The Smokey Eye.
Some call it the Little Black Dress of the makeup world — sexy, fun, flirty, and definitely attention-grabbing. It’s also the number one request I get as a makeup artist. And with the right tools, products, and application techniques, it can be just as easy as slipping into your knock ‘em dead little black dress.
My Top Ten Smokey Eye Tips
1. Start with the eyes
It may seem natural to apply your face makeup first, but doing your eyes first will save you time (and possibly frustration). Since you’re probably going to get some shadow fallout and smudging, it’s much easier to do a quick swipe with some makeup remover on bare skin than on skin that’s already been made-up. I’ve been using L’Oreal Eye Makeup Remover ($7) for years and love it!
2. Use a primer
I recommend using a primer under all of your shadows, but it’s especially important with a smokey eye. The primer gives a smooth, even base, which is necessary for all the blending that goes on with a smokey eye. Primer also makes the shadow last longer and prevents creasing. I use Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($17) for smokey eyes and all of my other looks.
3. Have a good selection of colors in the same color family
You can do a black smokey eye, a silver one, a teal one — whatever you want. But since the point of a smokey eye is to have the colors form a gradient — from darkest to lightest — it helps to have a variety of shadows to work with. For example, if you’re doing a black smokey eye, you’ll want a dark black shadow, a lighter black shadow, a couple of grays, and a white or silver (for highlight). A palette like the Coastal Scents 88 Color Palette ($19) makes things easy by grouping similar colors together.
4. Keep an eyeliner handy
Eyeliner accessorizes smokey eyes like killer heels do for the LBD. I recommend pencil, crayon or gel formulas, as liquid liners dry quickly and are harder to smudge. You’re going to need a liner to line the top lashline, the bottom lashline, and the waterline. But relax, you don’t need to draw a perfect line, because the liner is meant to blend right into the shadow. When doing a smokey eye, I always find myself reaching for the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils ($17).
5. Use a few good quality brushes
You’ll need a flat shader brush to apply shadow to the lid, a mid-sized brush for the crease, a pencil brush to work on the tearduct and lashline, and a fluffy brush to blend and apply highlight color. I prefer brushes from MAC and CVS’s Essence of Beauty line.
6. Blend, blend, blend
The last thing you want are obvious lines where one color has ended and another has begun. Use that fluffy brush to blend out any harsh lines. When blending the crease color, use small circular motions to “smoke it out.” Gently wipe the brush on the back of your hand to remove color before blending each new section.
7. Apply a shadow slightly lighter than your skin to the browbone
After you have applied the lid and crease colors, dip the fluffy brush into the shadow and sweep it across your browbone, using a windshield wiper motion. You want the skintone shadow to slighty overlap the top of the crease shadow. MAC eyeshadow in Vanilla ($15) is perfect for light skin, the darker brown in the NARS Madrague Eyeshadow Duo ($32) works well on medium skin, and MAC Soft Brown ($15) is great for darker skin.
8. Apply a highlight color
You don’t need much — just a dot on the center of the browbone (blended out to the end of the brow), some above the tearduct, and some under the tearduct. This brightens up the eye, which is important with heavy eye makeup looks. I love using a little of NARS the Multiple in Copacabana ($37) on the browbone. For the tearducts, any shimmery silver, white, gold, or even light pink (depending on your other color selections) will work.
9. Go for lots of lashes
Load up that mascara on your top lashes. Wiggle the wand at the roots to build volume, and, holding the wand still, blink into the wand to add length. Apply a little mascara to the bottom lashes, but keep it minimal. I find that using a regular formula on the top lashes works well, but I usually apply a waterproof formula to the bottom lashline, since those lashes are more likely to cause smudges when the eye waters. I love Dior Diorshow Blackout ($24) for a smokey eye. False lashes, whether they are flares (bunches of 8 or so lashes ) or strip lashes, make the smokey eye even more dramatic. I like both the flares and strips from Ardell.
10. Don’t forget the rest of the face
I like at least a medium coverage foundation with a smokey eye, some bronzer, a little blush, and a neutral lip. Pinky beige or nude lip colors, whether gloss, lipstick, or a combination, work best. Revlon Matte Lipstick in Nude Attitude ($8) and Lancome Juicy Tubes in Hallucination ($18), worn alone or together, look gorgeous with almost any smokey eye.
Like the Little Black Dress, the smokey eye is a classic, and there’s one out there for everyone. Experiment with different colors and levels of intensity until you find your signature smokey eye. With a little practice and a lot of mascara, you’ll get it perfect.