Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Salvage a Broken Eyeshadow

I could be wrong here, but I'm relatively certain that I'm not the only MUAer who's received a swap package containing items that were damaged in transit. And how many of you (us) have dropped an eyeshadow, only to watch it shatter on the floor? The most recent disappointment was my beloved Lancôme Erika F. eyeshadow; it arrived in the mail as a crumbly, powdery mess. So, the amateur presser ponders, what should I do next? (Well, first you should contact the other swapper, but I mean... after that.)

I decided to salvage it to the best of my abilities. Sometimes this works really, really well, and it did in this case, if I do say so myself. Some eyeshadows just don't take very well to being re-pressed, however; that's up to you to guess on a case-by-case basis. I've gotten the impression so far that the more matte a shadow is, the less likely it is to take well to being "fixed." (The sad example of my matte UD Perversion comes to mind. I killed it trying to depot it and then tried to re-press it, but I was never able to get it back to the way it was before. It's downright hard now, both in terms of density and in how much work it takes to get a decent amount of pigment out of it. I will probably have to just give up and replace it before long.)

Since many of you have probably been in a similar dilemma, I figured I might as well catalog the process and explain it in step-by-step terms. Hopefully this will help someone! :)

1. To start with, you'll need the following materials:
  • isopropyl alcohol (91% is best, but if you can't find it, 70% will suffice)
  • a mixing tool like a laboratory spatula (pictured) or a plastic cosmetic spatula
  • a quarter
  • some kind of clean, lint-free, absorbent cloth
  • a dropper bottle (available at craft stores)
  • a pan to put the shadow in when you're finished (which may be the same pan it's being removed from, depending on the circumstances)
I use the cleaning cloths made for glasses (can be purchased at any drugstore, or most optometrists give them away for free to patients; alternatively, you can use a clean piece of denim, such as a cutout from an old pair of jeans) and 1" round pans purchased from; they're about the same price as the ones from, but they have a smooth bottom instead of a ridged one, which I find more aesthetically pleasing.

Other optional materials:
  • parchment paper to cover your work surface (available at grocery stores)
  • a small jar or bowl for mixing (I usually keep the empty jars when I press or finish off Everyday Minerals eyeshadows, for example, as they make perfect jars for mixing other powders later on)
  • an organza bag to make the surface of your final product prettier (available at craft stores)
  • adhesive magnets (available at craft stores)
  • round stickers for labeling pans (available at office supply stores)
  • empty palette with 1" wells (MAC sells 4-pan and 15-pan palettes for something like $4 and $13, respectively, and E.L.F. sells 4-pan palettes for $1 that are just as good but sometimes harder to find)
2. Here's the shadow I was working on (Lancôme's Erika F.).

3. I scraped as much of the eyeshadow as I could get out of the original pan into my mixing jar (after sanitizing ALL materials with the alcohol, of course) with my spatula.

4. Add alcohol straight to the eyeshadow in the jar, just a few drops at a time, mixing as you go. You want your mixture to have a smoothly blended appearance; it doesn't have to be soupy, but it also is easier to work with if it's not still in chunks. Take it easy with the alcohol; it will evaporate eventually, so don't panic if you use too much, but it's easier to add more than to take it away :)

5. Scrape all of the mixture into an eyeshadow pan and spread it out as evenly as you can while still being careful to ensure it doesn't spill out over the edges. Sometimes, you'll end up with too much of the mixture for it to comfortably fit in one pan. Lancome pans are slightly larger than 1", and the alcohol also adds volume to your mixture until it's evaporated, as well. I prefer to err on the side of caution and divide my mixture into two pans instead of one when this happens. You'll end up with two pans that aren't completely full, but trust me when I say that this is better than one that's too full.
(I ruined an entire palette of pressed shadows when the top layer of one crumbled because it was so full that the walls of the pan didn't fully encase the top of the shadow... it got everywhere and it was a dark shadow in a palette mostly full of lighter colors. Awesome.)

6. Lay your cloth down gently on top of the pan and let it soak up some of the alcohol, which will be working its way toward the top of the pan (it rises and separates like oil in water, but more slowly, as it evaporates). Once the cloth is saturated (you'll be able to tell by the presence of a wet circle in the cloth), shift it so the pan is under a dry patch again. Repeat until your cloth stops soaking up so much alcohol on its own.
Then, lay your quarter on top of the cloth and line it up with the pan's edges (it should fit just right). Gently press down until you see the alcohol "bleeding" out around the edges and soaking the cloth; then move to another dry spot and repeat. You'll find that you need to gradually press harder and harder to get the cloth to soak up the alcohol. You want to keep pressing and shifting to new dry spots until the cloth is soaking up little to no alcohol at all.

7. Voila! You now have a (hopefully) recovered eyeshadow. If you decide to use an organza bag to give the shadow a more defined pattern, you simply repeat the process in Step 6 - lay the bag over the pan and press down on the pan with the quarter until the pattern is transferred to the shadow in the pan.

8. Now for the finishing touches: apply a piece of adhesive magnet to the back of your pan and add a sticker with the name of your shadow on it so you can identify it later on. (I marked these materials as optional because if you prefer, you can also glue your shadows into place in your palettes. I only use magnets because I like to be able to take my colors out and re-organize them in different color groups, etc.)

9. Put it in your palette. Yay! You're all done!


  1. This is awesome!! I have only ever pressed 1 e/s before and I didn't keep pressing to soak up all the alcohol and my results were not stellar. Now I know better what to do!
    Your blog is off to a fantastic start and I am looking forward to seeing more!

  2. fantastic! I just got my empty palette from Coastal Scents today and I can't wait to press all my loose shadows.
    This couldn't have come at a better time.
    You definitely made the process clearer for me, thanks!

  3. Sure, sweetie! If you give me a day or so until I have more free time, I'm planning to post another how-to that's specific to pressing mineral shadows, as those require slightly different directions. But if what you're planning to press are MAC pigments or regular (non-mineral) shadows, you should be okay with just alcohol (following the steps above, basically from when you put the broken pieces into the jar - you can just mix the shadows with your mixing mediums in the same jar you've been housing them in, the vast majority of the time).

    Let me know if you have any questions!

  4. you've helped me tremendously with this.
    how can i ever repay you??

  5. This is a really, really cool tutorial! Omg you've like, saved my life with this one! <3 <3 <3

  6. Thanks bunch! Going to try this method to press mac pigments that I love but hardly ever use because they're too messy!


  7. Hi,
    This was such a helpful tutorial... the most useful one I've found online. Your tip about using the organza was the "missing link" I've been looking for to make my presses look more professional.

    You said that you would do a how-to about pressing mineral shadows, but I can't find it on the site. Can you share with me some of your tips that are specific to mineral shadows?

  8. Hi Serenity,

    Here you go!


    - Kristina

  9. fantastic....some of my QUO shadows are broken and I just bought an empty palette from ebay so I can not wait. But all I have is 50% alcohol....


  10. great tips! I tend to use up one or two colors in an assortment. am going to try and fill some empty pans and create collections I will actually use. then i will look for plastic cases at second hand store and make my own cases instead of buying. have had good luck with old purse mirrors and I like to reuse and recycle. might try remixing less than favorite, colors. thanks!!


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