Despite the fact that I am a longtime beauty obsessive, I have spent most of my adult life intimidated by eye makeup. I’ve always followed trends in editorial and red-carpet makeup, but more often than not, I struggled to execute the looks myself: a cat eye or cut crease requires a level of precision my shaky, clumsy hands simply can’t get right. Whenever I tried to do any sort of beyond-basic eye look, my hand would slip, the makeup would smudge, and I’d ultimately give up and wipe it all off.
That is, until about a year and a half ago, during a fit of beauty Pinterest-ing (that’s normal, right?), when I stumbled across a photograph of a girl with a messy, bright orange, glossy eyelid. What attracted me to the look was the seemingly slapdash application of the makeup — it was the first time I ever saw someone’s eye makeup that I admired and thought: I can definitely do that. So I decided to give it a try myself and, to my surprise, got it mostly right on my very first attempt. Ever since, adding a red or yellow glossy lid to my everyday outfits has felt like a little expression of who I am. (And my love for this look was only confirmed when makeup goddess Pat McGrath painted a pink, glossy lid on models during Valentino’s spring/summer ’18 show, in October.) While I stand by my initial statement that the look is easy to achieve, I’ve now done it enough times to tell you what tricks and products help the makeup look as bright and glossy as possible for as long as possible. Here are the products and techniques I use to achieve the perfect glossy lid.
As I hate nothing more than when my eyelids look dry and crusty, an important first step for me is to make sure they’re prepped and ready to take on the layers of eye shadow I’m about to pack on. I love this eye treatment from Kiehl’s, as it’s super hydrating and rich. I typically don’t do this immediately before I start my glossy lid process, but definitely on the same day — ideally an hour or so in advance.
While there are a lot of eyelid primers on the market, I’ve found that my everyday concealer actually works just as well. The sticky texture of this concealer grabs on to any powder you put on top and makes sure the pigment stays put. I dab a bit on my eyelids and blend it out with my finger.
A lot of times I like to use my fingers to apply the eye shadow to get that amateur, messy look but when I’m feeling like achieving a neater look, I’ll use this eye-shadow brush from Charlotte Tilbury. I am truly obsessed with this brush — it does such a good job of picking up so much product and evenly distributing it across your lid.
When I’m doing a brightly colored eye-shadow look, I like to start off by applying a white eye shadow first. I’ve found that this way the color I’m putting on top turns out true to how it looks in the container. I’m always tempted to stop here because I think a matte white eye shadow is really chic as well, but we must move on.
A new palette I love is this Maryam Nassir Zadeh collaboration palette from Make Beauty. First of all, there’s no arguing that MNZ is a color queen, but this yellow-green color is simply to die for. I’m going to stop here to fill you in on a really important tip: When I first started getting into color-glossed lids, I was super eager to try it out with pastels — they seemed less dramatic and I felt more comfortable starting with them. Sadly, pastels don’t do a very good job of showing up under gloss; there’s something about the gloss that ends up muting the color and fading it out quickly over time. And while I was just oh-so-tempted to try this pretty pale blue under a gloss, believe me when I say a royal blue or navy will look much, much better.
We’re talking colors like the ones you’ll find here, in this neon palette. I understand that a neon eyelid can seem really overwhelming and intense. But the gloss really does mute it out a bit, and any lighter colors tend to just get washed out. I personally really like playing with the hot pink. Unlike greens and blues that I love coordinating with a similarly toned outfit, I’ll wear this pink with blue jeans and a white shirt. It’s the perfect accessory for when I just want a pop of something fun.
NYX has some of my favorite affordable and fun single-color eye-shadows for glossy lid looks. My favorite of theirs is the yellow, which is for some reason called “STFU.”
A more sophisticated color that I often like to go with is a nice, eye-catching red. There’s something about a red glossy lid that feels extra red-carpet and glam, rather than too dramatic or intense.
Now onto the glosses. After you apply your eye shadow, take a little bit of this eye gloss on your finger and tap it over your shadow. Do your best to bounce it over your eyelids instead of rub — otherwise your eye shadow will move all over the place. This Face Gloss from Milk Makeup is one of my all-time favorites — it makes sure my eye shadow doesn’t budge for as long as possible. Another thing I should note is that gloss and mascara don’t always agree with one another: the mascara flakes off and get trapped in the gloss and it can turn into a speckled mess. If you’re wearing this at night, sometimes you can get away with wearing mascara, but if you’re planning on wearing this look out during the day, just curl your eyelashes.
If you are easily irritated by the feeling of heaviness on your eyelids, well, this makeup look might be a little hard for you, and the Milk Makeup face gloss I just noted above will be extra difficult because she is extraordinarily thick. For those of you who care less about your eye makeup staying put and more about your general comfort, try this face gloss from Make Beauty instead.
If you like the idea of a glossy, dewy lid but aren’t quite ready to dive into the world of color-glossed lids, try this Eye Vinyl from Milk. It’s slightly tinted pink so I don’t like using it over a pigmented shadow, but it looks great on its own.
When it comes to taking off my face makeup I love the Bioderma Micellar Water, but for eye makeup, this is your girl. I frequent a glossy lid and my sister is the queen of cat eyes — and we both swear by this remover for taking off any difficult eye makeup. Oftentimes, all the tugging and pulling that goes into removing eye makeup can make my eyes red and sensitive, but I never have a problem with this remover. It takes off all the product seamlessly and usually in only two swipes.
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