Ever since I got my hands on my first ever eye shadow palette—a chalky, sparkly Claire’s trio that I had begged my mom for at 13—I’ve been fascinated by the wonders of eye shadows. The pigmentation, the colors, the textures. But actually applying it? I’ve always had trouble perfecting my eye makeup. My Korean roots have blessed me with monolids, an eye shape with no defined crease, making it a real struggle to work off of typical YouTube makeup tutorials that seemed to work for most of my friends.
I remember watching video after video telling me to "blend this color into the crease," but because I didn’t have that depth in my eyelid, I would just end up with a giant blob of thick, dark eye shadow. Feeling discouraged, I’d take a remover-soaked cotton swab and start over, before eventually giving up and going for the "no makeup" look, swiping a simple shimmer on my lid and opting for minimal mascara.
Now I can hold my own with eyeliner, but smoky eyes still daunt me, and I still feel like there isn’t much instruction out there on how to create a flawless smoky eye for my particular eye shape. To solve my problem once and for all, I reached out to celebrity makeup artist Rebecca Restrepo, who works with stars like Lucy Liu, for her tips on achieving a gorgeous look that actually works for us.
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Create a shadow on your lid
Before you do anything, Restrepo says the most important step is create "a foundation for your lid." She advises taking a soft brown matte or demi-matte that’s one or two shades deeper than your skin and swiping that shade onto the lid, from the lash line to your brow bone, past the inner corner of your eye, stopping at the bridge of the nose. She leaves a bit of space between the color and the brow for a little lightness. "This will create a shadowing and start to push the eyelid back," Restrepo says. She recommends using a flat brush with a rounded top that’s the right size for your lid. You can find a shadow brush that’s easy for you to use by matching the width of your iris to the width of the brush.
Blend, blend, blend
Take the medium tone of whatever smoky eye color you choose—Restrepo recommends a terracotta shade like Surratt Beauty’s Artistique Eyeshadow in Cuivre ($20, sephora.com) if you’re going for a warm copper-y smoky eye. Using soft strokes, swipe the eye shadow on back and forth, from the lash line to the middle of the eyelid. Restrepo explains that the two shadows should blend and fade into each other. "Keep blending out whatever’s left on the brush," Restrepo says.
Go for the smoky
Using the deepest shade of your selected color, apply shadow on top of that medium color, starting right at the lash line and fading into the middle of the eye, leaving the base color as the only shade on the top part of the monolid. “This creates lift and edge on the outer edge of the lash line,” Restrepo says. “Each layer of depth makes the other color receding it look a little bit deeper and richer.” The key to this is lightly touching your brush to the shadow, picking up very little color to get the perfect amount of control.
Apply a light shimmer or matte white on the very edge of the upper waterline and lash line, where the two meet. The lighter the shade, the more intense it’ll be. Restrepo suggests a soft peachy pink like Surratt Beauty’s Artistique Eyeshadow in Poudre ($20, sephora.com).
Add drama with liner
Whether you opt for pencil or liquid liner, make sure it’s waterproof or water-resistant. Instead of going freehand, rest your pinky on your cheek and create short, connected strokes along the base of your lashes and tightline your eye. "It’s not about digging into the eye," Restrepo says. "It’s about being really soft and having control."
Tons and tons of mascara
"When you have the lashes, they create a shadow, which creates the illusion of a crease," Restrepo says. The key is to really get the mascara at the lash line, which will completely open up your eye.
And there you have it—a chic, sexy smoky eye. After speaking to Rebecca, I immediately went home and took out all of those beautiful eye shadow palettes that I had abandoned for fear of looking like a middle schooler going through a phase. I would have never thought it was so important to create that initial depth in my lid for the eyes to come to life. I wish those YouTube tutorials I watched growing up had taught me this game-changing step. I rocked my smoky eye look to a casual lunch the next day—I’ve never felt more confident with my unique eye shape.