Simply Smokin’: Achieving a Perfect Smoky Eye
Simply Smokin’: Achieving a Perfect Smoky Eye
Kevin James Bennett


By Kevin James Bennett

What is a Smoky Eye?

This is an enduring eye make-up application trend that doesn’t appear to be budging a centimeter any time soon.

There are many schools of thought surrounding what is considered a smoky eye.  In its purest sense, smudging dark or rich colors around the entire eye creates a smoky eye.  The smudging creates a mysterious, sexy, unstructured look that is in direct contrast to a more architectural or linear application of solid pencil or liquid liner. The level of “smoke” can be subtle, playful or amped up to a five-alarm scorcher.

The key to the perfect smoky eye is proper blending. Colors must blend together seamlessly to prevent a harsh or cheap look. Make sure you graduate rich or dark colors to lighter or less saturated colors. Without impeccable blending, you’ll end up with raccoon eyes (think Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne).

Getting Started:

These are the items you’ll need to create a basic smoky eye:

·       Eye primer (optional, but a VERY strong suggestion)

·       Multiple eye shadows in one shade family (browns, grays, or taupes) that go from light to dark.

·       Eyeliner (pencil, kohl, cream—anything you can smudge)

·       Mascara (in rich black—this is a smoky eye, so no need for subtlety)

·       Eye make-up brushes

·       Eye make-up remover and Q-tips (for quick clean-ups)

Prepping the lid: This is an optional step, but highly recommended. Why go through the process of creating a flawless make-up application, only to have it melt into the crease of the eyelid?  There are lots of professional eye-shadow primers out there that prepare the eye for a long-lasting make-up application and camouflage discoloration on the lid so eye shadow applies true to color. I apply over the entire lid, blending to the inner corner (next to the bridge of the nose) and up to the brow.

Eyeliner: This step will determine the success of your entire application. Apply a black, dark brown or charcoal liner thickly and very closely to the lash line on the upper lid. Take a small eye-shadow brush and smudge the line so there is no hard edge. Make a much finer line along the lower lashes and smudge the same way.

Shadows: I like using three colors to give my smoky eye great visual depth. Let’s try this with some simple cream to brown colors. Apply the lightest shade from the crease upward onto the brow bone. I usually use a soft cream or sand color for this step. Cover the lid only with a medium brown (try a rich caramel tone) and blend up into the crease.  Finally, use a very dark brown at the lash line and blend up on to the lid. Step back and take a look: Can you see where one color begins and the next ends?  Then BLEND MORE. The transitions should be seamless.

Mascara: You’re going to want very dense, lush-looking lashes for this smoky look.  That means multiple coats. I have always had the most success applying two-three light coats of a volumizing mascara on upper lashes and at least one coat on lowers. 
EXTRA CREDIT:  When you want to create a bombshell look, apply a sparse strip of false lashes (not individuals) to the upper lid. Then “lock” that strip to the natural lashes with at least two coats of VERY black mascara. Two coats on the lower lashes complete this luscious look.

So there you have the basic smoky eye.

Color Me Smoky: How about switching it up and adding some unexpected color? Changing the eye shadow to vibrant or saturated colors will immediately give your smoky eye a distinctive look. Replace the neutrals with purples and blues. Amp it straight to the stratosphere with a decadent iridescent green or teal (very 1920s). With the correct technique and plenty of practice (blend, blend, blend), the possibilities are endless!  

Lip Service: For a truly balanced look, always pair smoky eyes with a nude lip. You don’t want a strongly colored mouth to compete with the intensity you’ve created on the eyes. In a pinch, I rub some concealer over a well-conditioned lip and top it with either plain or shimmering clear gloss.