Q: Why Don't Under-Eye Illuminators Cover My Dark Circles?

"I didn't find Touche Éclat gave me enough coverage."
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Michelle Villett
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"I didn't find Touche Éclat gave me enough coverage."
Dark-circles

Today we have a very, VERY important reader question to attend to, because it deals with what is maybe the most important makeup task of all time. (Well, other than having properly shaped brows, that is.)

I'm talking about concealing the dark shadows around your eyes. Newsflash: we all have them. Even if you wouldn't go so far as to say you have actual circles (which materialize in a crescent shape directly underneath your eyes), you're still going to have some discolouration—maybe purplish, maybe greenish—at the inner and outer corners. (And maybe you're lucky and have it on your eyelids too. Yay!) This is why I repeatedly say that if you do nothing else to your face, applying concealer to the inner corners is a MUST. People who say they "don't need" any concealer are clearly either a) 14 years old or b) lying to themselves.

BUT. Makeup companies have been confusing people for some time now with products like YSL's famous Touche Éclat. Such as reader Roxy, who left this very excellent question in the comments the other day:

"I have to say that I don't know too much about using illuminators under the eye. I've had the YSL counter lady try the Touche Éclat on me once, and I didn't find that it gave me enough coverage. Would the Éstee Lauder product be the same way? Perhaps it's me that needs to get used to having dark circles 'illuminated' instead of covered up by matte concealer?"

Boy, do I have lots to say on this topic.

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First of all, a big fat NON. Roxy, you do not need to get used to having your dark circles "illuminated" instead of covered up.

The biggest misconception about this new-ish category of under-eye illuminators is that you're supposed to use them instead of concealer. I know beauty brands often bill them as such, but frankly, it's misleading and downright irresponsible. Even though many of them say they are multi-purpose—eg. concealing, brightening, illuminating, yada, yada, yada—I have found that they rarely deliver on the concealment front.

However, if you take them at face value and use them not alone but IN ADDITION TO a concealer, then everyone can exist peacefully and live happily ever after.

Here's my step-by-step for bright, wide-awake, "I just slept for nine hours" eyes:

1. Go buy a concealer that is an exact match to your facial skin tone. I can't stress the "exact" part enough. This may mean that you need a darker one in the summer and a lighter one in the winter. But PLEASE, exercise caution because if you go too light, you risk achieving a sort of reverse raccoon eyes look:

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Or, you know, a reverse panda. Whichever.

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Also make sure the concealer is neither too thick nor too thin. Too thick and it'll look all cakey and tug too much (read: cause wrinkles) in that delicate area when you're trying to blend. Too thin and it won't do shiz for covering up.

I am partial to creamy concealers that come in pots, such as Nvey Eco Organic Erase (getting difficult to find these days though), TheBalm TimeBalm Concealer, Benefit Erase Paste, Benefit Boi-ing and CoverGirl and Olay Simply Ageless Concealer.

2. Use a brush and/or your fingers to apply it wherever you have darkness, all the way around the eye. I usually start with my eyelids, because since I started using Latisse (more on that soon!), I've got some not-so-pretty purple discolouration. (That's one of the side effects, but I can live with it.) I use my ring finger to gently pat the concealer on, which helps push it into the skin so that it lasts longer. Many concealers (such as Nvey's) double as eye makeup primers anyway, or you could use something like this dual concealer/primer from Pandora's Makeup Box.

Once I'm done the lids, I tackle any darkness directly under the eyes (again, usually with fingers), and then use my concealer brush to paint the inner and outer corners. ELLE had a great tip, via vlogger Kandee Johnson, about painting the under-eye area in an upside-down triangle. She starts talking about it at 1:59:

I like this advice, but all I will say is to be very, very careful that you don't overdo it and end up looking like Kim Kardashian:

Kim-Kardashian-Golden-Globes-2011-after-party

I just feel like her under-eye area looks very unnatural and not like the rest of her skin.

3. Set it all with HD powder.Just a light dusting is all you need, with a domed eyeshadow brush, of course—this will set the concealer and prevent it from settling into any creases. And because HD powder is so darned SMART (finely milled pigments etc.), don't worry about it exaggerating your wrinkles. It won't.

4. Now it's FINALLY time to apply your illuminator. This will be a clickity, pen-style thing, like the aforementioned Touche Éclat or perhaps one from Elizabeth Arden or Guerlain or the 1,000 other brands that now manufacture then. But you don't want to just go over the under-eye area willy nilly. If you didn't bother with the triangle thing when you applied your concealer (which is fine if you don't have mega-circles), here is where it comes into play.

YSL-Touche-Eclat

Instead of drawing a crescent shape underneath the eyes—which I think is what most of us are inclined to do when wielding an illuminating pen—you're going to want to draw the inverted triangle, and then blend, blend, blend.

Why do this? Because otherwise, you're back up at raccoon- or panda-eye territory. Since the under-eye area is a hollow, if you stop with the highlighting at the exact spot where your cheekbone also starts to jut out, then you're actually drawing more attention there, and not in a good way. The cut-off point is too obvious. By bringing the tip of the triangle down, you're creating a more seamless, blended look that is infinitely more natural yet, of course, flawless.

An alternative technique is sort of a half triangle focused on the outer edges. This is how I use the Estee Lauder Idealist Cooling Eye Illuminator, due to the shape of its applicator. You would focus the pen just on the outer half of your under-eye area, and create a diagonal line from the top of your cheekbone up to the outer corner of the eye, and then fill it in. Make sense?

Tell me:

Were you using illuminators as concealers? (How's that workin' for ya?)
Or did you already separate your concealing from your illuminating? What's your technique?
What are your favourite eye-area concealing and/or illuminating prodz?