Makeup is all about accentuating and flattering your unique features, which is why we like to take eye color into account before testing out a new look or investing in a new palette. While blue eyes pair well with brown and gold shades and green eyes pair well with plum shades, brown eyes suit almost every shade under the sun. That's why we say brown eyes are like the little black dress of makeup: They're pretty, versatile, and pair well with anything.
Knowing that brown eyes look great against almost any color doesn't make it any easier to put together a go-to look, though. In fact, it makes it a little harder. It's like those rare college classes where the professor says you can write your final project on any topic. Not having a prompt to work with can feel overwhelming and direction-less, so you stare at your computer willing inspiration to come. We weren't there to help you with your college papers (apologies), but we're here to help you now by curating a collection of our favorite makeup looks for emphasizing the beauty of brown eyes. Seriously, these 16 looks are sure to strike you with all the imagination, direction, and brown-eyed appreciation you need.
Let's start off with this striking turquoise look. All it takes is a swipe of a highly pigmented color, like the blue shade that's a part of the E.l.f. Cosmetics x Christian Siriano Limited Edition Eyeshadow Palette ($12) across the upper lid. Blend out with your fingers or a fluffy brush, add a swipe or two of mascara, and boom: Your brown eyes will pop.
For more toned-down days (like the ones where you spend eight hours straight working away at your office desk), try a barely-there peach shade. The light orange provides contrast against deep-brown irises, which makes for more a dimensional, if subtle, result. Take this example as proof that you don't even need mascara. Instead, opt for a quick pinch of an eyelash curler and some well-placed highlighter. It's pared-back perfection.
If subtle isn't your thing or you're looking to experiment with a striking shade, try going for bold neon yellow. This is one of our all-time favorites for brown eyes since it's so eye-catching. Use a cream shadow, like Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream Eyeshadow in 24 Yellow ($29) for the most vivid color payoff and staying power.
Our life motto goes something like this: You can't go wrong with petal-pink eye shadow. Take a pink shade (like any number of the ones found in Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette, $55) and dust it over your upper lid, concentrating on the crease and outer corner. Complete the look with a touch of pink lip gloss.
Smoky eyes and nude lips. In our humble opinion, it's a match made in heaven, and you can never go wrong with the classic combination. We like how this shadow diffuses from a steel blue shade to a soft lilac above the crease of the eye. (We're also not mad about those brushed-up brows and springy lashes.) As with any smoky eye look, Urban Decay Naked Palette ($54) will work perfectly.
Gold appears especially stunning on brown eyes since it mirrors the flecks of gold that so many brown-eyed people have in their irises. When we replicate this look, we'll be sure to apply a gold shadow that has a metallic finish, like Nyx Makeup Shadow Pigment in Old Hollywood ($7). It has a fine shimmer, as opposed to a chunky glitter finish.
This bronzey sunset orange shadow is a must for summer. We like how the wash of orange rims the entire eye, including the lower lid, but still remains soft and diffused. At this point, it's obvious, so we're just going to say it. We love monochromatic makeup looks.
Upside-down eyeliner made its modern mainstream debut last summer, but we're still not over it (by a long shot). We'll replicate this pearlescent aqua look by using Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon in Ody ($31), which is a similar sea green shade with fine flecks of shimmer. It's a waterproof formula, too, which will prevent the liner from creasing or smudging onto the under-eye area.
This one's in the same upside-down eyeliner vein, yet it's slightly subtler than the last look. The plum shade is dark enough to define the shape of the eye without pulling any attention away from the warm brown irises. Just be sure to apply a bit of concealer to the under-eyes before applying a purple liner to the lower lash line. This will make the liner look clean and diffused (and not like a continuation of your purplish-blue under-eye circles).
This one goes out to any brown-eyed people who are set on trying only unique and striking eye makeup looks. This model at the Anteprima Spring/Summer 2018 runway show demonstrates how white eye shadow can make deep-brown eyes pop beyond belief. If you try this one out for yourself, just be sure to wipe away any lingering shadow that falls onto your skin. That will keep the makeup looking clean and editorial—not messy and ghost-like.
This look is definitely one of our favorites. The rich cobalt blue calls attention to brown eyes like nothing else. Try using an opaque cream formula like Tarte Clay Pot Waterproof Shadow Liner in Cobalt ($21). The smooth non-goopy formula makes it easy to create precise shapes.
This desert brown shadow gives us Mad Max vibes in the best way possible. The trick is to cover the entire upper lid in color, applying it up and out to create a sleek V-shape. Then, blend, blend, and blend some more until the color seamlessly transitions from dusky gold to smoky gray at the outer corners (like it does here).
Here's another low-key makeup look perfect for accentuating brown eyes. All it takes is a simple wash of khaki-green shadow winged out across the upper lid. Keep the bottom lid bare. Use Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Single in Khaki Camo ($4).
Or opt for a messy graphic orange look (there's just something about oranges, yellows, and pinks that make brown eyes pop). Swipe a neon orange liner across the lash line and once more above the crease. Bonus points if you apply a gloss or finely milled shimmer over top.
More plum shadow, please! Concentrate most of the shadow along the lower lid before swiping a light chocolate brown shade across the upper lid. This takes the weight off of the lower lash line and balances out the look a bit. Basically, it's like upside-down liner for people who don't like upside-down liner.
We'll leave you with this blazing wash of monochromatic red. Go big or go home, right? Take a fiery shadow, like those in the Lime Crime Venus Pressed Powder Palette ($38) and apply it in messy strokes from the lash line to the brow bone. Put a little gloss over the top, and you're done. The trick to this one is nailing that effortlessly messy shape.