The Best Makeup for Brown Eyes (According to a Pro Makeup Artist)
Here’s a fun fact: Over half the world’s population has brown eyes, but no two pairs are exactly the same. From deep chocolate to warm caramel or brilliant hazel, there are many variations of the shade and with every variation, there’s a complementary color to make your brown eyes pop. Here to help us navigate the sea of options is Shirley Pinkson, a celebrity makeup artist and co-founder of W3LL People, who’s dishing on the best makeup for brown eyes no matter your hue.
1. For dark brown (or almost black) eyes, use Deep Jewel Tones
Lean into deeper shades like a rich plum, eggplant, emerald or sapphire. Fact: Vibrant jewel tones create a sharp pop of contrast that really bring dark brown eyes to life. Better yet, “try sweeping on a metallic version of these shades for added shine and sparkle,” recommends Pinkson. Here’s how to do it:
- Use a medium-sized eye shadow brush to apply the shade of your choice, making sure to “contain the shimmer to the upper lids and closer to your lash line for a subtle, but still eye-catching effect.”
- Clean up the edges using a Q-tip. Bringing the sparkle all the way up to your brow bone can quickly veer things into disco territory.
Get the look: Tarte Cosmetics Tarteist Metallic Shadow in “Jaded” and “Pokerface” and “Dark Seas” ($14); MAC Eyeshadow in “New Crop” and “In the Shadows” and “Haux” ($17); Estee Lauder Double Wear Infinite Waterproof Eyeliner in “Deep Plum” ($27); Charlotte Tilbury Color Chameleon Eyeshadow Pencil in “Smoky Emerald” ($27); Lancome Hypnose Eye Shadow Palette ($50)
2. For medium brown to light brown eyes, use the color in your irises
According to Shirley, “It's all about playing up the brighter flecks of your irises.” Here’s how to do this at home:
- “Look in a mirror and match your eye makeup to the flecks of color in your irises," says Shirley. For example, “if you have reddish flecks around your pupils, a shimmery bronze, cranberry or copper shadow will make your eyes sing, whereas if you have yellowish flecks, gold tones are your best bet.”
- Sweep the shadow into the crease of your eyelids and finish by rimming your upper and lower lashline with a dark brown pencil.
Get the look: RMS Beauty Swift Shadow in “Sunset Beach” ($20); NARS High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner in “Rodeo Drive” ($24); Charlotte Tilbury Color Chameleon Eyeshadow Pencil in “Champagne Diamonds” ($27); Kosas 10-Second Eyeshadow in “Copper Halo” ($28); Giorgio Armani Eye Tint Eyeshadow ($28); Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in “Sandglow” ($29); MAC Burgundy Times Nine Eyeshadow Palette ($32)
3. For hazel eyes, use orange- or red- toned bronzes
Why hello there, you color chameleon. One minute your eyes are a deep sea green; the next minute they look almost golden. And as any hazel-eyed lady knows, depending on what you’re wearing or what the weather is doing (so a cloudy or overcast day versus a sunny one), your peepers are always in flux. It’s one of the coolest things about having hazel eyes. However, if you want to bring out more of one hue over the other, a little bit of makeup magic can help with that.
- To get started, Shirley recommends referencing the color wheel (yes, the very same one from grade school) for some guidance. “The most complementary shade is the one that sits directly across from the one you want to play up.” For example, if you want your eyes to look greener, go with a reddish-toned eye liner or shadow. “Rich orange- or red- toned bronzes will create the most captivating gaze,” says Shirley. And if you want to make your eyes look more golden, choose a shadow or liner with blue undertones instead.
- No matter which shade you go with, we'd suggest topping it off with a touch of clear gloss or shimmer just above your pupils and on the inner corners of your eyes like Kristen here for an added brightening effect.
Get the look: ColourPop Super Shock Shadow in “Melrose” ($6) Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow Single in “Star Cobalt” ($12); Dose of Colors Block Party Single Eyeshadow in “Encore” ($20); Stila Cosmetics Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner in “Midnight Blue” ($22); NARS High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner in “Broadway” ($24); Decorté Eye Glow Gem Glossy Eye Color in “Be882” ($27); Bobbi Brown The Essential Multicolor Eye Shadow Palette ($45); Laura Mercier Parisian Nudes Eyeshadow Palette ($55)
4. A final few tips for all brown-eyed beauties
When in doubt, a plum shadow, liner or even a quick swipe of mascara is always a solid option. “Anything with purple undertones will brighten up brown eyes by drawing out their natural warmth,” explains Shirley.
For a more understated, everyday look, opt for a sweep of neutral shadows across your lids (think lighter taupes, medium and darker browns), all of which subtly enhance and define brown eyes without overwhelming them.
But if you’re looking to make a statement (say, for a night out on the town or your next holiday party), Shirley swears by a bold blue. Her favorite way to use the vibrant shade? “I love a dash of blue liner against brown eyes. It’s brilliant because it whitens the whites and brings out the golden tones in all variations of brown eyes.” (See exhibit A: Lilly Singh shining bright above.)
And last but not least, whatever colors you decide to use, don’t forget to finish the look with a generous coat of jet-black mascara. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your lashes:
- Apply the first coat of mascara to the tips only, running the wand through the top side of your lashes and coating the tips from above.
- Now look down into the mirror (to make sure you apply your next coat as close to the roots as possible) and wiggle your wand from base to tips as you normally would. OK, now give us a wink and cue the Van Morrison.
Get the look: Urban Decay Cosmetics Eyeshadow in “Backfire” ($20); Stila Cosmetics Vivid & Vibrant Eye Shadow Duo in “Sapphire” ($20); W3LL People Expressionist Mascara in “Pro Black” ($22); Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in “Fervent Blue” ($33); Space.NK Apothecary Surratt Relevée Eyelash Curler ($34); By Terry Terrybly Mascara in “Purple Success” ($48); Lilah B. Palette Perfection Eye Quad in “B. Stunning” ($58); Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette ($42)