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Eye Makeup Mistakes That Are Hindering Your Happiness

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We are so lucky to live in a world where tins of sardines come with pull tabs, where toilet paper comes in both extra soft AND extra strong, and where a million YouTube videos exists to show us how to put on eyeshadow. But I swear, I almost lost it. As amazing the power of video is, 17 minutes into my 15th smokey eye look tutorial, I was done. Too many brushes! Thousands of dollars of products! So many shapes! Have things gone TOO FAR? Have we lost sight of how fun makeup should be? Or maybe this is fun and I’m no longer fun?

Uh, sorry, got carried away there. The ultimate (non)rule of makeup is that you do you. It takes a hell of a lot of practice and messing up to figure out what you’re doing. I read so many comments on those millions of tutorials that said: “I tried this and looked like a raccoon!” Well yeah, it’s gonna take some time and maybe this YouTuber’s very individualized look is in fact not going to come out a copy and paste on you because you’re a different person with different hopes, dreams, and weird bumps! At some point you need to simply play.

With that in mind, I spoke to professional makeup artist Mylah Morales (cough she’s worked with Rihanna a bunch, Tracee Ellis Ross, and many others) about common mistakes people make in the eye makeup department. Mylah’s general philosophy is: makeup is fun, and it shouldn’t take hours and dollars. Agreed.

This is the internet, things could explode into glittering dust at any moment, so don’t read this so much as gospel as tips and tricks to get you excited about getting into eyeshadow again. I hadn’t worn it for months before I talked to Mylah, and after hearing how minimalist her routine is, I was inspired to get back on the three-shades-of-brown wagon.

Using 15 Eyeshadows

Palettes are a godsend for eyeshadow. Morales likes Nars, Urban Decay, and Anastasia’s–known for their super hyper-pigmented color (so pigmented you really need to tap the excess off your brush and layer on). “The reason a palette has ALL those colors is for different looks,” said Morales, “Natural and dramatic.” Not because you’re supposed to use all 15 shades at once. A palette can take you from day to night, but you really only need one to three for an everyday look with dimension and depth. Morales’s daily routine is 15 minutes: “I have a specific amount of time to do makeup, just like any other working mother,” she told me. She uses three shades of brown shadow and a brown-black shadow as eyeliner for “an illusion of depth.” OoooOoo. I never thought about using those darker shadows as liners but it makes complete sense, adding softer dimension than hard pencil liner. She does light brown all over the lid, medium in the crease, dark in the edge/crease, and medium to blend all three. For neutral browns to pull this off, I rely on Lancome’s 5-shadow palette in taupe craze more than the MTA, which comes with a guide for where to put each color—and has an awesome powder liner–it’s eyeshadow for dummies (the dummy is me.)

Not Letting Liquid Eyeliner Set

You know that thing when you’re talking to a coworker and you realize their eyeliner has imprinted into their eyelid crease and you’re not sure how to tell them? But actually the coworker is you and you really need to look into the bathroom mirror more often instead of playing with the automatic foam soap? The simple solution is to let it dry, keep your eyes closed, don’t you dare blink, for like 60 seconds.This is a great moment to add “mindfulness” to your morning makeup routine. Think of what the liquid eyeliner means to you, the importance of symmetry in your life—is anything else as evenly planned?—and take note of how the smooth paint feels on your lids. By the time you’ve found inner peace, the liner should be ready for that morning commute.

Using Bad Lighting

“Lighting is EVERYTHING,” said Morales, who uses this vanity mirror that lights up and has Bluetooth to connect to your phone so you can call your weed dealer or whatever while you pluck your brows. The best scenario is natural light, but if that’s not an option, get your lighting on lock. In lower lighting, we tend to overdo it, and this is why my signature look for years was why-is-her-neck-so-white.

Ignoring Your Brows

Brows outline the face and give everything structure. You may have heard that song before. Don’t ignore them! I have to fill mine in a lot because I pull them out in anxious moments and they’ve gotten thin, but you might only need to fill in the arch, or at the edges. It doesn’t have to be an Elizabeth Taylor job, just enough to bring them out of hiding and outline their shape.

Watching Too Much YouTube

“These tutorials are making people crazy!” Morales exclaimed. “Makeup should be FUN! You shouldn’t end up buying a thousand things.” (She doesn’t even use primer—damn.) Makeup for being on camera is a lot heavier than what we typically do for everyday looks, and YouTube tutorials tend to be DRAMATIC LEWKS for that reason. While tutorials can be life-changing and educational, obsessing over them, the hundreds of products called out and brushes required, the TIME required to blend four separate times—isn’t realistic for many people. If that’s fun for you, though, rock on.

Forgetting Powder

Just as you finish your whole face with a setting spray or powder, the same goes for eye makeup. Morales uses Givenchy’s translucent powder, and that keeps her eye makeup from creasing.

Never Throwing Out Old Mascara

When I asked Morales how to stop the little flakes of mascara from dropping under my eyes she said, “wipe it off.” And that’s when I realized there’s a point where you’re overthinking this stuff. I don’t need a tenth product to prevent my mascara from falling, it’s a part of life, it happens sometimes. (But also, throw out your mascara after two months, it’s probably drying out.)

So if you’re ready to play in the eye makeup landscape, I’d recommend finding a palette with colors you can picture on yourself, not based on crowd-sourced ratings—I tried a super popular very pink/red one that people seem to love right now, but hey, that fairy tale color scheme was too Disney for me. More neutral standbys, like Urban Decay’s Naked series, are a great place to start. (Shout out to Naked3! Did you know you could get them engraved? Lol.) I treat it like weight-lifting, layering on more colors when I feel ready, but most of the time I feel more confident with less, which is also why my arms have no definition. Working on it, working on it.

—Alex Beggs

More mistakes to stop making: Cleansing edition. Read here.