Raise your hand — or your eyebrows, more appropriately — if your mind immediately flashed to blue eye shadow when it comes to the color palette you shouldn’t wear. Yes, us, too. But, fear not. Just because blue eye shadow has a firm place next to leg warmers, shoulder pads, and the other 1980s trends that don’t need to be revived, you can still channel a blue zone — when worn properly.
The same goes for other bold, brilliant hues, which are not completely off limits. However, they do come with a few guidelines. And, yes, there are still a few colors in the eye shadow spectrum that are best left in the makeup bag — and not on your lids. Here’s how to make sure you’re batting your eyelashes to the right hue.
1. Don’t wear red
The right shade of ruby red or crimson is a dynamite pick for sassy, look-at-me lips. And the rose-colored palette is perfect for flushed cheeks, too. But, when it comes to your eyes, red most often should just mean “stop.” It’s not a flattering option for most women unless you’re planning on channeling your inner vampire for Halloween. Aside from looking rather vampy, it simply makes you look tired by dulling the eye area rather than brightening it. You want to conceal redness around the eyes, not enhance it! Even worse, it can make you look like you’re ill. However, if you are set on going for a red shade, make sure it’s more in the coral or pink family for the best result.
2. Don’t wear a shade similar to your skin tone
Wearing an eye shadow shade that’s too much of a match to your skin’s undertones is also a makeup move you should avoid. It will make you look washed-out and it won’t bring out your eyes, which is the whole purpose of eye shadow. Contrast, whether it be subtle or significant, is the key to making the eyes pop. Even bronze-y shadows with too much of an orange cast should be avoided.
3. Don’t wear shimmer above the lid
Shimmery eye shadow can have an illuminating presence on your peepers, but the benefits of its radiance can be compromised if worn improperly. Shimmer is really made to be worn on the lids, and not taken into the creases of the eyes or up to the brow. In addition to appearing to shiny, it can also draw attention to fine lines and wrinkles in more mature eyes by settling in those creases. Much better to use a matte shade for anything above the lid.
4. Don’t wear a bright color without a neutral
Think of neutral shades as your safety net for your more colorful eye shadow endeavors. A brown or black eyeliner, or even a taupe base shadow, has a foundational, grounding effect for any wilder color choices. It will also keep you from looking like you’re headed to an ’80s throwback party. Layer a more saturated, bold hue on the lid and then gradually blend in a brown, taupe, or bronze shadow in the crease. This technique works particularly well for cobalt blue, jade green, lilac, and violet eye shadows.
5. Don’t wear anything in excess
Everything in moderation applies to many things, including your eye shadow. Aside from a few shades that aren’t so flattering, you really can pull off any shade of the rainbow, albeit some are better manifested in small doses. Painting a hot purple or blue shadow all the way up to your eyebrow is not the way to go, but using vibrant colors as an accent can be super chic and trend-forward. A subtle hint of the bright hue at the inner or outer corner of the eye, blended into a more neutral shadow, is a great way to make an impact without going overboard.
You can also use a stronger shade as a substitute for eye liner. Sweeping a jewel-toned color, such as an emerald green or amethyst, onto the bottom lash line adds a statement-making flair to a subtler, shimmery lid.
6. Don’t wear it without primer
We’re sure the last thing you want to do is to start putting on your eye shadow only to have it clump around your eye. Thankfully, this mess-up can be completely avoided if you use a primer before you apply your shadow. In case you can’t find primer, the best thing to do is to either go easy with the perfect color for your eyes, think coral for blue, a shimmery brown for green, and bronzy gold for brown. A touch-up is needed every now and then, but no one needs to deal with a makeup emergency while at the office.
7. Don’t wear the same shade as your eye color
Practically all colors of eye shadow can look good, just not on everybody. A prime example is the general consensus that anyone with blue eyes should absolutely avoid blue eye shadow. This goes for brown eyes wearing brown, green with green… you get the idea. The point of eye shadow is to make your eyes pop. If you wear the same color as your eyes, you’re essentially keeping your peepers in hiding. So go ahead, try out a new palette and see what really compliments your look.
Additional reporting by Jordan Porter-Woodruff