Step 1. Run a slanted natural-hair brush (or a pointed Q-tip) over dry powder shadow to pick up pigment.
Step 2. Next, run the brush along the upper lash line to deposit color. Use a clean brush or a Q-tip to gently buff at the line and blend it so that most of the product is on the outside part of the lid and the least amount is on the inside, near the inner corner.
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Technique: One Color Only
Step 1. Dip a wide brush into the shadow, then tap it with a finger to get rid of the excess. You can use your index finger to apply color if you don’t have a brush.
Step 2. Dust the entire lid, from lash line to slightly above the crease. “If using a bold color (such as deep purple), apply it more heavily around the lash line and blend it well, making sure it fades naturally at the crease,” says New York City makeup artist Linda Hay.
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Technique: Two Shades
Step 1. Sweep a neutral shade, like bone or light brown, across the entire lid, from lash line to brow bone, using an eye-shadow brush.
Step 2. With a smaller, rounded brush, apply shadow that’s a shade or two darker against where the bone hits the crease. Brush back and forth in a half-moon shape several times for a blended contour, which will make the eyes stand out. If you have thin lids, Prescriptives makeup artist Poppy King recommends applying the lighter shade from the inner corner out across about three-quarters of the lid, then putting the deeper color on the outer edges of the lid to open up the eye visually.
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Choosing Eye Shadow: Matte Powder
Best for: Beginners. Most makeup companies make this classic texture, which is easy to wear on any skin type.
To use it: With a soft shadow brush, distribute one color on your lid up to the crease. “You can also use a crease brush to blend a shadow that’s a shade or two darker into the crease,” says Linda Hay.
RSpick: Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eyeshadow ($7 at drugstores) is a velvety formula that provides a natural-looking result. It comes with easy application instructions. Available in 16 color combinations.
To use it: A little of these striking iridescent powders goes a long way. Hay recommends using a tapered brush to apply a tiny bit in just the crease of the eye, or smudged along the lash line as a liner to add depth.
RSpick: M.A.C Pigment ($21, maccosmetics.com) is a highly concentrated color powder that creates an intense effect. Available in 44 shades.
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Choosing Eye Shadow: Sheer Loose Powder
Best for: Subtle highlighting. “Loose powders usually contain light-reflecting pigments that really draw attention to the areas you want noticed,” says Mitzi Spallas.
To use it: Swirl a small natural-hair brush in the jar lid, then apply. “The lid holds a light dusting, which is the perfect amount for the eyelids,” says Trae Bodge, a cofounder of the makeup line Three Custom Color Specialists.
RSpick: Bare Escentuals i.d. bareMinerals Glimmer ($14, sephora.com) uses crushed minerals to get soft tones. In 21 shades.
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Choosing Eye Shadow: Shimmer Powder
Best for: Younger women. “Light reflectors can draw attention to the wrinkles around eyes, which is why shimmers look best on the under-40 crowd,” says Hay. Seek out subtle flecks of shimmer rather than sparkles, which can make you look like a tween, says Spallas.
To use it: Apply all over the lids for a subtle wash of color, or just smudge it along the upper lash lines, says Hay.
RSpick: Flirt! Dreamy Eyes Eyeshadow ($14.50, kohls.com) has just enough glimmer to brighten the eye area tastefully. Available in 38 shades.
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Choosing Eye Shadow: Pots
Best for: Those in a hurry. “Using your fingers is faster, and they blend the color better than a brush, stick, or applicator wand can,” says Mitzi Spallas.
To use them: “I like to put a dot in the center of the lid and use my index finger in a windshield-wiper motion to blend the color up to the crease or brow bone,” says makeup artist Joanna Schlip.
RSpick: Stila Smudge Pots ($20, stilacosmetics.com) contain a creamy mousse that adds a soft sheen to lids. Available in five shades.
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Choosing Eye Shadow: Wands
Best for: Long-term wear. “Although these require a bit of practice, the formula won’t move once it’s on,” says Schlip.
To use them: “Wipe some shadow from the wand onto your finger,” says Hay. “Then use your finger to apply it to your lid.”
RSpick: Laura Mercier Eye Basics ($25, lauramercier.com) can be worn on its own or as a primer for another shadow to prevent creasing and keep color on your lids longer. Available in seven shades.