I Started Doing My Eyeshadow Like Solange (and Never Looked Back)

I recently saw a photo of myself from a year ago and I felt a pang in my chest. I was struck by how “done” (and frankly, good) I looked, and amazed to remember how much makeup I used to wear on a daily basis. I’m talking contouring, Anastasia dip brow, biweekly runs to Sephora to pick up new liquid eyeliner, the whole thing. As I inspected this fine-tuned version of myself I wondered: Should I start doing this again? Should I really DO my makeup?

Around the time that photo was taken, it felt like “Instagram makeup” was at an apex. For months, my explore tab had been flooded with Kylie Jenner Lip Kits and tutorials that required $200+ worth of products to complete. Then, just as I was feeling fatigued by it all, the Glossier aesthetic, in all its pared down, millennial pink glory, popped up on my radar and sparked a revelation: Maybe I don’t need to try so hard. No shame to beautyphiles; makeup is an art form that I support and ogle constantly. I could happily scroll through @v39oo for the rest of eternity. But when the less-is-more, makeup-should-be-easy beauty subculture started to brew, I began to reconsider if stress-sweating over a cat-eye or breaking the bank for the “proper” products and accessories was really worth it for me.

Speaking of stress-sweat, eyeshadow had always been the most daunting makeup medium for me because it traditionally requires the most technique. If selecting flattering shades wasn’t difficult enough, determining how to blend them and keep the powder from ending up under my eyes was sure to get my brushes in a bunch. Then one day, as I was stalking Solange Knowles’ Instagram, as one does, I was taken with her eye shadow approach: one. bold. shade. I bookmarked her cloud-white eyelids, and then her opaque, violet shadow a moment later. I found her lax yet artistic beauty approach so appealing, and I imagined myself imitating it until before I knew it, I was, with almost no effort.

These days, my favorite makeup tool is free and it’s so good I always keep ten of them handy. (Fingers!) Gone are the brushes, the beauty blenders, the lengthy tutorials. Instead, I literally finger paint my eyelids and here’s my argument for doing so: low maintenance, big impact, minimal cost. I no longer buy palettes that consist of 75% unnecessary colors. Sticking with one color gives me the freedom to concentrate on boldness when crafting eye looks, rather than getting hung up on demonstrating my shading skills, which in reality, don’t exist, and that’s okay! I may look less “done” in the conventional sense, but in the end, I’m much more satisfied because I no longer strive towards “perfection.” Below are my four tips for wearing simple, bold eyeshadow.

Tip #1: Start with primer

Depending on the color and consistency of your eyeshadow, this step may not be necessary. But as someone with a deeper complexion, I find primer to be especially helpful when applying lighter hues. I used Hard Candy’s $5 Eye Shadow Primer before creating the look with yellow shadow and gloss.

Tip #2: Pick a fun color

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When selecting a hue, seize the opportunity to play off what you’re wearing. You can maximize a monochromatic outfit by taking your look from head to toe, or you can test your elementary school knowledge of the color wheel by playing with contrast. Either way, it’ll bridge the gap between pulling a look and a Lewk.

Tip #3: Explore new products

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Traditional powder shadows are not the end all be all of eye makeup. There are wonderful cream, liquid and stick shadows that are especially helpful when you have a lot of open-eyelid real estate, (a.k.a. when you’re not trying to blend seven different shades at once). I recommend Eye Pigment by Milk Makeup, the Colorful Shadow & Liner Crayon by Sephora, or Vivid Brights Creme Colour by NYX.

Tip #4: Don’t be too perfect

Remember makeup is an art form, and that art is not about perfection. Feel free to play with shape; you can use your shadow to block from lash line to brow, create a cat eye, or any other shape that tickles your fancy. Per a quote shared ’round the internet that’s attributed to Pablo Picasso: “At eight, I was Raphael. It took me a whole lifetime to paint like a child.” If a carefree aesthetic was aspirational enough for Picasso, it should be good enough for us as well.

Photos by Edith Young. 

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