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When Eyeshadow Won’t Stay Put

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
Whenever I put on eye shadow I always end up with tiny specks of it scattered under my eyes. And around the corners of my eyes. And well, just sort of everywhere.
I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong to cause this fallout of shadow and trying to wipe it off just makes it worse. I usually end up smearing it so it becomes even more obvious that I am a make up application idiot.
I use nice brushes to apply the shadows and I tap them or blow on them after sweeping them through the shadows but before bringing them to my face. And I don’t use loose eye shadows (mainly because this problem is SO MUCH WORSE when I do. Seriously, circus clown worse).
Suggestions? Tips?

Well, let’s see. Without requesting that you YouTube your makeup application, allow me to take some wild guesses:
1) You’re not washing your brushes out often enough, so even though you THINK you’re applying the right amount of shadow, the brush is still scattering specks from last week all over your face. Use your face wash to gently clean your brushes out as often as you can — particularly if you use darker shadows or use one brush for multiple colors.
2) You’re not using primer. A good shadow primer or eye base helps keep the shadow on your lid, with less powder-y slippiness, particularly around the corners.
brushes.jpg3) You’re using the wrong-sized brush — if the brush is too big and/or the bristles are too loose, you’re going to have issues keeping the shadow where you want it. Likewise if the brush is too small and requires multiple strokes across your lid. (And just because something is labeled “eyeshadow brush” doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right one for you and your particular eyelids.)
4) You’re sweeping the brush too close to your lash line, thus getting speckles of powder in your lashes, thus scattering the speckles when you blink.
5) You’re just plain flat-out not an eyeshadow brush person. Honestly, I’m not that much of one too. I’ve got them, I use them, I still prefer my fingers a lot of the time. Especially when applying my base color or blending multiple shades together. For precise work I may use a very small brush, but I may also grab a Q-Tip. I’ve usually chalked this up to laziness (it’s fast! easier to wash your hands than a set of brushes! I forgot to take the brush out of my makeup drawer when I retrieved my shadow and going back for it would waste WHOLE PRECIOUS SECONDS!), and I understand that touching my shadow palettes is probably not the best thing for maximizing their shelf life, but you know what? It works. It might work better for you, too.
Speaking of Q-Tips, that’s exactly what you need to use to clean up the shadow fallout, NOT your finger. Dipping it in some eye-makeup solvent is your absolute best bet (although water can work in a pinch), and then lightly dab it (NO RUBBING) under your eyes and gently poke the corners to clean up the excess. This is what I do if I’ve applied my shadows too quickly, or used a dirty brush, or just spaced out for a second and accidentally painted the top of my cheek with a generous sweeping of NARS.

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

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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  • AmericnJewl

    June 26, 2008 at 11:24 am

    q-tips with makeup remover will also remove any concealer she has under her eyes. I use my face powder brush to brush away the stray specks under and any loose powder over my eyes. just a couple of light sweeps removes without streaking.

  • Anonymous

    June 26, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I sweep some flesh-toned highlighting powder under my eyes before I apply eyeshadown. When I’m finished with my eyes (included liner and mascara) I use a small brush to wipe off any excess powder/flakes. Works great and the powder helps cover my under-eye circles.

  • Olivia

    June 26, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I second AmericnJewl on using face powder to sweep the eyeshadow flakes away. I also run my brushes over a towel to remove the excess from the previous color before I move on to the next.

  • Lemmonex

    June 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Also, it is better to tap (or makeup artists call it “pack”) the eyeshadow on, rather than sweep. Sweep causes spray. Also, when you sweep, you need to use more product.

  • regan

    June 27, 2008 at 1:23 am

    1. No, I don’t wash my brushes often enough. Will go do that now. Do I need a special soap? A brush shampoo?
    2. I use F.Y.Eye by Benefit and love it. If I don’t use shadow primer all of the shadow pools in my crease in 2 minutes. Stupid oily skin.
    3. I have various sized brushes, but I tend to only use one of them. Because I am dumb. And stubborn. (The one I use is made by Nars, is kinda big, and the salesgirl told me it is the only brush I need. I believed her. dammit) Will start using the others immediately.
    4. Maybe. Probably. I’m not sure. Will pay more attention now.
    5. I’ve never tried using my finger for eye shadow application but now I’ll give it a whirl.
    Thanks Amy!

  • susan

    June 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Take a small square of toilet tissue or a folded kleenex and hold it under the lower lashes with one hand while you brush on the eye shadow with the other. Eye shadow ends up on the tissue, not on your face.

  • Rita

    July 1, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Also excellent for clearing up stray eye makeup – some moisturizer on a Q-tip or tissue. Personally, I have dark circles under my eyes naturally, so I’d rather reapply the concealer than put more powder under there.

  • Lori

    July 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I just put the eye makeup on first, before any foundation. Then you can clean up afterwards and not be messing anything else up.

  • Jane

    November 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Also medical tapeople will work… very light dab…