What is it?

What Is Duochrome Eyeshadow? An Explanation With Examples

These days, we hear a lot more about duochromes and multichromes than we used to. While indie brands like Dawn Eyes, Tammy Tanuka, and JD Glow were long since doing unusual eyeshadows with different shifts, the Sephora makeup brands have been catching up. Now we have Natasha Denona coming out with Chromium Multichrome Liquid Eyeshadows and Pat McGrath with countless duochromes and multichromes in her palettes.

But what the heck are duochromes? How are they different from multichromes?

We’ll cover it all here today. But as usual, let’s just get the short answer out there.

A blue to lavender duochrome. A  loose eyeshadow in a pot showing both colors.
This is Devoted, a gorgeous blue-to-lavender shifting duochrome from Dawn Eyes Cosmetics.

What Is Duochrome Eyeshadow?

Duochrome eyeshadow is made with pigments that, depending on how the light hits, can appear to be two different colors. Some common duochrome eyeshadow shifts are blue to brown or blue to green. Usually, these shifts are called reflects, flashes, or flips.

The only difference between duochromes and multichromes is that multichromes have more than two colors they can shift to.

The difference between duochromes and regular shadows is that the regular shadow, even if it’s quite dimensional or has multicolored glitter, can’t fully flip to another color.

But that answer is fairly academic. Examples will help bring duochromes alive for you and highlight the contrast between those and other eyeshadows.

Let’s discuss those examples.

Examples of Duochromes

First, let’s look at Colourpop’s Glass Bull. Their website calls it a “duochrome lavender icy-blue,” meaning it will shift from those two colors depending on how the light hits.

Eyeshadows that can present as different shades are notoriously hard to photograph, but I’ll do my best with examples from my collection, starting with Glass Bull.

Glass Bull, a duochrome. A lavender pan shot in the first pic, the blue flash pan shot in the second, and a swatch with both
You can see the lavender in the first pic, the blue flash in the second, and both in the swatch. Glass Bull isn’t the strongest duochrome, but you can definitely see the shift in person.

Next, let’s talk about JD Glow’s Peachy Keen. On their site, they say it’s a “Peach w/ Green flip.” This is another duochrome shadow, flashing two colors depending on the light.

A peach-green duochrome. The peach shows in the first pic, the green flash in the second, and both colors are on display in the swatch
This is a strong, undeniable duochrome. The peach shows in the first pic, the green flash in the second, and both colors are on display in the swatch

Now we have Red Mist from Sydney Grace. Red Mist is a white shadow that shines reddish-pink when the light hits it right.

Red Mist, a duochrome. On the left, you see a white shadow. In the middle, you can see the pinky reflect. And in the swatch, you can just barely see the pink at the top fading down to white.
On the left, you see a white shadow. In the middle, you can see the pinky reflect. And in the swatch, you can just barely see the pink at the top fading down to white. (This was a hard one to capture.)

And here’s one not in my collection right now: Urban Decay Lounge. Urban Decay calls this much-lauded classic a “brick red w/ green shift.”

Lounge, a duochrome with green and little flecks of brick red coming through.
There’s mostly green here, but you can see a little of that brick red peeking through. Source.

What’s the Difference Between Duochromes and Multichromes?

To highlight the difference between what we just discussed (duochromes) and multichromes, let’s check out a few multichrome comparisons.

First, the queen of multichromes—Clionadh Cosmetics. I grabbed the following picture from the Clionadh website, but they were originally taken by @angelamarytanner on Instagram (who I’d highly recommend you follow if you love to look at beautiful swatches! She also does dupes).

A multichrome swatch showing green moving to yellow moving to a deep rose gold
Source and Original Source

Looking at the picture, take Forge, the second shade down on the top right square of swatches. You can clearly see a green moving to yellow moving to a deep rose gold. There are at least three colors here, making this a multichrome.

And here is Umm… from JD Glow:

A multichrome shadow showing orange to pink to green to purple, with a little blue snuck in
Source.

This is shining orange to pink to green to purple, with a little blue snuck in. A veritable multichrome party on your eyes. JD Glow also does liquid multichromes.

What’s the Difference Between Duochromes and Dimensional Regular Shadows?

There are spectacular shadows with lots of different colored glitters and can shift in sparkle as you move around. But a true duochrome can flash an entirely different color altogether. If a shadow doesn’t do that, it may be gorgeous, but it’s not a duochrome.

Here are some examples of shadows that you might be tempted to think are duochromes but actually aren’t, at least not according to me.

First up, we have Dollface from Looxi. While it’s a pink loaded with gold flaky shimmer (two colors), it doesn’t actually shift from pink to gold. The two colors exist simultaneously.

Dollface, a pink with flaky gold shimmer
Looxi Dollface is an unusually textured two colored eyeshadow, but it doesn’t shift from one color to the other. Even where the gold is strong, you can still see plenty of pink.

Then we have the phenomenal TRON from the Kaleidos Electro-Turquoise Futurism palette. I hate to disagree with their opinion on the site, but I don’t think this is a duochrome. It looks the same from all angles—one of the shiniest, most spectacular shades in my collection, but not fully shifting from one color to another. We can agree to disagree, but I think the pictures speak for me here.

TRON, a bright, foiled, textured turquoise
TRON from Kaleidos—a fantastically foiled shade that has tons of dimension but doesn’t make a full shift from one color to another. Where there’s intense shine, the main color is still turquoise.

And finally, I give you the now-discontinued Super Shock shadow in Midnight, from Colourpop. It’s a cool brown with gold and blue glitter. While it does have multicolored elements, it never shifts from brown to another color. Here’s my much-beloved Midnight:

A brown shade featuring multicolored glitter but no complete shift.
Colourpop’s Midnight, featuring multicolored glitter but no complete shift.

Concluding Thoughts

So, now you know all there is to know about duochromes, and you even know some manufacturers that make them.

So, Tl;dr: what is duochrome eyeshadow? Let’s recap:

  • If they flash completely from one color to one other color, you’ve got a duochrome on your hands.
  • If it flashes completely to several colors, it’s not a duochrome—it’s a multichrome.
  • And if it doesn’t flash to an entire different color, even if it’s a spectacular shadow, it’s not a duochrome.

And that’s the that on that. Hope it helped!

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