It took me a looong time to find my stride with eye makeup (and TBH, I know I haven’t perfected it quite yet). From trying to figure out where to put that crease color and eventually giving up, to flicking my liner into a pristine cat eye, only to have it smudged minutes later, I really struggled with glamming up my monolids.
For those who aren’t familiar, a monolid is a common feature among East Asians, in which your eyelid lacks a crease, so the eye socket is flushed with the rest of your facial features. As a result, I turned to double eyelid tape to fake that crease I so desired, smeared dark eyeshadow all over my lids (and didn’t blend, oops), and wasted a lot of q-tips in the process.
After years of experimenting, I realized that these famous YouTube tutorials and how-to magazine articles weren’t modeled for my monolids. And if it wasn’t for the few Asian YouTubers I discovered (and their really thorough tutorials), I’d probably still be pretty lost. Luckily, since my middle school days, we have a lot more celebs and influencers with monolids to look to for makeup inspo. But there’s still a lack of info out there for us monolid girls to understand our eye shapes and learn to enhance them.
While I’ve finally learned to embrace (and even love!) my monolids, I’m still constantly experimenting and discovering new techniques and skillsets. To help you do the same, I spoke to some amazing makeup artists who not only work with some of your fave celebs, but also share the sentiment that we should be enjoying and accentuating our features (in this case, our monolids).
1. Prime your lids before anything else
Monolid girls know that our eye shape is prone to eyeshadow fallout, since there’s no crease to catch the excess shadow. And there’s nothing worse than having smudges of eye makeup on your perfectly powdered face.
“Lay something down on your lid first, whether it’s a primer or maybe even a hint of the concealer you’re using,” says Marc Reagan, celebrity makeup artist and director of artistry & education at Hourglass Cosmetics.
If you want to be extra prepared, he suggests adding a light layer of setting powder to prevent that fallout. You can also work on your eyes, before applying any face makeup, so fallout is super easy to clean up.
2. Follow along the shape of your eye
Rather than defining your crease, you want to focus on the shape of your eye along the lash line, says Reagan. This technique will “maintain a lift” in your makeup.
3. Create definition on your lash line
Use a dark gel eyeliner to tightline, or fill in the waterline of your eye. If you don’t want to get that close to your eye, just make sure you’re lining as close to your lash line as possible. “Keep darker and smokier colors tight around the eyes, instead of using a lighter color on the lids,” adds Anton Khachaturian, celebrity makeup artist at Exclusive Artists.
4. Build your eyeliner little by little
Instead of trying to do your eyeliner in one swoop, build your liner a little bit at a time. After tightlining, just continue to enhance your lash line with small strokes.
“Open your eyes and look at yourself straight to determine how far you should bring the definition up,” says Reagan.
5. Bring your liner out, not up
“You don’t want to flick the eyeliner up too much,” says celebrity makeup artist Matin. “That would exaggerate the lift of the eye that naturally happens.”
He recommends keeping your liner thicker in the middle (where the eyeball is), and then bringing the eyeliner more out, instead of up. Unless you’re going for a sharp flick or a cat eye moment, this technique is key for enhancing your monolid.
6. Smudge your liner
Reagan suggests using a combination of that blendable gel pencil and a dark shadow to smoke everything out. As you apply your liner, use a smudge brush to blend and diffuse that eyeliner.
Keep in mind that a smoky eye doesn’t always mean black kohl and dramatic eyes — you can create a natural smoky look using lighter, shimmery colors and soft formulas.
“Blend that liner upward with your brush until it completely disappears,” Matin adds. Make sure to focus the thickness on the middle of the eye, rather than the corners. This will keep a smoky eye modern and fresh.
7. Smoke it out
Don’t worry about creating perfect strokes — it’ll all blend out anyways. Reagan actually recommends creating hazy lines and smoking them out, so that you won’t see any harsh lines or bring out any imperfections in your technique.
8. When it doubt, blend
Since you’re working with a flat plane, you can see every detail on the monolid. “You never want to see any seams in the makeup, especially with a monolid,” says Reagan. Even if your liner and shadow are all blended out, your eye shape will be enhanced just the same as if you had sharp lines, he reassures.
9. Plop some shadow on top of the smoke
Once you’ve created that smoky look with your liner and brush combo, take an eyeshadow color and blend it right onto the edge of the liner. “It’ll create this perfect gradation of color,” Reagan says.
10. Add depth under your eye
If you’re in the mood for some extra drama, Khachaturian’s trick for adding more depth is using the same color you used on your lid, underneath the eye, and blending the top and bottom together.
11. Don’t shy away from shine or glitter
Not in the mood for a smoky eye? Stick to just eyeshadow. Highlight shades bring forward your features and draw attention to your monolids, which is why Matin says some people avoid it. But using shine or glitter can actually make a gorgeous statement and accentuate your unique eye shape.
12. Throw on a glitter shadow
Take advantage of your blank canvas — for when you don’t have much time or you’re just lazy (me everyday), you can keep it simple and throw on a textured, glittery eyeshadow all over your lid. “As you blend out and diffuse the edges, it’ll look like you put on more than one color,” Reagan says.
13. Or wear glitter as eyeliner
Take a fine eyeliner brush and use the glitter to line your eyes, says Reagan. Or, grab a glitter eyeliner to do the same. “It’s not that dark definition [like you would for a smoky eye], but there’s that element of light that frames the eye,” he says.
14. Curl your lashes straight up
Fluttery, luscious eyelashes are especially gorgeous on monolids, as your monolids will act as a background to bring out that contrast between your lashes and eye makeup, says Reagan.
To achieve the look of voluminous lashes, make sure they’re curled straight up, and apply your mascara up (not out).
If you’re into falsies, focus on those central lashes that fall in the middle of your eye — longer lashes in the center and shorter lashes in the corner will really open up your eyes, says Matin.
15. Less is more
Since they’re aren’t too many tutorials and tips out there, Reagan says there’s a common misconception that monolids require more makeup. (For the record, I used to be under this impression, as well.) “But with a monolid, you honestly have to do a lot less,” he says.
Stick to a simpler approach and build the intensity little by little. Remember that since you can see everything on your lid sans crease, less really is more.
16. Avoid trying to create a feature that you don’t have
While it might be tempting to create a fake crease to make those ~classic~ tutorials work, makeup artists agree that the key is to embrace your monolids and find different ways to create depth on your eyelids.