Monday, April 26, 2010

Basic eye makeup for a woman of a certain age: Step 1: Wear neutral shades

If you read as many fashion magazines as I do, you're constantly being inundated with advertisements featuring amazing images of dramatic eye makeup. These images are doing an excellent job--at least as far as I'm concerned--since I actually spend good money on these colors. And then I gloat over them like Gollum with his Precious. Sometimes I hole up in my bathroom and do a full-on Sephora-worthy eye makeup job, featuring five shades of shimmery green shadow complete with shimmer and a heaping helping of glitter. But I don't leave the house looking like that, and neither should you.
Just say no.
I hate to ruin anyone's day, but extreme eyemakeup is for the young.

Holy Crayola, Batman!

(These advertisments should come with a cautionary label, like cigarettes: KIDS! Don't try this at home!)

Eye makeup for the not-so-young

Here's the deal: as we age, we develop crows feet. Our eyelids become crepey. We might start to suffer from puffiness and bags under our eyes. The dark shadows that we always got under our eyes when we didn't get enough sleep become darker and become a permanent condition. On top of that, the shadows start to go all the way around our eyes. Our brows start to collapse and land where the crease of our eye used to be.

Yes, it's depressing.

The good news is that the eyes themselves don't change all that much. The exquisite color of your iris and unique shape of your eyes can still be emphasized. This will wake your whole face up and make you look refreshed and youthful.

I don't go through all these steps every day, but when I want to look really good, I use concealer, eyeshadow primer, three shades of eye shadow, two shades of eye liner, brow color, and mascara. And I do it all with neutral shades of eye makeup: beiges, tans, brown, and black.

And it doesn't look boring. Also, I'm in pretty good company. Marilyn Monroe wore a bold red lip, and she balanced it with neutral eyeshadow.

It's a classic look that never goes out of style. Here's Naomi Campbell modelling the late, lamented Kevyn Aucoin's iconic version of a neutral eye look, from a 1991 Allure magazine:

You'll notice that the lid is very light; the crease is very dark; there is a LOT of eyeliner, and the whole thing is contoured like crazy.

It's way over the top, and it's dated, but Aucoin was exaggerating to make a point. It's a ton of makeup, but it's a symphony in neutral color; beige, dark brown, and black. Campbell looks like a goddess.

Here's a recent version from Temptalia:

These shades are too shimmery for us, but I love the way she blended them and then set them off with that great eyeliner; I love the little upwards flick at the outer edge of her eye.

I hope I've sold you on the importance of developing a neutral eye makeup look. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about how to find the three or four eyeshadows to use as a palette of colors for your everyday neutral, polished, pretty eye look.

This is post belongs to a series I'm posting on natural-looking, flattering eye makeup for women of a certain age. Check back for posts on concealer, eye shadow primer, eyeliner, mascara, and brow color.


  1. As a "Free Gift" addict I have scads of eye shadows in all sorts of colors but I don’t use them. I thought I was boring/lazy for using the same three shades over and over. Maybe not?

  2. Poppy, spot on (as usual). I will add something else. I don't have wrinkles or crepiness yet and I have on more than a few occasions become faint with excitement over some new eye palette by Bobbi Brown or MAC. These usually involve pale aqua, which is a favourite colour of mine, especially when mixed with neutrals from the brown/beige palette. Well, no matter how subtle I am, it just looks wrong. It looks fake, and if there is one thing women of a certain age need not to appear, it is fake.

    I have two favourite palettes and I will anxiously await tomorrow's post to see if they are your faves too.

  3. Cargo makes a fantastic palette of neutrals. Great example photographs and, you are right, eyeliner is a must!

  4. You know what I love? How you always say "us" and "we." I'm not alone in this aging thing anymore.

    I love you, honey...

  5. Thank you for this, Poppy. I know you're busy but it didn't stop me from checking if you'd updated your blog each and ever day. I await with bated breath the next little installment of your series.

  6. You know,
    I am not a big make up fan, in fact I wear it rarely, but when I do I do exactly what you described. SO maybe I am doing it right ...

  7. So true (she said, weeping into a rainbow box of Jane Eye Zings).

  8. After years of putting on trendy eye shadows only to wipe them off again after I confront the freak show in the mirror, I've come to the same conclusion. Since I wear glasses, I stick to mascara, lightly applied and smudged liner, and very neutral shadow. Anything else looks like a circus on my face.


Gentle Readers:

For the time being, I've turned off comment moderation. Please don't spam; it's not nice.

xxx, Poppy.