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How to Pick the Most Flattering Colored Eyeliner

Vogue Arabia, July/August 2020. Photo: Carolin Lauffenburger

There’s nothing like a stroke of colored eyeliner for an unexpected beauty moment. But with a rainbow spectrum of shades to choose from, where to begin? While there are no hard-and-fast rules, your natural eye color can be a fruitful place to start. “Contrasting your eyeliner to enhance your eye color is an easy trick to bring attention to your eyes,” says L.A.-based makeup artist Beau Nelson. Here, three pros discuss their favorite colored eyeliner strategies for playing up eye color.


“Brown eyes are already neutral, so you can really play with color on brown eyes,” says Katie Jane Hughes who gravitates toward jewel-toned eyeliners–think rich berry tones, deep purples, and emerald greens–and has been loving Glossier’s No. 1 Pencil in deep eggplant Rococo recently. For a more subtle approach, consider Brown’s go-to eye-brightening strategy: A warm gold eyeliner dabbed on the inner corners. “It catches the warm light of brown eyes [for extra sparkle],” she says.


As Nelson underlines, the opposite of blue on the color wheel is yellow, hence his lean towards flaxen colors. “Golden browns, bronzes, and coppers all set blue eyes off nicely,” he says. When working with aquamarine gazes, Hughes also loves a warm hue, like a rusty orange, to really make the eyes stand out.


With tones of green, gold, and brown, hazel eyes are inherently dimensional–and there are many different approaches one can take. “Purples, pinks, burgundies, and cranberries bring out the green tones in hazel eyes,” says Nelson. For Hughes, a rich teal supplies a cool contrast, while for Brown, taking a tone-on-tone approach with an emerald green “really makes the colors jump.”


As far as Brown is concerned, for green eyes it’s all about burgundy. “Bright burgundy…moody burgundy…brown burgundies… all are color wheel opposites meaning shades of green and red always complement each other,” she explains. “A rich burgundy brings an unexpected pop of color that’s bold, but wearable.” Nelson agrees, noting that golden-toned browns will make green eyes appear more “yellowish green.”


It’s true: Less than 3% of the global population has gray eyes, which can be mistaken for blue, but most often appear dark gray, grayish blue, or grayish green. For this rare shade, Nelson recommends royal blues and blue-toned violet shades to bring out their different aspects. Alternatively, “deep, beautiful reds will bring high contrast and make the eyes pop,” says Hughes.

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