How to Apply Eyeshadow to the Lower Lashline

Defining my lower lashline is a technique I struggled with for a long time. From what I've been hearing- many of you share in that struggle. Because it was such a hard concept for me to understand, I think I developed a pretty good set of guidelines/common mistakes in my own journey. People do not enough, not too much

Build a Strong Foundation

The first step is one that so many people skip- and in my opinion it really shows. You must prime and set your primer well. And I do mean well- most people neglect primer or perfunctorily pat on a tiny amount. Generously prime and set thoroughly with a full layer of translucent powder or skintone shadow. If you don't apply primer, the soft and crepey/lined skin under your lashline will have a snowball's chance in hell of "grabbing" onto shadow and holding it in place. When people tell me they look sick or dead with lower lashline shadow, they usually are not taking the time to complete this step.

I use maybe 25% less primer than I use on the top lid, to cover the lower lashline, but it's by no means a tiny amount. I like to dot it all along the lower lashline with a Q tip and use my pinky finger to blend out. Primer should cover the area where eyeshadow will go and then some so don't be afraid to bring it down further than you think. If you powder your undereyes/foundation/concealer, prime before your powder step. I find applying eye primer on top of powder can lead to clumping.

Setting your eye primer is also a non negotiable step- eye primer itself can range from ultra creamy to a stiff waxy consistency, but if you go directly on "damp" primer with colored powder, you're going to have a streaky bad time. Setting with either translucent face powder or with a skintone-color shadow will not hinder the grippiness of your base, but it will allow for a smooth blending surface for any colors you apply on top.

Use transition shades

Imagine this, but shaped like the bottom of an eye not a perfect semicircle

Are transition shades "high maintenance?" Sure, but a lot of makeup techniques are high maintenance. The trick to good makeup is to make the end result appear effortless, but this requires far more work than meets the eye.

Transition shades are essential if, like me, you do not have a very 3D eye shape. Whether your eyes are very round, hooded, or flat, you might find yourself craving extra dimension and dynamism. Transition shades can help you with that by carving out more bone structure to make your eye makeup look defined, intentional, and interesting. Tangentially, when you are reading the makeup routines of models and celebrities remember that they have been selected as the top 1% of genetically gifted naturally beautiful and interesting looking people. What they can do with one color on their exceptionally sculpted and defined eyes...might take a bit more time and product for a normie.

This goes for the bottom lashline too. I always use at least 3 separate tones for my lower lashline eyeshadow. This enables me to create a softly blended, smoky appearance with very little work or actual blending. This is a simple technique but hard to put into words. Hopefully the following graphic expresses what I'm getting at:

Apply lighter colors first, and add darker colors
overlapping but not covering all of the last shade

Whatever you do, do not "stack" colors on top of each other- this will turn into one smudged line of a single color, awkward- use colors so that separate "bands of color" appear consecutively- you can layer, but make sure each layer doesn't obscure the last one completely. Always go from light to dark- if you try to apply the darkest shadow first and then blend out with a softer color, you are going to experience more muddiness and smudging. Pros can do the "blend out a dark line" well because- they're pros. Amateurs should use techniques and methods that create less work, not more. And smudging out a dark line that you've placed on bare skin is hard mode, make no mistake.

Remember that there is no single "holy grail" transition shade- it's dependent both on your skin tone and on the specific eye look you are doing. When I do a smoky green look, I use a pale nude, a bright yellow, a mustard yellow, and an acid green as my transition shades before I start going in with darker green. When I do a blue look, I'll use white, a pale gray, a darker gray, a bright blue...and then go in with navy. If in doubt, go monochrome. Do not slap on a brown crease before you do a colorful lid...just because. Think in terms of a color wheel and work within color families to begin. Once your understanding of color and shade has deepened, you can start playing with contrasts.

Apply More Than You Think

Most beauty mistakes/ruts are a result of making erroneous assumptions. People tell me every day "I can't wear lower lashline shadow, it doesn't work on me," or "I can't wear red lipstick ever," and I can tell not only from their pictures that it's untrue, but also because the more definitive/certain a statement is, the likelier it's unfounded. A huge mistake I was making for years is that I didn't apply enough eyeshadow to create definition. *Dwight Schrute voice* What? More shadow to appear less raccoony? Yes, it's true. If you wimp out and apply a thin line of eyeshadow, you might as well not even put anything there. Halfhearted attempts, borne out of a fear of adding too much depth or shadow, will always look wishy washy, unflattering, and unintentional.

Applying your colors lightest to darkest not only gives a beautiful smoky gradient, it also will unlock more confidence. It's really intimidating to go in on a bare eye with a big ol ring of black shadow. It's not that intimidating to apply a large halo of flesh tone, then go in with a slightly smaller ring of medium brown, etc etc. This is not only a good technique to create a speific effect, it will actually give you better muscle memory and understanding of just how low you can go (hint: it's always lower than you think.) Sometimes people will send me their makeup photos on IG or reddit and request constructive criticism- I have never seen someone who brings their shadow too low or has too much drama on a lower lashline. I always see a tentative little crisp line directly under the lashes, and it's an easy fix...just use way more shadow than you feel confident using. 

Here are some examples of old looks (left) where I hadn't quite mastered the lower lashline...side by side with looks that show a deeper understanding of shadow technique (right.) Please note the old looks appear less dramatic and that is due to the quantity of shadow on lower lashline. They were not intentionally soft/low contrast, the intention was to create a smoky effect, and I failed. The current examples represent what I intended to do all along. There is still a way to do soft makeup, intentionally, and some examples can be found later in the post.


As Above, So Below

The trend of a colorful lower lashline (POP of color) is one of those microtrends that I see as being less successful and/or interesting. It works when a great MUA does it, and sometimes it works on a normie like us. Maybe it's just my age showing, but it makes me think of my early high school years. My rule is to echo whatever pattern/placement from your upper lid on the lower lashline. If you're doing a halo eye (dark outer corner, bright middle portion) then the same pattern should be mirrored on your lower lashline. If you're doing a gradient smoky eye (light on the inside, gradually darkening as you go out) then same thing applies.

Here are some examples illustrating the principle- if your overall look is soft, you do not always need a smoky lower lashline! Keep things similar in hue and in density/drama. I also broke the rule I explained above in my first "sunset" look with a slightly different color on the lower lashline but I still used familiar transition shades, and kept the finish and saturation level similar. Play around to see what works with your own features. The point is not that you must have a rigidly perfection reflection of your upper lid, but that you should tie in "themes" like colors, finish, placement, to maintain continuity.

Use Multiple Tools

Use multiple tools, and smaller brushes in general- if you try to use one single brush to apply all your lower lashline tones, you'll end up with a muddy ring, regardless of how many colors you use. I absolutely suggest some of the brushes I discuss here, especially the final three. Large blending brushes have no place on the undereye- they can drag color too low, or else blend too thoroughly and destroy your careful placements.


If you've followed this process and still feel like it looks a bit wishy washy or not defined enough- you may choose to stamp a very thin line of waterproof pencil or gel liner along the lower lashline. Because you should already have a near-black/smoky shade in that placement as well, the liner will add weight without looking unblended (do not start blending this- you'll muddy everything up.) Waterproof is pretty essential for the lower lashline I've found- on the upper lid, you can get away with a normal product, but the lower lid is prone to smudging, bleeding, and fading. If you're going to use liner at all, make sure it can go the distance.

As for the waterline, you can leave it bare, apply a nude shade, or with a smoky look, apply a black liner. It's up to you. I've included examples above of all 3. You'll need to experiment with various looks to see what each requires. A filled-in waterline can add a touch of crisp refinement and weight, or it can throw off a delicate look.

The final step is to absolutely load up with lower lashline mascara- although this can look spidery or clunky with no eyeshadow, it adds a beautiful drama and final smoky touch to a lower lashline. I'm always wearing an unholy amount of mascara when I'm complimented on my lower lashes- they're nothing special to begin with, but in this situation you can be liberal with application without an unseemly effect.

Closing Thoughts

Most of my readers enjoy ridiculously long-winded advice (YA CAME TO THE RIGHT PLACE) but if you don't, here's a TL;DR:

  1. Use a lot of primer
  2. Use at least 3 colors in distinct bands
  3. You're not applying enough eyeshadow
  4. Mirror top lid with bottom lid
  5. Use small brushes
  6. Don't forget lashes and possibly liner if the look is heavy enough
Do all eyeshadow looks require lower lashline work? No. But many do. It's up to you to find the right balance with a particular look- and even if you think you don't need lower lashline shadow, you can always add some at the end of the day to see how your face would have looked had you chosen to add it. You should grow your inner catalog of reliable looks, so you gain an instinct for which placements are appropriate in what scenarios! 

A look that's deliberately missing lower lashline shadow

Happy eyeshadowing- if you're not already following me on Instagram, you can find me @faceonomics! Let me know if there are any other technique/general principle posts you'd like to see.


  1. I love your advice to try doing your makeup in the evening to see what it would have looked like! I'm getting back into makeup after a decade or so long hiatus, and my husband keeps laughing at me because before I go to bed I've been putting on MORE makeup before I take my shower (so I can see what something looks like when I have time to mess around and don't have to be anywhere or see anyone if it ends up looking ridiculous!) ;) I don't know if I'd use anything super expensive in that way (since I pretty much wash it off right after putting it on!) but it's been really helpful to be able to try different techniques when it doesn't matter!

    1. I love that you took that advice! It's so much fun to play around with makeup with absolutely no risk. I know what you mean about washing things off too- nowadays I don't worry too much as color products literally last me forever, but I will use a cheap moisturizer and foundation knowing I have to almost immediately remove it for bed!

  2. Nice post and beautiful blending of the eyeshadows.

  3. I've been waiting for this post since you mentioned it on Instagram! I realize now that I've been committing practically every sin of lower-lashline application: not applying primer (why, when I always put it on my lid??), not using transition shades or multiple tools, not being at all creative with the colors I use. I have a feeling I'm going to return to this post again and again for ideas.

    Also, that bright sunset look with the purple lower lashline is so beautiful I want to scream. But I'm writing this in a coffee shop, so I probably won't.

    1. Oh! I just thought of a question. You discourage the "tentative little crisp line directly under the lashes" (guilty as charged). But the looks you feature in this post are bold and smoky. What about a more neutral look that's basically eye contouring, maybe with a bit of shimmer on the lid? Would you forgo lower-lashline shadow entirely for a look like that, or would a smaller amount of shadow work?

    2. Even in the more natural looks, you want to add a lot more eyeshadow- just using softer shades. Instead of using 5 shades, with the darkest being a chocolate/black, you might use 3-4 shades, with the darkest being a caramel brown. And you'd still really want to bring it further down, but the majority of the halo/shadow would be closer to your own skintone! I've included a few shadow looks that may appear ultra bold but on closer inspection aren't- take a look at the one with the orangey red lip + coppery bronze shadow and zoom in to see lower lashline- you'll see there's lots of product there, btu the effect is not smoky at all :)

    3. And THANK you as always for being so supportive and kind. I'm really happy that my guide could point out some "D'OH" easy fixes- it seems like those techniques are not mentioned/discussed and it's part of why it took me so long to figure out the placement.

  4. I absolutely love this post. So comprehensive and easy to understand. I think I'm generally okay at eyeshadow application (above average when compared to the general population, below average when compared to YouTubers and the like), but I must admit by the time I get to my lower lashline I usually just use a single soft brown colour very close to the lashes. I'm always hesitant to go bolder, but you've inspired me to try some new techniques. By the way, your looks are so beautiful - the purple one at the end of the last set of pictures is truly stunning. You make me want to add more colour into my life as well!

    1. Wow, thank you SO MUCH for your comment. I know what it's like to exist in that inbetweeny skilled stage- it's most bothersome when your eye is good/artistic, but you know there's a blind spot in the skillset...but since you're experienced, you can TELL there's something not quite right. I really hope the guide helps you put that into practice and it completes the look for you :D

  5. Love the Wise Man’s Fear reference! The tips themselves are great too, I can’t wait to practice.