A quick note on brushes: all of the products featured below can be applied using fingers, but you’ll get a better finish overall and find non-neutral shades much less intimidating to wear if you’re able to blend the colour, rather than creating harsh lines. Ideally I’d recommend owning a minimum of two eye brushes: apply your chosen colour to the eyelid with a flat brush, and then take a small, fluffy brush to your eye socket and patiently swipe back and forth in a half circle, similar to a windscreen wiper motion. I happily use and recommend the affordable, excellent quality options by Real Techniques and Revlon.
Rarely does a product have such thoughtful (dare I even say perfect?) design as the Smoky Eye Brick by Victoria Beckham Beauty. Cleverly eliminating erroneous space between pans, this is a tiny, credit card-sized, gold and tortoiseshell compact, with a mirror that opens completely flat to allow my fellow sight-troubled makeup users to get up close and personal to actually see what we’re doing. There is also twice as much of the neutral colour (always the most often used) as there is of the two accent colours, and the smallest amount is of the colour one would use to line. All four shades in my chosen colourway, ‘Signature’, are beautifully pigmented, never look flat despite being without a hint of sparkle, and are truly suits-anyone tones; even the slightly unexpected peach, which is lovely and brightening.
Kosas calls its 10 Second Eyeshadow “a modern wash of colour”, and it’s a very apt description of an entirely liquid eye colour. Speaking of which, you must take care when opening and closing it to keep it upright, and always need to shake it before use to disperse the pigment. You can apply a light layer for a completely effortless, diffused look or layer it up to build to something more dramatic. I found the best way to use such an unfamiliar formula is to take the doefoot applicator and apply a small amount along the lashline, then blend, blend, blend upwards to your crease using a fluffy brush.
For a subtle, daytime eye look, a single coat of KVD Vegan Beauty’s Go Big Or Go Home Volumizing Mascara gives great definition. More coats will make lashes appear thicker, but they remain separated and don’t clump together. It’s a bigger brush and a drier formula than many mascaras we’re seeing at the moment, but don’t let that put you off: the brush really fans lashes outward and the formula means less risk of smudging.
Dior’s 5 Coleurs Couture in 559 Poncho is a little like the Victoria Beckham Beauty palette dialled up from matte to a place of soft shimmer. The wearable, muted metallics help to create gorgeous looks for a dressier daytime feel, and they have excellent lasting power. Each shade can stand alone, but using all five together makes for a really fantastic look. I found it a great companion to ‘play along at home’ with Lisa Eldridge’s Golden Smoky Eye YouTube video.
A tiny miracle in a pot, Charlotte Tilbury’s Eyes to Mesmerise in Rose Gold continually sells out, so I absolutely jumped on this last time it was available (which it is again now – go, go go!). I haven’t regretted my decision for a moment, as it might just be the creamiest and most gleaming shadow I’ve ever used. Feel free to paint on with fingers, which its texture begs you to, although I find I get the best from it by taking a flat nylon brush and pressing the product onto the lid until I reach my desired intensity of colour, then switching to a small fluffy brush to take it up into the crease or beyond, depending on one’s eye shape.
These sort of elevated everyday looks the Dior and Charlotte shadows provide demand the very blackest lashes without necessarily looking like falsies, and I have really enjoyed achieving this using another Charlotte product, Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!. New technology in mascara wands doesn’t come around all that often, and this one does take a little bit of getting used to but the effort is eminently worthwhile. The brush has four sides in total, two which are identical flat platforms and two identical sets of small, fixed (non-flexible) bristles. You pack on the product using one of the flat sides, and then use one of the sides with bristles to brush the product upwards and create the lift and curve its name suggests. For once, this is a mascara that really is as good as you’ve heard.
None of us are jetting off to France anytime soon, but Chanel’s Les 4 Ombres in 364 Candeur et Séduction will take your lids there, at least, featuring, as it does, shades of Burgundy and rosé Champagne. The plummy, russety tones do take some getting used to so as not to feel like you’re dying of consumption, but do look pretty fantastic when you take them underneath and all around the eye. If there was ever a time to go big or go home, it’s with this colourway. I do have a soft spot for the beautiful, ever-so-slightly pink-tinged metallic pan, which, patted into the centre of the lid with your finger once you’ve finished applying your red shades, brings the whole look together.
Speaking of holidays, allow me to introduce you to the most adorable-yet-practical product I have played with for a while, which I recently took to the beach with me and never wanted to take it off. Think a base warmed heavily with golden bronzer, a thick slick of this Sephora x Stabilo baby highlighter pen in a bold azure shade as eyeliner (eased out into a wing because why on earth not) paired with a matte, red-orange lip. I felt fantastic using colour in such a fun way, not to mention I got to indulge my stationery nerd self in packing a highlighter for a holiday. Plus I was thrilled that its miniaturised shape and angled texta-esque pen made the sometimes troublesome application of liner brilliantly easy.
Whether wearing the Chanel or Sephora options, it felt more contemporary to have a defined, spiky lash topping off all of that saturated colour, rather than the perhaps more expected drama of a very intense lash. Huda Beauty’s Legit Lashes mascara is a dual-ended mascara with one end promising ‘curl and length’ and the other ‘volume’, making this a very useful product as it definitely does give two distinct looks and finishes. I think it’s worth noting that each end gave the opposite of what I was expecting, in that ‘volume’ gave more distinct, separated lashes and ‘curl and length’ gave fatter, more dramatic ones. No matter: both looks are pleasing and you can even combine them if you prefer, in which case I recommend going in with ‘volume’ first.
You might think you’re either a million-shade palette person or you’re not, and if not, I can empathise: I was more than a little intimidated when Morphe’s enormous A5-sized, 35 shade palette, ’35C Everyday Chic’, thudded across my desk. However, it may just end up leading me over to the dark (‘more creative’) side. This palette features taupey, mushroomy neutrals before heading into the moodier territory of deep lilac, emerald, charcoal, and chocolate. There are a blend of highly pigmented mattes and many a frosty shimmer, and you can even go for broke with unapologetic pink glitter, aptly named ‘Talk of the Town’. Two little hints if you’re not used to these sorts of shades: you can quickly get comfortable with metallics by using them to highlight and accent, and, when using proper, chunky glitter, it’s best applied over eyelid primer or at least on top of other shadows, to minimise any fall down onto your cheeks.
ByTerry’s Ombre Blackstar could be the Morphe palette’s older sister. Taking the form of a small, neat crayon in elegant packaging, the shadow itself is creamy but doesn’t slide around. Frozen Quartz is an easy shade in that, on any skin tone, though particularly if you’re very pale, it’s forgiving to apply if you’re not practiced at blending, and brings glamour to your look even if you’re not comfortable with high octane glitter. For the most subtle option, draw it along lash line then gently up and over the lid, blending it out at the crease with your finger, or just continue drawing on directly into the crease if you want maximum impact.
The Diorshow Iconic Overcurl mascara is a reformulated, repackaged update of a much-beloved product, and best used when the occasion calls for fake lashes but one just can’t be bothered to apply them. It leaves your lashes deeply black, thickened, elongated and properly, lastingly curled. It’s iconic by name and reputation for a reason, it’s completely OTT, and it guarantee you A Look, one that is not to be shied away from.
I may be 34 and a beauty writer, but, believe it or not, it was only recently that I was ready to dive into my first ever properly larger-than-a-quad eye palette, and I leapt into Urban Decay’s Naked Ultraviolet with excitement. (Just to be clear, I myself was neither naked nor ultraviolet when doing said jumping, though of course, you do you.) The packaging is excellent, pleasingly heavy and sturdy but not so large that it’s difficult to store. It contains an actually useful dual-ended full size brush, where most include no brush at all or a dinky little thing best tossed immediately. The twelve shades take you from a neutral to a bronze to a full on night time smoky eye in shades of purple. Some favourites? ‘Hacked’ is a useful warm mid-brown that works with any look, the deep eggplant of ‘Purple Dust’ brings serious glamour, and ‘Lucid’ gives a playfully holographic finish to any shade you wear underneath it. At first glance, these colours may seem scary, but the warm neutrals and varying shades of purple are flattering on every eye colour and age. I promise, you can create a multi-tonal eye look with the creamy, dense shades that is daring without being garish.
An easier way still to approach a dramatic eye is with Revlon’s Colourstay Velour Stick in Truffle, which I lovingly refer to as my Olivia Palermo product. Featuring two ends, one is a waxy crayon and the other a thick smudging sponge. I initially thought I would never have used a colour like this all over the eye, but it is so easy to line your top and bottom lash line with it, and then keep adding colour up the lid as you wish. I now happily use it haphazardly to messily colour it in all the way up to my crease, and then use the smudgey sponge at the other end to blend it out a little from there, creating whichever shape I want. I prefer not to blend the whole eye entirely, but rather keep it darkest near the lashes to stop a look using one flat colour from appearing boringly one-dimensional. The crayon-pen is so easy to use, is such a clever design (the crayon part is exactly the right width to use as liner without being too small to use across the whole lid), and oh so affordable.
Whether your weapon of choice for a moody eye is the palette or the crayon, both are spectacular topped off with Hourglass’ Caution Extreme Lash mascara. It’s a true must-have, if only for its glorious gold hexagonal packaging, but happily the brush and formula are more than a match for their outfit. It gives such an inky, fluttery lash, is easy to remove, and is great for sensitive eyes.