Growing up as a beauty-loving Asian girl, nothing was more frustrating than figuring out how the f*ck to do my eye makeup. Like signature dark hair, two uniquely specific eye shapes unite most Asian people: monolids (eyes with no crease whatsoever) and hooded eyes (a small crease that creates a double eyelid but which practically folds into itself when the eye is open). I have the latter. Unlike what the average makeup tutorial would suggest, there is no crease to blend into and a traditional light-to-dark smoky eye simply doesn’t work.
In a society that celebrates Western-world beauty standards, realizing they don’t apply to you is a tough (but not uncommon) pill to swallow. Collectively, we learn to resent a feature that we can’t change; we forget to appreciate the beauty in our differences. But not anymore, ladies! Having a different eye shape doesn’t mean we can’t wear certain products or try certain trends: it just means we have to do things our own way.
Thanks to hours of sifting through Pinterest tips and Instagram hashtags (plus my own trial and error experiments), I’ve learned a trick or two about making Asian eyes pop. Here are seven tips I swear by.
1. Keep Your Friends Close, but Your Eye Shadow Primer Closer
Look, I really love my friends, but I guard my eye shadow primer with my life. Beyond keeping shadow looks in place, this hero product works like a smudge-proofing, oil-reducing magic potion on hooded or monolid eyes. Applying winged liner? Just add some primer, set it with a skin-colored shadow to prevent oil buildup, and line away. (No transferring to see here, folks!) Opting to keep it simple with a single swipe of mascara instead? Apply a touch of primer to your lids and under-eyes to stop pesky smudges in their tracks. Whether you prefer a potted primer (ideal for applying with your fingers) or something more liquid-based, any formula will do the trick.
2. Don’t Leave Home Without Setting Your Eyeliner
If going a day without setting your t-zone or concealer feels like a beauty sin, show your liquid or gel liner the same respect. Powder products act as a sealant to lock in creamy products while keeping unwanted buildup or breakdowns at bay. Since Asian eye shapes involve a whole lot of skin-on-skin contact, your lids not only act as an oil trap, but create the friction responsible for breaking down liner formulas. To prevent this from happening, dip a thin makeup brush into a shadow that matches your liner. For best results, apply before your liquid or gel formula fully dries down.
3. Rethink an Inner-Corner Highlight
Eyelids aren’t all that make Asian eyes unique. Inner corners also take shape in their own ways. In most cases, Asian eyes are set toward the front of the head, creating a flatter face shape overall. As a result, the skin at the inner corners appears rounded, instead of the top and bottom lash lines meeting at a defined point (think of this like a sideways V). The average makeup tutorial would suggest dabbing a highlight over this entire area (the tip and sides of the V, for example) to mimic a more wide-awake look, but for monolids and hooded eyes, this can draw too much attention to the wrong places. Alternatively, experiment with concentrating your highlight on different spots – the inner part of your bottom lash line or right next to the bridge of your nose, for example.
4. Break the Smoky-Eye Mold
Whether you watch an excess of YouTube makeup tutorials or follow the visual guides that sometimes come with shadow palettes, both will tell you to apply eye shadow from lightest to darkest toward the outside of your eye. They also tell you to sweep dark shades in your crease. If you’ve been following these guidelines on hooded or monolid eyes, stop what you’re doing right now! This technique can put too much visual weight on one part of your eye, making it look imbalanced and messy. Instead, create a gradient that ranges from darkest at your lash line to lightest toward your brow bone. Because this emphasizes the natural shadows on your eyes, they’ll look much more open.
5. Line Your Lash Line, Not Your Waterline
Contrary to what your middle-school self learned as a makeup newbie, covering your lower waterline in black liner is not always the answer. In fact, it actually makes your eyes appear smaller. Instead, add depth and definition to your eyes by lining your actual lash line. Work a soft liner or dark eye shadow on a thin brush under and in between your lower lashes. Diffuse the line by blending out and down. Leaving your actual waterline bare will give the illusion that your eyes are larger.
6. Tightline to Fake Thicker Lashes
For whatever reason, Asian women have notoriously short eyelashes that, to top it off, are also thin, sparse, or grow completely straight (awesome!). Before you decide that eyelash extensions are the be all and end all, try running black eyeliner on your upper waterline. This process – also known as “tightlining” – will coat your upper waterline and make it appear as though your lashes are longer and thicker at the base. Even if you’re going mascara-free for the day, it can make a world of difference.
7. Choose Falsies With Care
All false lashes are not created equal – but that’s a very good thing. While buying what you like is always highly encouraged, in this case, specific falsie styles can become true assets. For example, lashes that are longer and thicker at the center but shorter at the inner and outer corners emphasize all the right spots – like this $ 12 pair from Eylure. The center lashes will elongate and amplify the widest part of your eyes. Wispy sets that alter between clusters of thick, long lashes and more natural ones are a nice in-between choice if you’re looking for a bit less drama.
As a rule of thumb, any styles that are shorter at the inner corners will be more flattering than ones that are the same length all the way across. But, as with smoky eyes, avoid extreme cat-eye lashes (think excessive fluff and length at the outer corners), as they can weigh down your outer corners too much.