Trying out editorial makeup is intimidating. High-fashion looks require a ton of technical skill—plus, they can be simply “too much” for day-to-day life.
Enter the glossy eye. It’s a look that’s just the right amount of “out there” while still looking super pretty and wearable. The best part? It’s very much achievable at home. All you need are the right products (and some sneaky application tips) to ensure you don’t end up in a literal (or figurative) mess.
One caveat before we begin: a glossy eye is, by nature, a mutable look. This means it’ll never look as perfect as it does upon application. Creasing, smudging, and smearing are all par for the course with this one. Accept this as part of the fun, or end up disappointed later. Okay, let’s begin.
A clear gloss on bare lids is a surprisingly pretty take on a no-makeup look. If you want to up your usual BB-cream-and-brow-gel combo, a smear of Vaseline across the lids will help them look juicy and hydrated. Plus, it’ll catch the light in a subtle yet undeniably cute way! Vaseline isn’t sticky, but it can feel a little greasy if you over-apply, so keep it light. This won’t give you the most high-shine finish, but it’s a great option for beginners.
If you want a glass-like finish, you’ll want a bonafide gloss. Two great ones are the Rouge Bunny Rouge Eye Gloss and the Maybelline Shine Shot Lip Topcoat in “Clear Vinyl.” The former is specifically designed for eyes, so it has a slightly softer, less grippy texture. The Maybelline is undeniably sticky, so bear that in mind—but it’s also a total bargain and offers an unbelievably reflective finish.
A great option if you want to elevate your glossy eye is the Milk Makeup Eye Vinyl. These glosses are lightly tinted, which gives a subtle wash of color along with a stunning shine. “Bridge,” a nude pink, is one of the prettiest everyday shadows I’ve ever seen, but “Tunnel,” a deep charcoal, gives a fun and dramatic take on a smokey eye.
Feeling bougie? The Kevyn Aucoin Exotique Diamond Eye Gloss is incredible—with a price tag to match. It has a similar texture to Vaseline—more slippery and emollient than thick and sticky. Along with the glossiness of the product’s base, it’s also jam-packed with iridescent white glitter, meaning you can double up on shine.
For a shinier, dewier glossy look, I’d recommend using a highlighter instead. Not a powder, though—we still want those elements of hydration and moisture. The Glossier Haloscopes are great for this. “Quartz” gives a soft, champagne-y dew, while “Moonstone” has more iridescent blue and purple tones for an alien-esque eye.
The Nudestix Nudies All Over Face Color Glow in “Illuminaughty” is like the Haloscope on steroids. It’s like a super shiny balm filled with iridescent sheen. For a more affordable option, the ELF Beautifully Bare Highlighting Stick is also incredible. The shade “Fresh Morning Dew” is that elusive clear highlight shade, offering a natural shine. If you want to look exceptionally well-moisturized and rested, a dab of this on your eyelids will do the trick.
It’s frowned upon in the glossy eye community, but I for one am not opposed to applying a dab of lip gloss on the lids. To avoid potential issues, though, ensure you go for a formula that doesn’t have any plumping properties (ouch) and only apply a tiny bit. My favorite lip-to-eye gloss is the Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb in “Fenty Glow.” Apply to your lips, too, for an easy monochromatic look.
To elevate your glossy eye, you might want to opt for a shade with some color. The Surratt Lid Lacquers are amazing for this. They give a buildable wash of color along with a high-shine finish that’s surprisingly long-wearing. The shade “Komuji” is a perfect everyday bronze, but “Kira Kira,” a holographic white, is the real star of the show.
For a lighter wash of color, the Jillian Dempsey Lid Tints are too pretty for words. My favorite is “Lilac,” which does what it says on the tin, but “Bronze,” “Smoke,” and “Dew” are all workhorses in my makeup collection.
My final recommendations are for those who want the glossy effect but (understandably) can’t bear the idea of a wet eyelid. Going for a super-fine microglitter can provide a surprisingly similar effect, catching the light just so and avoiding any sort of sticky feeling.
The MAC Dazzleshadow Liquid in “Not Afraid To Sparkle” and the Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadow in “Perlina” are both perfect for this. These liquid formulas both dry, leaving only a sheer wash of iridescent glitter. When you turn your head, your eyelids will appear to sparkle as though bathed in diamonds—or, in this case, covered in gloss.
I’ve also managed to find two powder shadows that look surprisingly wet when applied correctly. The Urban Decay Moondust Shadow in “Cosmic” (a wet-look white) and “Space Cowboy” (a beige packed with glitter), smeared on with fingers, give a shockingly glossy effect. If you want a shiny look that’ll last, these are your best bet—and they can even be used as topcoats over other shades.
Ameerah de Chabert