Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ask Me: Dark Shadows?!

An old friend, Suzanne, came to me with some eyeshadow woes:

I have always had a hard time blending eye shadow and coming out with a result that draws attention to my eye without looking too unnatural. It seems that every direction I go in leads to its own problem. Liquid shadows crease. Pressed shadow colors seems to smudge together and never seem to be distinct enough. Loose shadows seem to require more brush technique than I seem to possess. Do you have any advice for me on blending different shadows?

Now, there’s quite a lot to respond to here! Lets break it down. 

The first thing I want to cover is shadows that crease, and shadows that appear indistinct. The answer for both of these things is, in my experience, base and/or primer!

If your pressed shadows are getting muddy and not showing up well, you may benefit from using an eyebase or primer. Finding the right one can be a bit of a guessing game, as it can depend on your skin type. The purpose of the base is to even out the eyelid, smoothing the surface and evening out the color as well, so nothing stands in the way of your shadows.  So if your powder shadows are coming off “indistinct”, a good base can usually fix that for you. If a boost for your color shadow’s appearance (often called “payoff” in makeup circles) is what you’re after, there’s a number of options available, and some are very affordable!


A few drugstore bases: Milani Shadow Eyes in Almond Cream, and Maybelline Color Tattoo in Nude Pink and Matte Brown
A few drugstore bases I like.

You may have noticed each of those are different colors, because a base can complement the shadow you’re using rather than skin tone, so these are a few bases that I like when I want to punch up the color of a shadow.  This is simply what I have in my collection, there are tons available!

 However, if, like me, you happen to have oily eyelids, a primer acts like a base, but ALSO serves to extend the life of your eye makeup,and prevent breakdown of the products.(Yes, I realize that many bases can do this as well, but in my experience bases provide far less staying power than primers, so forgive me.) Before I found the right primer, my eye-shadows usually didn’t make it through lunch, but now, my eye makeup generally looks the same as it did in the morning when it’s time to take it off at night. For someone like me that suffers the dreaded CREASE, you need more than a simple cream base, you need something designed to keep that shadow in place. A fully fledged Primer can help keep things in check.

Behold my primers!
Behold my primers!

As you can see, my collection of primers is a bit more extensive. I have tried MANY in my attempts to keep my eye looks locked in. My favorite in this photo is the skinny black tube in the middle, the Wet N Wild Fergie Collection Take the Day eye primer. This is my absolute favorite, and has outlasted everything else in this picture.  (To be fair, the Urban Decay primer potion put up one hell of a fight.)  And again, there are PLENTY more out there, but these are the ones I’ve collected over time.

I find with a good primer or base, most shadows will apply far truer to the color they appear to be in their packaging, and also will stay put better, even a liquid shadow – as long as you let it dry before moving the lid around! I have been known to layer a color base over my primer when I want the color on my lid to really pop. That can be very effective, as long as you give each layer time to set (just a matter of seconds normally) so that you’re layering and not mixing them together.

One thing Suzanne noted when I asked her some follow up questions was that she often used the applicators that came with powder shadows in application. While I’m not one to speak ill of these little sponge tips, I find they are only good for placing shadow onto the lid, and when its time to blend, they tend to do more harm than good. 

A set of makeup brushes can really simplify your makeup application more than you might expect.  And it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are lovely brushes available for less than you might think. Some of my absolute FAVORITE brushes are from E.L.F. and most of their brushes are around $3, and they often have sales or gifts with purchase!

For simple looks, you only need a few brushes.  A small flat shadow brush to place shadow on the lid (and again, you could use sponge applicators for this if you prefer).  I would also note that a flat shadow brush is generally a good way to apply a loose shadow, as it is easier to control not only how much pigment you pick up, but where exactly it gets placed. A small dome brush, sometimes called an eye contour brush, to blend shadow into the crease (where the eyelid folds) and at the outside edge of the lid area. If you want further definition, you definitely want to define your lash line. You can get a smaller tipped ‘pencil” brush, which you can use at the upper and lower lash line, for blending out eyeliner or using a dark eye shadow as liner.  One more brush i might recommend is a larger, fluffy shadow brush, which you can use to blend your shadow for a softer look after application. By using an additional, softer brush with no product on it, you will be able to smooth the edges of your shadow without muddying the colors or accidentally over-applying any color.

Some examples!

My current favorite brush for placing shadow is the Sonia Kashuk small shadow brush – no.106. You can usually find this one at Target.


For blending in the crease, I don’t have a favorite so I grabbed a few that I like to show you, here on the right I have the e.l.f. Blending Eye Brush (and note: this brush is only $1!)and on the left is the contouring brush from the Soho Disney Belle Enchanted Eyes brush set   (This set is now fairly hard to find, but I assure you, the brush shape is easy to get.)

Fun Fact: the metal part of the brush is called the ferrule!
Fun Fact: the metal part of the brush is called the ferrule!

Next up, I have pencil brushes. On the left is actually a two-sided brush, the Crown no.C476 Crease/Shadow Brush, and the other is simply a small brush that was part of a set my sister gave me for my birthday many years ago, which I cannot link to.

One fancy, one nameless. Both effective!
One fancy, one nameless. Both effective!

And finally, some excellent fluffy blending brushes. The one on the left is the other end of the  Crown no.C476 Crease/Shadow Brush (which is currently only $7) , and the one on the right is part of the Soho Disney Belle Enchanted Eyes brush set

I hope you all appreciate I’m doing my own hand modeling. 😉

I joke, but the reason I opted to hold some of the  brushes was so you could have some idea of the scale of the brushes. Because I’m not trying to sell you these particular brushes. I bought all of these myself or received them as gifts, there are no endorsements here. I just wanted to provide a clear idea of some useful tools for the job.

Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here, but there’s so many places to continue on from this point. I think loose shadows, or pigments could easily be their own post, and I have quite a lot to say about one-shadow and two-shadow looks that are quick,easy and give the eye definition. Not to mention a discussion of complementary colors to use based on eye color.  I would love to know what you might like to learn about next! Please leave a comment or  tweet me at @askaboutmakeup!

Any questions? Ask me!

Does that really work?

Anyone who carries their makeup around on a regular basis is likely to be familiar with the terrible realization that your favorite eye shadow, face powder, or other powder favorite has exploded.   I experienced this cocktail of emotions (ranging from annoyance to absolute gut-wrenching devastation) when I managed to drop and shatter an eye shadow single I am quite fond of. (The item in question is a Wet n Wild Color Icon eye shadow single in Kitten – I would have linked to it on their site, but this color is no longer available!)  This misfortune seemed like a great opportunity to test out the idea I’ve seen around the web that you can reconstitute a broken powder with a little alcohol and some patience.

I always love reading lists/articles full of helpful tips and things that supposedly provide quick fixes for problems that you might never have thought you’d experience. However, we all know that some of these are simply not truly quick, or truly helpful.  So I decided that since my whole goal in being here is to be helpful, that I should test tips and tricks, and let you all know how it goes.

Step 1: Assemble your materials.

I much prefer assembling all my tools/ingredients before I start a project. Generally you’ll be grateful if you did! Thankfully for this one, its not all that much:

the TOOLS!
Rubbing alcohol, toothpick, and several tissues.

I wound up pulling in another tool, but we’ll get to that. I would also note that there is a clear plastic cover on my table cloth which is VERY easy to clean, so if you do not have that, you might want to put down some paper towels or newspaper.

Step 2: Finish breaking it.

Might seem counter intuitive, but to properly rebuild the shadow, you need to make the powder as even as possible, since there were still some chunks of unbroken powder in the container, I used a toothpick to finish breaking it up:

shattered, i mean eye shadow.
shattered dreams…er, i mean eye shadow.

Obviously, on something like a face powder you might want a larger tool, but for this small eye shadow, the toothpick was fine.

Step 3: Mixing

For this step, you add several drops of alcohol, depending on how much powder you have, until it mixes evenly. I used the cap of the bottle to make sure I didn’t accidentally drown my shadow. I think I wound up using about 3 drops total to fully wet the powder. I used the toothpick to mix it up, and when it was fully incorporated, I started trying to smooth it back down into the pan.  At this point, I found the toothpick stopped being helpful, and I wound up grabbing a flat bottomed makeup brush to finish tamping down the product:

time to let your inner perfectionist shine-the smoother the better!
time to let your inner perfectionist shine-the smoother the better!

At this point, you see that it got kind of messy, but I was able to contain the mess without too much difficulty. Perhaps there is a better way to do this, but I never saw a particular tool recommended when I saw this tip online. Please leave a comment if you know an ideal tool for the job!

Step 4: The wait!

The next step is simply to allow the powder time to dry, which will likely vary depending on the size of the item being repaired.  But once it dried….


As you can see, it looks almost normal again! Of course, any design embossed in the powder will be long gone, but I was able to swatch it just like any other shadow, and apply it using an eyeshadow brush.   I would note that the shadow is now softer than it was prior to repair, and more prone to kicking up excess when you dip your brush in, but I think that’s a small price to pay to get a favorite product restored.

In conclusion, is the repaired shadow as good as new? Honestly, no. Is it worth doing?  I would say yes, especially for an expensive or hard to replace favorite. It was restored to a usable state, for only a small amount of effort. The whole project probably took about 30 minutes including drying time.

Do you think this is worth the effort? Can you remember a shadow disaster you wish you’d known about this for? Leave a comment so we can trade methods, or at least commiserate the loss of our beloved powders!