Mega Eyeshadow Palettes – Quality vs Quantity

Mega Palettes vs Pro Eyeshadow Value

It’s the Battle of the Mega Eyeshadow Palettes – some offer 42, some 88, some 120 …some even pack up to a staggering 250 colors and include cheeks and lips. You see them everywhere – Coastal Scents, BH Cosmetics, Amazon, Crown Brush, Sedona Lace, Red Ginger, Sally Beauty Supply, your corner discount store, the drugstore by the train station …the list goes on and on.
I feel it’s time a senior artist, educator and cosmetic developer (who knows his ingredients) weighed in on the quality of these “professional” palettes.

First let’s clarify origins.
These palettes are manufactured overseas (China, Korea), with extremely loose quality control. This sets off warning bells over the safety of their ingredients. You have to question the purity of the mineral pigments and the use of low-grade talc. What levels of trace metals (lead, aluminum) or the occurrence of asbestos are hidden in these products?
Let’s be real here, you get what you pay for, and these palettes sell cheaply because they’re made cheaply. Let me pull back the curtain so you can better understand how things are priced.

To make a profit, retailers will at least double the price they’ve paid for an item.  So, Coastal Scents sells their 88 Color Eyeshadow palette for $12 – this means they paid well under $6 for it. And if you have the capitol to buy in bulk, the wholesale margin compared to retail price is positively obscene (quadruple digit markups are typical).
Now let’s look at the manufacturer. The price they charge is usually 10x their total cost …which means, that palette Coastal Scents bought for $6 cost about $0.60 to make. In reality, these palettes probably cost well under $0.50 to manufacture.
88 EYESHADOWS FOR $0.50 – still think you’re getting a bargain?

Department store chains, makeup retailers like Sephora and Ulta and many major cosmetic companies buy millions of them.  Some spend slightly more money for customized packaging so their “Blockbuster” (sort of) looks different from everyone else’s. Many companies (JC Penny, Target) sell them as is.  But they’re all the same – and they DO NOT belong in a professional makeup artist’s kit.

Crown Brush Mega Eyeshadow Palette

Crown Brush Palette: Retail Price $49.88 – “Our” Price $17.95 (seriously?)

Coastal Scents "Original" Mega Palette

Coastal Scents Palette: Regular Price $18.95 – SUPER Sale Price $11.95

I defy you to find any difference between the two palettes pictured. The only visible difference is that one image is slightly more color saturated (done simply in Photoshop). These are identical palettes. To dispel any suspicion about me manipulating the images …they appear via a direct link to each company’s website. Don’t believe me? Right click either image and choose “open image in new tab”, now look at the url (web address) – it belongs to the retailer.

The extremely low quality contents of these mega palettes put them in the bottom of the industry classification Mass/Consumer. They’re a cartoonish simulation of what the manufacturer wants non-artists to believe a pro makeup artist would actually use. Seriously folks, what consumer needs 16 shades of green?  The only credible use for this junk is as a favor for tween-age birthday parties or when the kids want to “play makeup”.

I get so frustrated when I see these heinous kits being handed out at “makeup schools”. Sorry, this is not a legitimate (cost-effective) alternative for even a brand new artist’s kit. These palettes are crap (yes, I said crap) and any artist who has them in their professional kit is not a pro in my book.
These palettes should never be used in a professional workplace.
This is not a price issue. Never once have I suggested that you have to fill your kit with expensive products. I have always stressed the need to use professional quality products.
Finding pro products at a value price is simple – DO RESEARCH.

Don’t stress, this time I’ve done it for you.
It’s VERY important to note the gram weight vs price of each individual pan.   These refill pans look-alike due to their diameter, but some are deeper and contain more product.
I’m listing from the lowest gram weight to the highest in a standard 1.5″ diameter eyeshadow pan.

Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow – 2 grams – $21.00 / $12.60 after 40% pro discount ($6.30 per gram after discount) MUFE is the second most expensive per gram, after discount.

Kryolan Professional Single Refill Eyeshadow – 2.5 grams – $4.99 ($2.00 per gram)

Ben Nye Professional Single Refill Eyeshadow – 3.5 grams – $6.00 ($1.71 per gram)

Graftobian Professional Single Refill Eyeshadow – 5.1 grams – $9.99 ($1.96 per gram)

I even looked at drugstore makeup and was shocked at the prices! It’s no ‘bargain’.

L’Oreal HiP Studio Secrets Professional Matte Eyeshadow Duo (same 1.5″ diameter size split into 2 half moon pans) is $9.99US.

Still think “drugstore” items are cheaper? You can purchase TWO FULL SIZE Kryolan Professional Eyeshadow Refills for $9.98 US

NOTE –  I didn’t include the MAC or Inglot refills and Illamasqua single shadows in the side-by-side list above because they do not use the standard pan size.

But here’s the gram weight to price breakdown anyway.

MAC Pro Palette Refill Eyeshadow – 1.5 grams – $10.00 / $6.00 after 40% pro discount ($4.o0 per gram after discount)
MAC is the third most expensive per gram, after discount. 

Inglot Freedom Palette Refill Eyeshadow – 2.7 grams – $5.00 ($1.85 per gram)

Illamasqua Single Eyeshadow – 2.0 grams – $25.00 / $15.00 after 40% pro discount  ($7.50 per gram after discount)
Illamasqua is the MOST EXPENSIVE per gram, after discount.

Interesting DiscoveryLook at the prices per gram …WHAT AN EYE-OPENER!   You’ll see that the popular consumer-ized “Pro” products are quite expensive when broken down per gram.  I was actually shocked at some of the prices …even after the discount.

(drum roll please) The Final Breakdown:

BEST BUY – Ben Nye comes in at $1.71 per gram. And, I can confirm that even though the price is insanely low, the quality and pigment levels in the Ben Nye eyeshadow are equivalent to the most expensive pro shadows.

SPECIAL KUDOS – Inglot Freedom Palette Refills came in second place.  The quality of their matte shadows are amazing for the price.

CONCLUSION – So now that you’re armed with this information, could someone please explain why new artists insist that they HAVE to buy these low quality palettes to get started?

Shop smart my beloved makeup mavens – Mwah!

Did you like this article? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or share this article with your social media network!

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65 Responses to Mega Eyeshadow Palettes – Quality vs Quantity

  1. Kelli Valenzuela 03/10/2015 at 4:16 PM #

    Thank you for this! I’m building my kit and this really helps!

  2. Caroline 02/09/2014 at 8:44 PM #

    Hello and thanks for yet another informative and interesting article.
    I’ve loved all aspects of makeup and skincare for years and now after raising my family, am planning to enroll in a makeup artist course. I find all your articles extremely helpful and really appreciate that you are so generous in helping others like you do.
    My favourite brand of makeup and skincare for my own use is Guerlain, but as I’m sure you know it is prohibitively expensive. Can you tell me what you think of its quality-is it worth what it costs?-and if it is worth it to put that in my kit or are there other equally good (or better) but less expensive brands?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Kevin James Bennett 02/15/2014 at 3:11 PM #

      I don’t think ANY professional amkeup kit should be stocked with consumer products …especially insanely expensive ones. More money is spent on the packaging/advertising/celebrity endorsements than what is in the actual bottle/jar.
      There are so many high quality alternatives for a fraction of the price.

  3. Selena Marie 01/29/2014 at 10:29 PM #

    It would be very interesting and helpful to know how you quality check these types of products. I work at a small dance cosmetics company with freedom to have any of the cosmetics. But I wonder if the products are worth having in my kit at all as an apprentice entering this industry.

    • Kevin James Bennett 01/30/2014 at 2:18 PM #

      The basic quality checks are based on application and durability:
      1) Does the eyeshadow have sufficient pigment levels to be opaque and color true on global skin tones.
      2) Does the eyeshadow apply smoothly and blend easily without grabbing or dropping off.
      3) Does the eyeshadow crease, separate or disappear within a few hours of application.

  4. Faith Haller 08/01/2013 at 12:49 PM #

    Love this post @kevinjamesbennett:disqus ! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! It’s definitely appreciated!

  5. Faith Haller 08/01/2013 at 12:49 PM #

    Love this post @kevinjamesbennett:disqus ! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise! It’s definitely appreciated!

  6. Catdan5 07/01/2013 at 8:13 PM #

    Thanks for wisdom K.J.B

  7. Catdan5 07/01/2013 at 8:13 PM #

    Thanks for wisdom K.J.B

  8. Gwen Pettie-Green 04/11/2013 at 4:07 PM #

    This is everything!

  9. Mari Patricio 04/11/2013 at 11:53 AM #

    As always, your information is an eye opener.
    Thank you for always telling us the truth

  10. Laura Hiatt 04/11/2013 at 10:11 AM #

    Thank you for posting this! It is so helpful getting real business advice! Not many artists know as much as you do and all of your information has really improved my kit and saved me lots of wasted money!

  11. Dolores 03/14/2013 at 12:06 AM #

    Awesome information. I’m restocking my kit and you have so much information on this blog/site.

  12. Julie 01/23/2013 at 10:25 PM #

    So happy you wrote this KJB!!! I can’t believe how many people/ places sell these things!!!! Now don’t slap me- but I bought the insanely colored one and the neutrals (mind you- I think I paid like $20 for both with shipping!!) to work with the lil ones. Actually- just my nieces really cause they think I’m pretty cool- hahaa!! the only other exceptions are for Halloween makeup or any other obnoxious requests where ya just don’t know what crazy colors you need! But I can’t say I’ve even put a dent in that thing!!! Sooo I’m with ya that it probably shouldn’t be in a pro kit (which is why my nieces love that it’s their play makeup now!). And I wanted to see what the hype was about 😉

    I was just saying too… I’m falling in love with Ben Nye products all over again since we did our lil workshop :) thanks!! Keep weighing in on these “hot topics” my love!! Still LOVE the mineral makeup one… Awesome to see people’s jaw drop half way thru making them read it! Ha

  13. AnnieJ 01/02/2013 at 1:20 AM #

    Hi! Sorry to be reviving an old post! Thanks for this awesome review between these two palettes and addressing this quantity/quality issue. I was thinking of trying an 88 palette out but quality matters to me too… I picked up an ELF 100 palette once and man, those really suck. It was only $10, but dang, I get why it’s so cheap… they’re crummy!!

    I’m starting to experiment with makeup only now (wasn’t so interested in my teens, now that I’ve hit my 20s I’m curious lol). What palette would you recommend that has some range of color? I saw that you recommended a Ben Nye up in the comments somewhere but I can’t find that one…

    Thanks and happy new year! :)

  14. DivaDivine 11/10/2012 at 3:44 PM #

    Great article! I wondered why the CS/BH palettes had more colors and were cheaper than even some drugstore palettes. Thanks.

    I’m a NW45 complexion and am having the toughest go of finding a great palette. Any suggestions?

  15. Brittany Young 07/05/2012 at 12:15 AM #

    Hi there! Awesome post it was very informative. I was wondering what you thought about Urban Decay eyeshadow?

    • Kevin James Bennett 07/05/2012 at 7:38 AM #

      Urban Decay is a consumer brand with moderate quality levels. I assume you’re asking about the “Naked” palettes? Well, they have far too much shimmer for a professional kit. There are a number of EXCELLENT professional quality, all matte neutral eyeshadow palettes which are much more versatile.
      I mention a few here –

  16. Jennifer 06/14/2012 at 10:51 PM #

    I feel soo bummed just coming across this now. After finishing my makeup school one of my classmates told me that all the makeup artists are buying from coastal scents, ugh so blindly believing her and not doing my own research I bought a whole wack load! Thank you for writing about this and making me see the light!

  17. Lilian 06/07/2012 at 11:57 AM #

    Hi, I totally agree with you. I do not use anything that is Made in P.R.C. Doesn’t matter if they are brands like Sigma, Smashbox, NYX. Made in P.R.C = Big No No. Better safe than sorry.

    But could I point out one thing? Those cheaply made makeup are NOT made in Hong Kong. Being one of the most global cities (#5) in the world, there is basically no manufacturers in HK because the rent is too high. They might sell the products through Hong Kong though, because it’s much easier than to sell it through China. :)

  18. temitope 05/14/2012 at 6:31 AM #

    Hi keivin is NYX eyeshadow good as well. Pls reply asap so as not to go astray

    • Kevin James Bennett 06/03/2012 at 8:43 PM #

      NYX eye shadow is not too bad. It’s not pro quality, but it’s as good or better than any high priced department store brand.

  19. ewaoju 05/08/2012 at 10:25 AM #

    Waoooooooooooo, wot an eye opener, here in nigeria there is mad rush for this mega pallete and even sold @ high price, ah kevin tanks for d info

  20. Ruthless 04/03/2012 at 3:51 AM #

    I think these are great for young people who want to experiment with make up on themselves, but I see a LOT of blogs and such hawking these-do they not realize no matter what company (sedona lace , coastal scents, whatever) is reselling these they come from the same manufacturer?

    I love your blog so far! So glad I stumbled across it.

  21. Shirley 03/04/2012 at 7:34 AM #

    I totally agree with Kevin, when I first started out experimenting I bought the costal scents pallet and the BH pallet and while using them I couldn’t understand why I had to keep layering to get the right shade, hardly any pigment and of course when I thought I was getting more for my buck!! Now being in the industry for awhile, I can’t be Dazzeled by colors without having done research and taking advise for artist such as Kevin and other well known established artist.

  22. KFash (SitPretty) 03/01/2012 at 3:03 PM #

    Thank You for this Post. I own the BH cosmetics palette & although i love some of the colors, i don’t reach for them half as much as i do my MAC shadows, Quality always Trumps Quantity. Thank You for shedding more light on this Topic!!!

  23. Melissa Whitt 02/23/2012 at 9:53 PM #

    Hi there, thanks for the info. Can you recommend a few go-to, most used eyeshadow shades from Ben Nye (or must haves for a pro kit)? Thanks!

  24. Michelle 02/15/2012 at 7:07 PM #

    Hey there! Just noticed that the Coastal Scents Hot Pots are now $1.99 per pot. At 1.3 grams that is a price of $1.53 per gram. Just putting that out there.

    • Kevin James Bennett 02/16/2012 at 7:32 AM #

      Thanks for the update. They also switched the pan to the M.A.C. refill size. They no longer match the comparison criteria for size and we already know how bad the quality is, so I’ve removed them from this post.

  25. Krystol 02/12/2012 at 12:56 AM #

    Hey Kevin,

    Just a little FYI: Inglot has a professional artist program that offers 20% off their products for makeup artists! Even though $5 is practically a steal, who would object to an extra $1 off per eyeshadow refill? I know I wouldn’t! Thank so much for this info. I had no idea about these mega palettes being so expensive.

  26. Josy 01/09/2012 at 8:20 PM #

    So much knowledge in every single post… Cant thank you enough Kevin! Wish someday to see you walking around PTown and be able to say hello! :))

  27. Chantal 12/30/2011 at 8:15 AM #

    I really have to agree on this one, most of these pallettes are of poor quality. You have to apply loads of it to get the same effect with a little bit of MAC. It’s less pigmented. For personal use it’s just fine. But it takes longer because you have to apply a few layers or an eyeshadow base… But it matters were you order from! I have 1 pallette that’s great and will stick all day an other 1 is from china, paid only 5 dollars, but the trashcan was happy to have it…. could not do anything with it.

  28. Michelle Mai Smith 12/29/2011 at 4:19 AM #

    Love this post! I am personally guilty of using these shadows when experimenting for myself, but would never use them on a client!
    I reposted to my blog. :)

  29. Brittany 12/28/2011 at 8:17 PM #

    I received one of these 88 palettes as a gift from my mom (bless her heart trying to “invest” lol)…and honestly I have never used it…except once for Halloween makeup for non-paying friends of my sisters…I use mostly MAC eyeshadows and pigments in my kit much of which I obtained at an insanely low price bc I worked for them for years. They are not buildable, when you try to blend them with a 224 or any type of tapered blending brush they just wipe right off even over primer…I prefer MAC simply because of the quality for the price and the fact that they last FOREVER….(esp the pigments). These mega palettes will end up cracking or distintigrating before you ever get a chance to use all of the colors. If you are looking for PRO products at a lower price try another brand even if you end up getting one of the Smashbox mega pallettes for 60bucks around the holidays, their shadows are much better quality than what you would spend on something like this. I love NYX…they have a great variety of colors for a great price and perform much like Pro products especially over a MAC paint or paintpot. Just my experience, hope this helps!

  30. nadia ali 12/27/2011 at 10:39 PM #

    I have to disagree with this review because I am a reseller of this makeup and I sell about 50 of these palettes every week and this makeup once used with eye primer will last from early morning to next morning, I however have realised that there are more than one manufacturer of these palettes in china, also well known makeup such as urban decay and slap bitch for a fact is manufactured in china, trying to source make up to resell and after intensive searching and researching I realised that many of the tehcnologies of makeup originates from china so that is why I have disagreed with this article, I dont doubt that the manufacturer of the palettes that this particular mua used maybe the quality is inferior but to say all the palettes are inferior is not true

    • Kevin James Bennett 12/28/2011 at 7:51 AM #

      Nadia, In this blog entry I’m specifically addressing why these palettes are not meant for professional usage. Many new makeup artists feel that they are a quick, cheap way to fill a kit – this is not acceptable. I agree that some of the quality may be passable …but the inconsistencies in quality from color to color in a single palette can be enormous and that is not suitable for pros.

      I disagree with your claim that many makeup technologies originate in China. The majority of cosmetic technology is brought to China & Hong Kong because products can be manufactured so cheaply there.

      In reference to your statement about companies like Urban Decay – Major ‘consumer’ cosmetic companies look at their margins and will do what is necessary to make the highest profit. Sometimes that means outsourcing products from China & Hong Kong. This is why the quality level of consumer makeup products are so inconsistent and I hesitate to suggest them to professionals unless they are SUPERIOR.

  31. Nyoka Gregory Green 12/24/2011 at 10:16 PM #

    GOD BLESS YOU! I have been preaching this story for the past year so I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in this opinion.

  32. Ella 12/24/2011 at 12:32 PM #

    Couldn’t agree more Kevin!! Never mind the lack of pigment, they fall apart with a couple of brush strokes…very poorly baked! I absolutely love Ben Nye and MUFE! it’s a great investment for someone who calls Make up artistry their profession! well done Kevin again I will share this post with my students 😉

  33. Jeffrey Euen-Gow 12/24/2011 at 11:40 AM #

    I am the owner of Cazcarra London, We are the UK Suppliers and Distributors of TEN IMAGE Professional Cosmetics.

    I agree totally with what Kevin is saying, you don’t need to buy these low quality products ever, not when starting out and not when you are a seasoned pro.

    Overall, a truly great and informative post.

  34. Aja 12/24/2011 at 10:56 AM #

    Very very Informative. Thank you for taking the time out to find out the real facts behind the makeup for All artists, its easy to be misguided as a beginner

  35. Barbara 12/24/2011 at 7:53 AM #

    Wow, I got one of these 88 palettes from a local brand here in Nigeria and for some reason iv hardly ever used it. It just never flowed as well as my other pro single shadows. Even though some of the pro brands are hard to find here, I never skrimp on quality.
    Thank you for this post, now I have something written by a renowned makeup artist to refer people to when they are trying to get themselves entangled in the mega palette drama.

  36. Mary Erickson 12/24/2011 at 1:44 AM #

    This is right on the money as always. Thanks Kevin! Like everyone, I’m a fan of a great deal but this is not a palette for artists. You do NOT need 16 shades of green taking up precious space in your kit. Good eye shadows are an investment artists need to take seriously because eyeshadow without pigment is one of the biggest time wasters an artist will encounter (and time is money for artists). I love that Kevin pointed out the REAL price per gram… These companies count on the consumer to overlook this stuff and many consumers do. Buyer beware….. Expensive is not always better and cheap may cost you in the long run… If I have to layer a shadow 4 times to get the color advertized I not only use more product but more importantly I cost my client time and that’s a big deal.

  37. Tiffany Lee Bymaster, "CoachGlitter" 12/23/2011 at 9:51 PM #

    I’m also very weary of the always overly glowing reviews for these less than consumer-worthy products on YouTube & blogs. Anyone who does videos, blogs or is an established working MUA knows how many free products you get especially from smaller companies looking for social media and/or editorial press & mentions. I would take most of these 5 star reviews on youtube, blogs with a major grain of salt…or glitter. Whichever you prefer.

  38. milaxx 12/23/2011 at 9:46 PM #

    I always gave these palettes side eye because they looked cheaply made. Glad I never gave in to peer pressure to buy. Added this to my Pinterest

  39. MsNickee 12/23/2011 at 6:45 PM #

    This is SO ON POINT!!! LOVE IT!!

  40. TashaBMUA 12/23/2011 at 6:13 PM #

    I’m glad i read this! I’ve always know and just from experience that those 88,& 120 palettes were low quality they are so hit or miss when applying but i still brought it because i wanted to see for myself but now i know better to go for quality or quantity. I really want to give my clients the best that i can! thanks for the info!!

  41. Lillybeth 12/23/2011 at 6:06 PM #

    Great post, but what about the quality? So the CS might be more expensive for a single colour but that doesn’t mean you should not use it or throw it away. You’ve mentioned it’s not professional – why? Does it flake off? Is it less pigmented? I guess I’ve never compared cheap vs. branded/’quality’ side by side – has anyone else? Would love to hear, based on ingredients list and swatches…

    • Kevin James Bennett 12/23/2011 at 7:24 PM #

      Lillybeth, The quality of professional makeup is always going to be better …even at a low price. But that’s the key – it needs to come from a makeup company that produces professional products for production (Film, Video, Photo, Stage) – not just a company that uses the “Pro” image as a marketing tool.
      The Coastal Scents stuff is barely consumer grade. I’d have to devote a small novella to comparing consumer brands – quality levels are all over the map.

  42. Lisa 12/23/2011 at 6:00 PM #

    folks are confusing my Yaby paletted Pearl Paints for Coastal Scents now…GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!! so inappropriately wrong.

    • lisa johnson 01/11/2013 at 10:22 PM #

      that is a problem i have found as well – they think i’m using something cheap – when in fact the Yaby Pearl Paints and all her shadows are wonderful – pigmented beyond – i wish Liz would take this into consideration and redesign or color her palettes – oh well.

  43. meagan shea' 12/23/2011 at 5:48 PM #

    FINALLY somebody said this! somebody bought me one of these palettes & i gave it away. i don’t even want this for my personal stash for my own face. NO THANKS!

  44. Jennifer James 12/23/2011 at 5:48 PM #

    Thank you for the gram breakdowns…& your clarity on the QUALITY issue!


    You rock my makeup world! :-)

    • Robbin 12/24/2011 at 10:05 PM #

      Awesome info, thank you for taking the time out to share your knowledge.


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