Black off!

The most frequently asked question I get is, “What’s the best matte black eyeshadow?”

There are, arguably, three that would be listed as top contenders.  I sat down over a grueling few weeks to find out which black shadow reigns supreme.

From left to right: MAC, MUFE, and Sugarpill

Top is on skin, bottom is with TFSI.

MAC Carbon


You can get Carbon in either a PRO pan or in a regular compact, not to mention the few times a year it might come out as a promo shade or in a collection. 

.05 ounces for $14.50 = $290.00 an ounce in a compact

.05 ounces for $11 = $220.0o an ounce in a pan


The MAC compacts are thick and sort of cumbersome, although they are done in the minimalist MAC fashion.  They are a real pain to have to store (they don’t stack) and carry around (they pop open).  They have a clear lid so that you can easily see the shade inside.

The PRO pans are sold in flat envelopes that IMO are easy to damage and more then once mine have cracked before I got them home.

The packaging is complete with the shade, the weight, and a full list of ingredients.


You can either buy the shadow in the pan or in a PRO pan (as mentioned above).  Most counters will only sell it in the compact, which you can pry apart to depot.  The process of depotting is tricky and sticky and you run the risk of damaging your pan.  You would them have to clean the stick off the back, label it, and add a magnet yourself.

You can order the PRO shades from the MAC site or get them in some freestanding MAC stores.  The back is labeled with the color as well as it’s own magnet.  The problem with these is sometimes if you get a nonMAC palette to add them to, it sticks a bit up over the top of the case.


MAC shadows are nice, but typically require a base to get them to be their most vibrant and last the longest.  Carbon in it’s own is very soft, even on a base it’s not all that dark or opaque.  It wears well enough, although it looks more grey at the end of the day then a black.


This is a poorly pigmented and not very true black.

Value : 4/5

Packaging : 3/5

Versatility : 5/5

Formula/Wear : 4/5

Blackness : 3/5

Overall : 3.8/5



MUFE seems to sell their shadows as singles with the very occasional limited edition sets.

.08 ounces for $19 = $237.50 an ounce


I really like the MUFE packaging.  It’s very sleek and flat and easily stackable.  The compact is sturdy and closes with a strong magnet, in fact they are very hard to open because there is no… what?  divot? in the compact to be able to grasp to open it.  The pan inside is magnetized so you can easily remove it from the compact and add it to a palette.  The compact has a sliver of a window on the front so that you can see the shade, but it’s hard to see anything with #4 since the compact itself is black.

The packaging is complete with the shade, the weight, and a full list of ingredients.


You can ONLY buy #4 as a single shadow.  There is no other option to avoid the packaging if you want to depot it, so no cheaper option.  The pan removes easily from the compact, it sits up a bit higher then the packaging and all you need is a bit of a nail to tilt it out.  The pan is labeled with the color, but does not have it’s own magnet because the compact is magnetized, so you’d have to add one yourself to add it to a non-MUFE palette or any other nonmagnetic palette.


I cannot stand this shadow.  It is sticky and reminds me of a pure black oxide.  It’s very splotchy when you apply it and seems to be JUST THE PIGMENT with no blending or adhesion ingredients, although looking at the label it does have talc and kaolin, but nothing to make the formula smooth or all that wearable.  There are several ingredients in the ‘may contain’ list that would add to slip and adhesion, but I don’t’ think they made it into this actual shadow.

I had a really hard time blending it on straight skin, in fact on my swatch above you can see how it sort of pilled in places.  You need a primer with this and that still doesn’t make it very blendable at all.  It felt a little gummy on my lid.


It’s pretty black, but that’s because it’s all pigment, but it can be splotchy if you’re not careful.

Value : 3/5

Packaging :5/5

Versatility : 4/5

Formula/Wear : 3/5

Blackness : 4.5/5

Overall : 3.9/5

Sugarpill Bulletproof


You can get Sugarpill shadows as either a single or as part of a pre-designed quad.

.14 ounces for $12 = $85.71 an ounce in the single

.14 ounces for $8.50 = $60.71 an ounce in a quad


The Sugarpill shadows come in flat round compacts with clear lids so that you can see the shade.  The design is very well done with the theme of the shop.  The compact are flat, but again, they don’t stack all that great.  They snap together pretty securely, I haven’t had any issues with them opening on me in my bag.

The quads are of the same design, very well made, and sturdy.  There were issues in the beginning with them not being labeled on the back, but they are now.  The lid folds over and magnatizes closed and even after ‘losing’ one in the bottom of my purse for a week (don’t ask), the quad was in very good condition and the shadows in perfect shape.

The packaging is complete with the shade, the weight, and a full list of ingredients.


I’ve never tried to depot these because I personally find them too cute, but I do know that it’s possible and fairly easy.  You need to just unpot it , label it, and add a magnet.

The palettes are magnetized inside so that pans stay in and can be moved, rotated, or added to your own palette.  You do need to label them and add your own magnet if you’re not using a magnetized palette.


Sugarpill shadows are some of my favorite, they are amazing.  They are super pigmented and very blendable and stay on all day.  I honestly don’t think they need a primer to make them bright, but a primer makes them easier to blend with other shadows.


This is a nice, very opaque and pigmented black.

Value : 5/5

Packaging : 5/5

Versatility : 5/5

Formula/Wear : 5/5

Blackness : 5/5

Overall : 5/5

The winner and still champ of my Black Off! Black Shadow Battle?  Sugarpill!


37 Responses to “Black off!”

  1. Until I got the Cold Heart Palette I had heard people raving about Tako and Bulletproof but couldn’t get excited over them. I won MAC Pigment in Black Black (I think that’s the name, it’s a loose, messy matte black, very pigmented but gets all over the place), and I have a lot of mineral makeup so I didn’t see what the excitement was all about until I got the palette. Bulletproof is deep and dark, yet really easy to work with. It’s really nice to see how it compares (and wins!) to Carbon and MUFE, because so may people hold Carbon up as the HG of blacks.

    • Carbon is one of the WORST blacks out there. In fact, it doesn’t even stand up to the matte black in a Sleek palette!

    • I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of people put MAC on some pedestal that it doesn’t always deserve; once you go looking, especially at indie companies, you find they’re not the brightest, most pigmented, easiest to work with, or even best value.

  2. From the swatches alone I predicted a win for Sugarpill. Can’t say I’ve tried any of their shadows yet but it’s nice to know they’re good for blacks.

  3. Wow! What a difference in blacks. The Sugarpill looks so beautiful and smooth compared to the others!

  4. From the swatches I am kind of surprised the Carbon is considered to be a HG item for people! It looks really grey to me…
    Sugarpill is popping up everywhere I go recently. Other than portability, does pressed eyeshadow have any advantages over loose mineral?

    • You typically get a lot less fall-out from pressed shadows, they can just be easier and quicker to apply because you don’t worry so much about what kind of primer you’re using, cleaning up after, et cetera.

  5. Like Marcey, I thought Sugarpill’s Bulletproof was the better matte black eyeshadow based on the swatch photo before actually scrolling down to read the post. While Bulletproof’s pigmentation over bare skin is impressive, I really like how it’s matte finish doesn’t change when swatched over primer. I wonder how Fyrinnae’s Snow White compares to these eyeshadows.

  6. Wow. The Sugarpill looks like velvet in the swatch while the others look like you smeared toner from a copy machine on yourself. 29k an ounce to look like you had an accident at CopyMax…

    • Copy toner. That is it EXACTLY. I just had flashbacks of the days when I worked in an office and it was MY job to figure out the fancy new copy machine…

  7. I never understood why Mac keeps re-promoting Carbon with their LE collections when the color is permanent and nothing special. I guess there’s no point in reformulating it though when so many people rave about it.

    I’m hoping Sugarpill will make new palettes next year with Bulletproof and some new shades in it. I’d love to see a darker palette like the Urban Decay’s Black palette. I’d get Cold Heart but I already have the other 3 shades in it.

    Have you tried Fyrinnae’s Snow White?

  8. I completely agree. Sugarpill’s Bulletproof is incredible. So pigmented but not messy. Great staying power, gorgeous packaging. Works great as a liner. It is the best black I have ever had.

  9. I seriously did not think that anything could take the place of my Fyrinnae Snow White, but I recently got a Sugarpill palette and I can honestly say it is a much better black. I feel like I’m cheating on Fyrinnae now.

  10. Sugarpill’s Bulletproof is really amazing, I am glad it won! I actually have one other black matte that is as good, The Make Up Store – Pollution. Unfortunately the packaging is not as convenient as Sugarpill so even if you had tested it Sugarpill would have won. Sugarpill is also cheaper 😀

  11. I have not tried Sugarpill shadows yet, but reading your reviews and seeing the swatches, I want to try them out more and more~

  12. Sigh. Can’t wait til I can get some Sugarpill! Carbon looks so lame in comparison, I only really use it to lightly line my eyes. The compact is such a pain, I have had mine for probably a year or so but the plastic window keeps falling out of the case.

  13. I think one of our maths is failing.
    Someone let me know if I go wrong here?

    Take Bulletproof for example.
    $12 for .14 ounces, right?

    So, 1(ounce)/.14 = 7.14
    Hence, there are 7.14 lots of .14 ounces in an ounce.

    So, 7.14 x 12 = $85.71 instead of the $8,571 you have listed?

    I admit I skim read the article.
    All I needed was to see the image at the top to know Bulletproof won out easily. =X
    Too bad they don’t have a nice, deep warm brown. =P

    • This is why I don’t like writing a post in one program, only to have to have to export it over into another, all my decimal points were moved and looking at it (since I’d been editing it for a while) the numbers looked right… thank you for fresh eyes!

      But they are all actually off now.

      • It just took me down to Sugarpill for my sleep recovering brain to actually start processing numbers. =P

        You’d think programs could atleats keep basics the same. =(

  14. Stupid question: What is TFSI? I assume some type of primer, but I don’t recognize the initials…


  15. thebirdofparadise December 11, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    To Laurie above: TFSI stands for Two Faced Shadow Insurance. It is, indeed, an eye shadow primer.

    This will most likely be the one and only time I can help out somebody when it comes to make up. 🙂 I love it, but I consider myself a total amateur!

  16. I never owned MAC’s carbon I did buy and repurchase Black Tied, which is even worse (oh I was so naive).I had issues with the matte mint MUFE color, I believe it was #93. It was horrible. It went on patchy and sheer, that was with primer and and a base! The rest were fine. They need more consistency in their eyeshadows. I always really liked the black that was in the 88 matte palette. Now I use the one in the Wet n Wild Greed palette. It gets the job done quite well.

  17. The only “true black” I own is from Fyrinnae. It is VERY black, but the formula is not that great. It will stay on but is not as smooth as their other shadows. And I always make a mess when I use it, but that’s probably my fault.

  18. I really love the matte black that Sleek palettes often contain, but my god does a little go a long, messy way. I’ll gently nudge it with my brush and then have enough on it for the next five uses. I have two or three of them now though so I can’t really justify buying another matte black.

    Please do a similar comparison for matte white eyeshadows! I have never owned a matte white that showed up on my eyelids. The rest of my skin is very pale, but my eyelids are light brown, so I can swatch something on my hand and it will look fine, but then when I get home and try it on my eyelids the brown will show through. Most of those I’ve tried in the past have been super-cheap and faded fast as well.

  19. Somehow, I’m not surprised Sugarpill won. I love, love, love Bulletproof. I have all of her presseds, and I intend to own all her loose shadows too. Love Amy’s work. It’s Sugarpill and Fyrinnae that really get me obsessive over makeup. :$

  20. I agree that a white comparison to go with this would be super interesting. Black and white are on the need to have colours. They are also colours everyone can suite and use in so many looks 🙂

  21. I didn’t buy Bulletproof for my recent (first) Sugarpill order because I own Carbon and do not use it as is. And now… I’m kicking myself because of that.

    Also, I feel incredibly cheap for saying this, but I absolutely cannot feel justified in buying MUFE at full price, no matter how amazing it is. I’ve purchased only one eyeshadow in a Sephora, and that was the infamous #92. I now buy their products when I go to IMATS, because the shadows end up being around 50% off. Ha.

  22. Wow. Carbon looks less pigmented than the L’Oreal matte black I have. :/ And Lush Raven easily cost about half what Carbon does. And actually looks black (though a soft black) and not grey. Huh.

    Definitely need to get Sugarpill now – Bulletproof is definitely going to be one of the first shadows I get from them, I think.

  23. Ugghhh I’ve been in the market for a super good black eyeshadow and have been eyeing Sugarpill for a while; thanks for pushing me over the edge. It shall be my present to myself in January! 😉

  24. Thank you so much for this post! I love to see a black shadow comparison and think back to when I was in high school and had such a hard time finding ANY black eyeshadow.

  25. The swatches really are telling… the texture of the Sugarpill looks beautiful. I am literally begging you to do a matte white comparison, I only have Mac and Sleek and they are both pretty crappy. Or if anyone else has any suggestions…?

  26. I’ve been desperately trying to justify buying myself some Sugarpill… oooh how close I am to the edge now XD It’s amazing how much cheaper it is compared to the other two, too o_O

  27. My money was on Sugarpill! All her stuff is a labour of is so well done.

  28. I don’t own Carbon but from pictures it always looks like a dark grey to me, as well as in your pictures. No idea why it seems to be a HG for so many people :/

    I love SP Bulletproof, best black I’ve used so far!