Are you ever entranced by electric eye shadow palettes, only to sigh and back away? Bright makeup can sometimes seem like candy—so tempting, but you just don’t need it. A safe set of neutrals might be way less fun, but it’s also way more practical. After all, outside of 80s-themed parties, where are you actually going to wear that turquoise shadow?
Does this sound like you? You’re not alone!
Some people are totally comfortable going over the top in their everyday looks, but many of us aren’t. But just because you tend to shy away from color doesn’t mean you have to ditch it altogether! Adding subtle touches of color to your makeup can help you make a statement without feeling like a clown.
Read on for our top 6 tips on how to use those vibrant shades for more than just editorial shoots and avant-garde creations!
1. One color, one eye feature
Appropriately enough, the magic number for our first tip is… one! This is the absolute simplest rule to follow if you’re worried about your look getting too wild.
When we say feature, think small. Pick one part of your eye: upper lashline, lower lashline, inner lid, outer lid… you get the picture. Now pick your color, and apply it to only that part of the eye.
It’s easiest to start with lighter colors, but a darker color will definitely be dramatic. If that’s the look you’re going for, start out close to the lashline to keep it from getting overpowering.
Pair your color with neutrals to help tone it down. There—you’ll add color to your makeup, but it’ll be subtle enough for anyone who’s color-shy.
2. Colored mascara
Despite its tendency to get associated with the tacky, you actually can class up colored mascara. The trick, like with any kind of makeup, is knowing how to wear it. We’ve picked out three different ways to experiment with colored mascara, from the cautious to the bold:
- Just the tips. Apply your black mascara as usual and let it dry. Then apply your colored mascara to the tips of your lashes for just a hint of color.
- Bottom lash. Stick with black mascara for your top lashes, but brighten up the look by coating your bottom lashes in color.
- The real deal. Go for colored mascara on both sets of lashes. You’ll probably need a few coats to get the color to really pop.
Resist the temptation to match your shadow or liner to your mascara—we promise, it won’t look as cool as you think. Instead, keep the rest of your eye bare, or use just a bit of black or grey liner. As for the rest of your face, keep it clean and simple—colored lashes are a statement enough on their own.
3. Keep it classic
And what’s more classic than red lipstick? There’s a reason this vintage look is still going strong: a) it’s deceptively easy to pull off, and b) it’s a knockout!
The key to rocking a rosy red pout is in what you do with the rest of your face. Just like colored mascara, red lipstick is a statement enough on its own. If a red pout is already a stretch for you in terms of color, make sure you don’t get too heavy-handed with the eyes—and especially not with the blush. Stick with subtle tones that will enhance your skin’s natural glow.
And okay, we’ll admit that scarlet lips aren’t exactly subtle. If you’re still a little intimidated, add color to your makeup with a shade that’s a little more muted (think berry shades or lip stains with less pigment).
There are a million different ways to wear red lipstick, so experiment! Find a shade you love and take it for a test-run.
4. Muted liner
A colorful liner is an easy way to brighten up a neutral look—but even that might be a little too daring for some. Maybe you’re trying to ease into colored liner, or maybe you’ve got a crazy new color you just don’t know how to wear; either way, we’ve got an easy fix!
Tone down your colored liner by pairing it with black. You’ve got three options:
- Color over black: Apply your black liner as usual, then trace the colored liner over it. Smudge them gently together, and you’ll end up with an almost-black liner that gives you a deeper, richer shade of color.
- Color under black: Same as above, but the color goes on first. With your black liner on top, you’ll get little peaks of color without anything too striking.
- Color above black: Tracing a thin line of color above your favorite black liner lets you add a hint of color to your everyday look.
Even if you’re ready to go for something brighter, balancing your color out with a little black is still a handy trick for keeping things grounded.
5. Peach and pink
Enough with the eyes—it’s time to show the rest of your face a little love. Eyes or lips might be the main event for most vibrant looks, but they’re not the only place you can add a little color. Why not add color to your makeup by changing up your blush routine?
Most of the beauty info on blush is either a warning to keep it light or a suggestion to forgo it altogether, but there’s no reason you can’t build your look around a pretty peach or bright pink blush. Plus, if your face is experiencing a little winter wash-out, there’s nothing better than a strong pink hue for giving your skin a healthy-looking glow.
To avoid the dreaded clown look, skip the apples of your cheeks and apply it higher up on your cheekbone. And, like many of our other top picks for subtle color, a bright blush looks best when it’s the focal point on the face: natural skin and a little mascara is all you need to finish off the look.
6. Start with the nails
Still not sold? The simplest way to start bringing some subtle color to your makeup is to experiment with brighter shades of polish for your fingers and toes.
While you might be worrying over whether a jewel-toned liner or punchy lipstick actually compliments your skin tone, it’s a lot easier to let loose with polish. Your hands tend to get less attention than your face, and because your hands are otherwise a makeup-free zone you don’t have to worry about going overboard.
Just keep your nails short, clean, and shaped, and prepare to get wild. Neon? Glitter? Go for it! Your nails are the perfect place to wear that shade you might be a little hesitant about on your eyes.
Now you’re ready to add color to your makeup—but what colors should you go for? Check out our free Color Cheat Sheet infographic for a quick refresher on color theory!