The Smartest Tips For Filling In Brows & Nailing A Smoky Eye

Makeup has come a long way since the kohl eyeliner that would migrate onto your cheeks after two minutes of wear, and foundation that would turn a dubious shade of orange throughout the day. But even with the best formulas at hand, not to mention millions of YouTube tutorials at our fingertips, there are still some things a lot of us struggle to nail, like the perfect smoky eye, avoiding flashback in photos and getting lipstick to stay put.
Luckily, we were able to put our burning beauty questions to Michael Ashton, Marc Jacobs Beauty's global artistry ambassador, who has painted the faces of Lila Moss and Adele – yep, he's the man behind her infamous cat eye. Here are all the best tips we learned in 30 minutes.
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This is the easiest way to nail a smoky eye without looking bruised
"When people think of a smoky eye, they think they have to use a black eyeshadow," said Michael, "but it's very rare that I actually do. I tend to go for chocolate brown, lots of bronzes and also use a black eyeliner. If you apply a gel liner, like the Marc Jacobs Highliner, £20, to the inner rim of the eye, it gives you the effect of a smoky eye. Also, don’t take the eyeshadow too high or away from the natural crease of the eye socket and if you’re starting out, probably don’t take the eyeshadow underneath your lower lash line, because that’s when women think, oh god, I look like a panda."
Yes, there is a way to wear foundation without the full face look
"If you want to wear foundation but hate the heavy look, try applying it with your fingertips first or using a large stippling brush – this will disperse the product better," said Michael. "With foundation, though, you really want to use it where you need it the most. Most people need more product around the corners of their nose, the T-zone and on the forehead. The trick is to start applying in the centre of your face and work outwards."
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"Look for a foundation that is light to medium but also buildable," said Michael. "Also, apply it with your fingers. Warm it up in the palms of your hands, exactly like you're about to apply moisturiser, really massage it into the skin and concentrate on places where you need a bit more coverage, typically around the nose. Then, use your middle or ring finger and tap the product into the skin to build coverage where you need it."
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This is how to make your eyes look more symmetrical
"The key is knowing your eye shape, but knowing which colours work is also beneficial," said Michael. "Darker shades will give the illusion of pushing your eyes back a little, whereas metallic bronze shades will accentuate them and bring them forward. You can cheat with liquid eyeliner – it’s a great way to make eyes look more symmetrical, but it will take you a bit of practice. You need to work out which eye needs to be lifted more or which one needs a slightly thicker wing. Overall though, I'd advise visiting a makeup counter and getting someone to actually show you. The people who work there are genuinely passionate about makeup and they’ll give you tips, tricks and tell you things you’ve never even thought of."
Here's how to stop your makeup from settling into dry skin this winter
"Skin prep is key, regardless of what skin type you have or what sort of look you’re trying to achieve," said Michael. "Make sure the skin is exfoliated because products tend to collect and gravitate towards patches of hard, dry skin. I personally prefer an exfoliating mask rather than a granule-based or physical exfoliator because they can be quite harsh on the skin. Do this once or twice a week. Then, take into consideration that a lot of products are water-based, and when the product evaporates, it accentuates dry skin and tends to go powdery, so really hydrate the skin first. Facial oils, facial balms – they’re great, but if you apply foundation straight on top of these products, it can be quite slippery. I love the Marc Jacobs Under Cover Perfecting Coconut Face Primer, £32. Warm it up on your hands and pat it onto your face. Then, buff foundation on top of it."
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This is the smartest way to pencil in your brows if they're sparse
"I always really like to start with a clear brow gel first and then go in with an eyebrow pencil over the top of that," said Michael. "This not only thickens the brows but gives the product something to adhere to. If you do it the other way around, it can look much darker than what you'd like. Applying gel first also gives you an idea of what you’re working with, because your brows will be slightly more groomed. I really focus on the outer corner of brows. You don’t want to fill in or draw an entire brow, because it doesn’t look natural. We’re seeing a movement towards a brow that is still full, but it’s also much softer."
Here's how to stop your lipstick from drying out on your lips
"It’s all in the prep, but also the top-ups," said Michael. "Everyone wants makeup that lasts all day, but makeup does need maintenance. Use a really good lip exfoliant – a grainy one." (R29 rates Frank Body's Lip Scrub, £9, or Hello Jo's Speak Up Lip Mask, £12.50). "You can even make them yourself with sugar," added Michael. "Apply that onto dry lips first, rub it in, rub your lips together and wet wipe it off. Then, I love applying French pharmacy product Homeoplasmine, £15.95. It really hydrates but it’s not too greasy, and it’s great if you’re doing a matte or a bold lip. Pat it in, do the rest of your face while the product is absorbing and apply your lipstick last. Also, if you want a long-wearing lip, you’re better off with a more matte formula – a creamy one will take more work. I also like to fill in the lip with lip pencil first and then apply lipstick on top – it provides a base. Lipstick will inevitably start to wear off but you’ll still have a stain there."
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This is how to stop flashback in pictures
"You need to get the product right," said Michael. "Marc Jacobs' Shameless Youthful Look 24 HR Foundation, £32, is the first foundation with an encapsulated sunscreen (SPF25) so it won’t give you any flashback in pictures."
It really does pay to get your brushes right
"If you’re buying a brush to do bodywork, such as foundation, or highlight work, you’re better off with a shorter bristle that’s more compact," said Michael. "But blending work on the eye requires something that is firm but a little longer, because there’s more flexibility. Synthetic brushes have come such a long way and they are great at holding product – you get hardly any fallout. If you’re using emollient products, such as foundation, cream eyeshadow or cream blusher, go for a synthetic brush because it doesn’t absorb as much of the product and it’s much easier to blend with."
A clever tip for those who don't usually wear eyeshadow
"I don’t think eyeshadow needs to be as complicated as people think," said Michael. "Beautiful-looking eyeshadow doesn’t need to be over the top. If you have fresh, flawless, perfectly prepped skin, you can get away with less of an eye look. I just love curling the lashes, applying mascara and washing one colour over the entire lid. If you want, you can bring this shade underneath the lower lash line, but it can be just one shade. I love bronze, copper and burgundy right now – the Leopard Frost Eye-Conic Multi-Finish Eyeshadow Palette in Flamboyant, £39, is great and burgundy especially is such a lovely tone on brown and green eyes. The way I’d do it is to apply the warm tone underneath as the first colour, really pack that on to the eyelid and then over the top, buff on a bronze, so you end up with that tone of burgundy coming through but you’re not wearing a full-on red eye."
...and here's where to take eyeshadow up to
"A good rule of thumb is just to go up to the natural crease of the eye socket," said Michael. "Go from the inner corner and along the natural crease to the outer corner. Fill it in and blend it out with a fluffy brush. You can blend it up towards the brow bone, but I tend not to go up to the high point. In my opinion, it’s more modern to leave that area free. But there are no rules with makeup. If it makes you feel good, do it."
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