Sheer-Black Smoky Eye | Creating Intensity Without Heaviness…on my *face!*

We seem to be living in kind of a golden age for makeup artists, don’t we? Of course there have been extraordinary makeup artists around for decades, but I feel really privileged to live in an era when so much of their expertise is available through online videos, Instagram, and an enormous amount of high-quality beauty journalism all over the web.

Of all the MUAs who are making their beauty knowledge and insight available online, one of my favorites is Wendy Rowe. Her looks come across as so effortless, modern, and unaffected–my favorite kind of sexy. This week, I wanted to explore one of her recent looks, which happens to feature a really interesting technique. Then, in the spirit of extending and building on what I glean from industry insiders, I’ll explore some variations on the look later in the week.

So, to begin: I was poking about on Ruth Crilly’s excellent blog, A Model Recommends, just catching up on my makeup-related reading. I found a post about the look that Wendy Rowe created for the Burberry Autumn/Winter 2015 show. Ruth, of course, had exclusive early access to the look. The post and the accompanying tutorial video were really interesting, I thought, because because Ruth reporting some of Wendy Rowe’s thoughts on smoky eyes.

Of course if you’re interested the AMR post gives lots more information, but the main takeaways for me were these:

– Buffing a lot of heavy, dark color onto the lids to create a smoky eye can sometimes create an unattractive effect–Ruth (reporting on Wendy’s presentation–so this is hearsay x 3 now!) called this effect looking “like you have two holes in your face.” I definitely run into this problem.

– To counter this effect, Wendy via Ruth uses a Burberry cream shadow (the makeup consumer in me sits up like a prairie dog at the idea of a Burberry cream shadow!) to create the smoky eye for the show. But this shadow is not yet available.

– As an alternative, Wendy suggested mixing some Burberry Fresh Glow Primer in Warm Radiance with a matte, black Burberry shadow to create a similar effect. This interested me even more than the news of a forthcoming Burberry cream shadow. I love mixing stuff!

It seemed to me that–if this technique actually worked reasonably well–it would be a really neat method that I could use to customize liquid/cream “shadows” of my own, using various shadows and pigments from my collection. I wanted to take Wendy’s notion of black powder shadow mixed with a warm, radiance-enhancing primer, because I often find that I wish I could have the intensity of a black smoky eye without that black-hole effect. Gray shadows aren’t quite the same, because those often include a touch of white (and other shades, too–blue, pink, brown, and more) along with the black. What would it be like to suspend a black powder without as many muting pigments in a sheer mixing medium and use that to create a smoky eye? If Wendy says it can be done, then she would know best!

I didn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of Burberry stuff to try this, so I dug around in my stash to find some products that I thought would serve as credible substitutes. For the primer, I chose the Dior Glow Maximizing Primer. For the shadow, a trusty standby–Blackout, from the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette. Here are a few swatches so you can see how these look separately and when mixed together:

From the left: Dior Glow Maximizer Primer; Blackout eyeshadow from the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette; primer and shadow, mixed.

From the left: Dior Glow Maximizer Primer; Blackout eyeshadow from the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette; primer and shadow, mixed.

The black mixed with the glowy primer looks interesting, right? It sort of makes me think of sheer black hosiery–it’s black, but the skin (and a bit of glow) shows through. Not exactly gray, not grayish blue, not pinkish blue, not metallic, but rather a sheer black. I found the mixture easy to apply and blend on the lid, and it wore pretty well, too! (Although it creased a bit after a few hours, it didn’t seem to crease more than many other cream shadows. If I had thought to apply it over a lid primer, it might not have creased at all.)

For the rest of the face, I stuck more or less with the very neutral/nude palette that Wendy suggested. After going crazy with fluoro-pink blusher in my last look, I thought it might be nice to try out a very neutral look–albeit with a strongish eye. I chose the Dior Glow Maximizer Primer (as opposed to a straight-up liquid highlighter) as my mixing medium, because it’s warm and radiant, and it’s also a bit tacky. Anything too blendable would crease immediately, it seemed to me. The Blackout shadow just happened to be handy.

I wanted to warm my skin up a tad, because Wendy (via Ruth) warned that an intense smoky eye on a very pale face can be a bit jarring. Rather than relying on my old standby in powder form, the Bourjois chocolate bronzer, I got out the liquid bronzer and the serum foundation from the Perricone MD line. All the Perricone MD cosmetics mix together extremely well, and I like mixing these two products in particular together to get to just the right shade of bronzer. (At this time of year, the foundation serum is almost dark enough to “bronze” me by itself!)

Here’s the product set that I brought together for the whole look:

From the left: Blackout eyeshadow from the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette; Dior Glow Maximizer Primer; Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer; Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum; Burberry blush in Earthy; Armani gel eye pencil in black (foreground).

From the left: Blackout eyeshadow from the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette; Dior Glow Maximizer Primer; Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer; Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum; Burberry blush in Earthy; Armani gel eye pencil in black (foreground).

In addition to these, for the first version of this look, I chose a peachy-nude lipstick in order to keep lips and cheeks very nude and neutral, to foreground the eyes. Here’s the lippy (this is one of my favorite “nudes,” or near-nudes–it pales down and neutralizes my lips a little bit, but not so much that I feel completely and utterly washed out in it):

Rouge Dior Nude Lip Blush in Charnelle.

Rouge Dior Nude Lip Blush in Charnelle.

And here are some swatches of the bronzer and the foundation serum. There they are, separately:

Left to right: Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer and No Foundation Foundation Serum.

Left to right: Perricone MD No Bronzer Bronzer and No Foundation Foundation Serum.

And here they are, blended:


I followed Wendy’s advice (via Ruth) as best I could, to try to emulate the look that Wendy created for the show. The main recommendation for the eye makeup was to concentrate the color around the lash lines to create definition, while being very cautious not to allow the black on the lids to become too inky and black-hole like.

This is how it turned out on my face:

Photo on 3-22-15 at 11.18 AM #5

And a shot so you can see the lids:

Photo on 3-22-15 at 11.20 AM #2

I tried to warm my neck up a bit so that it would match my face, but I didn’t carry the bronzer quite far enough down my chest (even more evident in photos than in real life). Oops! Well, anyway, you get the idea. 🙂

I deliberately left the black liner around my eyes a little more strong and less blended-out than I normally would–just to experiment a bit with the idea of a smoky eye with a lot of intensity around the lash line, and a kind of sheerness on the lid and up to the socket line. I was very intrigued by this not-gray-but-rather-sheer-black idea. Intensity without heaviness sounds right up my street, and although this idea was part of an autumn/winter show look, it seems kind of right for spring/summer, doesn’t it?

Now that I’ve tried this look out more or less as Wendy proposed it (bearing in mind that she tended to all the beautiful details and executed it perfectly on a gorgeous model–and I’m completely slap-dash about things and definitely not a model!), I thought it would be fun to keep all the makeup exactly the same except the lip color. For lips, I wanted to try out a range of shades to see how swapping out the lip color would change the overall look. I also thought this would be a good way of breaking out of my habit of tying lip and cheek colors together very, very closely. A close tie between lip and cheek shades is a good general rule of thumb in my opinion, but as Enkida pointed out in a comment on the recent fluoro-pink look, it might’ve been even nicer to use a more neutral lip shade, to allow the cheeks to pop a bit more. Along similar lines, for this look, I figured a neutral cheek (if you can manage to factor out my underlying sensitivity-induced redness) and a neutral–if rather strong–eye would be a reasonably good frame for any number of lip shades.

So I’ll look forward to sharing this makeup–on my face, of course–using a mini-rainbow of lip colors for you. In the meantime, I wish you all a very lovely day!

xo bunikins

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