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Make-up artist Lara Daly shares her foolproof guide to creating a classic smoky eye look with minimal fuss.

There’s been a collective shift in make-up trends since the pandemic hit. Lockdowns aside, most of us learned not to bother with lipstick or gloss due to face masks covering our mouths. Lipstick sales even took a hit, with a reported industry drop in the market share of lipstick and an uptake in eye make-up products. Left with the top half of our faces visible, it’s no wonder more of us want to experiment and play up our eyes.

A classic smoky eye can suit everyone. A few simple steps and clever colour choices will have you mastering that iconic, striking look in no time. Best of all, it’s low-maintenance with no touch-ups needed throughout the day.

Make-up bag essentials

Ace the base

There are plenty of cream stick options that work as an all-in-one colour and primer, preventing eyeshadow settling into creases or migrating on a hot day. Apply your base colour along the top lash-line and pat gently with your fingertip to blend up to the centre of the lid.

Your base should contrast with your eye colour and not be too dark. Rose or peach hues with a sheen are a universal win, flattering on blue and green eyes respectively. Hazel eyes look striking against warm yellow-golds like Kosas 10-Second Liquid Eyeshadow in Supreme, whereas brown eyes look warmer when paired with cool taupes such as Bobbi Brown’s Cream Shadow Stick in Stone.

Just keep blending

Next you’ll need a fluffy brush that’s not too small or dense. The #217 blending brush by MAC is my go-to for seamless blending. Take a darker matte eyeshadow (a bronzing powder also works) and sweep along the socket, blending out to contour the eye crease. Sophia by Nars is a classic for a warm smoky eye.

Draw the line

This step involves eyeliner and my second must-have brush: a “smudge” brush with shorter, dense bristles that can trace along your lash line or highlight the inner corners of eyes with precision. Carefully line your top lash line, making the outer corner slightly thicker. Blend over top with your smudge brush to soften and take what’s left on your brush along your lower lash line. Choose the softest eye pencil you can find – Brewed by Smashbox is a deep espresso shade that’s incredibly long-wearing. Green eyes pop against a burgundy eyeliner like Stila Stay All Day Smudge Stick in Spice.

Pump up the volume

Finish with volumising mascara and use a spoolie to comb through any clumps. Use an eyelash curler before mascara if your lashes are naturally straight. The Relevée Lash Curler by Surratt is a make-up artist’s favourite for a lifted look.

Tips for hooded eyes

It always surprises me when women apologise for having “hooded” eyes and think they are too tricky to work with. Hooded lids (where the mobile lid is less visible when eyes are open) look amazing in a smoky eye! Kate Moss, Jennifer Lawrence and Eva Green are some of the hood-eyed beauties you can look to for inspiration.

Rather than lifting your chin in the mirror, keep your eye line straight and eyes open as you apply eyeshadow. Blend higher than you think at the outer corners, up and out towards the tail of your brow. Smudge a darker shade into your lower lash line at the outer corners and make sure to blend really well at the edges to open up the eyes.

The smoky express

For a glam look on the go, take a charcoal eyeshadow stick like By Terry’s Ombre Mecure and apply along your upper and lower lash line, only on the outer thirds. Take your smudge brush and go over the top to blend and soften, focusing on the outer corners. Finish with a coat of mascara and don’t stress on perfection – you want to channel a sultry Parisian woman, not look like you’ve meticulously followed a YouTube tutorial.

Products for the perfect smoky eye


Bobbi Brown Cream Shadow Stick in Stone, $66.


MAC #217 blending brush, $51.

Stila Stay All Day Smudge Stick in Spice, $36.

Smashbox eyeliner in Brewed, $36.

Nars eyeshadow in Sophia, $31

Surratt Relevée Lash Curler, $49.

By Terry eyeshadow in Ombre Mecure, $62.


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