How to apply shimmer on eyes in a grown-up way

Scared of shimmer? Don’t be. Learning how to apply shimmer on your eyes will open up a world of possibilities when it comes to creating makeup looks.

Don’t be afraid of shimmer

There is an unreasonable assumption floating around that when we reach a certain age, we no longer want to experiment with our style or try new things. It’s as if we reach 50 only to have all the colour rounded up from our wardrobes, and anything that couldn’t be described as a neutral suddenly confiscated from our makeup bags. Our lives don’t become any less vibrant or colourful as we travel down the path of life, so why should our makeup choices reflect a muted, sombre state of affairs?

The way we present ourselves on the outside should feel like a reflection of how we feel on the inside. Good makeup, just like an amazing pair of shoes, has the ability to change how we carry ourselves, as well as how others perceive us. Not to mention that a shimmering eye is the perfect conversation starter – a way to engage with others (as well as invite compliments).

So, why are so many of us scared of shimmer? “A lot of people are terrified of shimmer because they think of a time, years ago, when eyeshadows were either matte or glittery, with nothing in between,” says Alex Phillips, Pro Makeup Artist at Trinny London. “A common worry is also that they’re going to enhance crepiness. But technology has moved on and cream eyeshadows won’t do that. They’re very soft, incredibly flattering and bring light to the eye.”

If you’re thinking, shimmery eye makeup sounds great, I’d definitely try it for a special occasion, then allow us to try and twist your arm towards making it a more everyday occurrence. When we save things for best, we deny ourselves those little, unexpected moments of joy. You would expect to feel happy and glamorous at your birthday dinner, but on a rainy wednesday? Not so much. By elevating the everyday, you can feel your best at all times. Wear the shimmer, you more than deserve it.

Tips for applying shimmery eye shadow

Stick to neutrals if you’re nervous

There’s something to be said for diving straight in at the deep end, but it’s perfectly acceptable to tiptoe your way in too. Molten shades of aubergine and emerald will make your eyes pop, but these look-at-me shades can take a bit of working up to. If you're new to shimmer eyeshadow, start with a neutral palette of taupe, champagne and copper shades. They’re not too much of a departure from your trusty beiges and browns – just with added light-reflecting sparkle. You don’t have to apply a huge amount either. Try a barely-there wash of shimmering shadow over an otherwise bare or barely-there base. You can always build up the intensity of the pigment, and therefore the glitz, as you feel more comfortable.

Opt for cream

As our carpets can attest to, one of the most frustrating things about shimmering or glittering makeup is its tendency to fall out of place. Cream formulas are not only simple to apply with a swipe of a finger (or a brush if you prefer) but will prevent your shimmer eyeshadow from migrating down from your lids. “That’s one of the biggest benefits of a cream, never getting fall out,” says Alex. “Creams are also great for people with dry lids,” adds Katie Levy, also a Pro Makeup Artist at Trinny London. “Any shadows with a sheen to them, rather than anything too matte, will make the eye area look dewy and glowy.“

Prep your lids

“If you have oily eyelids, a good pro tip is to use a mattifying product like Trinny London Face Finish as an eyeshadow base,” says Alex. This will give your lids extra grip and increase the staying power of your shimmery shadow. “What I wouldn’t do is put too much of your base, like your foundation or concealer, underneath. It works really well for powders to stick to, but with cream eyeshadow it can become a bit soup-like.” If your lids are very dry or pigmented and you feel you absolutely do need something on them, use the smallest whisper of moisturiser or concealer.

Apply sparingly

Piling on a huge amount of product won’t necessarily reward you with the desired result. It can look too heavy on the eye area, making them look smaller, as well as increase the likelihood of creasing. “If you want intensity, then build your shimmering shadow in multiple thin layers, leaving a few seconds between,” advises Alex. “Start off with a very light base, just a wash of colour, and repeat two or three times to build. If you’re applying with fingers, use one finger to tap the product onto the eye and a clean one to blend. This will prevent you from just adding more and more colour.”

Keep the rest of your makeup muted

Remember that timeless styling trick? Before you leave the house, take off one accessory to avoid being overdressed. We don’t always agree with that mantra, but we do agree that it is possible to over-do things. To let your shimmering eyeshadow take centre stage, keep the rest of your makeup simple. It won’t get the attention it deserves if all elements of your makeup are shouting over each other to be heard. “Give something its moment,” advises Alex. “If everything stands out, then nothing stands out.”

How to apply shimmer eyeshadow: Step-by-step

Step 1

Prime your lids to create a smooth, clean surface. If your lids are very dry, you may want to use a small amount of a lightweight moisturiser. If they’re very oily, consider priming them with a mattifying product.

Step 2

For a more intense look, apply a base colour to your lids in a similar hue to the shimmering shadow you will be wearing. This will amplify the colour.

Step 3

Using your fingers, apply the shimmering eyeshadow to your lids. Concentrate on the inner corner, before using what’s left on your finger to bring the colour across your lid, and then upwards and outwards. Work in light layers to build the colour and use a clean finger or a fluffy brush to blend.

Can you wear shimmer eyeshadow on hooded eyes?

Hooded eyes is a term used to describe an eye shape where the skin above covers the eyelid, creating a hooded effect. Everyone’s eyes are different, and your lid might be either partially or completely concealed. There is a common misconception that you can’t wear eyeshadow if you have hooded eyes, when in reality it’s just about learning how to apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes. “There’s no reason why someone with hooded eyes couldn’t wear glitter or shimmer eyeshadow,” says Katie Levy. “It’s just about the placement. Work from the inner corners, patting and blending outwards. You can always use any product leftover on your finger and pat that in above the crease.” Taking the colour outwards and upwards towards the outer edge of your eyebrow will not only ensure your shimmering shadow is fully visible, but help to lift the eye area. “Adding a little bit of shimmer will brighten the eyes and look really flattering,” adds Katie.

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