What Are Neutral Color Palettes and Why Are They So Popular?

What Are Neutral Color Palettes and Why Are They So Popular?

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If you’re a person who pays attention to makeup trends, then you’ve undoubtedly seen the sudden rash of “neutral” or “nude” eyeshadow palettes and lipcolors everywhere you look. Even if you don’t pay attention to makeup trends, you’ve still probably noticed that the cosmetics aisles in stores are filled with these products. So what does it mean and why are they so common?

I think most folks know that neutral makeup shades just mean that they are without a strong color cast and are mostly based in various shades of flesh tones (and some grays), but if you’re new to makeup then you might not be familiar with these shades. Browns, tans, taupes, and beiges play an important role in makeup application because they represent shading. That much is obvious, but why is that so? Well, if you think of your face as a painting, or if you were an artist about to paint someone’s portrait, those are the colors you would put onto your paint palette. After all, since makeup is essentially about creating shadows and highlights to enhance or play down one’s features, you’d use darker shades of flesh tone to create shadows and lighter shades of flesh tone to create highlights. If you closely inspect any normal portrait, whether it’s a painting or a photograph, the person’s shadows are never black or gray. They’re always a deeper shade of their own skin tone. Even the darkest shadows are dark brown instead of black. This is why you always see contouring and highlighting palettes as a collection of browns and “whites.” Contouring is never done with blush colors since it is not the same concept. Few things irritate my delicate makeup sensibilities more than seeing someone contour their face with hot pink or orangey blush! Shudder!

So it seems like an obvious answer to the question but it isn’t. Sure, the neutral shades are best for creating shadows, but why the sudden explosion in popularity if these shades have always been used? There are several explanations for this. One of them being that neutral shades in general are suddenly popular because non-professionals figured out that these shades open up a huge range of possibilities for makeup in that they don’t clash with anything. Neutral shades can be worn by any skin tone or complexion and can be mixed with other colors to “neutralize” them. They can be worn with any outfit, hair color, eye color, or jewelry.

Neutral eyeshadows can be used alone or in combination with other colors. What I mean by this is that you can mix a neutral shade with another color to get a “muted” version of that color. A good example of this is when you would like to wear a green or blue eyeshadow but the one you have might be too bright or vivid and would probably look tacky on its own. The solution is to apply a base layer of a neutral shade (brown, tan, etc.) onto your eyelid first, and then apply that green on top of it. The result will be a much more “palatable” green that you won’t be embarrassed to wear. The same principle applies to other colors as well.


The “sample” palette shown above is not completely neutral, as you can see, it includes several warm colors that are intended to be used together with the neutrals.

The neutral concept applies well to lipcolor, too. If you want to go heavy or colorful with your eyeshadow, it’s a good practice to do a less dramatic lip. Nudes and neutrals are a perfect option for this because they won’t clash with your other makeup. These shades go with anything! You can wear a neutral color in matte or glossy and it will still look good with virtually any style of makeup, including metallics! You can also mix these neutral shades with other lipcolors just like with eyeshadow. If you have a bright pink lipcolor that you never wear because it’s too vivid or tacky looking, don’t throw it away! You can mix it on a flat surface (or directly on your lips) to create a much more acceptable color that you’ll love.

  The takeaway about neutral eyeshadows and lipcolors is that they look good with any complexion, hair color, eye color, outfit or jewelry. They can be adjusted to be more subtle and natural, or they can be worn to be glamorous or dramatic. They can also be mixed with other colors to create a “muted” version of that color to go with a specific outfit or hair color. The possibilities are endless with a good set of neutral (nude, naked, etc.) shades in your makeup kit!

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Category: Makeup


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