Smokey Eye: Common Issues Solved!

smokey eye

It is largely accepted that when it comes to flattering eye makeup, you can’t go wrong with a good smokey eye. Whatever your eye shape, this look instantly oozes glamour and sophistication, and it’s an especially good choice for the upcoming Christmas party season.

However, there is no doubt that a smokey eye can be a little… tricky. It’s not the easiest of makeup techniques to get right, especially if your previous experience of eyeshadow is rather basic. Below, we’ll discuss in detail the three main problems that women have when attempting this look for themselves– and, of course, a few tips as to how you can correct it.

Problem #1: Too Much Black

At the top of this page, you’ll see three examples of a smokey eye look, and they all have one thing in common: they use light as well as dark. Even in the darkest of these looks, on the top right, makes use of a dash of white eyeliner to provide a contrast. This is essential.

It’s easy to go overboard with the dark colors when you’re attempting a smokey eye. It’s the darkness, after all, that gives the technique its name. However, if you use nothing but dark colors, the overall effect won’t have the light and shade it needs to really make an impact.

You should always try and supplement the dark colors with lighter shades; look for eye palette details that offer a mixture of different shades, so you can achieve the look all in one go. For every dark color you apply, there should be a lighter shade added elsewhere on the lid to complement it.

Problem #2: No Definition

A smokey eye needs to be properly defined; different colors on different areas of the eye, otherwise it all blends together into one dark swirl. Blending is good, but too much blending ruins the entire look.

The best way to prevent blending from going too far is by using a clean brush to blend, rather than the same brush(es) that you used to apply the color. A clean brush will not deposit extra color pigment; it just blends the colors that are already there. Always apply color with one brush and blend with a second.

Problem #3: A “Sunken” Look

Dark eyeshadow can make your eyes look more sunken than they truly are, especially if you have extended the color onto the lower lids.

Thankfully, this is one issue that is easily fixed. The key to a smoky eye is to “lift” it, by applying a highlighter underneath the eyebrow. This helps to create a contrast, as well as preventing the overall eye appearance to look sunken. As mentioned, highlighter is best for this job as it offers a subtle sheen, but a light-colored eyeshadow will suffice if you don’t have a highlighter on hand. Here’s a rather extreme example of how this should look to make the point:

This example uses a bright white to show where you will want to apply your highlighter. If you are using white eyeshadow rather than highlight, the above is a guide, not a direct example of what you should do, so apply with a light hand!

Problem #4 – Smudging

One of the biggest complaints that women have regarding a smokey eye is how it can smudge and cause fall of shadow, meaning you may find yourself battling with the infamous “panda eyes” within an hour of application.

The reason that smokey eyes are liable to cause this issue is because of the numerous layers of eyeshadow they require. The more layers, the easier it is for the powder to fall, as it doesn’t have the skin to “grip” to.

There are a few ways to combat this:

    • Begin by using an eyeshadow primer. This will not particularly help with the “multiple layer” problem as mentioned above, but it will provide a good foundation for the first layer of shadow to sit on.


    • Apply extremely thin layers; as thin as you can manage, ideally. Highly pigmented eyeshadows, that require minimal layering to achieve true color, are by far the best choice for a smokey eye.


    • When the colors are in place, take a clean tissue and brush it very lightly over the eyelid. You want the tissue, not your fingers, to be in contact with the skin while you do this. This will help collect any loose particles that may otherwise fall into the under-eye area.


  • Use a setting spray, though obviously keep your eyes closed while you do so. A good setting spray can help keep your makeup in place for longer, helping to avoid the “panda eye” scenario. If you don’t want to spend too much, then you might want to try this homemade setting spray recipe and see how it works out for you.

Problem #5: Eyes Look Too Dark

When you have applied a smokey eye, your eyes can look a little too dark. This is particularly noticeable if you wear glasses, which create a shadow on the eye anyway. The easiest solution is to use lighter colors for your eyeshadow; a smokey eye doesn’t need to be black and gray.

If you do want to use blacks and grays, however, then there is a workaround to this issue. Use a pale eyeliner — a nude or a white will work well — and use this on the bottom waterline of your eyes. This helps to create more of a pop to your eyes, giving a nice contrast to the surrounding darker eye makeup. If you have never applied eyeliner to your bottom waterline, then this video will teach you all that you need to know:


In this video, the presenter is using the standard black eyeliner, but the same technique applies if you’re using need or white.

If you keep the above in mind, you should be able to master the smokey eye once and for all.

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