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Most eyeshadow is available in cream form, pressed powder, and loose powder. Creamy eyeshadow usually comes in pots or tubes, and can be applied using fingers or a makeup sponge. Cake form is generally a very dense mixture that is pressed into an eyeshadow case, and application is typically done using a sponge or brush. Loose eyeshadow is eyeshadow that is crushed into a loose powder, and has the appearance of colored cornstarch or flour. Though it has some advantages, loose powder eyeshadow can be a bit more difficult to apply than cream or pressed varieties.
Eyeshadow typically contains pigments for color that are mixed with cosmetic powder and mica powder. The mica powder is what gives eyeshadow a lustrous sheen. In addition, pressed powder eyeshadow also contains binding agents, such as mineral oil or silicone blends. These binding agents give pressed powder the consistency necessary for it to cake up and hold its molded shape. Loose eyeshadow does not typically contain binding agents, which is how it maintains a loose, powdery consistency.
When compared to other types of eyeshadow, loose mixtures have some obvious advantages. One advantage is the ease of mixing colors. Different shades of loose eyeshadow can easily be mixed together to create different colors and tones. Purchasing all the primary colors — blue, red, and yellow, along with solid black and white — gives one the ability to create literally hundreds of colors and tone variations.
Another advantage to using loose eyeshadow is the smooth finish it typically produces. Oil-based eyeshadow will often congeal inside lines and wrinkles. Loose eyeshadow generally stays right on the surface of the skin, maintaining even distribution. This may be especially beneficial to older users, who want to accent the eye without drawing attention to wrinkling.
There are some disadvantages to using loose eyeshadow. One of the main drawbacks is that it is not very long-wearing. The lack of a binding agent prevents it from adhering well, and it may have to be reapplied throughout the day. In addition, it could take repeated applications to achieve deep and vivid color.
Loose eyeshadow must be applied very carefully, otherwise bits of powder will end up all over the face. The best way to avoid this is to be sure all the excess powder has been loosened from the brush. This can be done by tapping the brush several times against a hard surface. When the tapping ceases to dislodge powder, the loose eyeshadow can probably be applied without mess.