Learning how to apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes is far easier than you might think.
Before we explain how do you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes, let’s start with the basics of what a hooded eye actually is. “Hooded eyes are when the skin above the eye droops down over the lid,” explains pro makeup artist Lan Nguyen-Grealis (opens in new tab). You can tell if your eyes are hooded if, “the majority of the socket area is covered and you mainly see your lashes when you’re looking straight ahead. Sometimes it can be genetic, often East Asian eyes can be hooded, but not necessarily. Eye shape does change as we get older as that part of the face deepens and looks more sunken.”
“The hooded eye that happens with age is gravity pulling down that extra section of skin which is normally sat beautifully within the socket,” adds Max Factor brand ambassador and international makeup artist Caroline Barnes (opens in new tab). “It then sort of hangs down slightly to create that tent-like shape over the eye. This can make your eyes look a bit tired compared to their natural shape.” Obviously, we want to look less tired (opens in new tab), so how you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes is all about working to wake up and widen your eyes.
How do you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes?
Step 1: Do start by prepping your lids
The most important step to start with for how do you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes is prep. If you want your eyeshadow to be long-lasting (and who doesn’t when you’ve taken the time to apply it) then you need to lay the appropriate groundwork.
“Our lids are the oiliest part of our face,” explains international makeup artist Caroline Barnes. “Make sure you don’t overload that area with skincare, then, just before you put your makeup on, take a little bit of toner or micellar water and sweep it over the eyes to remove any excess oil. You can also use a little fine powder or an eyeshadow primer to give you that velcro effect.” Creating a budge-proof look on hooded eyes is ultimately all about minimising slip and maximising grip.
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer | RRP: £20 (opens in new tab)
Whenever anyone asks us how to apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes, we mention this product. This primer is a cult buy for good reason. What initially feels like a super creamy shadow dries down into an ever-so-slightly tacky finish which is just what you need to take firm hold of your shadow.
- Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer - £20 | Boots (opens in new tab)
Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Eye Primer | RRP: £22 (opens in new tab)
If you find your eyelids can feel quite dry, which in turn causes your eyeshadow to cake, then this is the primer for you. It contains hyaluronic acid to bring extra hydration to this delicate skin.
- Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Eye Primer - £22 | Cult Beauty (opens in new tab)
Step 2: Don’t choose light, shimmering shades
Most people that wonder how do you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes have a set colour in mind. Hooded eyes can look quite heavy, so there’s a tempting tendency to try and brighten the area with pale, shimmering and light-reflecting shades.
But according to the experts, the key to making eyes look brighter is to stick to darker colours. “I think a lot of people with hooded eyes feel that the skin is kind of taking over their eye shape and they want their eyes to look bigger,” says Caroline. “So, if you want to open out your eyes, you need to avoid using anything that’s lighter than your skin tone. Anything lighter or brighter will sort of throw itself forwards on your face, whereas you want to push that area back to make your eyes come forwards.”
“As a general rule, a matte shade works better,” Caroline continues. “If you have something metallic it will reflect the light and make the hood look more obvious, and you want to make it look less obvious by pushing it back.”
How dark is dark enough? You don’t need to go super sultry – Caroline just advises using a colour that's “3 or 4 shades darker than your actual skin tone.” Brown tones are always going to look the most subtle, but you could also adapt the concept with greens or purples if you’re feeling bold.
Step 3: Do opt for powder over cream
As we’ve already touched on, the best way to stop your eyeshadow from skating around is to minimise slippiness on the lid. It makes sense then that powder eyeshadows are a smarter choice than cream, as you’re not adding any more moisture into the mix.
“I think powders will work better, and you’re going to get much longer wear,” advises Caroline. “But, if you want something soft and natural there are some nice cream matte eyeshadows that really set.”
“Creams are great if you use a non-creasing formula,” adds Lan. “But by applying powder on top of the cream there’s less creasing and it’ll last longer. With hooded eyes, adding too much cream shadow can create gaps when your lids move, so thin layers are the best way to go.”
Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette The Sophisticate | RRP: £43 (opens in new tab)
A wear-with-anything mix of four nice neutral shades, this luxe palette will more than earn its keep in your makeup bag.
- Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette The Sophisticate - £43 | Charlotte Tilbury (opens in new tab)
Nars Single Eyeshadow in Sienna | RRP: £18 (opens in new tab)
Don’t want to invest in a whole new palette? These single shadows from Nars are a less wasteful way to give a shade a try. Sienna is a gorgeous red-toned brown.
- Nars Single Eyeshadow in Sienna - £18 | Nars Cosmetics (opens in new tab)
Step 4: Do create a faux crease
One of the main things people mention when they ask us how do you apply eyeshadow to hooded eyes is creasing. When you have hooded eyes, you don’t have a clear crease or definition where your lid slots into your socket. So, what you want to do is use a couple of different eyeshadow shades to give the illusion of depth.
“By focusing on deepening the colour where you’re actual socket is, this can give the impression of a bigger eye shape.” explains Lan.
“Start by applying a base colour across the whole lid and stop at what would be the socket line,” says Lan. If you’re not sure where that is, use your fingertips or a brush to gently feel it out. “Then, keeping your eyes open, use a darker shade, or apply more of the base colour, and follow the eye shape back and forth so you can see the structure. Try not to blend too far out from the bone towards your brows, just keep the eyeshadow within that socket space.”
Step 5: Don’t worry too much about your eyeshadow creasing
If you have hooded eyes, creasing eyeshadow is a common bugbear. There are ways to minimise this (like priming your lids and sticking to powder shadows) but the shape of hooded eyes means a level of creasing is unfortunately still pretty much inevitable.
“You’re likely to find that you get smudging along the crease line because of the movement of the eye,” says Caroline. “It’s going to happen because the skin is touching the other skin and pushing the pigment together. But I do think a bit of creasing is a cool, slept-in way to wear your makeup so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You don’t really see it so much with a hooded eye either, because your eyes are mostly covering that area.”
Should hooded eyes avoid eyeliner?
We’re big believers that nothing in beauty is off-limits, so there’s no reason why having hooded eyes should stop you from using eyeliner. The key is just applying it in a way that ensures it’s as visible as possible, so your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
“Depending on how bad the hoods are, a little bit of eyeliner is great because it gives definition,” says Caroline. “Just keep it very thin and delicate.” The secret is to “use an angled or very thin brush to ensure you get a clean line,” explains Yan.
“Applying your liner outwards towards the sides can give you the best shape to suit the eye, and don’t be afraid to layer and build up, rather than going in with a thick line – as sometimes this can cut the eye shape and make them look smaller.” If you go wrong, use cotton bud dipped in micellar water, or a clean brush with a little concealer on it, to tidy up.
You’re not limited to simply lining the upper lashline either. “The lower lash line is where you want to create a nice bit of dimension so use a bit of kohl, and then smudge in the same kind of colour powder over the top,” advises Caroline. “That will really stretch out the eye and make it look a lot bigger.” Lashings of mascara make for the perfect eye-opening finishing touch.
What eyeliner is best for hooded eyes?
Ok, so we’ve established that we want our eyeliner to be neat and narrow on the top lash line, and potentially a little smudgier on the bottom. “Using a cake liner is a good way to ensure the liner on the top doesn’t smudge as the formula is designed to be budge and water-proof,” says Lan.
Not familiar with the concept of cake liner? It’s nothing to do with sweet treats and instead refers to a product where the pigment is packed into a pot and activated with water on a liner brush. They dry quickly, for an intense matte finish.
For the bottom lashes, kohl is the softest of the liners, which gives you plenty of opportunity to create a laid-back, super-smudgy look.
Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eye Liner | RRP: £21 (opens in new tab)
This clever formula goes from powder to liquid and back again for a long-lasting line that stays put.
- Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eye Liner - £21 | John Lewis (opens in new tab)
Victoria Beckham Satin Kajal Liner | RRP: £20 (opens in new tab)
The creamy pencil glides on with no snagging, and can be left as-is or smudged with the build-in bush for a more relaxed finish.
- Victoria Beckham Satin Kajal Liner - £20 | Net-A-Porter (opens in new tab)
We spoke to the following beauty experts:
Caroline is one of the most revered international make up artists in the beauty world - with over 20 years of experience in makeup and skincare. She's worked in the highest tiers of the fashion industry and on the faces of the world’s most high profile women - including Emma Watson, Lily James, Kylie Minogue and Naomi Campbell.
Lan is a celebrity make-up artist based in London. She boasts over 18 years working as a celebrity and fashion make up artist during Fashion Week and award events with her team - managing over 84 assistants across 4 days as a personal record. She looks after celebrities in music and TV. Lan is the author of Art and Make-Up (opens in new tab) published in 2015 and ProMakeup Design Book (opens in new tab) published in 2019.
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