Beauty Confessionals: After years of trying, I still can’t do a proper smoky eye

Humble-brag alert: there are many makeup skills I’m pretty proud to have. I can paint on a bold lip in under a minute. I know the difference between eau de parfum and an eau de toilette. With the help of a Q-tip or two (hey, I’m not perfect), I can even craft a cat eye that Alexa Chung would be proud of. One skill, though, that has always eluded me is the smoky eye. Like whistling or rolling my tongue, it’s one of those gifts I just wasn’t born with. I’ve sat through hours of YouTube tutorials and invested in more than my fair share of liner, all to no avail.

Every single one of my attempts to get that coveted smolder still results in me looking less like Carine Roitfeld and a lot more like Taylor Momsen. The worst part? As both a beauty writer and a former competitive dancer, there’s really no excuse for what can only be described as an utter lack of hand-eye coordination.

Let me explain: I spent a good chunk of my childhood in false eyelashes and pounds of glitter. By the time I was 10, being able to do a full face of makeup backstage became a necessary skill. I could apply rhinestones, sparkly liner, and colourful shadow with ease. This meant that by the time most girls were just learning their way around a mascara wand, all those hours spent looking like a mini Kardashian meant I was more than happy to go bare-faced at school.

When it came to figuring out real-world makeup, I seriously missed the boat. The only look I had bothered to learn how to pull off was more suitable for a night club than a classroom. Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve picked up more than a few basic beauty tricks. Unfortunately, the smoky eye still isn’t one of them. One ill-advised attempt on New Year’s Eve in 2010 left me looking like I’d been in brawl by the end of the evening, shiners and all. That was when I really threw in the towel. Not unlike red lipstick or great skin, though, the smoky eye isn’t a look that will disappear anytime soon.

With smoky eyes popping up everywhere on the runways the past few seasons, my beauty FOMO is pushing me to give it another shot. I know better now than to try my luck with advanced-level shadow palettes, so I’m heading into uncharted makeup territory with foolproof shadow crayons like Marc Jacobs’ Twinkle Pop Eye Stick ($35, and Rimmel’s Scandaleyes Shadow Stick ($7, at drugstores). I’m starting small—just touch of liner around the outer corners of my eyes plus a bit of artful smudging, just as all those tutorials (and my more smoky eye-savvy friends) have instructed me. One day I might get the hang of using an actual makeup brush, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.

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