozy–my little girl had a stomach virus, so there was a lot of running around, from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy. I also managed to get in another pilates workout while both children napped, prepared a less steamy dinner and didn’t have time to wash off my eye makeup until about 10pm. Here was the result:

cheap after

I have hooded eyes and the number one problem I faced when wearing this eyshadow for several hours was that half-moon ring of smudged brown on my crease line. This is a common complaint I have with many shadows, especially if I don’t wear primer underneath and, to be honest, the smudge factor with Jesse’s Girl eyeshadow wasn’t as drastic as it is with other more expensive eyeshadows. It’s worth noting in this case, though, because the Urban Decay eyeshadow didn’t smudge at all. As you can probably see, however, the pink/lavender hue is just as brilliant and bright as it was in the morning.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend discounting an affordable eyeshadow palette simply because a costly one boasts more compelling shades. I’m confident a really good eyeshadow primer (Urban Decay is my favorite) would have prevented most of the smudging that occurred at the end of the day with Jesse’s Girl. If money is a concern (and when isn’t it) I’d much rather spring for a quality primer and feel free to experiment with more economical eyeshadows.

For more beauty tips, check out the ultimate eyeliner hack and the 8 best nude eyeshadow palettes.

Photo: Imaxtree



Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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