Eyeshadow has developed an unfair reputation for being tricky to master, but what if we told you that learning how to apply cream eyeshadow like a pro was far easier than you thought?
It is not a stretch to say that the category of eyeshadow is overwhelming. Finishes range from sparkling, shimmering finishes to muted matte, with colour choices spanning sultry blacks and greys to colour pop brights, passing through neutral champagne and coffee tones en route.
The possibilities of how to wear eyeshadow are broad too. At its simplest, one shade of eyeshadow can be used to add a wash of colour to the lid – but from there Pandora's box (or makeup bag) opens. Use two shades to create a contrast and define your eyes, three shades to build intensity – maybe even another to act as a liner. Eyeshadow can make your eyes look brighter, more vibrant or wide-awake, and few makeup products have that same potential.
There is also choice when it comes to the texture of your eyeshadow. The debate of powder vs cream eyeshadow has the potential to divide a room, but when it comes to ease of application, cream is the clear winner. Cream eyeshadow can be applied with a brush, but is just as easy to sweep on, smudge and blend with your fingertips. There’s less chance of fallout too, and cream shadows won’t flake and tumble down your face like powders can.
Welcome to the wonderful world of cream eyeshadows, we think you’re going to like it here.
Applying cream eyeshadow is not always as simple as picking up a pot of shadow. There is often prep to be done first, like stretching before going for a jog. Laying the groundwork will help your shadow look better and last for longer.
Not everyone’s eyelids are a clean canvas for eyeshadow. Your lids might be oily, dry, darker in tone than the rest of your skin, lighter in tone than the rest of your skin or have prominent veins.
If your eyelids are oily, convincing your shadow to stay in place can take some persuasion. “I would take something with a bit of grip, like Trinny London Face Finish, and use it as a primer to prep the lid,” advises Katie Levy, Pro Makeup Artist at Trinny London. You don’t need much, but this will help to dilute the excess oil, so you won’t end up with oil-slick lids and wayward colour.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are dry eyelids, where the skin can be rough or flaky in texture. Cream eyeshadows in general are brilliant here, as they will glide on without drawing attention to dryness, but if you feel you need more, there are other things you can try. Avoid applying moisturiser to the lids as this can transfer into the eye and cause irritation. Instead, consider using a dab of a moisture-boosting concealer or base to create a smoother canvas. Just be aware that this can dilute the shade, and you may have to build up your shadow to counteract this.
For eyelids that need a little in the way of colour correction, you have two options: a small slick of concealer or a swipe of a neutral shadow to set the tone. Lenny Royal, Pro Makeup Artist at Trinny London, likes to use Trinny London Eye2Eye in Justice, a soft, shell-toned neutral to make the lids more uniform. “I sometimes use Justice as a primer and then apply the product over the top,” Lenny explains. “It can change the colour of the eyeshadow though as it has pink pigment to it, so don’t go overboard.”
When it comes to which eyeshadows colours suit which eye colours, there’s a big caveat. Eyeshadow is a great way to express yourself, so really, anything goes. That being said, if you are looking for some guidance, there are shades that will complement and enhance your peepers depending on their hue.
“The best way to find a shade that will make your eye colour stand out is to look at a colour wheel,” explains Alex Phillips, pro makeup artist at Trinny London. “The colour on the opposite side to your eye colour is the one that will really make them pop.” If you don’t want to highlight your eye colour, complement it by using a shadow with similar tones.
“For blue eyes, anything warm with peach, red or pink tones will make your eye colour pop,” explains Alex Phillips. Try:
“For green eyes, I’d go for aubergine, plum or amethyst tones,” advises Katie Levy. Try:
Hazel tends to be a mix between green and brown, so you can take the advice for either eye colour. “If they’re more green than brown then purples are lovely,” adds Katie. Try:
The advice for grey eyes is similar to blue, as both are cool toned. “If you’ve got grey or bluey-grey eyes, copper and bronze shades will make them stand out,” says Katie. Try:
For brown eyes, green and blue tones will draw attention to them, but really the colour palette is your oyster when it comes to choosing a shade. “Brown eyes are easy, and can wear a lot of shades,” says Katie. “A nice coppery tone will complement them perfectly.” Try:
Prime the lids to prepare them for shadow. This could be with a mattifying primer for oily lids, a hydrating concealer for dry lids or a slightly heavier concealer if your lids are highly pigmented. Whichever you choose, use sparingly, and take all the way out to the brow – otherwise you’ll get a varying finish from your shadow in different areas.
Use a clean finger to pat and tap your chosen cream shadow onto your lid, before using your ring finger (which has the lightest touch) to softly blend. Focus the majority of the colour in the inner corner, blending upwards and outwards.
For daytime, you may want to leave it there, but, if you wanted to take it further, you could intensify the look with a second shade. Use a brush to take a shadow in a deeper, complementary colour along the crease and outer corner of the eye. By gently moving the brush back and forth in these areas, you’ll start to build depth.
Finally, if you feel you have made any mistakes, or want to sharpen the overall effect, use a clean finger or a little of your base to softly blend.
Creasing is where your eyeshadow smudges, creases or congeals in one area – normally along the fold of your lid. It’s a frustrating phenomenon (especially when you have invested time in carefully applying your makeup) and can be easily avoided with the right prep and application.
You’re more likely to experience creasing if you have hooded lids or oily lids. In both cases, prepping your eyelids before applying shadow will help to stop it from sliding. “A pro tip is to use Trinny London Face Finish as an eyeshadow base,” says Alex Phillips. “It will take away all that excess oil and mattify the lids,” adds Katie Levy.
How you apply your shadow will impact whether it creases too. “Aim for multiple thin layers, leaving a few seconds between coats,” advises Alex. “If you’re doing it with your fingers, apply with one finger, and then tap onto the lid with a clean finger. This will stop you from adding more and more colour.”
Worried that thin layers won’t give you the intensity you’re after? Focus your attention closer to the lash line instead. “If you get creasing around the socket, then you can go heavier at the lash line instead,” advises Katie Levy. “Then, working in as thin layers as possible, blend up towards the socket. Remember, the thicker the shadow is on the socket, the more likely it is to crease.”
Got a last minute invite? Taking your makeup from desk to bar? Lucky for you, building the intensity of your cream eyeshadow is easy when you know how.
As a general rule, most of us aren’t wearing anything more complex than a simple wash of a single colour on our lids for daytime. All you need to build for night is a darker colour in a complementary hue, and maybe, if you’re feeling fancy, a sparkly shadow too.
If you’ve only got two shadows, use the darker one to build depth and make your eyes the focal feature of your look. “Once your base shade is in place, you can use a darker, more pigmented shadow to build that intensity,” says Katie Levy. “You can either create a smudged line with it across the lash line, or, you can bring it to the outer corner of the socket for even more depth and smoke.”
For three shadows, Alex takes a similar approach – just with added glitz. “I like to work with a lighter colour, which is your “day colour”, a complementary “evening colour”, and then a wash of sparkle. Start with the lighter colour all over for during the day, and then add the darker colour in the shape of a sideways “V” on the outside corner of the eye. Then, tap the sparkly shadow onto the lid as a little topper.”