The smoky eye is a sultry makeup standard for red carpets, date nights, and girls’ nights across the world. Still, some women think they can’t pull off such a dramatic eye, while others are growing tired of the basic black iteration of the look we commonly see.
Thankfully, celebrities are inspiring us to shake up our old smoky-eye rules. At the Tony Awards, we saw celebs sporting unique takes on the classic look. Joan Smalls and Lupita Nyong’o wore luxe maroon and navy shades, while Cate Blanchett proved that smudgy smoke can work for pale skin tones. Other stars are also jumping on the trend, adding their own signature flair to the classic look.
With a little expert help and celeb guidance, we rounded up some new versions of the perennial favorite for every skin tone. Here’s how to rock an updated smoky eye.
Try: BLACK with hints of SILVER for a deep, dark pop
It’s a smoke-out! Cate Blanchett turned heads at the Tony Awards with her smoldering eye makeup. (Photo: REX)
Most colors will pop on porcelain skin, so lots of fair-skinned women shy away from true black. But as Cate Blanchett showed us at the Tonys, ebony eyes can make a real statement. “The blackest eyeshadows and liners can enhance any eye color and show off the brilliance of alabaster complexions,” says celebrity makeup artist Michelle Ramos, co-founder of Rituel de Fille. “To get the most impact, line the entire waterline with the blackest waterproof eyeliner you can find, and then smudge out the eyeliner for depth around the eye.”
Try Too Faced Perfect Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner in Perfect Black ($18) around the eye. For an extra dose of drama, apply silver at the inner corners, like Chanel Les 4 Ombres Multi Effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Tissé Smoky ($61).
Smoky-eye tip: “Always start with a bare face before starting smoky eyes, because the application can get messy,” says Ramos. “Wipe away any fallout before you apply your foundation, so product will go on perfectly and you can save time.”
Try: PURPLES paired with TAUPE for a plum-based smoky effect
Jennifer Lawrence layers on the shadow for stunning smoky eyes. (Photo: Getty Images)
Beige skin tones can accommodate a lot of rich colors, but “a lush smoky eye created with taupe, plum, and bordeaux” creates ultra-flattering drama for this medium complexion. “Start with a lighter cool taupe with shimmer to brighten the inner eye, and then blend in a deep plum shade at the outer corner to create dimension and depth,” Ramos says. “Finish with a rich bordeaux liner along the upper and lower lash lines.”
Smoky-eye tip: If you’re using multiple colors in the same family for your smoky eye, make sure the shadow tones form a gradient effect from darkest to lightest. “The gradient can either start with the darkest shade at your lash line, lightening as you approach the crease, or you can start with the lightest shade at the inner corners and go darker as you work toward the outer corners,” Ramos says.
Try: BRONZE shades for warm, dramatic depth
Kim Kardashian, aglow with her signature bronze smoky eye makeup. (Photo: REX)
Play into your skin tone, by deepening and enhancing your natural radiance around the eye. “A smoky bronze is exceptionally flattering for olive skin, bringing out warmth and luminosity in your complexion,” says Ramos. “Apply a rich cream shadow with fingertips or a dense brush, and then for added depth and drama, finish with a layer of bronze shadow.”
Start with Rituel de Fille Ash and Ember Eye Soot in Golden Age ($27), which is a unique, blendable formula that carries the ease of a powder and the wear of a cream shadow. Finish with a swipe of Illamasqua Powder Eye Shadow in Bronx ($23).
Smoky-eye tip: “Use an eye primer, especially if you have oily eyelids,” says Ramos. “Smoky eyes can look messy and smudged but shouldn’t look like they are bleeding down your face.” Try Smashbox 24-Hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer ($20).
Try: Jewel-toned MAROON for a sultry gaze
Joan Smalls works jewel-toned smoky eyes like no one else. (Photo: Getty Images)
Though blacks and grays are the more obvious hues for a smoky eye, jewel tones can create an exceptionally striking wash of color — especially on darker skin tones. “Maroon is a sultry color that feels particularly glamorous, especially for nights out,” says Ramos. “For maximum impact, the key is to look for shades with a brown or red undertone rather than purple.” Red will give you a modern punch, whereas purple will simply define.
Play with cream shimmer shadow as your base, like Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Mono Intense Cream Eye Color in Dahlia ($31). Then, amplify wings and corners with precise powders in warm maroon, like Tom Ford Eye Color Quad Eyeshadow Palette in Honeymoon ($80).
Smoky-eye tip: “Most people assume that a smoky eye should be paired with a light lip or it will look like too much makeup,” Ramos says. “That’s not necessarily true. I love giving my clients a bold monochromatic look. So choose your smoky eye colors, and then find a lip shade that complements the tone of the eye.” Like for maroon, you could choose a sweet cranberry. “Blot the lip color down, or find a sheer version to avoid it looking too heavy,” Ramos suggests.
Try: Rich NAVY to accentuate and enhance eyes
Bored with black smoky eyes? Take a cue from Lupita Nyong’o and switch things up with navy. (Photo: Getty Images)
If you want smoky eyes that don’t fade into the background, try a navy color to accentuate dark skin and play up your eyes. “Navy eyeshadow or liner is an unusual twist on a smoky eye, allowing for a dramatic effect while still making darker eyes pop,” says Ramos. “I love this approach to create an intense smoky effect, while still adding color and subtle luminosity to the face.” Lupita Nyong’o recently sported this look at the Tonys.
You don’t have to do too much with this rich color. If you want a look that’s full-on smoky glam, try using Nars Single Eyeshadow in luxe Night Flight all over the lid. For a simple yet strong statement, use Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner in Satiny Navy Blue ($21) across the upper lash line.
Smoky-eye tip: “Always blend out eyeshadow with a clean fluffy brush, not the brush you first applied the color with,” says Ramos. “For big events or big nights out, full lashes make a huge difference with a smoky eye, especially with darker eyeshadows. Apply individual lashes to ensure a full lash line. They look more natural than strip lashes, and they are much easier to apply.” Try Stilazzi Naturals in 956 or 957 ($4 each).