I am so excited to share this formulation with you guys! Today we are making Sephora-quality long-wearing shimmer cream eyeshadow. You will need three specialty ingredients, but if you love cream eyeshadows, it is absolutely worth it. Just as I did in my book, Make it Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Care, we’ll be making a larger batch of base and you can then use that base to create every colour of cream eyeshadow you can imagine 😱 For a bit of a cost teaser—you can make 5g of cream eyeshadow (which is a lot—roughly 250 applications!) for about $1.50USD. Cream eyeshadows are regularly 10–30x that much, and now you can have ’em in every colour your heart desires for a fraction of the price!
Post last updated February 2023.
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I’ve been straight-up obsessed with cream makeup since about 2018, with cream eyeshadow being the product I’ve been the most focused on. I have been formulating, studying, purchasing, testing, and analyzing all things cream eyeshadow for about three years. I have learned a lot and have developed some pretty strong opinions on how cream eyeshadows should perform. What I dream of is a cream shadow that I can apply with fingers and blend out (and layer up!) easily for a super simple pop of colour and shimmer. It needs to be steerable so it’s not dripping down my face. It needs to dry at just the right speed—slowly enough to give me time to get it where I want it, but fast enough that it stays there. And it needs to wear well all dang day because I am a “do it once and done for the day” kind of person.
Common base ingredients
My obsession-fuelled research into cream cosmetics taught me very quickly that many cream cosmetics are built on top of a base consisting of a few recurring ingredients. If you compare the ingredients in Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, Bobbi Brown’s Gel Eyeliner, Anastasia Beverly Hills’ DipBrow Gel, Smashbox’s matte liquid lipstick, Fenty Beauty’s Lip Paint, and Glossier’s Lidstar, you’ll notice a common cluster of ingredients despite these products all being quite different from one another (it was actually liquid lipstick that sent me down this rabbit hole).
The first ingredient or two will be ultra-light, volatile emollients like isododecane, lightweight dimethicone (like dimethicone 1.5 rather than the 350 I’ve used on the blog before), and/or cyclomethicone. There will be some film formers, often trimethylsiloxysilicate or some sort of copolymer, for long wear time. There are thickening and oil-absorbing ingredients—everything from kaolin to beeswax to fumed silicas—and sometimes some appealing sounding carrier oils quite far down the list. And lastly, that “May Contain” list of all the pigments. That’s not everything, of course, but that’s the broad-strokes gist of it (you can see this general formulation structure in play with TKB’s free Liquid Lipstick formulation).
The problem 😔
So, with that general observation in mind, I spent a lot of 2018 and 2019 working on an all-purpose long-wearing cream cosmetic base. As I worked away on it, the formulation rapidly developed to contain a dozen specialty ingredients that would require an upfront investment of around $100USD (without international shipping fees and duties if you don’t happen to be located in the USA) so I decided to just shelf it. It seemed like far too much of an investment for most home formulators.
Mousse Medium to the rescue!
And then… TKB Trading released their Mousse Medium in 2021. They had the same idea that I did and they turned it into a product that you can buy and customize for way less than $100! And honestly, their Mousse Medium is better than my shelved cream cosmetic base 😄 I was thrilled when they asked if I wanted to work with it and I have been having SO much fun playing with it! I’m sharing this Long-Wearing Shimmer Cream Eyeshadow project first, but I’ll be sharing other formulations using this base (psst… cream eyeliner!) in the coming months.
TKB’s Mouse Medium contains: Dimethicone (and) Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isododecane, Aqua, PEG/PPG-20/20 Phenylisopropyl Caprylyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone (and) Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Silica, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Propylene Carbonate, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Hexylene Glycol. We’ve got our ultra-light emollients up at the front (lightweight dimethicone + isododecane), our film former (trimethylsiloxysilicate), some thickeners (crosspolymer, Stearalkonium Hectorite) and oil control ingredients (silica), and preservatives (phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, potassium sorbate) due to the water content. It’s a hazy liquid with a viscosity and consistency that’s a bit tricky to describe—watch the video to see it in action! TKB has designed this base to accommodate additions up to 40–50%.
Moussey modifications for cream eyeshadows
You can make liquid eyeshadows with just the Mousse Medium and mica, but I wanted something a bit thicker and more cream-like. So, I started with the Mousse Medium base and blended that with 20% mica and 10% of their silicone gel for some added viscosity and extra-amazing slip. It was lovely, especially for a first try! It wore pretty well and applied like a dream, but I wanted better wear time. I tried dissolving some flake resin in the silicone gel, but those mixtures didn’t remain uniform—there’d be a bit of clear liquid floating on top of the mica. I realized that what I needed was an ingredient that would help control the sebum that breaks eye makeup down and also thicken the mixture so it would be a uniform creamy consistency. I started with 1% Silica Dimethyl Silylate (SDS), which worked really well to thicken and control sebum. It also wore really well… but it pilled up during application and took on a sort of fluffy mashed potato look in the tube 😂 Once you broke down those pilly lumps and got it on it was great, but I was not crazy about the clumpy/pilly application. I worked on reducing the Silica Dimethyl Silylate (SDS), getting it all the way down to 0.1%, but it still made doughy, pilly eyeshadows. Boo.
That’s when I remembered a new ingredient TKB had sent me; their silicone elastomer. Like Silica Dimethyl Silylate (SDS), it also contains fumed silica, but where Silica Dimethyl Silylate (SDS) can leave formulations feeling “grabby” (it’s the key ingredient in a lot of texturizing/volumizing hair powders), silicone elastomer is smooth and silky. So I tried it at 0.25% and YES YES YES. It worked to improve wear time, give the formulation a rich creamy feel, and keep everything together so the finished product was always uniform and creamy. I know 0.25% doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a big difference and is absolutely worth it.
Turning the base into eyeshadow
So, that’s our base. Combine 80% base with 20% eye-safe mica (you can use just one or blend up a storm!) and you’ve just made a stunning cream eyeshadow 😄
How pigmented your finished Long-Wearing Shimmer Cream Eyeshadow will be will depend massively on the micas that you choose. Some micas are mostly shimmer with just a hint of colour, some are really pigmented, and of course there’s everything in between! You can see the variety in pigmentation in the swatch photos; those are all 20% mica, it’s just that the micas can vary a lot.
You can get a feel for how pigmented a mica will be by looking at the data sheet (TKB is great about providing these!). The higher the concentration of ingredients like iron oxides, titanium dioxide, and dyes, the more pigmented the mica will be.
The particle size of the mica you use will also impact the viscosity of the finished shadow; very fine micas make thicker, creamier shadows while chunkier micas make slightly thinner, more piece-y shadows. I have tested this base with dozens of micas and they all worked well, but you will notice small differences in the end product when using micas with different particle sizes.
How to make the eyeshadow more pigmented
You can incorporate a small amount of a pure pigment to amp up the colour of the eyeshadow. I’ve had good results using 1–4% oxide or ultramarine, reducing the mica to make room for it. Be careful with dyes—those will dye your skin!
How to make duochrome cream eyeshadows
Simply use a duochrome or multichrome mica. That’s it!
Learn more about making duochrome eyeshadows
How long does it wear?
I’ve been wear testing this formulation for about a month, through some of the hottest days we’ve ever had in Calgary, so I feel quite confident in the “long-wearing” part of the title! I easily get 10–14 hours of crease-free wear when applied over eyeshadow primer (my favourite is currently the one from Wet N Wild which is about $5 and works just as well as Urban Decay’s far more expensive primer [the packaging is way better, too][and yes, I will be trying to turn the Mousse Medium into a primer, too!]). If your lids aren’t as oily as mine you could likely skip the primer; I’ve learned that I must have very oily eyelids from the creasy chasm between what the internet says is a long-wearing, no-primer-needed product and my personal experience. Eyeshadow primer is a must for me, regardless of the product.
Before we get into the formulation, let’s chat quickly about packaging. Because the bulk of this formulation is volatile emollients, whatever we package this in needs to be airtight with relatively small surface area exposure so it doesn’t dry out. And, because a little cream eyeshadow goes a long way (a single application is roughly 0.02g, so 2g of cream eyeshadow is roughly 100 applications!), and if you’re anything like me you’ll want to make dozens of batches so you can play with ALL THE COLOURS, we’ll want to use something fairly small. So: airtight + small (5ml or less).
While I was developing the formulation I used 1.5mL microcentrifuge tubes for 1–2g batches and they worked really well; they were a great size and kept the product from drying out. They aren’t ideal for dispensing product (you’ll need a brush to get it out once it dips below the surface), but they are tiny and cheap and they seal well! You could also look at tiny little dram vials; half a dram is just shy of 2mL and slightly bigger than the microcentrifuge tubes I was using—that should hold a 2g batch nicely (you’d need to use a brush to get the product out with those as well). I also found these wee 1.2mL doe-foot tubes on Amazon, but they are a pain in the backside to fill due to their tiny orifice.
After I’d created a couple of colours I really loved, I scaled them up to 5g and uses some 5mL doe-foot tubes from TKB Trading, and those have been working well. I recommend starting small and investing in tiny packaging and a precise scale for your colour experimenting, though!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Silicone gel (Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Silicone Elastomer (Dimethyl Siloxane Elastomer, Fumed Silica) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- TKB Mousse Medium in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Coloured Mica in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Precision scale in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Micro mini mixer in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Disposable Mini Mixing Cups in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Make it Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup and Skin Care (my book!)
- Other makeup formulations:
Long-Wearing Shimmer Cream Eyeshadow
20% | 4g colourful micas of choice
Weigh the silicone gel and silicone elastomer into a small cup or screw-top jar (choose something with a well-fitting lid if you are planning on storing the base to use over a period of days/weeks/months). and stir very thoroughly to combine. Once the mixture is uniform, add the Mousse Medium. Stir until you have a semi-viscous, smooth mixture and that’s it—that’s your eyeshadow base!
To transform the base into eyeshadow you just need to stir in the mica (or blend of micas) of your choice, using 80% base and 20% mica(s).
If you have a scale that is precise enough, a 1g batch of eyeshadow will last a long time and is a great batch size for testing out different mica blends. For a 1g batch, simply weigh out:
- 0.8g cream shadow base
- Add 0.2g mica(s) of choice
Stir until uniform and transfer to a container. Please read the post for more details!
For a 5g batch you’ll need:
- 4g cream shadow base
- 1g mica(s) of choice
Just weigh everything out and stir it until smooth. That’s it! The TKB Trading 5mL black doe-foot tubes have really wide openings so they’re pretty easy to fill—watch the video to see that in action.
To use—I like to dab a small amount of cream shadow onto my primed eyelid and then use a clean finger or brush to blend it out, adding more shadow as needed. Start with a small amount of product and build it up gradually for the best results. Darker shades also make good eyeliners, though I will be sharing an eyeliner-specific formulation soon-ish, too!
The Colour Blends
- Yellow Bee’s Cute Coral—at 20%
- Yellow Bee’s Innocent Kiss + TKB Trading’s Gold Fine—each at 10%
- TKB Trading’s Cinnamon Sugar + Yellow Bee’s Cute Coral—each at 10%
- TKB Trading’s Reformulated Pink Coral + Yellow Bee’s Nearly Nude—each at 10%
- Yellow Bee’s Hot Chocolate—at 20%
Shelf Life & Storage
This formulation should last for approximately one year. The base is formulated to allow for additions of up to 50%, and is preserved with that in mind.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this formulation in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 20g of cream eyeshadow. That is a lot of cream eyeshadow!
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- Please don’t change anything in the base formulation. If you do, you will be firmly in re-development territory.
- You can learn more about working with Mousse Medium by clicking here.
- You can use whatever blend of eye-safe micas you want to create all kinds of lovely colours!
- If you’d like to make your eyeshadow even more pigmented you can incorporate up to 4% pigment (oxides, ultramarines, titanium dioxide, etc.), reducing the mica to make room for it. I do not recommend incorporating dyes as they will dye the skin and take 12+ hours to fully come off (I tried it 😂).