Your Fool-Proof Guide to Gorgeous Smoky Eyes Every Time

Erica Metzger
·2 min read

This is part of our weekly series Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, and explore new techniques IRL.

The pandemic has made me revamp my skincare and makeup routines. Now that I'm wearing a face mask when I leave the house, I'm wearing less lipstick and full-coverage foundation, but I’m having way more fun with eye makeup. It's an enjoyable way to pass the time, and plus, I'm getting pretty good at new techniques. Out of everything I've tried, one of my favorite new looks is a smoky eye. It's perfect for a virtual holiday party and is great when the rest of my face is hidden by a mask. These simplified steps from Jason Hoffman, global beauty director of Laura Mercier, make it easy to add a little smolder. The secret is layering a dark liner under a neutral shadow. Here's how to create the perfect smoky eye with just a few items you might already have in your makeup bag.

Step 1: Start with Eyeliner

Sketch the outer corners of your eyes with a kohl or cream eyeliner pencil in a deep plum or navy, like Laura Mercier Inner Eye Definer in black navy ($25, Macy's). By the way, you want a liner that’s not waterproof. "Starting with a dark base gives extra depth and intensity to any shadow you apply on top," Hoffman says.

Step Two: Layer Eyeshadow

Now grab a fluffy eye shadow brush, such as Real Techniques Eye Shade and Blend Duo ($9, Ulta), and apply a medium-tone eye shadow, like a brown or a taupe, on top of the eyeliner, blending the color toward the crease. Try Almay Smoky Eye Trio ($7, Walgreens). "The color will stick to the pencil line and create a soft halo effect," Hoffman explains.

Most neutral palettes have a few shades; pick one of the lighter, shimmery shades to brush on the inner lid for more dimension. You could also try a cream shadow, like Maybelline Color Strike Eye Shadow Pen ($9, Ulta).

Step Three: Finish with Mascara

To finish, you can swipe on more liner or skip to a few coats of L'Oreal Paris Air Volume Lightweight Mascara ($11, Target). Finally, take a selfie or FaceTime a friend to show off those smoky eyes.