Eyeshadow for Deep Set Eyes: The Most Important Thing You Can Do

Girl, I am tired. Tired of seeing tutorials for deep set eyes that are just the exact same tutorials you’d see for any other eye type. Tired of seeing examples on models that don’t actually have deep set eyes.

Like, of course that suggested traditional smoky eye slaps on this girl—she doesn’t look anything like me.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I have deep set eyes. And I have lived the struggle of looking for help and finding nothing from people who have actually come from the deep set trenches.

Now I’m here to be that help I couldn’t find.

I’ve got a whole list of dos and don’ts here that will help you along your journey, but I don’t want to hold back on the one biggest thing you should do if you have deep set eyes. Let’s get right to it.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

There’s one main place where the technique for regular eyes and deep set eyes should diverge, and it’s the most important thing to know.

If you have deep set eyes, don’t darken your crease, and don’t use dark shadow on the whole lid. It will make your eyes look sunken.

Generally, good technique with deep set eyes means being very careful with how you use eyeshadow that’s darker than your skintone.

Why don’t we discuss this in a little more detail?

DON’T Darken Your Crease

Every eyeshadow tutorial on earth showcases a dark color in the crease. You’ve seen it. Sometimes, even the start of a tutorial is a transition color that’s a deep brown or a smoky gray.

Don’t do it, smart lady or gent.

These parts of tutorials are meant to give your eyes dimension. It’s like contouring for the eyes. This enhances a look for folks without deep set eyes. But we deep set folks already have this dimension that others are trying to achieve, and we have it naturally.

If you have deep set eyes and you darken your already-dark crease, it will just make your eyes look more sunken. Don’t overplay your hand.

DON’T Use Dark Eyeshadow All Over the Lid

This is the thing that makes me most sad, but it’s simply true: dark shadow all over the lid just doesn’t flatter a person with deep set eyes.

If your eyes are like mine, they’re already set back, and darkness makes things look set back even more. I joke that I have skeleton face when I wear dark eyeshadow—it makes me look like a skull. And when you darken your mobile lid, well…

Skeleton in bridal wear
Me with a smoky eye. Source: @bellava on Unsplash.

For me, this includes tons of shades that just won’t work on the whole lid—warm browns, smoky purples, dark reds, most grays…the list, like my sobbing, goes on.

Here’s an attempt at a brown all over the lid. It looks great with my eye color, but it makes my eyes look sunken, especially from afar (and on Zoom calls).

Me with dark eyeshadow, eyes looking set back more
Slightly skeletony.

Luckily, there are a lot of things you can try if you have deep set eyes that might not work as well for others.

DO Try One-Shadow Looks

We deep set folks are uniquely qualified to wear one-shadow looks, since our eyes naturally contour and give off the dimension that other folks use color to create. One-shadow shimmer looks especially are on the table, since the brightness of the shimmer brings your deep set eyes forward (see the next tip).

DO Use Brightness to Bring Things Forward

Next thing: feel free to load on the brightness!

This means get your shimmer on. The reflection of light caused by shimmer particles in your eyeshadow will bring forward your eye. Throw it in the crease, too—we’re the exception to the rule that you should only use mattes in the crease.

Here’s me wearing a darker color than I might normally, which I can better pull off because it’s a shimmer.

Me with a taupe shimmer on the eyelids

But by brightness, we’re not just talking shine and shimmer here; we’re also talking also bright colors. Since the deepness of our sockets tend to make toned-down colors look muddier, try bright peaches or pinks instead. They’ll naturally be muted by the shadows cast by our eye shape. If you’re comfortable with blues, purples, and greens, go for those, too—just make sure they’re not too dark. A good place to start with these are Colourpop’s lighter monochromatic palettes, like the On Cloud Blue, Lilac You a Lot, and Mint to Be

I adore pastels for this. (My favorite palette is a pastel one, and it’s because the brightness looks so good on my deep set eyes.)

DO Use Dark Shadow as Liner or in Your Outer Corner

You don’t have to write off that black shadow all together!

There’s nothing wrong with deepening the outer corner of your lid, if you have deep set eyes. As long as the majority of your lid look is light, you’ll be in good shape. And halo eyes (where you darken the inner and outer corner and use a bright shimmer in the middle of the lid) are game on for you if you’re judicious in your use of dark shadow.

Plus, I find that deep set eyes take especially well to dark shadows as liner, especially if you leave the rest of your eyelid the same color as your natural skin. Here’s a look I found to be especially flattering, and I used a ton of black eyeshadow to create it.

Eyeshadow look with lots of black shadow around the eye and no shadow anywhere else

DO Wear Lots of Mascara

Just like brightness, lashes bring our eyes forward. The more intense you can make your natural lashes, the better. Deep set eyes look great with skin-colored or lighter-than-skin-colored shadow all over and tons of mascara. Try curling them for extra oomph.

Wrapping Up

If you’re looking for a flattering look, your deep set eyes preclude you from using eyeshadow in traditional ways. But there are a ton of ways to bring your eyes forward instead of sinking them back. Just remember

  • You don’t want to deepen your already-deep crease
  • You don’t want to use dark shadow all over the lid

Sure, this is limiting. But I’ve found that you have a lot of room for play inside these constraints!