How to Apply Eyeshadow Like a Professional Makeup Artist

Celebrity makeup artist Erin Parsons shares her tricks of the trade.

Trying to master applying eyeshadow is like trying to master yoga: No matter how good you get, there’s always a more advanced technique to learn. From cut creases to smoky eyes, there’s an infinite number of looks you can create, which can be kind of intimidating. But allow Erin Parsons, Maybelline’s Global Makeup Artist who works with Gigi Hadid and Adriana Lima, be your guide. She’ll help you finally nail the basics of applying shadow with her easy-to-follow tips.

Tip #1: Start simple


While there are thousands of eyeshadow tutorials at your disposal, Parsons advises eyeshadow amateurs to skip watching videos. “You’re going to get scared. Let go of the idea that you have to layer on 35 products. It’s so fun to watch, but you can also use a cream eye shadow stick and smudge it with your finger,” she says. “Play with products that melt quickly, then you can start to build when you get better at it.”

Tip #2: Don’t use powder shadow first


“I never start with powder eyeshadow first,” Parsons explains. “I always use a pencil or cream shadow first. It adds a base and then you can blend it with a brush. When you use so much powder on your eyes, you start to lose the life in the skin.” Her current go-to is the Puma x Maybelline Matte and Metallic Eye Duo Stick.

Tip #3: Apply a “transition shade” first


“I always start with a transition color, like a taupe-y or warm nude-y brown. Go in and shape the eye. You get it on your crease and a little bit of your outer corner and you have already made the eye beautiful. You just give tone.” Parsons says. “Everything else after that is just for fun.”

Tip #4: Build light layers


Once you’ve put down a transition shade, Parsons says you can slowly build on it by adding different textures and colors. Just make sure to start small. “Take your shimmer and pop on a little metallic just on the center of the lid, or just your inner corner. If you have a warm undertone try gold. If you’re fair maybe something more icy,” she says. “You can add the dark shadow. You can add bright blue. If you ever go too far, it can literally be wiped off. It’s just makeup!”

Tip #5 Don’t use concealer as a primer


If you want to avoid that dreaded creasing on your eyeshadow throughout the day, Parsons advises against using concealer on the eyes as a base. “Forget about the primer, forget about the concealer. Just start with a waterproof shadow stick, blend it out with a brush so you have a sheer layer, then go in with a little bit of powder in the crease. You won’t get any creasing that way,” Parsons explains.

Tip #6: Have the right tools


Even a professional like Parsons admits mistakes can happen, so she has “millions of Q-Tips” at the ready. On top of that, her favorite brushes are from Japan. “Hakuhodo. They’re the top, top, best. Some of them are expensive but some of them are reasonably priced,” she says. “My assistant goes to Japan for vacation in December and just brings me back packages.”

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