Miscellaneous, Softly Special: All About the Eyes
Comments 18

Taupe’s Top Mystery: What is it?

Okay, so this is what happened when I tried to swatch all of my taupes.

Top Taupes - Complete

I went through most of my eyeshadows and asked myself “Is this a taupe? Yes. Is this a taupe? Sure,” and I somehow ended up with a neutral rainbow

I think that’s a common issue with taupe, but I didn’t realize how arbitrary the description is to me. Apparently, everything is “kinda a taupe” in my eyes, but I digress. I tried to bunch them up into tonal categories, too, and I had a hard time.

Taupe Hell

The reason why this is part of “eye month” is because taupe seems to be a universally popular color. Not counting people who are partial to just colored eyeshadow, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who actually hates or dislikes taupe. It is becoming increasingly evident that there is a taupe for everyone.

I figured I could talk a bit about each color instead and think about why I find them to have taupe-y qualities. First off, though, let’s get the definition of ‘taupe’ over with. ‘Taupe’ is actually French for mole, as in the tiny animal that lives in tunnels underground. The original meaning of the color—that is, a greyish brown or a brownish grey—is the color of the French mole.


Since then, many have used the rather vague color to refer to colors from other tonal families. There are rosier taupes, and browner taupes, silver and grey taupes, and there are also purple-y taupes. It’s all very confusing, which is why most people sound confused and unsure when they describe a color as such. “It’s a warm, taupe-y? brown.” “It’s a purple-y taupe?”

So, for the first batch on my arm I have the ff:

Top Taupes - First

theBalm’s Selfish from the Nude ‘Tude Palette. I think this is my first encounter with “taupe.” I remember not quite understanding this color when I first tried to review it. This taupe is quite grey, though still substantially brown, and much deeper than a lot of the shades I have.
Wet n Wild Nutty. MAC Satin Taupe’s famous drugstore dupe. I think they are similar, but not identical. This is a very warm and rosy taupe to me.
bareMinerals Velvet Taupe from A Vision in Velvet set. This is a warm, matte grey brown. I think it’s a perfect balance between the two colors.
Rouge Bunny Rouge Solstice Halcyon. A medium pinky taupe. I think this is the first eyeshadow I purchased because it was a taupe.

I swatched these at random and these next four happened to be the lightest ones in the bunch. I think their taupe bases aren’t as strong as the other shades here, but if you’re after a subtle, shimmery look, then these just may be the taupes for you.

Top Taupes - Angle 2

Art Deco 203. Quite a cool taupe, though it still has a touch of warmth to it. It is pretty standard to me, but still quite beautiful.
Suqqu Sumiredama. A very cool taupe, with a subtle base color and a high shimmer content.
NARS Grand Palais. Light, neutral taupe with strong shimmer. This is rather pretty and works well as an all-over lid base.
NARS Dogon. Beautiful, cool taupe, with a slight greenish sheen to it (seen better in the next photo).

Top Taupes - Last
NARS Belissima from And God Created the Woman. This is a deep, cool matte grey that applies sheerly but can be built up. Great as a smoky lid color or a subtle crease color.
Le Métier de Beauté from the Mélange de Colour Fashion Palette. A midtone taupe with a strong pink/rose leaning. Seeing it beside all these other taupes makes me think that it’s not actually a taupe, heh.
Laura Mercier Sable from the Artist’s Palette for Eyes. This is a taupe that leans more grey/silver than brown.
MAC Satin Taupe. A rosy taupe. I always thought this was a cool shade, until I saw it beside the other taupes instead of beside MAC Sable, as it sits that way in my MAC palette.
Maybelline Color Tattoo in Tough As Taupe. This taupe is decidedly grey. The coolness is somewhat overwhelming, though I do find ways to wear it.

Top Taupes - Angle 1

Here’s an out-of-focus shot to show you a stronger picture to note the tonal differences. Most of these are taupes to me:

Taupe - Tonal Quality

This is shaping up to be a confusing post, but then I didn’t promise to make sense of taupe, did I? I think this is just proof that it’s a hard color to encapsulate and represent, but then again, all colors are.

I think taupe is very much a “you’ll know it when you see it” color, but then again maybe I’m wrong? What do you guys think? Which is the taupiest taupe for you?

Are you a taupe purist, or do you dip into other color families and recruit taupes, like I do?

Maybelline is not cruelty-free. MAC and Laura Mercier do not test on animals unless required by law. I have no information re: Suqqu’s animal testing policy, but it is sold in Selfridges in the UK, which has supposedly banned the sales of animal tested cosmetics.


  1. I love taupe-y colours but I also wear other colours. I never really paid much attention to the colour range of taupe, so thanks for this interesting post 🙂

      • Recently, I’ve been wearing lots of brown, (olive and khaki) green and coppery nude shades. Today I tried blue eyeshadow and it does seem to work well with brown eyes. I guess I’ll stick to earthy tones on a daily basis 🙂

      • Sounds nice, thanks for sharing. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to wear more coppery colors lately!

  2. Taupe taupe taupe 🙂
    I have no idea what a taupe is, but use it to refer to most of my neutrals. So in the Naked palette, I’m like “pale taupe, taupe, beigey taupe, browny taupe, taupe, taupe, brown”… 😛 I loved this post. I love neutrals, and I love your writing style! 😀
    For me the taupiest taupe is probably your second swatch, the Wet and Wild one. I don’t know why though!

  3. The taupiest taupe from your swatches is 3rd from the left to my eye 🙂 It’s funny that on their own, I bet they all look taupe enough, but together I can tell which ones are closer to my idea of it. Then again, it’s just what I see as taupe.

    • Lol this makes me feel like a ditz, but really, it’s a confusing color, but you really can recognize it when you see it. How odd!

  4. Pingback: September’s Softly Special: All About the Eyes (Master List of Posts) | Softly Sometimes

    • Taupe is actually the French word for mole; they just adopted it as the word for the color the mole happened to be. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Recent Acquisitions: Rouge Bunny Rouge | Softly Sometimes

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