How to Wear Bright Makeup

Anne Vickman takes this runway trend for a spin.

Pretty! But how?!

Bright colors are back this season — and I’m definitely digging the electric hues I’m seeing in store windows all over town. So when several new eyeshadows from Make Up For Ever landed on my desk in a variety of searing shades (bright blue, yellow, pink, and orange), I couldn’t help but wonder: how the hell do you actually wear these colors? Throwing on a yellow shirt is one thing, but wearing a matching eyeshadow, as effortless as it looks in high fashion, might give me an unintended jaundiced look.

I went to local makeup master Dani Wagener for a hands-on session to find out the best strategy for wearing bright makeup. Wagener’s mantra? “Brights and neons will never be more than just fun accent colors, she says, “so use them as such.” The easiest way to add color, she explains, is by adding a pop on one feature — like eyes or lips, but not both — and to make sure the rest of your makeup is balanced. That means evening out your skin tone and choosing a neutral lip color.

On me, Wagener opted to use Aqua Cream Eyeshadow in intense blue based on my coloring. She applied a neutral base all over the lid before applying the shadow as a thick liner, then added a bronze eyeshadow on my lids and lots of black eyeliner and mascara for contrast. The results were great: a pop of color that would brighten any one of my many black-and-gray ensembles.

But what about that bright yellow shadow? How on earth does one wear that? I tapped Make Up For Ever’s managing educator Jessie Powers for her tips:

  1. This color looks particularly good on deeper skin tones and can be used as a highlight color on the lid or brow bone. It will be vibrant but more natural looking. For the lightest and most natural look, apply it with a soft fluffy brush, which will deposit the least amount of eye shadow and result in a soft wash of color.
  2. Try applying it boldly on the lid and paired with a deep crease color in a plum or rust tone. The yellow will make the lid pop and the crease color will soften the edges, making it very wearable. The overall effect will be striking but classic.
  3. For a bold runway look, apply to the inner corner of the eye and blend toward the brow. Try pairing it with a neutral, taupe crease color and bold, black liquid liner. The effect will be bright and edgy.

While wearing these shades requires more forethought than typical, neutral shades, I agree with Wagener: “If you enjoy it, why not?”

Blue-yaa! Wagener's handiwork.

(All photos by Anne Vickman/Boston Magazine)