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Orange-Based Eyeshadow With Gray Hair: Fun Fall Trend or Too Weird?

First off, if you know anything about this blog, you'll know that this title was a trick question, because here at Highland Fashionista, nothing is too weird. We are GenX and have an angsty and misunderstood reputation to uphold.

A split screen with four photos of a woman wearing orange and bronze eyeshadows and holding an eyeshadow palette

Okay so I overcooked it a bit with the gold highlight from this palette because it wasn't showing up well in the photos. Whatever, it's fine. Everything's fine.

The larger point is, if you're anywhere hovering about the middle age bracket, you'll have undoubtedly noticed that the beauty industry has started marketing everything to you in what feels like a modified version of the fun, trendy product you actually thought you wanted. Sometimes for the better, often not. We are inexplicably still being sold the bill of goods that it's time to tone things down. Those of us with gray hair are marketed eyeshadows in conservative shades of dusty matte taupe (glitter makes your wrinkles show!), told to avoid bronzer (too muddy!) and instructed to not put highlighter anywhere near our wrinkles (someone might actually know they're there!). Yet at the same time we are sold greasy, "illuminating" products that contain so may "youthful", light-reflecting particles if you use more than one or two on a given day your face can reflect so much light you might just get a visit from NASA, wanting to know why all their satellites are pointing towards your house.

The Advice We Get When We Have Natural Gray Hair

When I started letting my natural hair grow in, one little advice nugget that unfortunately stuck in my mind was that with a ageing face, one should avoid a warmer, orange-based palette. This was something I struggled with since I am outside a fair amount of time and always have a bit of a tan (yes, even with sunscreen), still have quite a lot of dark brunette hair, and a naturally warm complexion. I love my warm shades and am still drawn to them, despite my rapidly-cooling hair. I'll admit it. Not being a savvy makeup person, I fell for it. I fell for the "tone it down" company line.

This year, at the tender age of 52, I made a conscious decision to try and get better at makeup. I am doing this pretty gradually (old dog, new tricks), but I am quickly learning, thanks to a handful of YouTube and TikTok makeup content creators. I am still not comfortable wearing the amount of foundation that many of these creators are using in their videos, but the small changes that I have already incorporated into my routine have been easy and really impactful (see my recent winged eyeliner post). Here are two of my go-to middle aged makeup content creators if you're interested:

  • Erica Taylor has over a million TikTok followers, and those of you in the USA will perhaps have seen her face on the marketing from her partnership with Ulta. Taylor has been a makeup artist for decades, and her posts are quick and to the point. She's also funny, which is an absolutely non-negotiable requirement for me. Most of her full content is short form on TikTok, but she also has a YouTube channel as well if you can't stomach TikTok (hey, I get it.) This is a great resource for quick, everyday application techniques; small shifts in technique and placement that make a huge difference on our middle aged faces.

  • Sonia Ramos is my absolute favorite pick for bolder looks and more out of the box makeup application at any age. She's also a naturally silver Latina woman, so if you are more medium to olive-toned and have natural silver hair and like to play with your look, you'll perhaps relate. I really appreciate her zero F's approach to makeup, if not just life in general. Sonia may not be everyone's cup of tea; if you are the type to clutch your pearls when you hear cursing, she may not be your flavor. Personally, I absolutely love and appreciate her unadorned, tell it like it is advice on makeup , skincare and handbags. She is on TikTok

The Result of My First Pass at Orange Eyeshadow With My Gray Hair

A photo of the I heart Revolution Eyeshadow Palette in Chocolate Fudge

This whole thing started as summer turned to fall; I kept seeing all manner of bronze, russet, "latte", and orange-based shadow posts being done by makeup creators. Up until that point I had been dutifully sticking with the aforementioned cooler-based pinky taupes and I was bored. I decided I wanted in on something a little more seasonal and trendy. I watched a few videos, and I just sort of went for it. For this little experiment I used the I Heart Revolution Mini Chocolate Eyeshadow Palette in Chocolate Fudge (affiliate link alert!) that I got from the local drugstore.

A split screen photo of a woman with gray hair wearing orange based eyeshadow

In these photos, I feel like I didn't quite get the application quite right, as my placement still looks a bit late 90s - early 2000s for my tastes, but I realize now that I simply didn't take the techniques I was learning far enough. I also used a very light hand, another habit that I would like to be comfortable breaking more often now that I'm trying to be braver. However, the object of this experiment was really just to see if these shades were even going to be wearable on me in a way that I would wear them on the daily, as opposed to a full-on influencer mode application. To that point, I'm happy to report that even as a light wash of everyday color, the answer is yes. It works.

The conclusion - go forth ladies, and purchase that weird eyeshadow you saw on the internet that you love the look of in the pan but are not sure what to do with! If all else fails, the internet will keep you right!


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