Create a Subtle Smoky Eye With Q-Tips Instead of Eyeshadow Brushes

The finished effect is a very soft, beautifully blended, sensual look. Surprise!
Publish date:
June 12, 2015
smoky eye, Benefit, beauty experiments, eyeshadow, eyeliner, Urban Decay, mascara, Q-tip, Mally Beauty

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: one of my all time favorite beauty gurus in the entire world is Lisa Eldridge, celebrity makeup artist extraordinaire and real girl to the max.

While she's most known for her impeccable looks that walk the red carpet or appear on the cover of just about every major women's glossy, it's her YouTube channel that I watch obsessively. She's got a way of explaining makeup application and relating it to everyday situations that feels like you're watching and learning from your BFF. I love you, Lisa Eldridge. <3

Anyway, enough fangirling. The reason I bring up Eldridge is because she often pioneers for the Q-tip, or "cotton bud," which is the primary reason I always have some on hand. While she typically prescribes it for quick touchups or easy blending, I thought it'd be interesting to take things one step further.

That's right: an entire smoky eye created without the assistance of even a single cosmetic brush. Today, I'm going into full-blown Q-tip mode. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but as you'll see, the experiment was a success.

In addition to cotton buds, I'm using the following: Benefit Smokin' Eyes Sexy Eye & Brow Makeover Kit ($36), Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette ($29), Benefit Roller Lash Mascara ($24), and Mally Beauty Everycolor Star Eyeliner in Midnight ($18).

You don't have to use the same exact products as me, obviously. What you need is a matte brown shadow, a charcoal shadow, black pencil liner and mascara that will give you a major kick in the lash.

Here we go!

First, use a matte brown eye shadow that's darker than your skin, but not too extreme. I roughed up my cotton bud a little bit by gently rolling it between my fingers, then dipped it into the shadow.

Apply an even wash across the entire lid, just above the crease. You should see some of the brown when you open your eyes and look straight ahead.

Next, using either the same or a new Q-Tip, dip the Q-Tip into your charcoal eyeshadow. Remove any excess by tapping onto the back of your hand, then start applying to the outer corners and across your crease. Since I was going for more of a daytime look, I stopped at the intensity you see above. You can certainly keep going, though.

To help blend more, I went back in with the matte brown shadow and blended in small circles and broad, windshield wiper strokes across the lid.

Apply a dark, black eyeliner against your lash line and along your lower lash line. Then, dip a fresh cotton bud into a mixture of the matte brown and charcoal eyeshadow and blend out. Keep blending. The more blending, the smokier the eye.

Here's the finished look. Would you ever guess this was done with a Q-Tip? I'm actually impressed with its ability to blend, and the finished effect is a very soft and sensual smoky eye.

By the way, I also used a cotton bud to apply color onto my lips, which is another Eldridge suggestion. Doing so exfoliates your lips and creates a really soft, stain-like effect.

  • Yay or nay?
  • Care to share one of your nonconventional beauty tips?
  • What else do you use Q-tips/cotton buds/swabs for in your beauty routine?