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You’re Not Too Old For: A Smoky Eye

Don’t let anybody tell you that a sexy, sultry eye isn’t yours for the blending. Celebrity makeup artist Bruce Dean, who counts such ageless beauties as Kim Cattrall, Amy Poehler, and Gwen Stefani among his clients, recognizes the No. 1 reason women over 45 steer clear of a smoky eye: It can age you.

“Anytime you wear more makeup, it can definitely give the appearance of looking older,” he says. And a smoky eye seems to require loads of eye shadow. But! Just because it can add years doesn’t mean it has to; it’s all in the technique and tools. After all, “there shouldn’t be any set-in-stone rules with makeup when it comes to age. I believe any woman can do anything if she does it in the proper way,” Dean says. What’s the best way for a woman over 50 to approach a smoky eye? Dean explains.

1. Be Strategic

“I recommend doing your eye makeup first and then the rest of your makeup,” Dean says. His reasoning: A smoky eye requires darker pigments and plenty of blending, and these two factors often lead to shadow traveling where you likely don’t want it. With this eye-first approach, you can clean up errant flecks without disturbing the rest of your makeup.

2. Lay Your Base

Anybody of any age group should lock down their eye makeup with an eye primer base; it’s insurance that your hard-won smoky eye won’t fade or smear. And for older women, it’s imperative. “The eye shadow base will even out the skin tone and matte down the eyelid to allow for a better shadow blend and longer wearability,” Dean says. Additionally, eye primer smooths creases while filling in fine lines, effectively making your eyelid a seamless canvas ready for smoky artistry.

3. Brush Up

Your tools are key to a perfectly blended, smoked-out effect. No matter the brand (Dean prefers MAC), arm yourself with a crease brush (MAC 217 Blending Brush) and a paddle-shape brush (MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush). “Crease brushes are softer and fluffier, and therefore they pick up and lay down less product,” he says. This makes them ideal for blending eye shadow — the key to a perfect smoky eye.

The paddle-shape brush tends to have a denser, flat head, picking up and applying more product in one stroke. “I recommend blending the smoky color in your eye crease first with a large crease brush. Then, use the flat, paddle-shaped brush to stipple the eye shadow across the lid to build a more opaque application if desired,” he says.

4. Choose Your Shadow

Finish is key when selecting eye shadow. “I find it’s best to use a matte eye shadow for more mature skin,” says Dean. Matte’s flat finish won’t draw attention to any hills and valleys you may wish to disguise, whereas shadows containing shimmer or larger sparkles tend to emphasize imperfections (i.e., crepy skin) and should be avoided. Dean suggests sticking to warm tones, like muted gray, sepia, or dark bronze, and building up the color by starting sheer and layering and blending until you find your happy place. And though smoky eyes often are associated with black shadow, Dean warns to steer clear: “It tends to look too hard or heavy.”

5. Personalize It 

Everybody’s eye shape is different, so refining your design requires a little self-reflection. “If you want to accentuate or enlarge an area, apply a deeper color, which visually builds volume. If you want to minimize or make an area appear smaller, go lighter with your shadow or shading,” advises Dean.

If you’re in doubt, Dean points to this common smoky eye technique: Apply a lighter shade on the lid, following by a medium tone throughout the crease, finishing with a darker color on the outside of the eyelid. Blend edges to perfect the shape — and then admire your sexy self.

Illustration: Alexandra Gritz

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