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Beauty 101: Idiot-Proof Eyes

By Amalah

I think the eye make-up routine you suggested for this person sounds awesome! I think I have a similar deal going on — a lot of eye make up looks overdone on me. I have tried to re-create what you suggest but I think I’m just too spastic and I end up looking like a sad, tired Basset Hound. I gave up for a while. You mentioned it again this past week and it reminded me that I wanted to ask you a question.
Is there any way you could show us a blow by blow via photos how you do your eye make-up? I would be ever so grateful, especially since it would mean I would never again have to plop myself down in a make-up artist’s chair and say, “Now, show me how to enhance while still looking natural” and leave $50-$100 poorer with stuff I’ll never wear because it doesn’t look as natural as I want it to.

This question amuses me greatly, as every time I have approached the topic of eyeshadow I keep throwing out the disclaimer that I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT I AM DOING EITHER, and yet you are requesting a demo of my ineptitude.
Well. Fine! Why the heck not. More pictures = less typing = more brain cells left over to kill with wine.
Here’s everything I currently use. I’m going to demo a full-on eyes-done-up-real-good routine, because otherwise nothing will show up in the photos, but I’ll make notes about where you can abbreviate and skip steps if you like.
Clockwise, from top center: NARS eyeshadow duo in New Delight (which I believe is discontinued, but it’s basically two neutral slightly peachy shades), Benefit’s F.Y.Eye primer, ULTA eyeshadow in Silk, LORAC eyeshadow in Garnet, Sephora eye pencil in brown, and Bourjois Coup de Theatre mascara in black. Oh, and three Sonia Kashuk brushes.
Like I mentioned in the post you referenced, there is NO SUCH THING AS NATURAL BEAUTY, and it actually takes just as many things to pull off “natural” as it does to pull off more dramatic looks.
First up, I apply primer to my entire eyelid and the area just outside of my eye, out towards my temple. Blend it in really well and make sure it’s smooth over the creases.
Next up, I apply the lighter neutral shade from the NARS duo to my eyelid, from my lashes up to my eyebrows, using the wider brush.
Then I put the darker/brighter color just on my eyelid. I touch the brush down closer to the middle of the lid to avoid lots of powdery build-up in the inner corner. (It’s easier to blend the shadow back towards the inner eye than it is to remove excess.)
If I’m going for super natural, I often stop here with the shadow. I’ll focus the peach in the crease of my eye and take it just past the outer edge. But if I want a little more drama, I keep the peach on the lid and put the LORAC Garnet in the crease instead.
Now I apologize that I didn’t get a great photo of this step, because it’s probably the one that will confuse you the most. Since the LORAC is pretty dark, I need to keep the outer edge neat and under control. So I do an abbreviated sideways V.
Imagine drawing this on the outer edge of your lid: < The point is just past the outer edge of your eye, with the top part going along your eyelid crease and the bottom part going along your lashes, like where you'd apply eyeliner. With the LORAC, I don't put a ton of shadow along my lash line, but just a little, and just along the outer third of my lid or so. IMG_7897.JPG
Next up, eyeliner. Make sure your pencil is sharp and apply as close to your lash line as possible. I usually line the outer half of my eye — basically start above your pupil and go out from there. I use a VERY light touch on my lower lashes to reduce the odds of smearing.
Now, the NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT RULE EVER about eyeliner is that you must blend it in. Using a small round or small angled brush (whichever you like better…I usually use round), lightly brush over the liner until it no longer looks like a hard line. Some people find they make a big old smeary mess when they do this, and that usually means they’re applying way too much liner to begin with.
I like to take my liner past the outer edge of my eye and angle it up a tiny bit. This gives my eyes a nice gamine-like look to them, without (hopefully) looking too cat-like or Amy-Winehouse-like,
Now, at this point, If your brushes were clean and your hands steady, you should be ready for a few flips of the mascara wand and ta-da! Done. Or you might think your eyes look a little too heavy or lidded or, as Jae put it, a little too Basset-Hound-ish.
That’s where this stuff comes in.
A little white or bone or cream-colored shadow at the inner corners of your eyes will make them look bigger and brighter AND will really set off all the work you’ve done on the outer corners. It also covers a multitude of sloppy brush strokes and mistakes.
And NOW, you are done.
Natural-looking eyes, (if a tad eyeliner-heavy, in this case; it may be time for a new pencil), and it only took fourteen million products and 12 hours to apply. No, I kid. I’ve done my eyes up like this so many times now I can do it in my sleep, and the LORAC and the ULTA shadows can easily be skipped. Just master the sideways V for the crease and keep shadow out of the inner corner and freaking BLEND your EYELINER my GOD, and that’s really all there is to it.
Now, I am wondering if anybody else would be interested in demo’ing their eye routine? Especially people with different skin tones and eye shapes? Maybe some day vs. evening looks?
I am thinking a collaborative portfolio of easy, real-world Get This Look kind of things would be pretty rad. If you’re interested, email me!
(Obviously, the ability to take high-res photos of your eyes is essential, although if you have a camera that takes giant photos with a ton of pixels it’s easy to snap your whole head and then crop your eyes out, which is all I ever do.)
(Okay, just email me. I’ll explain that way better.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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First of all, I’m slightly a-scared of eye make-up. I always feel like I have waaaay too much on, when in fact I only acheived “natural”. You put on the eyeliner after the shadow, I always reverse the two steps and never seem to feel to heavy in the eyeliner department. The shadow softens everything quite nicely. Just a suggestion.


I love the white shadow on the inner corners of your eye trick. I find that it helps my eyes pop, just a little bit. I tend to like dramatic make up, and being asian, my eyes are more forgiving to black liner, etc.. I tend to use white with a little sparkle to add some dimension at night. I think a little photo of everyone’s eye routines would be fun. I would love to see people’s techniques and ideas. I think taking good clear pictures of it might be problematic, though…


I do the V, too, but my V is wider, with the bottom of the V starting at the bottom corner of my eyelid and the top just above my crease.


I would never quibble with the all knowing Amy, but I jut want chime in that I recently had my makeup proessionally done for a wedding, and she said to do your liner first and then your eyehadow, that’s more natural. I tried it and agreed.

Courtney Tucker

Thank you, Amy for this post. I’m sure it took forever to photograph and compose, but I want to print it and put it on my bathroom mirror- it was THAT helpful to morons like me. Thanks!

Suzy Q
Suzy Q

I’ve never understood how people can save mascara for the last step. Curling my eyelashes and applying mascara is the FIRST thing I do to my eyes! (after primer, if I remember to do that)


When you say “sideways V,” does that mean a V with the middle of the triangle left empty, or more like a sideways triangle where it has that V shape but the middle is filled in?


Light colors highlight or pop out and dark colors recess. For example, if you have very hooded (or recessed) eyes you can try putting a lighter color by your lashline to pull your eyes forward. If your eyes stick out a bit try using darker colors on the lash line. Same trick works with foundation… if you have the time or it’s a special occassion try using a slightly lighter shade of foundation to highlight your cheekbones, nose, chin and brow areas. Use a slightly darker shade under your cheekbones and the top of your forehead.


This isn’t quite on topic, but I face a dilemma every time I put on my makeup: mascara first or eyeshadow first? If I put my eyeliner/eyeshadow on first, I inevitably end up smearing mascara all over my lids, taking half of my painstaking work with the q-tip when I go to clean up. I am completely incapable of putting on mascara without getting the brush in my eye at least once. Then I blink hard, and my eyelid squeezes shut around the mascara wand, and I get this lovely tarantula eyes effect. It is ever so fetching. Even if… Read more »