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Learning how to find the best eye makeup for you is such an enjoyable adventure. It’s one of the ways to amplify your beauty, express yourself, and take a little time for creative meditation. You can stretch your imagination by finding new ways to use the products you have and explore a wonderful world of colors and finishes when you shop for something new.
Here, we’ll look at how to find the best colors, textures, and formulas in eyeshadow primer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara.
A Brief History of Eye Makeup
The timeline of eye makeup starts thousands of years ago. Ancient Egyptian royals used black kohl to rim their eyes and color their lashes and brows.
From there, the concept of eye makeup trickled out to other parts of the world, including women from Rome, India, and Greece.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that eye makeup began to be sold commercially. It didn’t take long for heavy eye makeup to catch on with performers and eventually spread to the average woman. Ladies especially loved cake mascara and brow pencils, invented in the 1920s.
Since then, we’ve gotten liquid mascaras with a variety of different brush types, the bright and pastel colors of shadows that have been popular since the 1950s (sometimes bold shades were more popular; sometimes sheer washes of pastel shades were the trend), and more types of eyeliner than our ancestors could’ve dreamed of.
Formulas of all eye makeup have been perfected over the years so products typically apply more smoothly and with less of a learning curve.
How to Find the Best Eye Makeup Products for You
A lot of finding the best eye makeup products for you will come down to experimenting, here are some guidelines to get you started:
Which Eyeshadow Primer to Use
Are your lids oily? You may like Urban Decay Primer Potion (the one in the purple bottle is the original and won’t alter the color of your eyeshadow’s color or finish in any way).
Are your eyelids dry? You’ll probably prefer Too Faced Shadow Insurance. The one in the pale aqua tube is the original and also won’t affect your eyeshadow, other than to make it last longer.
Which Mascara Is Best?
That comes down to what you need. Do you need lengthening, thickening, both, or just a tint and some definition?
Fluffier, rounded brushes (the traditional mascara brush style) tend to do best for volume or volume plus length, while the newer, thinner brushes with plastic bristles that can look spiky are better for length and definition.
Some mascara brushes even have comb shapes on one side, and those are perfect for people who mainly want definition (though these can deliver length and volume as well, depending on the rest of the brush’s shape).
Do you cry, sweat, or get exposed to water a lot? You may need a waterproof formula, but you’ll want a good makeup remover if this is the route you take.
How to Choose Eyeshadow Colors
Anyone can pull off a subtle brown or gray smoky eye, and these shades can be used in an everyday look, as well, so a palette with shades like this is a good place to start. Consider the undertones in your skin to know how warm or cool your shadow shades should be. Someone with cool-toned skin will look better in cool-toned shadows in this situation.
The undertone guideline starts to break down a bit when you want to make your eyes look as striking as possible. Blue eyes will look best in just the opposite shade on the color wheel—orange, or orangey-bronzes. To make blue eyes look lighter, greyer, and even icy, silver and pale grey work.
Green eyes will look best in purple, berry, or peachy shades. Those same shades will bring out the green in hazel or grey eyes. To bring out the gold accents in any of these eyeshades, try soft gold or warm browns.
When you want to make brown eyes stand out, think of beachy and desert hues—bronze, copper, turquoise, blue, and gold.
Which Finish Goes Where?
Mattes and satins can go anywhere, but shimmers, pearls, and other light-reflecting shades are best on the lid and inner corner, if at all. Keep the areas you want to contour matte and mid-tone-to-dark, and the areas you want to bring forward lighter and/or shimmery.
The Major Differences Between Eyeshadow Palettes and Singles
Should you choose a palette or stock up on single shades?
- Eyeshadow palettes allow beginners to keep it simple, whereas singles can feel overwhelming to choose from.
- Eyeshadow palettes mean you won’t have to think so much about which colors work together because palettes are generally designed with shadows that complement each other, whereas singles require thought about textures, undertones, shade depth, and more, and could lead to confusion, especially if the shades can’t be swatched in a store.
- Eyeshadow palettes are for those who like to use the same shades every day or feel that being confined to a set number of colors helps their creativity and learning process, whereas singles are good for creative types who want to feel free to do their own thing without constraints.
Do look for eyeshadow palettes with a variety of finishes (unless you want all mattes) and a deep shade you can use as an eyeliner.
The Major Differences Between Gel and Liquid Eyeliner
Gel and liquid liner gives about the same finished look, so which one should you use?
- The gel is easier to manage, whereas most liquid eyeliners require a bit of skill to get right.
- Gel requires a separate brush, whereas liquid eyeliner comes with one built-in.
- The gel can be worn on the lower lash line or even waterline (check your specific eyeliner for safety guidelines on this), whereas liquid does not perform well on the lower lash line and can look too harsh, run, or make the eyes sting.
Advantages of Eye Makeup Products
Oh, where to start with the advantages of eye makeup products? Finding the best eye makeup products for you can be life-changing.
- You suddenly get to bring out your eye color.
- You can make yourself look more awake when you’re tired.
- There’s a daily element of creative expression and meditation built into your morning routine.
- You can give the illusion of different eye shapes you want to try with contouring and highlighting.
- You can make your lashes look especially thick and long.
- There’s always a new technique to try.
- Some of the skills you learn as you get better at applying makeup can transfer to other types of art.
- You can boost your confidence and make yourself feel especially beautiful, sexy, edgy, etc.
- You can use makeup colors and styles to pay tribute to the makeup looks of decades past (and tie it in with fashion and hairstyle choices of the day).
Disadvantages of Eye Makeup Products
As fun as playing with makeup can be, there are some disadvantages to eye makeup.
- You may find yourself needing to try everything, which gets expensive, and if you like to read reviews, look at swatches online, and see what other people think about the products first, you’ll be spending a lot of time on makeup outside of the application time, too.
- Some products may irritate your eyes, cause infections, styes, etc.
- Some mascaras (usually waterproof) can cause you to lose more eyelashes than usual.
- You have to use it up quickly or toss it and waste money because if you don’t, you risk infection.
- Most eyeshadow requires a collection of brushes to apply it, another expense.
- You’ll need somewhere to store your collection.
- If your eyes tend to water a lot, some products may run and make them sting and water even more.
Safety Tips for Eye Makeup Products
Who knew something as fun as makeup would come with so many rules? Eye infections are no fun, so it’s important to know how to keep your products clean, use them appropriately, and replace them when necessary.
Make Sure They’re Actually Eye-Safe
You may be surprised to see that some eyeshadows and pigments aren’t actually safe for the eyes. Most commonly, these are intense reds, pinks, and purples, though it’s not limited to those shades. These products still appear to be sold as eyeshadows (they may be in palettes with other eyeshadows, for example), so what do you do?
Definitely use caution if you decide to use them anyway, and keep them away from the lash line and inner corners. Self magazine has an in-depth explanation with doctors’ comments on why these products are labeled that way and what might happen if you do use them.
Throw Out Old Eye Makeup Regularly
Nobody wants a nasty eye infection. Throwing out your old eye makeup when it’s time is one way to avoid it. If you keep it around too long, it can introduce bacteria to your eyes and cause problems.
Healthline says mascara and liquid liner only last about three to six months. Cream and powder products can last about a year to 18 months. Be sure to keep your brushes clean to extend the life of your makeup. If it looks or smells wrong, don’t take the chance.
Don’t Share Your Eye Makeup
Just as keeping your eye makeup products around too long can spread bacteria and viruses to your eyes and cause infections, so can sharing your eye makeup and brushes.
Don’t Line Lower Lashes with Liquid Liner
It’s fine to line your lower lashes, but skip the liquid liners in this spot, even if that’s what you want to use along the top lashes.
The liquid liner on the lower lashes tends to run and smear and the lines tend to look too harsh for that area. Instead, consider a pencil, dark eyeshadow, or even a lightly applied gel liner.
My Top Recommendations
Here are some of my top eye makeup products:
Urban Decay 24/7 Liner
There are so many colors to choose from in this line.
- Glides on
- Lasts all-day
- Bright, neutral, and deep colors
- Has to be sharpened
Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Liquid Liner
This is one of the easiest liquid liners to use and a must-try.
- Deep black
- Easy to control
- Thin or thick line possible
- Only available at Sephora and the Rare Beauty website
- Only comes in one color
MAC Eye Kohl Eyeliner
Looking for a smudgy liner? This one glides right on.
- Good for smoky eyes
- MAC says it’s safe for waterline use
- May smudge a little too much at times
- Not good for crisp lines or cat-eye liner
If you’re looking for a gel liner that glides on with next to no effort on your part, this is the one.
- Glides on effortlessly with an angled brush
- The pot will last you for a long time
- There’s so much product, it may expire before you can use it all
MAC Single Shadows
If you’re looking to explore color and texture and just unleash your inner makeup artist, consider these.
- So much variety
- Refills are available so you don’t pay full price every time
- May be overwhelming to choose just a few that work together
Maybelline Color Tattoo 24-Hr Longwear Cream Eyeshadow
If you want a cream shadow that lasts all day and can be applied with your fingers, try this one.
- Lasts and lasts
- Can be applied with fingers
- Neutral and accent colors
- May dry out before you’re done using the whole pot
Tarte Tartelette Palettes
These palettes are brilliantly designed.
- Colors work well together and each one gives you everything you need for a finished eye look
- Nice vanilla smell
- Smooth blending
- Some shades have a better payoff than others
L’Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara
- Volume and length
- Provides less definition than some other options
Maybelline Sky High Mascara
This mascara was a TikTok hit for a while, and for good reason.
- Incredible length, some volume, and definition
- Inexpensive and available at drugstores
- The waterproof version is difficult to remove
CoverGirl LashBlast Mascara
This one is great for volume and it’s available at drugstores.
- Doesn’t clump
- Volume and definition
- The shape and smooth texture of the tube can make it hard for some individuals to open.
Benefit They’re Real! Mascara
This is a lengthening mascara with one of the modern “spiky” brush styles. It comes in a mini size, so you can give it a try without much commitment.
- Deep color
- Length, volume, and definition
- Mini size available for less
- Doesn’t smudge
Natasha Denona Glam Palette (or Dupe: ColourPop Stone Cold Fox)
These are neutral eyeshadows that lean cool (but just slightly), so they’re flattering on most skin tones.
- Flattering on most skin tones
- Variety of shades (more in the ColourPop palette, including shades that can be used as liners)
- Variety of finishes in the ColourPop palette (there’s some variety in the Natasha Denona palette)
- Natasha Denona shades can be popped out and moved around to the labels that work with your skin tone
- Natasha Denona palette is expensive (ColourPop is only $34.00 for 30 shades)
- No liner shade in the Natasha Denona palette
- Natasha Denona palette could use more variety in textures for more versatility
- Natasha Denona palette has shades named by where they should be applied, but this isn’t universal to all skin tones and shades may need to be moved around
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz
If you need to fill your brows in and want a natural look, check this one out.
- Good range of shades
- Natural look
- Spoolie can sometimes break off before you’re done with the product
Still, wondering how to find the best eye makeup products for you? Check these Q&As out:
Question: How do I find the best eye makeup?
Answer: Decide which colors are likely to be the most flattering with your eye, skin, and hair colors and look for single shadows or even palettes within that color family.
You’ll want to make sure you have a variety of finishes unless you’re planning to wear all satin or matte finishes. Frosty, shimmery colors have their place and look great on the lid, inner corner, and sometimes even the brow bone, but colors low on shimmer are best for the crease and lash line. If you’re buying a palette, a dark shade you can use as a liner with an angled brush wouldn’t hurt, either, but it’s not necessary.
Liner choice will depend on your skill level. Shadow is great for beginners, but pencils are easy to manage. The gel is the next step up (with a thin angled or tapered brush), and liquid is the most challenging.
As far as liner color goes, keep it simple with brown, charcoal grey, or black at first. From there, you can find liners that offer contrast against your eyeliner or complement the shadow palette you’re using. Kohls and gel pencils will glide the most easily across the skin, minimizing the tugging you may get with some pencils.
Mascara will take some trial and error because different brushes work for different people. Black is a safe choice, but if you think that’s too dramatic for your coloring and/or comfort levels (for example, a fair-skinned redhead new to makeup), brown or auburn will work well. Choose a washable formula instead of a waterproof one unless you really need waterproof because it’ll be easier to remove and more gentle on your lashes.
Mascara has to be replaced every three to six months, so there will always be an opportunity to try something new.
Question: How do I know my eye shape for makeup?
• If you don’t have a crease, you have a monolid shape.
• If you do have a crease, but it’s hidden, you have hooded eyes.
• If your eyes appear to tilt upward at the outer corners, they’re upturned; a downward tilt is simply a downturned shape.
The almond shape doesn’t appear to be as upturned as “upturned” eyes, and there’s no white visible below the iris when you look straight ahead. If your eyes are round, they’ll look similar to the almond shape, but you’ll notice that your irises don’t touch the bottom lash lines when you’re looking straight ahead. You’ll see tiny slivers of the whites of your eyes below it.
Deep-set vs. prominent/protruding eyes: You have deep-set eyes if only a small portion of your upper eyelid is visible but your crease is visible (different from hooded eyes). If you can see more of your lid and your crease is visible, plus the eyes appear to protrude, you have prominent/protruding eyes.
Close-set vs. wide-set eyes: Measure the width of one eye. Is that measurement more or less than the space between the inner corners of your eyes? If it’s more, your eyes are wide-set. Less means they’re close-set.
Question: How can I make my eyes more attractive?
Answer: The quickest way is to smudge a brown, grey, or deep jewel-toned liner along the top lash line (thicker at the outer corner than inner) and halfway along the bottom and then apply your favorite mascara.
You can always get more elaborate than that with makeup techniques like fox eyeliner and strategically placed eyeshadows for a sultry or smoky effect, but it doesn’t take much to play up your eye color and make them stand out. Starting with the basics can still accomplish so much when it comes to enhancing your natural beauty.
Question: How do you do simple eye makeup? How can I do my eye makeup naturally?
Answer: To keep things as simple and natural as possible, choose shadows in a satin or matte finish. If you want a little pop of shimmer, make sure it’s your lid color.
Once your shadow primer is in place, apply a shade that’s a tiny bit lighter than your skin tone from lash line to brow bone, using a wide paddle-shaped brush.
Then take a mid-tone shade (slightly darker than your skin tone) and use a windshield wiper motion with a fluffier, tapered brush to apply that to the crease. Continue the motion up and out of the crease without adding more product to your brush. You want the color to gradually fade as it goes up and out.
From there, use the same brush to take an even darker shade (just a small amount) and apply that to the outer V of the eye, so start at the outer corner of the crease and work your way in along the crease and also toward the upper lash line in a sideways v-shape. The placement of this shade should stay below the mid-tone shade you just used, so it won’t overlap and rise above your crease color at any point.
Optional: Take the mid-tone or darker shade and run it along the outer half of the lower lash line for a slightly smoky effect.
Finish with your liner of choice and mascara.
Question: What does a hooded eye look like?
Answer: When your eyes are open, you won’t see much lid space or the crease. Instead, the skin above the crease will hang down a bit.
Question: What are the different types of makeup?
Answer: For eyes, there’s shadow primer, eyeshadow (cream, liquid, and powder formulas), eyeliners (kohl, pencil, gel, liquid, and sometimes hybrids of two types), and mascara, brow products (gel, pencil), and even false lashes. There’s also shadow glue and/or lash glue to keep glitter products in place.
Question: Can you put foundation on eyelids?
Answer: You can, but it may crease, so I don’t recommend it. It will make your eye makeup look worse, not better. If you’re using it to even out skin tone or hide discoloration, it could still crease. It’s better to use a cream shadow in a shade that’s close to your skin tone for that.
Question: Should you do your eye makeup before foundation?
Answer: If you’re doing a light eye makeup look, either way, is fine. Any time you’re working with intense or dark colors, you should do your eye makeup first so you can wipe the fallout away without ruining your face makeup.
Question: Do you put eyeliner on before or after eyeshadow?
Answer: Usually after, though you can put a shadow on top of the line to set it and smudge it out. In some cases (a smoky eye, for example), you could put a thick layer of liner down, smudge it up toward the crease so it’s darkest at the lashes and then fades to nothing toward the crease, then layer a shadow on top to create a gradient effect.
Question: Why do you do eye makeup first?
Answer: If you’ll be using dark eyeshadow, doing your eye makeup first allows you to wipe any fallout away before you put your concealer and foundation on. If you do eye makeup last, you could end up wiping away your hard work just to get rid of all the eyeshadow that fell down to your cheeks.
Question: Do you put eyeliner on the bottom lid?
Answer: You can. In most cases, it looks best not to drag it all the way in to the inner corner because the full line can make your eyes look smaller. Instead, stop one-fourth, one-half, or three-quarters of the way in. Pencils and medium-dark shadows work best here. If you’re lining the waterline, you can get a dramatic effect (and you may want to line all the way across in this case). Just make sure your liner of choice is waterline safe. Gels and kohl liners tend to work best here.
Question: Does eyeliner go on top or bottom?
Answer: You could wear it on both top and bottom, but if you want to choose just one, go with the top lash line. If you wear it on the bottom, experiment to see if your eyes look better with your liner only halfway, three-quarters, or all the way across. Lining all the way around on top and bottom can make eyes look smaller, but a smudged partial line on the bottom can have the opposite effect.
Question: Is it okay to only wear eyeshadow?
Answer: Yes, you can do this whether you’re going for a natural or bold, bright look. If you’re going for a smoky eye look, you’ll need more products for more drama, though.
Question: Can you just wear mascara and eyeshadow?
Answer: Absolutely! There’s nothing wrong with this look. Mascara and a neutral-toned eyeshadow can create a gorgeous, natural look that makes people wonder if you’re wearing makeup or if your eyes just stand out so beautifully on their own.
Question: Can you put eyeshadow on bare skin?
Answer: You can, and some people can successfully wear their eyeshadows that way with no issues. For most people, though, a primer helps keep the shadow in place all day. If you’re wearing a heavily pigmented eyeshadow, putting an eyeshadow primer down as a barrier will protect you from staining your lids.
Conclusion: Finding the Best Eye Makeup Products
Enjoy the process of finding the best eye makeup products. Learn about your eye shape and discover application techniques that’ll help you make the most of your natural beauty. Explore colors beyond neutral as you learn more about your coloring and which shades complement your skin and play up your eye color. Choose the styles you love and learn more about highlighting and contouring the eye area, plus eyeliner application that will give you the look you desire.