Having small eyelids might mean you have to take a detour from conventional makeup tips.

By Kristin Corpuz
May 28, 2020
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As a Filipino-Chinese girl with very limited eyelid real estate, I grew up convinced that I would never be able to get creative with my eye makeup. I don't have hooded eyes per se, but I do have just the tiniest lid that sometimes folds under and other times doesn't. I would spend over an hour trying to perfect a look that relied on shadow or liner on the eyelid, but it would disappear as soon as I opened my eyes. For that reason, I just decided to learn a single eyeshadow pattern that I could recreate with any color combo I chose. So when I really got into makeup in high school, I looked up a smoky eye tutorial that Michelle Phan had posted on YouTube, and it became my road map for eyeshadow for my entire life leading up to the end of college. 

It wasn't until Instagram became more popular and more Asian-American makeup artists became well-known that I found other Asian people who were finding ways to get creative with their eyeshadow. I saw both women and men making the most out of their limited eyelid real estate, taking on graphic liners and bright eyeshadow colors, playing with different textures, and overall making their eyes look more prominent, or even the focal point of the whole look. I always thought that I needed a dark eyeliner to make my eyes seem wider, or that no one would ever see my lashes if I didn't put falsies on. But celebrities and makeup artists taught me that I could break all the rules that I had ingrained into my brain, and that just because I don't have space on my eyelid, doesn't mean I can't play with my makeup a little bit. 

In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Month—and in anticipation of sunny summer months ahead—I asked some of my favorite Asian-American makeup artists to share their colorful eyeshadow tips for people with small eyelids. After all, who better to describe the beauty of small eyelids than those who have them?

Patrick Ta, Celebrity Makeup Artist & Founder of Patrick Ta Beauty

"I love using eyeshadows and graphic liners to enhance features,” says Patrick Ta. "When working with limited eyelid space and/or hooded eyes, I love placing the shadow while their eyes are open versus closed so you're able to see exactly where the shadow will live. Another tip [is that] I will use a pencil brush or a precise small shader brush to place the product where I want. Using a large shading brush will create too much of a diffused placement."

For graphic or winged liners, he says that you're creating the illusion of a straight line, but when the eye is looking down, it's essentially a "drop off" where you'll need to connect the lid to the wing to make sure the liner on the lid isn't too thick. When the eye is open, the wing will look fully connected, but when the eye is closed, you'll see the disconnect between the liner on the lid and the actual flick. Floating eyeliner, which uses negative space to create an outline on your crease instead of drawing the line directly on the lash line, is also great for hooded lids.

Ta predicts that brightly colored eyeshadow and graphic liner will be huge trends this summer, and recommends that people try out monochromatic makeup looks that match their outfits.

Marc Regan, Director of Global Education for Hourglass Cosmetics

"Copper and rosy-pink shades are on trend and are very wearable colors, but also add a touch of color to an everyday look," says Marc Regan. "When it comes to limited eye space, it's important to blend eyeshadow until there are no visible lines of demarcation." He recommends playing with textures, and finding eyeshadow formulas that make application really easy, like Hourglass' Scattered Light Glitter Eyeshadows ($29; sephora.com) in shades like Blaze, Aura, Rapture, or Ray. 

For a blown-out smoky eye, apply the shadow with your ring finger across the lash line and blend up towards the middle of the eyelid. Regan says to focus the shape of the shadow so that it enhances the shape of the eye when it is open. Then diffuse the edges up towards the brow bone. To intensify definition at the outer corners of the eye, use a dark brown eyeliner, like Hourglass Bronze 1.5mm Mechanical Gel Liner in Canyon ($18; sephora.com) and smudge it with a small brush. Instead of making the eye look too deep and smoky, focus the liner closest to the lash line and draw the shape of the eye outwards.

Finally, Regan recommends curling your lashes for a lifting effect that opens up the eye, and finishing the look with mascara: "The contrast of the black against the color of the shadow will play up depth and dimension without the wearer having to be an expert at shading into the eye socket or crease," he says.

Mai Quynh, Giorgio Armani Beauty Makeup Artist Collaborator

"My tip is to pick a bright apricot/peach or a pop of watermelon pink to add as a wash on the lids," says Mai Quynh. "Be sure to smudge the same shade along your bottom lash line as well." She adds that it's important to add some dimension around the eyes by adding a liner. Use either a thinner liquid formula like Armani Beauty Eyes To Kill Lacquered Liquid Eyeliner ($36; nordstrom.com), or a dark pencil smudged along the upper outer lash line and lightly along the bottom outer lash line like Armani Beauty Smooth Silk Eye Pencil in 4 ($30; nordstrom.com). 

To wrap up the look, she always recommends using falsies or tons of mascara and advises, "Make sure the bright color is still visible and the focus on the face. Tie in the cheek and lip in the same color family to achieve this summer monochromatic look."

Kara Yoshimoto Bua, Chanel Makeup Artist

"My favorite [bright shades] are light to medium bright tones of turquoise, aqua, bright lavender, and fluorescence," says Kara Yoshimoto Bua. Palettes like Chanel Les 4 Ombres Eyeshadow in Au Fil Des Fleurs ($65; nordstrom.com), which contains iridescent shades of pink and purple, are perfect for playing around with. She likes to create a crescent moon look with these shades by swiping an upside down, horizontal crescent moon shape on the contour of the inner eyelid following the curve of the bridge of the nose. 

She also loves a chevron design. To achieve it, use a bright shade of eyeliner Chanel's Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner in Fervent Blue ($33; nordstrom.com), and draw a chevron starting from the end of the crease on the outside lid area out toward the temple then back, blending into the lash line.