Beauty woes: Stumped by the smoky eye


Picture: Pawel Kadysz

I have a confession to make.

I am 30 years old and have still not perfected the daddy of all makeup techniques – the smoky eye.

This seems like a gross oversight given the sexy raccoon look really comes into its own at this time of year, coupled with the fact that every magazine I pick up seems to be imparting helpful advice on how to ‘go from desk to dance floor in five easy moves’ – a transformation which typically involves sweeping a wash of ‘sparkly slate’ or ‘rich chocolate’ over the lids.

Not that this scenario particularly presents itself often –  I’d much rather go home and eat a shepherd’s pie than go out on the lash at 6pm on a Wednesday, but it would be nice to know how to achieve the look of a woman adept with a make-up brush should the need ever occur.

Yet despite the abundance of step-by-step beauty guides at my fingertips, my own attempts to make me look all sultry, etc, end up looking like I’ve rolled around face first in a box of broken Crayola.

Because, somewhat bizarrely for someone who was practically the poster girl for Barry M circa 2005, it turns out I have absolutely no idea how to properly apply eyeshadow.


My sister won’t thank me for this photo but it’s the only one which illustrates the two-tone eyeshadow and keeps my dignity intact

Back then, I regularly caked my eyelids in clashing shades of neon in the name of ‘new rave’, frequently coordinating the colour scheme with matching glitter and securing it to my face – to the horror of dermatologists everywhere – with half a can of L’oreal Elnett.

But as I’ve matured (ahem), I’ve found myself adopting the failsafe combo of red lippy and a black eyeliner flick; a reliable but winning combination that’s become a sort of facial uniform.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for lack of curiosity that I’ve fallen into a makeup rut. I’ve often found myself loitering around make-up counters wondering if I should experiment more with shadows and blush before the onset of crow’s feet.


Red lips and black eyeliner can do no wrong in my book

But overly bronzed counter staff scare the bejesus out of me and I find myself backing away quietly at the thought of them coming at me with their utensils and on the occasions I have been brave enough to sit through a consultation, I’ve spent it awkwardly perched on the edge of the chair ready to bolt and wondering how many products I’m obliged to buy. Sure, I know there’s no commitment to part with cash, but by God I’m British and I can’t accept a freebie.

It’s this combination of fear and laziness that has found me entering my 30s and lacking the necessary skills to confidently manipulate a stick of kohl, let alone execute the coveted smoky eye, case-in-point being the time I recently rooted out an ancient eyeliner pencil and ended looking like I’d gone ten rounds.


That’s a relatively cheap mistake to make, but when you’re investing in your face it can add up – particularly if it doesn’t work out – and despite poring over various beauty bibles, I’ve still managed to make a number of costly mistakes in recent months, resulting in beautiful yet unused purchases languishing in the bottom of my make-up bag.

Sure, I know I should fork out £20 for the much-lauded Mac 219 to overcome my eyeshadow fear, but I can barely master a £3 version, so why break the bank? So what I’d really like for Christmas is for some kindly, impartial beauty expert to show me how to actually use a chubby stick and a blending brush so that I can start looking more my age and not like a startled lemur.

It’s either that or I go back to two-tone eyeshadow and glitter.