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The best makeup palettes: top travel-ready cosmetic sets

The best makeup palettes

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, so why not spice up your makeup collection a little with one of the best makeup palettes of the moment? If you get bored easily and like to think of makeup as an opportunity to get creative and experiment with looks, an eyeshadow palette or eye contour palette is a top-notch choice for varying your make up style.

Rather than buying endless eyeshadow solos or individual blushers that’ll rattle around in your makeup bag, leaving you with an unwanted lucky dip situation when you’re just trying to get ready for work, palettes keep a useful range of shades all in one place. Whether they’re complimentary colours to take the guesswork out of that offbeat smokey eye, a single look in a box to make things even easier, or a more out-there selection of shades to keep things interesting, they’re endlessly useful additions to any makeup lover’s arsenal.

Rather than a mix of high street and high-end eyeshadows, you’re more likely to find department store stalwarts and highly-rated cult buys in our list – it is, after all, a list of the very best makeup palettes! While it isn’t always the case that you get what you pay for, and you will occasionally find an incredible dupe in the racks of your local Boots, these palettes are loved across the board for their fantastic formulations, fashion-forward or classic shades, and gorgeous packaging – translation, if you fancy a treat, think of them as an investment rather than pure indulgence.

The best makeup palette

1. NARSissist Wanted Eyeshadow Palette

A selfie-ready selection of shades for lovers of trendy eye looks

Best for: On-trend eyes
Number of shades: 12
Finishes: Matte, satin, metallic
Reasons to buy
+ Trendy shades + Immensely pigmented 
Reasons to avoid
- Some fallout with glittery shades 

Using the same tried-and-loved formula as previous palette ‘Loaded’, the NARSissist Wanted palette offers up buttery soft, blendable shadows in matte, shimmer and hard-to-nail metallic finishes. But perhaps the most important bit – and certainly, we’re not afraid to say, the bit that earns this palette our number one spot – is that shade selection. If there were a single word to sum up each of the shades in this palette, it would undoubtedly be “covetable”, crammed to the gills with Insta-ready hues like peach, fawn, rose gold, champagne and rich reddish brown. For a smokey eye with a warm, fashion-forward twist, this is the one to get. 

Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette

2. Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette

A saucy-sounding palette for a welcome twist on the cool-toned smokey eye

Best for: A warm smokey
Number of shades: 12
Finishes: Matte, shimmer
Reasons to buy
+ Bit different to former Naked palettes  + Good for warm-toned skin 
Reasons to avoid
- Not the most wearable of the series 

Owners of previous Naked palettes might have found them... dare we say it, a little samey? The new Naked Heat palette has no such problems, however. Chock full of warm shades, it’s ideal for those who might not suit a deep, dark smokey eye, but still want a range of shades in their arsenal – and in one place – that all work together. Recreate all those amazing warm-toned looks popping up on Instagram at the moment with reddish browns, shimmer-packed peaches and elegant matte camel shades, all in that amazingly velvety, ultra-pigmented formulation we’ve come to know and love. 

Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette Uptown Girl

3. Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette - The Uptown Girl

Create a high-end look with the greatest of ease

Best for: Perfecting a single look
Number of shades: 4
Finishes: Shimmer
Reasons to buy
+ Really easy to use + Long-lasting 
Reasons to avoid
- Only four shades 

There’s a mind-boggling number of variations on the smokey eye out there, but if you’re just getting started, or just want to nail the classic smokey look, this Charlotte Tilbury palette is the way forward. If you like being utterly spoilt for choice, this may not have enough variety for you, but for minimal makeup bags and ladies after that signature Uptown Girl look, it’s hard to beat. The included info shows you where, and how, to use the four included shades for a range of looks taking you “from desk to disco”, and the shadows themselves are said by users to be beautifully blendable and really long-lasting – so who knows, they might even last you back to your desk again! 

By Terry Eye Designer Palette

4. By Terry Eye Designer Palette

A curated selection of wearable and wackily wonderful shades

Best for: Playful colours
Number of shades: 10
Finishes: Matte, shimmer
Reasons to buy
+ Great mix of day and night shades + Lovely waffle effect shadows 
Reasons to avoid
- Some colours won’t be to all tastes 

This eyeshadow palette from luxury cult brand By Terry is one for the artists, and the chronically indecisive. While there’s a relatively reserved number of shades – 10, to be precise – it’s a surprisingly versatile range of shades. Suedey blush pink, camel, terracotta and warm beige are ample for those no-makeup-makeup days, while shades like intense violet, dramatic dark teal and warm shimmering khaki-brown are discernibly dancefloor-ready. Add to that velvety shadows and a range of matte and shimmery shades, and you have a gorgeous paintbox ready for you to play with, no matter what mood you’re in. 

Iconic London Day to Slay Eyeshadow Palette

5. Iconic London Day to Slay Eyeshadow Palette

Slay all the way from boardroom to bar with this versatile eyeshadow palette

Best for: Versatility
Number of shades: 20
Finishes: Shimmer, matte, glitter
Reasons to buy
+ Blend beautifully and can be used wet + Suitable for vegans 
Reasons to avoid
- No particularly dark liner shade 

Glamour have already given this gorgeous eyeshadow palette their stamp of approval, and who are we to argue? It’s got matte taupes, oysters and pinks for a sweet daytime look; full-on glitters for glamorous going out eyes; and pinky and champagne shimmers for the days when you can’t decide. Cult Beauty say the velvety shadows blend effortlessly, and can even be used wet for a more intense dose of pigment, but perhaps best of all for vegan beauty lovers, they’re 100% certified cruelty free, so you don’t have to compromise either way. 

Stila Eyes Are The Window

6. Stila Eyes Are The Window

Make the most of what your mother gave you with this enhancing nude palette

Best for: Nudes
Number of shades: 12
Finishes: Matte
Reasons to buy
+ Fantastically wearable shades + Something for all undertones and eye colours 
Reasons to avoid
- Not the most exciting on our list 

Playing on the old adage that the eyes are the window to the soul, it makes sense that this Stila palette is packed with natural-looking shades set to enhance and emphasise what you’re already rocking. There’s a neutral and a more colourful option for pretty much every eye, from peaches for baby blues to rusts for green eyes, and pretty much anything for brown – you lucky things!  

YSL Couture Palette Eye Contouring

7. YSL Couture Palette Eye Contouring

A haute couture handbag addition full of long-lasting shades

Best for: Definition
Number of shades: 5
Finishes: Matte, metallic
Reasons to buy
+ Gorgeously packaged + Buildable, long-lasting shadows 
Reasons to avoid
- Not a huge selection, naturally 

This little palette is certainly on the higher end of the price range out of all our picks, but it more than earns its place on your bank statement, and in your makeup bag. The packaging is luxe and covetable with its gold finish and compact design, and the Mondrian-esque arrangement of shadows inside is just as luscious. Reviewers found the shades the perfect combo of buildable, crease-proof and long-lasting, and especially loved that the highlight was lifting but not glittery. If you’re forever on the go and want something that’ll stay beautiful all day, as well as looking good in your bag should you need any touch-ups (although we doubt it), this is a good bet.  

Too Faced Sweet Peach Eye Shadow Palette

8. Too Faced Sweet Peach Eye Shadow Palette

A peachy palette that looks – and smells! – sweet

Best for: Summery shades
Number of shades: 18
Finishes: Matte, shimmer
Reasons to buy
+ Looks and smells divine + Surprisingly usable shade range 
Reasons to avoid
- Not as many orangey shades as you might expect 

Sure, the colours are spot-on and the pigmentation is fantastic, but can we talk for a moment about just how sweet it all is? The Too Faced Sweet Peach palette comes packaged in a fabulous ombre pink-to-peach tin embossed with three-dimensional peaches, but the thing that’s really driving makeup mavens wild is that the shadows themselves smell like peach. Lovers of peach and orange shades might actually find themselves disappointed by how few of them there are, but as the gimmick doesn’t extend to the colour selection this is actually a surprisingly versatile palette, with warm chocolate browns, matte milky base colours, and shimmer-packed cool tones as well as the expected peaches and pinks. 

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