It has been said that our eyes are the windows to our soul. As one of the most expressive features of the face, they convey emotion, character and personality, and so tell a lot about us. By doing them up right you tell the right story about yourself, so it’s important to develop a look that correctly reflects your unique style and personality. If you couldn’t be bothered, don’t forget that what you don’t do also tells people something about you. So decide what type of message you want to communicate and then make sure you say it correctly.
A correctly shaped eyebrow will nicely frame and balance the eye, and add incredible polish to your overall look. Following is the general rule for eyebrow shaping, but keep in mind that it applies only if the general shape of your eyebrows allows it. Trying to artificially create an arch where there isn’t one will end up looking, well... artificial. It’s much better in this situation to go with the flow and work with your natural shape.
||Starting point: Hold a brush (or pencil) at a 90 degree angle (straight up and down) from the nostril and where it intersects the brow is your starting point.|
Arch: Hold a brush at an angle so that it lines up with both the nostril and the outside of the iris (coloured part of the eye) and where it intersects the brow is the highest point of your arch. (Arches help lift and open the eyes so it’s important to get it in the right spot.)
Ending point: Hold a brush at an angle so that it lines up with both the nostril and the outer corner of the eye and where it intersects the brow is your ending point. (If your eyebrows extend beyond that point could make your eyes appear droopy.)
The above photo was “borrowed” from Profaces.com. For a more detailed tutorial on how to correctly shape your eyebrows, visit their web site by clicking here.
A well shaped brow is essential if you want fabulous eyes. A professional brow wax at least once every three to six months can work wonders, as long as you remember to pluck stray hairs in between. Professionals can give you a great brow shape that will complement and accent your eyes. But don't let them go crazy - sparse brows, particularly on a mature face, make the face look older. (A word of warning about waxing - waxing repeatedly may eventually give a crepe-like appearance to the skin. In addition, some hairs may not grow back correctly since the wax is pulled off in the opposite direction to the hair's growth.)
If you're not comfortable with waxing, dense eyebrows can also be softened by trimming them or lightening the colour. To trim, brush up and snip any stray hairs that extend past the upper brow line. Then brush down and snip any unruly hairs that extend past the lower brow line. Often trimming your brows will make them lie more neatly against your skin.
Always trim your brows before you tweeze so that you don't ruin your brow line by tweezing away hairs that should have stayed but were simply too long.
The best time to tweeze is after a shower while your pores are still open - it's a lot less painful. Try to tweeze in natural light as you'll be better able to see what you're doing. Pluck a few from one side and then move to the other so that you can more easily maintain symmetry. Pluck in the same direction the hair grows or the hair may not grow back properly. If you're not sure where to start, you might want to first get your brows shaped by a professional and then work to maintain it afterwards. Alternatively, if you're feeling brave, you can carefully trace your outline with a white pencil and pluck any hairs that fall outside the lines. If you're going to do it yourself, my advice to you is to move slowly and to be conservative. Fortunately your brows will grow back, but unfortunately it can take a bit of time.
People with heavier eyebrows have a distinct advantage over those with thinner ones, because it’s much easier to thin the brows than to thicken them. But for those of you who are a little sparse in the eyebrow department, there are 4 different formulations to work with.
Pencils are the most common form of eyebrow colour. Eyebrow pencils are waxier than eyeliner to ensure they better adhere to the skin (but make sure the pencil is not too waxy or it will be hard to apply and look fake) and should be set with a fine dusting of powder or perhaps eyeshadow of a similar colour tone. For best results, make sure your pencil is sharp and apply using tiny, thin strokes so that the end result looks as natural as possible.
Powder brow colour is a matte powder with very high pigment content and it provides the most natural look when filling in your brows. It is usually applied with a brush and can be used to set brow cremes and pencils to make them last longer.
Creme comes in a matte finish and is the most dramatic but the least natural looking option. However, it does provide the most opaque coverage. It should be set with brow powder to make it last.
Brow gel is essentially hair gel for the brows, used to keep unruly eyebrows in place. It comes in both clear and tinted formulas.
Preparing the Eyes for Colour
There are two things to consider before applying colour. First, it’s important to prime your eyes so that colour stays in place all day without fading or creasing. Second, concealing dark shadows and/or puffiness under the eye area will make your eyes look brighter and fresher and can take years off your appearance.
Priming the Eyes
In addition to specific eye primer products on the market, you can also use foundation or simply a base coat of neutral eyeshadow to prepare your eyes for colour. However, what you can get away with depends on both the degree of moisture/oiliness of the skin around your eyes and also the type of eye colour products you are wearing. For example, although my skin is quite dry, my eyelids must have more oil on their surface because I find that regular eyeshadow creases shorly after applying it on my bare lids. However, when I use Mary Kay’s mineral powder eyeshadow it stays put for most of the day without creasing. The minerals in the eyeshadow are great for absorbing excess oil and thereby allowing the shadow to stay put.
Foundations and neutral shadows work well as a “base coat” so that eyeshadows stick to the eye, particularly if used together. However, if like me you have trouble with your shadow creasing, you may want to try an actual eye primer that is formulated to counteract this tendancy.
Eye primers are a clear or flesh colored base you put on your eyelids before applying eye makeup. They help create a smooth base for the eyeshadow to stick to so that shadows wear longer without creasing or fading and they also help bring out the true color and pigmentation of your shadow colors. While eye primers are especially great for people with oily eye lids, anyone who wants longer lasting shadow can use them. I’m sure there are many excellent products on the market, but I can only personally vouch for one. Carol Baker Visage’s Eyeshadow Magnet product is amazing – I can wear any type of eyeshadow all day and not one crease! You may find primers somewhat expensive, but a good one is definitely worth the investment because a little goes a long way and so it will last a long time.
Causes of Dark Circles
There is a lot of information about what causes dark circles on the Internet and after a fair bit of research I’ve come to the following conclusions. There are many possible contributors to dark circles, but the main cause appears to be hemoglobin breakdown. Just like throughout the rest of the body, underneath the eye there is a network of tiny capilliaries that carry blood throughout the area. These capilliaries are so small that sometimes the blood leaks out. In order to get rid of these leaks, the body undergoes a process of hemoglobin degradation which turns it a bluish red (no different from what you see happen with a normal bruise). Our skin around the eyes is quite thin (0.5 millimeters thick compared to 2 millimeters for regular skin) and so hemoglobin degradation is most noticeable around the delicate eye area.
The following can make the problem of dark circles even worse:
- Tanning – exposure to the sun increases natural melanin levels and draws it to the skin’s surface, making it appear darker. Unfortunately, the same principle applies to the skin under your eyes.
- Allergies or nasal congestion – the allergic reaction itself can contribute to blood leakage (perhaps from the swelling?) as well as any scratching or rubbing you do around the delicate eye area. The swelling also creates puffiness, which produces shadows around the eye that further darken any pre-existing dark circles.
- Fatigue or inadequate rest – although fatigue will not directly contribute to circles, it does make your skin paler so that your existing circles appear darker.
- Age – because the skin around the eye area becomes even thinner as we age, under eye circles become more pronounced. Skin can also bag and sag, producing shadows that emphasize circles.
- Pregnancy and/or menstruation - just like when we are fatigued, during pregnancy or menstration our skin can become paler, making our dark circles look more pronounced.
- Inadequate nutrition – a lack of key nutrients such as iron can cause dark circles.
- Fluid retention - Some conditions that cause fluid retention include heart, thyroid, kidney and liver problems, high blood pressure and premenstrual bloating. Some medications can also cause fluid problems.
During my research I also found a number of recommendations for minimizing dark circles. Some were a little out there, but following is a list of what I thought were the most logical and reasonable.
- Drink at least ten glasses of water everyday (will cleanse your body of impurities).
- Take precautions to avoid strain on the eyes. Use sunglasses while out in the sun, to protect your eyes from the harmful rays.
- Get enough rest on a regular basis.
- Cut salt intake to fight fluid retention and try sleeping with extra pillows to let gravity fight the pooling of liquid. You can also raise the head of your bed at night to help prevent fluids from accumulating around your eyes as you sleep.
- Stop using any cosmetic which might be irritating to your eyes, as some may contain a dye to which some people are allergic.
- Eat food with rich vitamins and iron. Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Do not leave creme on the skin around the eyes for long periods. Remove the creme applied around the eye after 10 min.
- For severe cases, laser treatment may help by increasing collagen production so you are less likely to see veins, according to Los Angeles facialist Kate Somerville in June 2005 issue of InStyle magazine.
- Vitamin K based cremes can help strengthen capillary walls so dark circles and veins become less visible.
There were also a number of home remedies that probably wouldn’t hurt if you wanted to try them. However, there’s no guarantee any of these will work. Cucumber juice is supposed to lighten the skin, but if the problem is coming from underneath the skin I’m really not sure how well it would work. Besides, if you get it in your eyes it will sting like crazy.
However, almond oil is supposed to be an excellent skin food and so it’s possible there’s something to this one. Similarly, chamomile tea bags can help reduce dark circles and puffiness around the eyes because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Tie some potato grates in a cloth and place over eyes for about 15-20 minutes.
- Place chilled cucumber slices or damp tea bags over eyes for about 20 minutes. Close your eyes and cover eyelids with slices of raw potato or cucumber for 15-20 minutes. Wash with warm water and apply a creme.
- Make a 1:1 mixture of fresh potato and cucumber juices. Soak some cotton and put on your eyelids and keep for 20 minutes. Wash your eyes with cold water.
- Apply a 1:1 mixture of cucumber juice and lemon juice for 15 minutes.
- Apply a mixture of lemon and tomato juice (equal parts) on the dark circles 2 times a day.
- Apply a paste of turmeric powder with pineapple juice for dark circles under the eyes.
- Crush some mint and apply it around the eye.
- Apply a cool tap water compress to the skin under your eyes for about 15 minutes.
- Apply a paste of powdered almonds and milk under the eyes.
- Drink tomato juice with some mint leaves, lemon juice and salt.
- Massage with almond oil under and around eyes at bed time daily for 2 weeks and see the improvement.
- Rub the area with a powdered Vitamin E capsule and wipe off with a mixture of honey and egg white. This will reduce darkness around the eye. (If you are going to try this, make sure you work with commercially pasturized egg whites as opposed to raw eggs, as raw eggs can be contaminated with salmonella or other bacteria.)
- Put hot and cold clothes alternatively under eyes for 10 minutes. Then apply some almond oil on the dark surface before going to bed.
- The acupressure point for eyes is on the mount below the index finger of your palms. Pressing this mount may help.
Concealing Dark Circles
There are a number of cremes and serums on the market that purport to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffy eyes. They have a gradual cumulative effect by strengthening the capillaries under the skin so that dark circles are reduced both now and ongoing into the future. Though they are somewhat expensive and will only completely eliminate dark circles over time, if you are seriously bothered by darkness under your eyes it may be worth the investment. Only you can decide what is right for you, but I do suggest that you take advantage of the opportunity to “try before you buy” that many suppliers are offering via the internet. For a nominal shipping and handling fee, they will send you a trial supply. For one such opportunity, visit the RevitaLume web site.
Alternatively, or in conjunction with undereye serums, you can use an under eye concealer to temporarily reduce the appearance of dark circles. One caveat: if you are older like me and are starting to get fine lines around the eye area, apply concealer product sparingly, otherwise it will accumulate in the lines and further accentuate them.
Concealers come in different formats: stick, creme or liquid. Whatever your preference, always use either your ring or pinkie finger when blending around the eye area. That’s because these are our weaker fingers and so there is less chance of stressing or damaging the undereye area and making the problem of dark circles even worse.
Concealer products are more opaque and longer lasting than regular foundation, so that they provide a more solid coverage. Unless your dark circles are minimal, concealers should be a shade lighter than both your foundation and your regular skin tone so that they don’t inadvertently add to the dark circle problem. However, if you give yourself “raccoon eyes”, your concealer shade is too light. (Using a concealer that's too light will only draw attention to what you're trying to hide.)
Although concealer may be applied underneath foundation, there is always a chance you could rub it off during foundation application. Therefore, if your concealer is a close match to your foundation, it is best to add concealer after foundation and before you add powder (to set the concealer - use powder sparingly around the eye area, particularly if you have fine lines, otherwise the powder will collect in the lines and draw attention to them). But if your concealer is a shade or two lighter, place it on your skin first and then gently pat your foundation on overtop, taking care not to smudge the layer of concealer underneath.
Stick or cake concealers offer the best coverage but are usually not your best choice for use under the eyes because they contain the least amount of oil. Though these drier formulas tend to stay put on the skin longer, they don't blend as easily. And if you can't blend your concealer properly, it will only call more attention to your dark circles. In addition, because stick concealers are solid they can stress the delicate skin during application. One way to get around this is to apply the concealer to the back of your hand and then place it under your eye with your finger once it warms up from the heat of your skin.
Creme concealer comes in a pot and is smooth and creamy, making it easier to apply.
Liquid concealer comes in a tube and is runnier than creme. It offers lighter coverage with a dewy finish, but may be too runny for some people.
Concealer Application Tips:
- Unless your dark circles are minimal, a concealer will provide superior coverage over regular foundation and is therefore worth the investment.
- For best results, you need to find the concealer formula that is right for your particular skin type. One that is too dry will be bad for the delicate skin around your eyes and will draw attention to any creases and fine lines, but one that is too oily will travel into those same creases and fine lines and draw just as much attention to them.
- If you find your concealer product a little heavy, it can be made more sheer by mixing it with a little eye creme.
- Applying eye creme under your eyes prior to the concealer will help the concealer adhere and if the skin under your eyes is dry the creme will also prevent it from caking up into fine lines. (Just be sure to gently blot any excess eye creme before applying concealer.)
- When applying concealer, apply it on the dark areas only and be careful not to accidentally blend any of it onto the normal coloured skin underneath or you'll be back to where you started - with two different shades of skin.
- Using a brush to apply concealer can provide a more precise result. But cotton tips, sponges and your fingers are also good tools to use. No matter which you use, remember to blend well to avoid noticeable spots of concealer, which only highlight that which you are trying to conceal!
- Some authorities recommend starting at the inner corner and working outward while others advise the opposite. My thoughts are to start at the outer corner and work inward so that you’re not pulling or stretching your skin in the wrong direction that could cause it to sag over time. However, do whatever provides the best result for you and creates the least amount of stress in the eye area.
- Apply concealer in thin layers to build up to the correct amount of coverage, allowing each layer to fully dry before applying the next.
- If your concealer isn’t quite the right colour, try mixing some of your foundation in with it.
- If dark circles are quite prominent with a bluish tone, a yellow toned concealer for ivory or beige skin or a golden orange concealer for bronze or ebony skin will be your best bet. Otherwse, use a concealer that matches your overall skin tone but is a shade lighter.
- When puffy eyes are a problem, apply a light colour concealer just underneath the puffy area to hide the shadow created by the puffiness (from when the light hits our face from above). This will make the puffiness more even with the rest of your face.
- Products that contains mica and bismuch oxychloride glitter and reflect light in dark areas.
- If dark circles are significant, avoid blue and purple eyeshadows since they will accentuate the blue in the dark circles. Eyeliner and mascara on the lower lashes will further contribute to the area’s overall darkness.
- Always remove concealer with proper eye makeup remover so that you don’t have to pull at the skin to get it off.
Eye Shapes and Related Colour Application Principles
The shape of your eye dictates where and how colours should be placed for best results. Again, there is an excellent tutorial on Profaces.com that covers off on small eyes, wide-set eyes, deep-set eyes, close-set eyes, round eyes, bulging or puffy eyes, droopy eyelids, turned down eyes, mature or crepey eyes, vanishing lids and almond shape eyes. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I’d like to direct you to their web site. (Scroll down past the eyebrow info at the top of the web page to find the info on eye shapes.)
To help you correctly determine the shape of your own eyes, please note:
- Small eyes are simply eyes that are smaller in proportion to the rest of your features.
- The “standard” eye position on the face is for the eyes to be exactly one eye width apart from each other, so that if you had a third eye the same size as your existing pair it would fit exactly between the two. Close-set eyes are therefore less than one eye width apart from each other and wide-set eyes are further than one eye width apart.
- Deep set eyes look like they are somewhat receded. You can see some of your eye lid in the outer corners of your eyes, but this section of eye lid narrows as it gets closer to the inside corners of your eyes.
- Bulging or puffy eyes are set far forward in the face and tend to dominate the facial features.
- Mature or crepey eyes refers to thinning skin and fine lines around the eye area. The key here is to avoid accentuating the lines and wrinkles.
- Vanishing lids simply means you can’t see your eyelids with your eyes open. These are sometimes called “hooded” eyes.
- Almond shaped eyes are the most common eye shape and have an upswept lift at the outer corner.
Once your eye area is prepped with primer and concealer, the fun begins! Here is where your creativity can allow the true essence of your inner personality to be reflected through the outward appearance of your eyes. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules, only principles (and common sense). So don’t be afraid to play and experiment with colour as you search for the best way to “express yourself”, as Madonna would say.
Eyeshadow comes in many different formats, colours and finishes. The options are endless, which can be quite intimidating for some. I have therefore tried to condense everything you need to know for making intelligence choices into the following section. Once you understand the basics, the intimidation factor will be substantially reduced and it will become much easier to be adventurous. Just keep in mind that eye makeup should enhance your eye's natural shape and color, and that your main goal is to create an illusion that minimizes faults and increases the perception of picture perfect, expressive eyes.
Eyeshadow comes in four main formats: powder, pencil, creme and liquid.
Eyeshadow powder comes loose or compressed into solid format with added moisture so that it will adhere to the eyelid. Application, intensity and lasting power will vary according to the grind of the product. Powder can be applied both dry or wet – dry looks more natural but wet provides bolder, more dramatic colour and tends to stay on longer. Powder is the easiest to use and blends extremely well. It comes in all finishes - matte, shimmer, frost, satin - and because powder is the most popular makeup companies offer the widest array of colours in this format.
Pencil shadows are convenient in that they allow quick and simple application. When sharpened they allow you to be very precise and then use your finger, a sponge tip applicator or a brush to smudge in order to create the effect you want. However, drawing the pencil across your eyelid could cause stretching of the skin. The safer route is to apply the color to the palm of your hand, pick up some of the color with your pinky and apply gently to eyelid.
Cremes are available in matte and shimmer. They offer a higher colour intensity than traditional powder shadows, but lasting power depends on product quality. While some higher end products won’t crease or melt off (particularly if you use a good quality eye primer), others have problems with creasing as the day wears on. Your safest bet is one which dries to a powder finish.
Because you generally apply them with your finger, cremes can be hard to control, but when using the right sized brush application becomes a breeze. You can also mix creme and powder eyeshadows together to increase the colour intensity.
Liquid shadow generally comes in a shiny metallic finish and is the hardest to use because it's difficult to blend . You therefore need to apply it with a brush in order to be very precise. Liquid eyeshadow is most often used as a liquid eyeliner or applied close to the lashline for colour intensity.
Eyeshadow comes in just about every shade and hue under the sun, and colours can be blended together if you don’t have the exact shade you’re looking for.
In general, colours can be grouped into three main categories: highlights, midtones and accents. Many colours fall into all three categories, depending on the degree and intensity of the tint.
Highlights consist of the lighter tones (whites, beiges, pastels) and because light colours accentuate they are used on areas of the eye we wish to draw attention to. They are often used over the brow bone and in the inner corner of the eye to brighten and open up those areas. These lighter colours can also be used as a base colour over the entire lid.
Midtones are the medium shades, often neutral in colour. (If neutral, they would be a natural extension of your complexion.) They add definition and shape and are used to help with the blending of highlight colours into the accents so that the transition from light to dark appears more natural and less jarring.
Accent colours are the darker shades, used to add depth and make the eyes pop.
Eyeshadows come in a variety of finishes, the most popular being matte, shimmer, frost and satin.
Matte shadows appear flat on your skin in that they don't reflect the light or shimmer at all. They work best for creating a natural no-makeup look and also make the best midtone colours because of their natural appearance. Matte shadows generally contain a higher level of colour pigment and work well for shaping and defining the eye.
Shimmer shadows provide sheer coverage so that when applied you still see the skin underneath. They have a subtle sheen and a hint of sparkle. Because they typically don't collect in fine lines they are a good choice for mature skin. Light shimmer shadows are great for highlighting and darker shimmers can add drama without being as harsh as deep toned matte finishes.
Frost shadows provide more opaque (solid) coverage than shimmers and contain a white or silver sparkle. They generally come in light pastel shades and work best on younger skin because this type of shadow collects in lines and wrinkles and thus draws attention to them.
Satin shadows are half way between matte and shimmer - shinier than matte but not as shiny as shimmer. They work well on all skin types, including mature skin.
Eyeshadow also comes in a glossy finish (think lip gloss, or Vaseline). It can be very dramatic (Cher wears it well), but it can’t be worn for long before turning into a bit of a gooey mess. For this reason, I don’t recommend it, except perhaps for a photo shoot.
There are also metallic finishes which are quite dramatic. They look amazing on ebony or dark skin, but tend to be too harsh for light or mature skin.
Selecting the Right Colour
Eyeshadow can be applied lightly as a gentle colour wash or as a more dramatic layering of colours. With such a vast array of colours to choose from, deciding which eye colours are best for you can be a daunting task. So here are some guidelines from Kelly Weldrick of Makeup In Motion to help you out.
- Rich warm browns, warm taupes, coppers & bronzes
- Grays, deep blues & charcoals for smokey effect
- Soft peaches, burgundies, violets
- Silver, turquoise & fuchsia for fun
- Golden browns, warm taupes, soft peaches & apricots
- Purples, violets, plums
- Deep khakis & forest greens
- Gold, lime, light greens & bright purple for fun
- Golden browns, light mahoganies, coppers, bronzes, champagnes, beiges
- Blues, greens, khakis, charcoals, violets, soft pinks & apricots
- Royal blue, hot pink, lime green, tangerine for fun
- If brown/green, choose from brown or green category
- If green/brown, choose from green category
Eyeshadow Application Tips
- Eyeshadow should enhance your eyes without being excessive - that definitely gets attention but not the kind you want!
- The key to a professional, polished application is to blend well. The correct brush makes a world of difference and the rule of thumb is the smaller the area you’re working with, the smaller the brush. Refer to the Tools of the Trade section on brushes for additional information.
- When working with colour, remember that dark colours recede (make an area seem smaller or further away) and light colours advance (make an area seem larger or closer).
- For more intense colour, use powder and creme eyeshadows together - creme first and powder over top. Note, however, you'll find the powder a little more difficult to blend when it's on top the creme shadow.
- The key difference between day makeup and night makeup is degree of intensity. Therefore, you can quickly turn your day makeup into something suitable for a night out simply by darkening your colours.
- Neutral colours such as beige or brown eyeshadows are essential components of every woman’s makeup collection as they can be used whenever you want definition without adding colour.
- Matte, neutral eye makeup (any of the following colors can be considered neutral in the appropriate shade: grey, gold, blue, vanilla, olive, brown, pale purple, mauve, beige) is always a safe bet because you can soften and blend similar colors easier. When done well it draws people's gazes "into" your beautiful eyes, not "at" your eyes.
- A great way to add subtle definition without appearing like you're wearing colour is to place a neutral base over the entire eye area and then place your cheek colour (blush) in the crease of your eye. I learned this one from Korby Banner on Style by Jury and it works great!
- Simplicity tends to work best – using too many colours draws attention to your makeup and therefore away from your eyes. One bright colour mixed with neutrals is generally enough. The neutrals should be within the same colour tones – i.e. browns with browns and grays with grays.
- Although it might be tempting to match your eyeshadow to the colour of your iris, it can be tricky to get the exact shade. It’s better to use a complementary colour, which is one that is directly opposite on the colour wheel. For example, burgundy accentuates green eyes, golden brown goes wonderfully with blue eyes, soft peach or apple green looks great with grey eyes and violet or light blue make brown eyes pop.
- Regardless of eye colour, a person can wear almost any shadow colour, as long as the tone of the shade is appropriate. Colours are either warm (red tones) or cool (blue tones). Eye colour, hair colour and skin tone can be used to determine whether a person is warm or cool toned.
- Women with golden blonde, strawberry blonde, red, or brown hair with golden undertones suit warm colours such as champagne, peach, copper, warm green, or golden brown.
- Women with ash blonde, grey, black, or brown hair with burgundy undertones suit cool colours such as pink, violet, blue, turquoise, cool green, or grey.
- Be very careful with yellow-green colours if you have a pinkish complexion because they may make your eyes look bruised.
- Never match your eyeshadow to the colour of your clothes, unless it’s as an accent colour only. A better method for selecting accent colours is to use the coloured flecks within the iris. (The iris is seldom one solid colour.)
- To avoid having excess powder fall under your eyes or onto your cheeks, knock excess powder off your brush by gently tapping it on the edge of your sink. (Don’t blow on the brush – it’s unsanitary.) This will also reduce the amount of blending you will need to do.
- Touch the brush first to the area where you want the most color concentrated and then move on to the areas where you want less color, and do last the edges where the color should fade out into the skin. For the most control, build up the color slowly in layers. You can create a beautiful and subtle shading effect with one color by applying it darker in areas you wish to contour, and leaving other areas lighter.
- If your eyeshadow colour is too bright, you can tone it down by first dipping your brush in face powder. If it’s already on your lid, try applying a little face powder overtop. If that fails you can buff off the excess with a makeup sponge, cotton ball or Q-tip.
- Frosted, shimmery shadows are great for adding lift and brightness to eyes, but they tend to make older eyes look crepey and wrinkled. If you have the beginning of crow's feet, only apply shimmer shades to the top of the eye area, above the crease just below the brow, and blend with a matte shade.
- If you have tired eyes or a lot of redness in them, you might want to avoid pink shades. Usually, mauves or plums will look fine, but for your safest bet, try earth tones or browns.
Eyeliner is a fantastic makeup accessory that can make even the smallest eyes appear larger and help them to really pop, but it's not always necessary. Well done, it defines the eyes wonderfully and adds a finishing polish, but overdone it can detract from the natural beauty your features and make you look hard. Remember, makeup is supposed to enhance, not overwhelm. Too heavy an application looks contrived and is distracting, unprofessional and often reminiscent of a rebellious school girl experimenting with her mother’s makeup. Sorry ladies, but it’s the honest truth. So save the dramatics for evening party wear and keep it out of the office or wherever your place of employment happens to be.
You can line either the upper or lower lid area or both, depending on your personal preference and the look you’re trying to create. (If you line both lids avoid having the lines meet in the inner corners as this tends to make the eye look smaller.) Remember that the more liner you apply, the more dramatic the look, which may not always be appropriate for every situation.
Eyeliner applied along the upper lash line only tends to produce a brighter, more fresh-eyed look. Because eyeliner under the eyes has a tendency to enhance dark under eye circles, you should try to keep the lower line very thin. You can also use a lighter colour than black (i.e. brown, grey or bronze) to reduce the severity of the look.
Although you can use liner to create drama (i.e. extend past your lashes a bit for that Cleopatra look), it’s never a good idea to use it to try to change the shape of your eyes. More often than not, this just ends up looking phoney.
Types of Eyeliner
There are different types of eyeliner on the market, and each has both advantages and drawbacks.
Pencil is the most common form of eyeliner as it’s the easiest to work with. It creates a less precise line than liquid mascara, but because of this it looks more natural. If overapplied, pencil eyeliner can easily be softened by using the sponge tip of an eyeshadow brush. Current formulas contain silicone so they slide on smoothly and are easy to smudge and blend.
Though a sharper pencil will create a more defined line, if it’s too sharp it can hurt when applying so it’s a good idea to keep the point a little on the blunt side. The skin around the eyes is thin and quite delicate, so always apply liner gently with feather light strokes and try not to pull on your lids – you do not want to stretch the skin and cause premature wrinkles!
On the flip side, pencils should be sharpened often to remove surface contaminants that could cause infection.
One caveat regarding pencil liners is that depending on the degree of oiliness around your eyes, colour may not last all day. The softer the pencil, the more likely the colour is to run or fade as the day progresses. Try to find a brand with just enough silicone to apply smoothly without smearing or travelling. A water resistant formula will help. In addition, eyeshadow, shadow primer or perhaps some loose powder can help set the liner so that it lasts longer.
Liquid eyeliner can be purchased with a fine tip brush, a felt tip pen or a pointed sponge tip applicator. It creates a very precise line when applied as one continuous stroke. It is, however, the most difficult to apply, precisely because it is so precise. (One way to learn precision is to first practise on the back of your hand.) To apply, start from the inner eye and move outward. If you find it too difficult to keep a straight line, you can break the process into two sections by starting at the centre of the eye and moving to the outer corner. Then start at the inner corner and move to the centre to connect the lines.
Liquid eyeliner can be quite dramatic, but it's usually too harsh and unnatural if you apply it under the eye. Therefore, for best results, apply it along the top lash line only.
If you wear false eyelashes, liquid eyeliner is a good choice because it best conceals the band of the lash.
While pencil eyeliners will keep for a year or two, liquid eyeliners should be replaced every 3 to 6 months to avoid the possibility of bacterial infection.
Gel eyeliner is long lasting and goes on smoother than a liquid liner, drying instantly, so it’s much easier to be precise. Dip your eyeliner brush in the gel eyeliner, scrape off excess and apply as close to the lash line as possible. A stiff angled brush will provide the best application.
Cake eyeliner comes in pressed format similar to pressed eyeshadow. It is applied with a damp straight edge brush that allows you to place liner close to the lashline. It provides an effect similar to that of liquid eyeliner, but is much easier to control.
Similarily, creme eyeliner is applied with a damp brush. It comes in a pot similar to cake eyeliner, but is creamier and tends to glide on more smoothly. It also resembles liquid eyeliner in terms of effect, but because it dries more quickly it's easier to use without smearing.
Using your regular pressed eyeshadow powder as an eyeliner is one of my favourite makeup tricks. Regular eyeshadow, when applied with an eyeliner brush, can be used as a liner, and if you wet the brush first the colour goes on more intensely and has much longer staying power. You just need to experiment to get the right amount of water as too much water will wash out the colour and too little water will not provide the extra staying power.
I love this little trick because not only does it create a very natural look, I save money by not having to purchase both eyeshadow and eyeliner. Plus, I now have as many eyeliner colours to choose from as I have eyeshadow.
General Application Rules for Eyeliner
- Large eyes: You can wear liner all the way around the eye and it will look good.
- Small eyes: Don’t line them all the way around as they will look smaller and "closed in." Just do the top lid, or at least leave a little space between the inner corner of the eye and where the lower lashes start. Also try skipping liner entirely to "open up" the eye.
- Close set: Don’t bring liner all the way to the inside corner. Extend it slightly past the outer edge of the eye.
- Wide set: You can bring your liner all the way to the inner corner of the eye, but don't extend it past the eye at the outer corner.
- Deep set eyes: Could look either too small with liner all the way around or they could really stand out. Give it a try.
- Protruding eyes: Liner will help your eyes to recede. A thick, smudged line does the trick.
- Regardless of eye shape and spacing, experiment with both thick, smudged lines and thin, fine lines. Generally, the larger your eyes are and the more space you have on your lids, the thicker you can wear your liner.
- For a refresher on eye shapes, refer back to the section called Eye Shapes and Related Colour Application Principles.
Eyeliner Application Tips
- Apply after eyeshadow but before mascara, as close to the lash line as possible to avoid a white line between lashes and liner. For the top lid, start at the inner corner and work your way outward and for the bottom lid, start at the outer corner and work your way in. Be sure to follow the curvature of your eye and keep the line as thin as possible. (You can always go back and make the line thicker later on.)
- Eyeliner should always be set with eyeshadow (i.e. apply eyeshadow over the liner) to prevent it from rubbing off on the eyelid. Avoid greasy pencils as these smudge too easily.
- The more eyeliner you use, the smaller your eyes will appear. Therefore, depending on the size of your eyes relative to the rest of your features, you may wish to stop the liner either 1/2 or 2/3 of the way as opposed to taking it right across your eye, particularly if you have close set eyes. For a slightly more dramatic look, you can make the outer part of the line thicker and then taper it off as you move in.
- Using a liner in the same colour tone as your lashes (or your mascara) will make your lashes appear thicker and fuller at the base. To maximize thickness, on a bare eye (no shadow or mascara) try dabbing liquid eyeliner between your lashes (as opposed to in a straight line along the top of the lashes) and then apply mascara. This will take some practise, but done correctly it will make your lashes appear super thick at the root and your eyes will appear much wider as a result.
- To help keep a steady hand, hold the eyeliner in one hand and use the other hand to grip the wrist or elbow of the hand that is holding the eyeliner. Or, you can steady your arm by resting your elbow against a table or countertop.
- Solid strips of colour make eyes appear smaller. So unless you have extremely large lids, make sure your eyeliner is applied in a relatively thin line and don’t forget to blend your eyeliner into your lid colour, especially when using darker colours such as navy or black. This will soften the overall look and open up your eyes.
- While dark eyeliner can be quite dramatic, it can also be a bit harsh for day wear, particularly for those with lighter skin tones. Try experimenting with a lighter colour to keep things soft yet still polished.
- Liquid eyeliner can be softened for daywear by gently feathering it upward with an angled brush to create a smoky look. This has the added advantage of setting the eyeliner so that it doesn’t smudge during the day. It also smooths out any unevenness in your application.
- One way the pros make a model's eyes appear wider is to trace the inner rims of the eyes with a white pencil. However, lining the inner rims of your eyes can be risky as it may lead to infection. The liner will also accumulate in the corners of your eyes, which quite frankly looks awful.
- The Smoky Eye: The key is to blend well and keep all other makeup light or you risk looking like a clown. First apply eyeliner from the inner corner of the eye outward in strokes, making the middle of the line thicker than at the edges. Smudge the liner with a cotton swab (or your finger), then lightly apply a deep-hued eyeshadow over the eyeliner. Blend well and follow with lighter eyeshadow so colour diffuses from rich and dark near the lashes to almost sheer as it extends into the crease. For step by step instructions, click here.
- Let your chin hang loose with your mouth slightly open to relax the muscles of your face around the eyes and make it easier to apply the eyeliner. Opening your mouth when applying your liner will help keep your eyes from blinking.
Mascara is normally the last product applied and is used to lengthen, create volume and add colour to the lashes. In general, larger brushes create more volume and thinner brushes add more length. There are many different types of mascara on the market and finding the right one for you is often a process of trial and error.
Types of Mascara
Thickening mascaras are add volume to the lashes (they contain particles that coat the lashes from root to tip to make them look thick and full) and so are great for women with sparse or thin lashes. Caranuba wax and paraffin are two desirable ingredients.
Lengthening mascaras are designed to extend lashes to the max. Some of the newer formulas may contain tiny fibers of rayon, nylon or polymers that adhere to lashes and make them look longer.
Defining mascaras coat the individual lashes while keeping them separated. These mascaras tend to provide the most natural look.
Tinting mascaras are relatively new and add colour that typically lasts 2-3 days. They are great for fair skinned individuals (blondes and redheads).
Anti clumping mascaras contain gels or mousses and use a plastic wand rather than the standard nylon version to keep lashes clump free, even after several coats.
Waterproof mascaras are formulated to remain on the lashes even when submerged under water, making them great for athletes or individuals who spend time outdoors in the summer and have a tendency to perspire. However, this type of mascara should be avoided if you have sensitive eyes since it is the most irritating of all mascaras and can be difficult to remove without damaging the lashes.
Hypo-allergenic mascara is supposedly less likely to irritate the eye area, but since there are no regulations to define exactly what hypoallergenic means if you have a sensitivity then check the ingredients before you buy.
The shape of the mascara wand dictates how the product will apply. The four basic shapes are as follows:
- Crescent – helps curl lashes.
- Fat, bristly – helps thicken by coating each lash.
- Spiral, “screw” – the most common type. Has either very short bristles or no bristles at all, which allows each lash to be individually coated right down to the root.
- Double-tapered – contains smaller, tapered bristles on each end and larger, fatter ones in the centre. Good for defining sparse lashes while adding a little bulk.
Mascara should be replaced every three months regardless of how much or how little of the tube has been used. Because we are constantly putting the wand to our eyes and back into the tube again, there is a high risk for bacteria transfer and build up in the product. For this reason, never share your mascara with anyone else, not even your sister or best friend in an emergency! (As a general rule, you should never share any of your makeup products with anyone else as there is always a possibility of bacteria, mould or fungus contamination, or, heaven forbid, you could become infected with horrible things like warts, pink eye or herpes simplex.)
Always use a good quality eye makeup remover to remove all traces of mascara from your lashes. Be especially vigilant with waterproof mascara because if it is not properly removed it can cause mould to develop on the lash line and your lashes will fall out.
Mascaras are available in a number of different colours. Clear mascaras will add shine and definition to your lashes without adding any colour. But for those of us who want additional volume or length, neutral mascaras in black, brown or taupe provide the most natural look. Navy, plum or forest green are funky, but since this look is quite unnatural make sure you wear it during an appropriate time and place (i.e. not with a conservative outfit or in a formal office situation) and that your colour choice works with your eyeshadow and liner. If you really want to make a statement, some companies even produce colours like neon pink, lime green or silver.
Some authorities recommend choosing a mascara color according to hair color; brunettes should use black to bring out their eyes, but brown mascara will have a more natural effect on fair-haired women. Others advise to choose brown for warm skin tones and black for cool skin tones. I’m of the opinion that if it feels good, then wear it. Go with whatever you feel works for you. If you’re blonde and you consider your eyes are your best feature then by all means wear black to really make them pop. And if you’re dark haired and prefer minimal colour, then wear brown.
Mascara Application Tips
- Ensure the mascara covers the lashes from the root to the tip.
- To apply mascara to your upper lashes, move the mascara wand back and forth in a saw-like motion at the base of the lashes (to deposit product) before rolling the brush through your lashes. Coat from base to tips with full strokes. This procedure will create a thicker looking lash with ends separated and the base well defined.
- To apply mascara to your lower lashes, hold the wand vertically and gently move the wand from side to side, being extremely careful not to smudge the under eye area (will make dark circles appear more prominent).
- It's better to apply two thin coats than one thick "clumpy" one.
- When applying more than one coat, combing through lashes between coats will help prevent clumping. Be sure to comb the lashes before they’ve fully dried, otherwise if the comb gets caught in a clump it could pull out one or more lashes.
- If your mascara is new and/or the deposit on the wand is excessive, carefully wipe the wand with a tissue to remove excess product. This will help prevent both clumping and accidental deposit on the lid or under the eye.
- When placing product on the wand, twirl as opposed to pump. Pumping will cause the product to dry out sooner.