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I Spy This Summer: The New Smokey Eye

May 12, 2009
The smokey eye is alive and well this spring and summer.

The smokey eye is alive and well this spring and summer- it's just softer.

This past winter I read in various blogs and forums that the smokey eye is passé and no longer the sultry eye look of choice.

I was very suspicious of my industry sources nay-saying to the queen of all eye makeup effects. A seasonal trend barring the smokey eye from look books and dim lounges serving beautiful people? Really-?

I began to wonder what in fact had replaced the smokey eye while I was apparently sleeping and didn’t realize the revolution came and destabilized the old order. Eye liners- even liquid ones -can’t compete with the power of powder. And despite the dewy looks and the fresh colour palettes that typically come with spring, I had a hard time seeing an end to the versatility of the big smoke. Besides, L’Oreal Paris had just sent me Wear Infinité Eye Shadow Quad- their new spring eye shadow compact of four powders making together one of their fresh looks for spring: the smokey eye in soft metallic grey hues.

L'Oreal Paris Wear Infinité Eye Shadow Quads, about $15 at local drugstores

L'Oreal Paris Wear Infinité Eye Shadow Quads, available at local drugstores

Apparently, I wasn’t the one sleeping. Many cosmetics companies such as M.A.C., Prescriptives, Joe, and L’Oreal Paris are offering new colours to modernize the smoky eye for spring and perk it up with a fun colour.

With my fun L’Oreal quad (pictured above) came an applicator brush and a few words vaguely resembling instructions to help achieve the smokey eye look. One evening I decided to give it a try and after four steps of powder, let’s just say that there was a lot of smoke in my powder room. Despite having all the fancy brushes and colours, like many women, the smokey look has often eluded me. I’m never quite sure where everything goes, how much of it to press on or lightly dust, where to be blending or how far along the crease should that highlight colour really go. I know that I’m not the only one roughing it with my little powder pack and my graduating shades of grey, thinking that this time I might just get sexy, not raccoon.

I’ve since decided to look up videos as to how to apply the four steps to smokey success. I learned a few things from watching this video (below) of head makeup artist Collier Strong at L’Oreal Paris do what he does best, although he kinda lost me at step #2:

L’Oreal Paris “Applying Eye Shadow” Video

Memorable quote: Collier Strong: “I’m blending this up and out, and by ‘up and out’, it lifts the eye out.”

I also found an excellent video featuring M.A.C. makeup artist Chantel Miller demonstrating how to create the smokey eye in an easy, step-by-step process. Like Collier Strong, she achieves the look but uses stronger contrating colours and I’m thinking that these steps aren’t the same ones in Collier’s program, which really doesn’t help me stick with the plan. Watch and decide.

Memorable quote: Chantel Miller: “The tools that you choose really make or break your makeup.”

The M.A.C. Fluff Brush, $27

The M.A.C. Fluff Brush, $27

And as I’ve confirmed, much to my non-surprise, the smokey look is charging full steam this spring and summer. The principles of application are the same but the colours are lighter and metallic, which means that the look is perfect for day and not just for evening. Even new cosmetics manufacturer Joe Fresh is promoting a smokey look this season and in soft colours of bronze, pebble and silver, how’s a girl to resist?

Joe Fresh likes it smokey

Joe Fresh likes it smokey, and at $4 per eye shadow, we like it, too.

I’ve also decided to consult the M.A.C. Cosmetics website to see what I could learn about application and colour combinations for spring. Two of the new looks at M.A.C. rely on the smokey eye to achieve the desired mood that is fun, colourful and decidedly powdery. I thought that it might be useful to see these looks along with some of the colour swatches and instructions that explain the complete colour theory.

Lightly Smoked:

M.A.C. new look: A Virgin Kiss

M.A.C. new look: A Virgin Kiss

Heavier Smoke:

M.A.C. new look: Way to Love

M.A.C. new look: Way to Love

By far, my favourite video tutorial for smokey inspiration is this one (below) by cosmetics retailer Sephora. Featuring models of different skin tones and colour palettes in greens, purples, and sand colours, I like the variety in this video and the idea that I can achieve the smokey look with really only 2 shades. I didn’t learn much other than the colour play since this one isn’t really a how-to video; on the other hand, the one below does a great job of showing how to achieve the look in less than 5 minutes. It’s a ‘holiday’ video from a couple of years ago showcasing black as the smoke of choice, but by now if you’ve seen all these videos I’ve posted, you’re probably starting to figure out how to swap colours to achieve a softer look for spring and summer.

I’m thinking of trying the technique in the new smokey colours, like this soft sandy 5-pack by Cargo cosmetics at Sephora (below).

Cargo cosmetics eye shadow palette in Ibiza, $28

Cargo cosmetics eye shadow palette in Ibiza, $28

I’m glad that my sources were wrong about the death of the smokey eye. But even if this smoke goes up in flames one day, I will forever praise the smokey eye as a go-to look because it’s the little black dress of eye makeup: classic, always safe, and often modernized with fresh attitude.

Images courtesy of featured retailers: L’Oreal Paris, M.A.C. Cosmetics, Joe Fresh, Sephora.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jordana permalink
    May 12, 2009 4:48 pm

    Great smoky eye tips in this post, Johanne! I can’t imagine the smokey eye is passé. In fact, in the June issue of Glamour, many of the “50 Most Glamorous Women of 2009” are sporting some form of the smoky eye. So yes, I do think it’s here to stay.

  2. May 13, 2009 11:10 am

    Thanks for your comment. I think the smokey eye will always be fashionable, and I’m really loving the softer take on the tried-and-true. Are you going to wear the smokey eye this summer in soft metallics?
    – Johanne

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