Eyeshadow Do's And Don'ts: How To Achieve A Flawless Eye Look Without Looking Like A Hot Mess

Eyeshadow can be a tricky business. Too much, and you look like you're trying too hard; too little, and you might as well not have bothered. The key to perfecting your eye makeup is all in the application.

By Simone Sydel6 min read
shutterstock 2007541676 (1)

While some might think that applying eyeshadow doesn't take much skill or precision, anyone who's ever tried to achieve a flawless eye look knows that it's not as easy as it seems and that there are actually many things you need to keep in mind to avoid looking like a hot mess. And no, we're not talking about combining certain shades because we've all seen how different colors can work together and result in something beautiful.

What we’re talking about is the application process, which can be tricky if you don't know what you're doing or you're using the wrong tools and products. So today, we're sharing a few eyeshadow do’s and don'ts that will help you become more confident in your eyeshadow application skills and make your eyes pop in all the right ways.

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Eyeshadow Do's

Starting with the do's, here are 10 things you want to consider implementing into your makeup routine to make eyeshadow application a breeze and achieve a flawless eye look in no time:

1. Prep Your Eyelids

Always start with a clean slate, which means prepping your eyelids before applying any eyeshadow. This will help the eyeshadow go on smoothly, stay flawless for longer, and prevent any creasing and oiliness throughout the day. To prep your eyelids, you can either use an eyeshadow primer or a concealer that matches your skin tone.

Product To Try: NARS – Pro-Prime™ Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, $26

2. Set the Eyelids with Powder

Once you have prepped your eyelids, it's time to set them with powder. This will prevent creasing and help the eyeshadow go on smoothly and flawlessly. You can either use a translucent powder or a setting powder that matches your skin tone.

Product To Try: ONE/SIZE – Ultimate Blurring Setting Powder, $30

3. Add Dimension

 After prepping and setting, the first thing you want to do is get just a little bit of any neutral shade, such as light brown or grey, on a small fluffy brush and add dimension by applying it to the crease of your lids. This will help create a natural and seamless transition when you start adding color to your lid.

Product To Try: Hourglass – Curator™ Eyeshadow Singles in Neo Apricot Matte, $29

4. Build up the Color

To build up the color, continue adding the tiniest amount of your neutral transition shade and blending it out until you are satisfied with the result. Don't pack on too much product because you can always add more, but it's much harder to blend out if you've applied too much.

5. Use a Fluffy Brush To Blend Well

A small fluffy brush will be your best friend when blending eyeshadow because it will help you get a flawless and seamless finish. Avoid using dense brushes and applying too much pressure when blending, as this can remove the product in some places and make the shadow look patchy and uneven.

Product To Try: MAKEUP BY MARIO – EF 2 Blending Brush, $22

6. Use a Flat Brush for Precision with Shimmery Shades

When using shimmers, it's best to use a flat brush instead. It offers more precision and will help you avoid making a mess.

Product To Try: COLOURPOP – Small Shader Brush, $8

7. Wet Your Brush for Shimmery Shades

Another great tip for when you're applying shimmers is to wet your brush with a setting spray before dipping it into the shadow. This will help the shadow go on more pigmented and intense and pretty much grip onto the skin, which will help prolong its wear.

Product To Try: Urban Decay – All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray Mini, $15

8. Apply Shimmery Shades to the Inner Corner of the Eye

Applying the tiniest bit of shimmer to the inner corner of the eye will help brighten up the whole eye area and make you look more awake. It will also help elongate the eyes and give them a more almond-like shape.

Product To Try: Bobbi Brown – Ultra-Fine Eyeliner Brush, $31

9. Smoke out Your Lower Lash Line

To smoke out your lower lash line, start doing the same thing you did for your eyelid. Take the same neutral transition color and gently swipe it on the lower lash line using a small flat brush. When you are satisfied with the color intensity, start blending it out very gently until you're happy with the result. Additionally, adding a bit of mascara on the lower lash will complete the look and make your eyes pop.

Product To Try: Fenty Beauty – Precise Definition Eyeshadow Brush 220, $24

10. What Works for Your Unique Eye Shape

The final "do" of eyeshadow application is to do what works for your unique eye shape. This means that you should adjust the placement of the shades and intensities according to the shape of your eyes, as this will truly make your eyes pop and look their best. Here are some tips on how to accentuate different eye shapes:

  • Round eyes: Keep the eyeshadow colors neutral on the lid and gradually add darker shades toward the outer corner to create shading that looks like a sideways V. This will make your eyes look elongated and more almond-like.

  • Hooded eyes: Use a compact mirror and look down into it. Then, place the eyeshadow slightly above the crease instead of the fold of the eye, as this way, the color won't get lost when you look straight. Continue to blend that shadow straight outwards rather than dragging up or down the outer edges.

  • Monolid eyes: Since monolid eyes don't have a crease, it's a smooth transition straight up to the brow bone until the pigment fades and disappears.

  • Upturned eyes: This eye shape tends to have more lid space, so take advantage of that by adding a neutral color all over the lid and add as much depth as you want. You can also emphasize the lifted shape even further by extending your shadow on the outer corner of your eyes.

  • Downturned eyes: Start by applying a neutral or nude shade from your lids to just below your brows. Then, take a medium shade and apply in a left-to-right motion along your crease before buffing away upwards. This will help lift the eye and make it look wider.

  • Almond eyes: Use a deeper color on the outer corners of your eyes and a lighter color in the inner corners to really make your eyes pop and appear bigger.

Eyeshadow Don'ts

Now that we've gone over some of the key "do's" when applying eyeshadow, let's move on to some of the things you should avoid doing if you want to achieve a flawless eye look.

1. Use Low-Quality Brushes

Using low-quality brushes is one of the worst things you can do when applying eyeshadow. Not only will the bristles probably be harsh on the delicate skin on the eyelids, but they will also make it harder to apply the shadow evenly and precisely. Instead, invest in a few good-quality eyeshadow brushes that are specifically designed for different purposes such as blending, packing on color, etc. These will last you longer and make it much easier to get a flawless eyeshadow application.

Product To Try: Sigma Beauty – Basic Eye Brush Set, $77

2. Add Too Much Product

As I already mentioned above, it's much better to start with less product and build up the intensity gradually than to go in with too much shadow and end up looking like you got hit by the makeup truck. So, when applying eyeshadow, start with a small amount of product on the brush and add more if needed.

3. Use Shimmer As a Transition Shade

Using shimmer as a transition shade is a common eyeshadow mistake. While shimmer can be beautiful when used correctly, it's not ideal for creating a smooth transition between colors because it will look patchy and uneven. Instead, opt for using a matte shade as your transition color, as this will help create a smooth and seamless look.

Product To Try: MAKEUP BY MARIO – Master Mattes™ Eyeshadow Palette, $48

4. Start with a Dark Shade

If you start with a dark shade without adding a few lighter shades as a transition, the color will look muddy and uneven. Instead, start with a light or medium shade and gradually build up the intensity with darker shades.

5. Use a Fluffy Brush To Apply Your Lid Color

A fluffy brush will remove some of the pigment and make the eyelid look patchy, uneven, and washed out, so stay away from it when applying your lid color. Instead, use a flat or dense brush to apply color to your lid, as this will help pack on the pigment and create a more intense look.

Product To Try: SEPHORA COLLECTION PRO – Shadow Brush #15, $20

6. Add Concealer To Clean up the Fallout


Eyeshadows can be messy, and one of the most common mistakes people make is adding concealer to clean up the fallout. While this might seem like a quick and easy fix, it will actually just end up making the area around your eyes look messy. Instead, use a fluffy powder brush to sweep away any excess shadow that has fallen on your cheeks or under your eyes.

Product To Try: bareMinerals – Supreme Finisher Brush, $32

7. Use Eyeshadow To Highlight Your Brow Bone

A highlighted brow bone was one of the most infamous makeup trends back in 2016, and while it can look beautiful when done right, it can also end up looking like a hot mess. Instead of using bright eyeshadow to highlight your brow bone, opt for a more subtle highlighting shade such as champagne, and gently trace it along your brow bone for a little bit of sparkle without making it look overdone. Alternatively, opt for a liquid or cream highlighter for a more natural look.

Product To Try: Charlotte Tilbury – Beauty Highlighter Wand, $40

8. Apply a Shimmery Shade on the Bottom Lash Line

There is one instance where applying bright shimmery shades will make your eye appear smaller, and that's when you apply them on the bottom lash line. It can also make your eyes appear swollen and washed out. Plus, some of that shimmer will definitely transfer to your undereye area throughout the day and make you look like a hot mess.

9. Spray Your Setting Spray Too Close to the Eyes

We love setting sprays as they help makeup last longer, but spraying it too close to the eyes can actually ruin your entire look by making the eyeshadow crease and even making your eyeliner and mascara run or transfer. So, make sure to hold the spray at least six inches away from your face, and avoid spraying it directly into the eyes. Hold the product slightly above your head and let the mist fall down onto your face.

Product To Try: Charlotte Tilbury – Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray, $35

10. Get Discouraged If It Doesn't Work the First Time

One of the worst things you can do is give up after the first try. Just like with anything else in life, practice makes perfect, and the more you do it, the better you'll get at it. So, don't get discouraged if your first attempt doesn't look perfect. Just keep practicing, and you'll definitely get the hang of it in no time!

Closing Thoughts

While many say there are no rules to applying eyeshadow, we beg to differ. There are definitely certain techniques that work better than others and can help you achieve a flawless eye look without looking like a hot mess. We hope you found these tips helpful and that you'll put them to good use the next time you do your makeup!

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