The Black Smokey Eye is Trending: We Asked Two MUAs For Their Best Tips

Getty: Victor Virgile,Daniele Venturelli, Randy Brooke, Axelle Bauer-Griffin Instagram: @altuzurra

First Julia Fox, then the runways of New York, Milan and London – this season’s most intimidating beauty trend was the black smokey eye.

In conversation with Vogue, Dick Page described looks at Altazurra as “melted and inky” while Fara Homidi used words like “nocturnal” and “mashed in” to capture the grunge beauty at Eckhaus Latta.

While the black smokey eye isn’t approachable, it can be a quick way to add some edge to an otherwise simple look. We chatted to Australian makeup artists Sally Axford and Katie Moore to get their tips on the trend.

PS: Why has the black smokey eye taken off?

Sally Axford: I definitely think it’s part of the Y2K movement swinging back around. It’s interesting to me as it comes at the same time as super-thin brows – and those started in the ’30s which is also when sooty, smudgy eyes appeared. They were revived in the ’90s when Kevyn Aucoin wanted everyone to look like 30s movie star Carole Lombard and tweezed Kate Moss’ eyebrows to almost nothing. Now I just see it as a 1930s look – it’s a real mash-up.

Kate Moss and Kevyn Aucoin popularised thin brows and smokey eyes in the '90s
Image credit: Getty/Bertrand Rindoff Petroff

PS: When would you break this look out? What kind of outfit does it compliment?

Katie Moore: A smokey eye will elevate a really classic look – think simple outfits like a t-shirt and blazer with jeans. It adds edge without looking like you’re trying too hard.

Sally Axford: “I love a smokey eye when you need a boost of confidence – or want to break out a new persona. I feel like I’m wearing a mask with a true smokey eye. In terms of styling, I actually love a summer smokey eye. Wear it with a smattering of freckles and a bohemian dress to keep it from going too dominatrix.”

For a greasy, editorial smokey eye – what are your tips for longevity?

SA: You either embrace creasing or you don’t! I love a creased look in itself – the lashline stays super dark, while the lid becomes a sheer, glossy highlight. However, if you don’t want to touch up go for a dark shadow with a micro-glitter. The Hourglass Scattered Light eyeshadows ($45.00) are great. Press them lightly onto the lid – a micro-shimmer can look wet without actually being wet.

Are there any tips and tricks for application?

KM: Using a black eyeshadow stick will help beginners to avoid fallout. The Nudestix Magnetic Matte Eyeshadow in Black ($40.00) is really easy to use. Start by drawing along the lash line and use your finger to blend the product outwards for a smudged, lived-in look. If you want a more defined cat eye a la Julia Fox, use a Q-tip dipped in primer to sharpen your lines.

If you want to create more depth by setting with a powder shadow – or only have powders to work with, do your eye makeup first. That way you can brush away any fallout before applying your base. Also, keep it black, black, black! Don’t add silver anywhere.

SA: Don’t follow the shape of your eye! You’ll end up with a sideways teardrop and it will make your eye look smaller. Instead, try and flatten out the bottom of your eye and drag the shape out from there. It will give you a stronger, more editorial look. You’ll know what I mean if you look at any Tom Ford campaign.

Secondly, use the right brushes. Rae Morris has the best out there. Use a small, dense brush to place colour, and looser brushes to blend. Alternating between those will give you a seamless smokey look. Another tip for blending which is so important when using black – set your brow bone with a good matte loose face powder before you go in with a dark shadow, this gives the shadow something to blend in to. If you make a mistake you can then use the same powder to blend out (like an eraser!)

I tend to reach for a dark brown or black gel pot eyeliner. Bobbi Brown and M.A.C both do great ones. Then, I make sure I completely cover the waterline and in between the lashes. You don’t want to see the skin at all around the lashline of a smokey eye. I go in with a little matte or dark brown powder shadow to really get the required depth at the lash line. Then you can go lighter on the lid so it’s less shocking. Remember, a smokey eye will look messy if there is no change in depth so go darker than you think!

PS: How should you do the rest of your makeup when rocking a black smokey eye?

KM: To ensure your smokey eye looks expensive, keep your complexion fresh. Use minimal base makeup and powder just in the t-zone and around the mouth. Then use subtle cream products to highlight.

SA: Make sure you don’t have any redness showing by spot concealing, but don’t go overboard with your coverage. The whole thing will look heavy. Likewise, do your brows lightly AFTER the eyes – you’ll find you won’t have to do as much to them as it starts to look costume-y if they’re too filled in. Fresh, sensual skin with minimal product will make a smokey eye look sexy – which is what we want!