Smoky Eye 101: The Essential Products and Tips

Sunday, July 27th 2014 1

Everything you need to know about mastering the art of the smoky eye

Smoky eyes. They're the number one beauty staple I get asked about every day. So with no further ado, here's the low down on how to create killer eyes...

Every single smoky eye should start with one of two variations of Urban Decay Primer Potion. Apply with your finger all over the eye lid, right up to the brow, and take it underneath the eye as well.

  • Anti-Ageing: This is an almost-invisible formula which contains plumping ingredients to give you an even finish all over the eye. It does hold everything in place but dries to a silky finish, meaning that it is super easy to blend over.
  • Eden: This one is a full coverage beige primer, drying to a matte finish. Absolutely nothing is going to budge if you use this, but I’d recommend saving it for full eye make-up looks because it can be a little unforgiving on fine lines if you keep it too subtle. Take extra care to blend when you use this one, it grips the product so it won’t be as easy as when you use the Anti-Ageing.

UD Primer Potion

Talking absolute basics here, there are three brushes that you simply must invest in if you want to create a lovely smoky eye. Here are my 3 essentials. Get them if you can and if the price is a stretch then find these shapes elsewhere (I LOVE the Real Techniques eyeshadow brush set).

  • MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush – this is what you’re going to use to pat colour onto your lid. Note how I said ‘pat’. Don’t go back and forth back and forth; you’re just dragging your product about. Pack the colour on using the flat edge of this brush and save your back and forth for the…
  • MAC 217 Blending Brush – this is what you’re going to use to buff the contour of the eye and soften the edge of the colour that you patted onto your lid. Keep this clean and if possible invest in a few of them. For a really flawless blend it is ideal to have a few of these, clean, on rotation.
  • MAC 219 Pencil Brush – earlier this year, Sali Hughes said that “everything women think is difficult about make-up can be solved with a 219 brush”. That’s pretty much the jist of it. Use this on the lash line or in the inner corners to add definition and depth to your eyeshadow.

Great Eyebrow Tools
The ultimate brow brush is Illamasqua’s Angled Brush. It is thinner, shorter and firmer than most brushes I’ve used, meaning that you can create a really precise finish. As for defining them, Illamasqua Brow Cake is a waxy powder which will cling to skin as well as hair and won’t move all day. Use it wet or dry to create your desired finish. If you prefer a pencil try Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz (it’s like an eyebrow version of a little lead pencil) and cream formulas don’t get better than her Dipbrow Pomade.

A Neutral Palette
There are so many brilliant neutral palettes but the best is the Smashbox Full Exposure palette. It contains 14 shades, 7 matte and 7 corresponding shimmers, and it is one of the only palettes that has everything you could possibly need in one hit. I’m such an experimenter but this is one of the very few things that I use every single morning.

Smashbox Full Exposure Palette

Core Colours to Invest In
When it comes to classic smoky eyes, there are a few things you’ll use in almost every look. Invest in these and they’ll do the work for you…

  • A flesh-toned matte eyeshadow: find a matte eyeshadow that is two shades darker than your skin tone. Before starting any look at all, you’re going to take this on a fluffy eyeshadow brush (your MAC 217) and buff it all the way through the contour of your eye to create the illusion of a natural hollow. Now, you’ve got a perfect frame to deepen this colour with darker shades.
  • A matte chocolate brown: a classic shade to create a smoky eye or define the lash lines.
  • A matte black: Sugarpill and Illamasqua’s blacks are the darkest. Use these as above.
  • MAC Eyeshadow in Antiqued: this is a classic smoky, shimmering brown like the ones we see on the Kardashians. If you use this alone under the lash line and buffed onto the lid it is a one-step to a lovely smoky brown eye, and it has a copper warmth to it so it makes any eye colour pop. Blue eyes like mine are going to be really piercing against this shade.
  • Any Charlotte Tilbury palette: Charlotte’s palettes are easy to blend, compact and contain at least one matte, shimmer and glitter shade. Perfect for day-t0-night looks. You won’t go wrong with Bronze Goddess or Dolce Vita.

Smoky Eyes Rose Gallgher

Urban Decay have an unbeatable range of eyeliners, all long wearing and very black – no wishy washy translucent nonsense. Here are some favourites:

  • 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil in Perversion for the inner waterline
  • Ink for Eyes felt tip pen – I never buy felt tip pens, they always dry out, but this one is different. The nib does all of the work for you if you like a crisp, feline flick, and the finish is jet black and glossy. A total winner.
  • Super Saturated gel liner is brilliant for a number of things. Use it with a firm brush for a precise finish or take a bullet brush (like MAC 219) to give a smudgy, blendy finish. This also buffs out really well if you want to use it all over the lid for a black smoky eye.

For whatever reason I’m really not that fussed about mascara, just use whatever you like. The holy grail is anything YSL and the best everyday variations are from Max Factor and Bourjois.

The best lashes in the world are all from Peaches and Cream. They’re £3.90 a set and you can wear them again and again. Stock up on No.2’s and you won’t look back, they’re the fail safe perfect on everyone eyelashes. You have to get these from the Liverpool salon on Dale St or online at, and buy at least 3 sets at a time because they sell out as soon as they’re in. I know they look like individual lashes but this is the beauty of them… they’re actually in a strip! (While we’re on the subject of Peaches, you need every single loose pigment too. The quality is better than most high end brands I’ve used and yet they’re a fraction of the price.)

Peaches No.2

If you run out, here’s the best of the rest from your nearest beauty hall…

  • Ardell Demi-Wispies: my friend Jess introduced me to these and she’s a Lauder head office girl so she really knows her stuff.
  • MAC No.34 lashes: these are chunky and mod, think Edie Sedgwick and Twiggy, but what makes them stand out is that they merge black and brown lash lengths. For this reason there’s none of that synthetic black shine that comes with cheap lashes and these look full but really natural.
  • Eylure 100’s: a total classic, these graduate and get a little longer at the ends. Think feline and pretty.

Don’t forget to apply a thick line of eyeliner when you’re wearing lashes, it will help to disguise the join (and will help you to style it out if they go on a little unevenly). My top tip for applying lashes is to tilt your head backwards and keep your eyes open. Trust me, it’s the only way.

Parting words of wisdom:

  • Your brushes are going to do the work for you when you want to make a smoky eye. Invest in good ones and keep them clean. Use BeautyBlender soap or liquid soap to clean them and you will be horrified and delighted in equal measure at the amount of utter filth that comes out of them.
  • When in doubt, keep it simple. Rich browns, tan and gold look gorgeous on everybody.
  • You’ve spent a lot of time on your make-up so please don’t ruin it by forgetting to take it off properly. The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil is one of the best make-up removers of all time, and a 200ml bottle is £10. It’s perhaps the best beauty bargain in the whole world. Smear this onto your dry face, feel free to work it right into your eyes, and then remove it with a hot flannel. No matter how much make-up you’ve got on, it will all come off in a matter of seconds. I promise.

Cleansing Oil

Keep an eye on my Instagram page @MixedGemsBeauty for more smoky eye inspiration, but don’t forget to follow the queens of smoky eyes, my favourite girls @PeachesMakeup!

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