A Guide to Bobbi Brown Eyeshadows

Bobbi Brown, eyeshadowAs I embarked on my Bobbi Brown eyeshadow swatching quest, I found myself talking at length with former Bobbi artist pixichik77. This girl really knows her stuff.

Anyway, it turned out there was a lot of philosophy behind Bobbi’s eyeshadow shades, and I thought you guys would be interested in reading about it, even if you decide you don’t want to follow Bobbi’s method. So here’s the 411 from pixichik77:

The Bobbi eye starts with an  “all-over shade”, and there are certain shadows meant for that purpose.  The all-over shade is meant to even out discoloration in the lid, allow the next color (lid shade) to look better and truer, highlight under the brow, and help your eye shadow last longer. [Karla's note: I've heard this from MAC artists, too. They call it the "prime color."]

The all-over shade is sort of Bobbi’s version of a primer (she doesn’t offer a shadow primer, but remember she has drier skin and much of her line caters to that). I also find that if you do use more than one color on the lid (a crease color, etc.) the all-over color makes blending easier. Even when I worked there, I had to use a primer (Urban Decay’s Primer Potion or Art Deco’s primer) and I still do, but I have ALWAYS used the all-over shade. Bone is the only shadow I have EVER hit pan on, and I have gone through about three of them now.

Bobbi recommends you use a LOT of the all-over shade, really pack it on. She recommends the Eye Shader brush for this, a sort of flat, wide brush that I LOVE. The all-over shade should be a little lighter than your actual skin tone. So for me, NC 30-40, that means Bone. Even when I am darker, I stay with Bone; the next shade up is Banana and that is just too dark for me. It shouldn’t look like anything, it should just look like an evened out lid. For very minimal makeup, just add liner and mascara and go.

Ok, that was a lot of explanation, but here are the shades, in rough order of light to dark:

  • White (for very fair)
  • Ivory (most people lighter than NC30; has just a hint of yellow in it to help balance out the red in fair lids)
  • Navajo
  • Bone (the classic, and more yellow than all the previous)
  • Banana
  • Toast (only for VERY dark skin tones; the peach in it keeps it from going ashy like Banana can)

Flesh was new when I left the line and I think it’s too pigmented/ deep to be an all-over shade.

You might have noticed that none of these are shimmers. Bobbi doesn’t usually recommend a Shimmerwash as an all-over shade — brow highlight maybe (Champagne, Snow), but not all over.

Pretty much every other shadow except for the very dark ones are meant to be lid and/or crease shades.  Bobbi doesn’t do  a whole lot of crease colors in her looks (she’s been doing more of them lately) but the crease and lid shades are usually pretty close in value and not very high contrast.

The very-very dark shades are intended to be liners, wet or dry. They don’t tend to be as smooth as the mid-toned shades. Some people will try to use them as a crease color and complain that they drag, tug, or don’t blend smoothly. That’s just because they are really designed to be used wet as liner, and they get inky dark when wet.  These shades would include (in the mattes): Caviar, Charcoal, Navy, Ivy, Black Plum, Mahogany, Espresso, and sometimes Smoke (usually too light unless you are very fair). Some of the Shimmerwash shadows make lovely liners. I usually use them on top of a gel to get more depth though. These would include Sapphire, Eggplant, and Gunmetal.

Bobbi also uses her eyeshadows as brow shadows. I would caution never to use Espresso and Charcoal as brow color unless you are (1) very, very dark (in my five years at the counter, I used Espresso once on someone’s brow and Charcoal never) or (2) you want a gothic black brow.  Shadows read darker in the brow than on the hand or lid (so many shades can pull double duty, and be used as both lid color and brow color). The color change can be attributed to the oils in the brow. I am fairly tan, black hair, and jet black brows: I use Saddle most of the time, Mahogany if I want a little more drama.

Anyway, my favorite shades for brows are: Birch, Blonde (which pulls warm on most blondes. This one is better for a strawberry blonde; cool blondes may prefer Grey or Cement), Camel (redheads), Cement, Chocolate, Flint, Grey, Hot Stone, Mahogany, Mink, Sable, Saddle, Slate, Toast (redheads again), and Wheat. Black Plum is good for girls who dye their hair that really dark red violet, almost black, but with hints of red. A lot of these shadows are very close to one another with minor differences in tone. If you want to pick one for your brow, I’d say try to narrow it down to two, then try one in one brow, one in the other.

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21 Responses to “A Guide to Bobbi Brown Eyeshadows”

  • aksaiyo says:

    Very informative, thank you Karla and pixichik77! Now I understand the reasons behind what she does and how her line is designed more. I like the guide to the allover shades the most, I was wondering which would be nice for minimal makeup
    I think this post should be in the “hot topics” sections along with pictures of the eyeshadows after you swatched them.

  • KarlaSugar says:

    An EXCELLENT point, aksaiyo — this does belong in hot topics. I’ll add that tag right now.

  • jbrobeck says:

    great read! i have also “hit pan” on bone a few times!

  • Leslieal says:

    Really terrific and helpful post. BB certainly does have a method to her thinking, and we don’t always have that clearly understood when we visit a counter, so this kind of post is especially awesome. THANK YOU, Pixichik77 and Karla.

  • Angie says:

    Since she believes in using shadow as a primer, that explains why she puts Navajo in every palette!

  • Zuzu's Petals says:

    Thank you for the uber helpful post. I had been recently made aware of the primer color (and which ones to use), but I had never heard of not using the very dark colors for the crease. I had been somewhat disenchanted with Mahogany, but now I will try it wet as a liner. Anyway, major thanks, as I have been looking all over the Internet for such a post — there’s a dearth of BB info out there, especially swatches.

  • luv2smilexo says:

    This is an excellent post. TY pixichik77!

  • Colleen says:

    Wow! This was so very interesting. I am definitely going to experiment with my BB shadows I have been ignoring. Thank you both for this discussion!

  • Nina says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this. I am so impressed that you posted this series. This is exactly what I have been looking for. I think Bobbi is a genius and truly knows what is most flattering for the majority of women, *especially* those who are not exactly teens anymore. ;) I still love other lines, but I am finding myself becoming more and more, a Bobbi convert. Thank you again, and Keep It Up!!! It’s fantastic that you feature and swatch BB.

  • So helpful! Good info, sounds like pixi is a great source! More guest posts please?

    Now if only we could figure out how Bobbi names the shadows…

  • Tiffany says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I found it very informative. Time to try out that BB palette I got recently…

  • Guest says:

    I sound like the lone dissenter here – piling on BB eyeshadows as base doesn’t work for me. The base itself fades in about 2 hours :(

  • ines says:

    hi! first time commenter here :) . great swatches – thank you – there is seriously a lack of interest in BB in the blogosphere.

    i do agree with the idea of a base shade, however, it doesn’t ever replace my eyeshadow base (NARS smudgeproof, too faced shadow insurance) – if i tried that while on stage (i’m a ballroom/latin dancer), everything would melt off in a huge, smudgy mess.

    also, although i’m very light (NW15/NC20, BB warm ivory at my lightest, cool beige at my darkest – the “sand” shades are too yellow for me), i find bone a bit too stark for me… creates this artifical powdery kind of look. navajo is a little better, due to the smidgen of pink in it. my favorite base, however, is a layer of baby pink (matte), or champagne (shimmerwash), neither of which are recommended classically as a bobbi base.

    i think the point behind this philosophy is that you should use a shade to properly anchor the others you’re using in the look, and to create a clean canvas.

  • texasgirl says:

    Thank you so much! Great information. Really helps to understand what she intended the colors for.

  • pieces of arzt says:

    Wow! I love BB, and that was so helpful. Thanks so much!!

  • mila says:

    Excellent post! I’m such a huge fan of BB products. The foundations (alabaster!!!!), eyeshadows, lipsticks, everything. All the colors are so well designed, if one is interested in a elegant and classic look. Looking forward to your swatches of Shimmer Wash Eye Shadows.

  • Samantha Chow says:

    Thanks for the excellent post! I was just curious why Flesh would be too deep for an all-over shade, it’s darker than toast and banana and seems like a great cream shad e.

  • pixichik77 says:

    @samantha chow: flesh has an odd tendancy to pull opaque/almost grey on some people. so, as an all over, it’s just not lifting/brightening enough I have found.

  • Artemis says:

    For using Toast eyeshadow as a base, how dark is “very dark” skin tones (in MAC terms)? Thanks

  • B Jones says:

    I love your website. I am a business woman and too busy to hit the stores so your website allows me to see swatch and order. You are fabulous and keep up this great work.
    Best to you,
    Jones

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