How To Wear Pastel Eyeshadow Like A Pro

Grab your mint green and lilac shades.

How to recreate four pastel eyeshadow looks, according to a celebrity makeup artist.
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There is a reason neutral eyeshadow looks reigned supreme for so long — they’re subtle and less intimidating. But the ‘60s and the 2000s are back in the makeup world. While those may seem like opposing decades, they do share a common beauty thread: lots of color. This summer, eye makeup is bold and colorful, sure — but it’s easier to wear than you might think. To embrace the art of soft shades, Bustle spoke with a top makeup artist for the intel on how to recreate four different (and equally chic) pastel eyeshadow looks.

Celebrity makeup artist and Catrice ambassador Robert Sesnek tells Bustle he’s seeing a definite revival of color in beauty. “Before, makeup was very neutral with dull taupes and browns being everyone’s go-to shades,” he says. The changing tide, he explains, is likely a combination of everyone coming out of their shell of social isolation where maybe they didn’t wear makeup at all. And, besides that, he points to the rise of beauty on TikTok and social media, both of which have been democratizing formerly complicated techniques.

The thing about pastels (versus more vibrant pigments) is they’re more approachable — whether you’re going out or have a day of Zoom meetings lined up. Plus, how can you resist rocking a mint green or lavender eye? For the low-down on how to wear four different pastel eyeshadow looks, you’ll just need your go-to shades and some eyeliner. Read on to glam up.

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1. Pastel Smoky Eye

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Smoky eyeshadow looks are an easy way to dip your toe into the pool of eye makeup experimentation. The blended and soft nature of the application means you don’t have to be precise or have the steady hands of a surgeon. Opting for a pastel, as opposed to the traditional charcoal hues, is an unexpected play on the look.

Sesnek says to begin by covering the eyelids with a concealer or eyeshadow primer so the color is much more vibrant and effective. “Once that has set, take your pastel eyeshadow and start packing it in at the upper lash line until you’ve reached your desired intensity,” he explains. Once you’ve reached your core intensity at the lash line, blend the eyeshadow out and up to create a gradient effect. If you really want to round out the look, he advises building color on the lower lash line as well. And because this look is buildable, you can make it as soft or bold as you’d like.

2. Color Blocking

Sometimes it’s hard to pick one color — and that’s the perfect time to try out pastel color-blocking eye makeup. “It’s very fun and has an editorial quality to the look,” Sesnek says. And, since one of the benefits of using pastels is being able to control the opacity, you’re in charge of how bold you go with the look.

Though the menage of color seems daunting, the process starts out slow. “Start by having an idea of the shapes you want to create,” says Sesnek. Once you have a mental image, he advises using white eyeliner to draw and map out the different blocks of color. This accomplishes two things: “First, I have a perfect shape and essentially I’m just filling in/layering with a pastel eyeshadow,” he says. “[And] it creates a perfect base for the eyeshadow to be even more vibrant and long-lasting.” Once you’ve filled in the shapes with your shadows you can leave the colors blurred and blended together. Or, if you’re a makeup pro, Sesnek advises taking a Q-tip and cleaning up the outline and edges of the shapes.

3. Cut Crease With Eyeliner

The cut crease with eyeliner is a tried and true classic — just look at Audrey Hepburn. “This look always gives a ‘60s vibe but has a modern quality,” Sesnek says.

Begin by painting your eyelids in whatever pastel shade you like. Make sure you apply it at least slightly above the crease. “Then, take another deeper pastel shade in the same family,” Sesnek says, or you can go bold with a different shade of pastel for a contrasting look. Use this second shade to emphasize the crease of your eye and create dimension. To finish, use a black eyeliner on the lash line.

4. Pastel Eyeliner

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Using a pastel eyeliner is one of the easier and more versatile styles to master. “This eyeliner look can be as over the top and exaggerated or as simple as you please,” Sesnek says.

“I highly recommend mapping out your eyeliner with a white pencil first — regardless of which color you are using,” he tells Bustle. Then create your look with the white pencil, whether it be a cat-eye, negative space, a basic line, or whatever you want. “Build the eyeliner to your desired shape, and with a damp brush apply pastel eyeshadow until you’ve reached the shape and color intensity you’re looking for,” says Sesnek.

Whenever you’re creating a look that requires sharp edges or precision, keep Q-tips on hand. If you make a mistake, no worries — Sesnek suggests dipping a Q-tip in concealer or foundation to cover up the out-of-place spot for a seamless finish.