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The Complete Guide to Applying Eye Makeup

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Applying Eye Makeup, Applying eyeshadow is relatively easy. However, learning to apply eye makeup the right way is no simple task. How do you choose the right shade for your eye color and skin tone? Do you really need 10 makeup brushes? Will you ever use every color in that eyeshadow palette?

We know that it’s easy to get confused about the best ways to make your eyes pop, so we’ve crafted a 5-step guide to show you exactly how to handle all those eyeliners, mascaras, and shadows, no matter your eye shape or color. Let’s get started:

1. Start with great makeup brushes.

There’s a reason famous artists don’t finger paint: it’s much harder to create a masterpiece without the proper tools. The same holds true for makeup application. Invest in a few good cosmetic brushes for even, precise, and hygienic makeup application. Luckily, you can get great ones without dropping an entire paycheck.

When we tested the best makeup brushes in our Beauty Lab, we found that synthetic brushes are almost always preferable to their natural-fiber counterparts, and they are more affordable, easier to clean, and allergy-friendly. (Psst: All of our winners were synthetic, and the pros couldn’t differentiate them from pricier natural picks!)

2. Apply a base eyeshadow to the lid.

Using your eyeshadow brush, sweep your favorite base shade on your eyelid. If you have brown eyes, shimmer might be the way to go — look how Mandy Moore rocks it on the red carpet.

Depending on the look you’re going for, you can bring this base color all the way up to your brow bone in preparation for a more dramatic smoky eye, or you can stop at the crease of your eye for a basic, everyday look.

In the latter case, here’s a foolproof trick: place the color into the crease of your eye when your eyes are open, and work down toward the lash line. That way, you’ll never overshoot your crease or end up with messy lines.

3. Concentrate darker shadow in the eye crease.

Dark colors attract light, so placing a darker tone of shadow in the crease of the eye makes your eyes pop by adding depth and dimension in the exact right spot.

To get the look, dip a domed brush like e.l.f. Blending Brush ($3, ulta.com) into a dark shadow and sweep it right along the eye socket, following the shape of your eye between your brow bone and eyelid. A deep brown like Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Thunderbird ($20, sephora.com) is a universally flattering choice, no matter your eye color.

Applying Eye Makeup

If you (like me!) have hooded eyes, your upper lid covers most of your mobile lid when your eyes are open. That means you will have to play with different, higher placements for crease shadow, because if you simply apply along the eye socket, the color will disappear when you open your eyes. Instead, start with your eyes open and use your brush to mark where you want that dark color to start in order to be visible. Then, close your eyes and blend across, smoothing out any hard lines and focusing pigment on the outermost corner of the eye in a “V” shape.

4. Rim your lash lines in a super-dark color.

Eyeliner that’s applied correctly can make your lashes look thicker and eyes look wider. If you’re not a huge fan of eyeliner, you can get a similarly impactful look (that’s easier to wash off!) with a super-dark eyeshadow. Use a flat, short-bristled brush, like this one by Beauty Junkees ($10, amazon.com), to press the dark color along the edges of your upper eyelid where your eyelashes begin, and along the lower lash line.

If you like to wear liner on your waterline (the inner-most rim of the eye), be aware that the bristles might irritate your eye. In that case, you can trace this line with our favorite eyeliner, or (beauty hack alert!) apply a pale nude liner to the waterline to make the eye look wider and more awake. Just be sure you choose something waterproof, like Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner ($25, sephora.com).

Applying Eye Makeup

5. Highlight with a pretty shimmery shadow.

Make your brows pop and add lift by adding a shimmery pale eyeshadow or pencil directly under the brow. Benefit High Brow ($22, ulta.com) is an easy-to-use pencil, or you can try Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow in Soft Pearl ($3, target.com) for more shimmer. Add the same pearly light color to the inner corner of the eye to brighten things up, too. Finish with a few coats of our favorite mascara, and you’re good to go.

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