As a rule, I've always been against make-up palettes. Thinking of them brings back visions of old-fashioned plastic concoctions from department stores (usually in heart or butterfly shapes) filled with chalky eyeshadows and unwearable lip shades. In theory, palettes seem like a useful, streamlined way of buying make-up (and they also seem like good value, all those colours for such low prices) but in practice it's a different matter. That 'good value' goes out the window when you only wear 2 or 3 of those 20+ shades.
However, recently the shelves have started to fill with some really beautiful palettes of wearable colours and beautiful textures. Brands have cottoned on to the fact that we won't buy palettes unless every single product in it is worth buying in the first place. It pays to shop around and also to pay out a little bit more for a good palette if you want to use it constantly and really get your money's worth. This is something to save your wages for, or put on your Christmas or Birthday list. If you're a bit clueless when it comes to make-up, a good palette will take a lot of the guesswork out of choosing colours, and also provide you with all the essential tools to create a really stunning look, without buying loads of different things from different beauty counters and being a little overwhelmed by the whole thing!
Products like Benefit's new 'Decked Out Dandelion' (left) and 'Hula Hues' compacts and Too Faced's gorgeous 'Quickie Chronicles' (with cute vintage pictures on the packaging) work on basic, flattering make-up colour schemes (neutrals, pinks, plums, etc). All you need to do is work out which basic colour suits you best, and you've got your own personal professionally chosen collection of matching products in the palette ready. With these palettes, instead of a mix-n-match grouping of rainbow colours, you get pre-matched products that work perfectly together for a full face of make-up, which is wonderful if you're not too good at picking colours that match! If you're unsure what colours suit you, visit a beauty counter and ask for a colour consultation (if they try to charge you, leave!) or try holding pieces of fabric or clothing in similar colours to the make-up to your face to see how they bring out your features (or clash with your skintone). Don't be afraid to try things in shops - one of the reasons I suggest buying a high-end palette, especially if you're new to all this is that all good make-up counters will have testers of every product, and well-trained staff who'll be happy to help you.
When choosing a palette that you'll actually use, think about the products you actually wear. If you never really wear eyeshadow, there's not really much point in buying a set full of lovely eyeshadow colours that'll sit unused on your dressing table. Most of us either concentrate on eyes or lips, so it's unsurprising than most beauty companies do too! A lot of brands make wonderful lip palettes, and they're no longer all full of bright reds and shocking pinks. The gorgeous London-based company Pixi Cosmetics make amazing colour wheels of beautiful, sheer cream colour combinations that look amazing on lips but can also be used as blush, eyeshadow or highlighter. I also think the lipcolour sets from Sugar Cosmetics are wonderful - they smell and taste as good as they look, and all the colours are sheer and wearable. The 'I Taste Like Sugar' palette (right) has 12 mini-tubes of gorgeous gloss. What more could a gloss-addict like myself want? To keep it neat and germ-free, always use a lip brush when applying colours from palettes (unless you get an applicator in the set), and remember you're not limited to using the 4 or 6 colours in the wheel / palette - try mixing two or three together on the back of your hand for an almost unlimited amount of lipcolours from a tiny little compact.
For girls who love eyeshadows, it pays to choose a palette from a well-respected brand. Though palettes from Urban Decay (holiday shadow box pictured left), Hard Candy and Sephora's own brand are all good value and full of funky, wearable shades, some of the best eyeshadow palettes are the ones that you can customise yourself. MAC and Stila, two of the best beauty brands for quality, long-lasting colour shadows, both offer a custom palette service. You can buy an empty palette and then purchase pans of the colours that you want to go in it, so you could have a yellow, green, blue and pink shadow palette for those nights out, and a brown, grey, mushroom and beige one for everyday. The good news about these is that they're refillable, so you won't have to buy a new palette every time you run out of your favourite colours, only a new pan (which is cheaper than a fully-packaged product, of course).
If you like your colour palettes small and portable, pick up one of the funky (and aptly named) 'Make-Out Kits' from Eyeko. They're compact and clever, with revolving layers that reveal hidden colour pans. They come in three colourways, my favourite being the sultry and sexy '3rd base' which is great for creating smoky eyes. try cute and cult brand Pinkie Swear. Their cutie pie colour wheel (see right) is small but perfectly formed, and comes in two colourways, a more plum/neutral based one, and a slightly more pink and purple, girly one. In each wheel you get lipgloss, lip & cheek cream, eyeshadow and eye gloss - that's your whole face in a case! The brand also makes a very cute eyeshadow palette with bright, bold colours for the exhibitionist in you!
Where do I buy these brands?
All brands featured are definitaly available in both the UK and US. Most of the linked websites are for US online shopping, but offer international shipping too. For Benefit, Too Faced, Hard Candy and Urban Decay in the UK, visit larger Boots stores or Sephora stores. Benefit is also found in Selfridges and House Of Fraser. For Pinkie Swear, Eyeko and Sugar Cosmetics shop online at Powders & Potions. Eyeko is also available at Sephora or online at Eyebeauty.com.Stila is available at Selfridges, Sephora and Space NK. MAC is available at Selfridges, Fenwicks and MAC shops in larger cities. Pixi Cosmetics are available at PixiBeauty.com, or from the Pixi shop off Carnaby Street, London.