The Minimalist's Guide to Non-Boring Eye Makeup

"Something inherently smudgier, messier, and—well, more me."

Updated 11/26/19

Like many people my age, I watched HBO’s Euphoria last summer with a simultaneous sense of horror at the state of the youths and the utmost appreciation for their daring approach to beauty. (That sentence pretty much sums up what it’s like to be in your late twenties, by the way: It’s a tug and pull of “not a girl, not yet a woman” proportions.)

To be clear, I didn’t see myself splashing my face with glitter tears anytime soon. But as I continued applying the same 5-minute face beat for the 972nd day in a row, it occurred to me that maybe it was time to mix things up. My Instagram saved folder began to populate with striking makeup looks from Nam Vo, Sarah Feingold, and Katie Jane Hughes. And finally, I high-tailed it to Sephora to drop a frightening portion of my paycheck on colorful eye makeup.

The trick, I decided, was to strike a balance between minimalism and daring: A swipe of neon eyeliner; a dab of iridescent highlighter. I don’t do lipstick, so that was off the table from the very beginning. (Sorry, guys—this story had to be believable.)

The next phase—the execution phase—was a bit trickier. I learned very quickly that I don’t have the deft hand to trace an artful line along my cut-crease without looking like I invited a toddler to draw on my face. So I bucked the plan for a runway-worthy collection of looks, settling instead on something inherently smudgier, messier, and—well, more me. At the very least, this would be fairly relatable, right?

Decide for yourself:

Day 1: My tangerine standby

tangerine eye makeup
Victoria Hoff

I bucked the plan for a runway-worthy collection of looks, settling instead on something inherently smudgier, messier, and—well, more me.

It felt right to ease in with a look that felt appropriate for this challenge but was still familiar to me: I went through a phase a couple of years ago that entailed coloring my lids with a shock of orange pigment. It felt as right as ever, especially as I made my way to a music festival with friends.

There’s a two-part trick to make this look a lasting affair. First, eyeshadow primer is a non-negotiable, unless you like orange-tinted cheeks, sheets, and contact lenses (true story). Urban Decay’s Primer Potion ($24) has never steered me awry.

The second? Invest in some serious pigment to get the full effect. I always make a beeline for Make Up For Ever when I need capital-C Color—the brand was founded for the Parisian water ballet (fun fact!), so lasting, highly-saturated pigment has been the M.O. from the very beginning. The color I used here is the brand’s Artist Color Eye Shadow ($17) in Tangerine.

Day 2: Rhinestone fever

rhinestone makeup
Victoria Hoff 

Aka my very muted take on Euphoria. A birthday dinner with friends felt like the perfect opportunity to be slightly too much, so I Amazon Primed this set of adhesive rhinestones ($7) to myself and nearly destroyed my bathroom from the frustration of trying to stick them on. The (very obvious) answer: Tweezers! I stuck two tiny stones on the outer corners of my cat-eye, and then two more on my bottom lids. The effect was worth the near-property damage: I got mega compliments for my efforts, even if 3 out of the 4 rhinestones ended up in my pasta. I intend to pick up some eyelash glue and give it another go for holiday festivities.

Day 3: Iridescent Dew

iridescent makeup
Victoria Hoff

That trip to Sephora I mentioned earlier? I spent 80% of my time there sleuthing down a color that would provide a similar effect to this mesmerizing look by Patrick Ta on Gigi Hadid. Finally, a glimmer of blue caught my eye… and with one quick swatch of Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow ($20) in Lounge, I was hooked.

To me, this is the perfect specimen of eye color: On first glance, it’s a sheer, mauve-ish color that functions as a neutral. When it catches the light, however—or if you continue layering it on—it shimmers blue. I decided to play up that iridescence by dabbing a bit of Rituel de Fille’s Celestial Sphere Eye Soot ($38) into the inner corners of my eyes and along my cheekbones. The piece de resistance: a glossy lip courtesy of Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat ($22) in Iconic Nude and a dab of face oil. Overall, it was a look that felt mysterious, a little sultry, and still office-appropriate. Win!

Day 4: A shock of blue

blue eye makeup
Victoria Hoff

The trick, I decided, was to strike a balance between minimalism and daring: A swipe of neon eyeliner; a dab of iridescent highlighter.

File under: out of my comfort zone. For some reason, neon eyeliner felt more out-there to me than orange-stained eyelids—or maybe it was just the fact that I chose to sport this look to jury duty. (All in the name of hard-hitting beauty journalism, my friends.)

But civic duty aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the way this Make Up For Ever pencil ($18) in Unlimited Blue made my eyes pop. Verdict: would try again.

Day 5: Desert shimmer

desert makeup
Victoria Hoff 

What better than a trip to Sedona to channel some hardcore desert tones? Match your makeup to those red rocks, people—and Tarte’s Chrome Paint Shadow Pot ($22) in Fire Dancer proved more than up to the task. This stuff is highly saturated, so in the interest of a more muted look I used a light hand. But I very much see myself leaning into the creamy shimmer for an upcoming holiday party. 

The bottom line: Perhaps I have more of an adventurous spirit than I initially gave myself credit for… so long as I can maintain my mildly lazy approach. A Euphoria extra I am not—but I’ll settle for being a little extra around my friends and coworkers.

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