As far as statement-making makeup goes, the smoky eye is a little high-maintenance (it’s not nearly as simple as swiping on a bold lip shade, for example). The look doesn’t have to be so intimidating, though—just follow our foolproof guide to getting standout eyes in no time.
Choose the Right Colors
For beginners, you want to start light. “I recommend starting with taupe and brown shades,” says Butter London global color ambassador Katie Jane Hughes. “They are easy to work with, blend-able and very forgiving, which makes them perfect for beginners.” If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try using a brush to blend darker shades on top to make your look even more dramatic. Try this with Mally Beauty City Chick Smokey Eye Kit-Aura Collection ($39.50, qvc.com).
Stock the Right Tools
That brings us to application tools. The secret to perfecting this look is finding a brush that blends product properly. “Make sure you have a small, fluffy eye brush handy,” says Hughes. “I love MAC 217 Blending Brush ($24, maccosmetics.com). You can use this to press eye shadow onto the lid and blend.”
The next must-have: the right eye pencil. “A blend-able eye pencil that stays put is really the foundation of a smoky eye,” says Hughes. Butter London Wink Eye Pencils ($18, butterlondon.com) allow you to smudge slightly upon application, but because they’re waterproof, they won’t budge after just a few minutes.
Apply Like a Pro
Smoky eye application is essentially building shadows from the lid to the crease, blending as you go. Makeup artist Mally Roncal (one of her A-list clients is the one and only Beyoncé) offers these simple steps:
Clean Up Stray Shadow If Necessary
A quick touchup, not a redo, is oftentimes all you need to tame color overload. Rebecca Perkins, formerly the makeup department head for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and now the cofounder of makeup salon Rouge New York, offers a simple trick: “Dab a concealer brush with some foundation, and swipe it from the outer corner of your eye to the end of your brow. It not only gives a very clean edge, it also works like a mini lift to give you younger, more open-looking eyes.”
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