Sometimes I feel like I’m hiding a dirty secret. I can put together a skin-care regimen like a pro and dab on BB cream and highlighter without even thinking about it, but when I look at eyeshadow palettes, I draw a blank. I’m a beauty editor who has absolutely no clue how to apply eyeshadow.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, though. A quick poll around the office found similar confusion regarding the feat of applying color to one’s eyelids: “I don’t know how high to take it up,” one colleague said. “One color on the whole lid is fine, anything else I have no clue,” another chimed in. (Ignoring that one coworker—hi Abbey—who does have the skills down pat, noting: “Two words: competitive dance.”)
So that I (and others) can finally handle eyeshadow with dexterity—and look really cool in the process—I tapped some pro makeup artists to walk me through how to do so.
First things first: Don’t go hard in the beginning. “I always suggest starting out with a small amount of product,” says Mario Dedivanovic, celebrity makeup artist who works with celebs like Kim Kardashian and is a brand ambassador for Olly Vitamins. “It’s easier to add more eyeshadow than to take away if it’s too heavy.”
Also, until you work your way up, start off using just one hue. “I say use just one color in either a cream or powder,” recommends Molly R. Stern, celebrity makeup artist. “Use it all over the lid and up to the crease.”
As for the technique, it’s all about blending. “It’s very important to blend your eyeshadow in order to avoid any harsh lines,” says Dedivanovic. “I like to take a clean, fluffy brush with a small amount of translucent powder to blend the shadow—this also helps to avoid any creasing and keeps your shadow lasting longer.”
If you’re new to the world of shadows, chances are you won’t be reaching for a bold black or deep violet on your first try. This is wise. “Using a tonal scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the lightest and 10 the darkest, don’t go higher than a level 6 tonally at the deepest,” says Stern. “You can always add a swipe of the same color underneath the last line.” In terms of the colors themselves, Rebecca Casciano, another celebrity makeup artist, says to stick with neutrals. “Choose colors that are close to your skin tone so you don’t have to worry as much about blending harsh lines. And shimmer finishes tend to be more blendable than matte ones.”
Now go on and turn your eyelids into your personal artiste palette.
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