Makeup Monday: All About Eyes

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following:


Eye makeup has been the really steep learning curve for me, and if I were to write about all the different products I’ve used over the past two years, trying to figure out how to update my look from the techniques that worked once but in middle age work no longer, I’d have to write ten blog posts at least. So, I’m going to abide by Professor Is In rules of writing, skip the “narcissistic narrative of personal discovery” and stick entirely to what I use now, and why.

The single biggest issue for middle-aged eyes (for me at least) is droopy eyelids (otherwise known as hooded eyes).  The outcome of droopy eyelids is that your eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc. transfers onto your upper lid, and you end up with sad stripes in some places and blank spots in others… and, it’s just really annoying.

So of course, what one needs is a good eyeshadow primer. Dutifully, I tried all the major brands – Urban Decay, Smashbox, Too Faced.  None of them worked for me. I can see they’re  probably good. They just not good enough for truly hooded eyes. Finally, in desperation I turned to the 50+ makeup youtuber world (Angie at HotandFlashy is my favorite), and discovered that the go-to “primer” of choice in this demographic is the Mac Pro Longwear PaintPot. And I tried it and indeed, it worked. Once dry, that stuff holds your shadow and liner in place like nobody’s business, even when there’s a droopy eyelid resting on the lashline. I use the “Painterly” shade, which I found for just $12 at Nordstrom Rack–score!

For eyeshadow, I use the Tarte Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Palette, and I do my eye makeup similar to the diagram below.  On the Tartelette palette, I use Super Mom (lol) as the first all-over shade, up to my brow, Natural Beauty as the main shadow along the crease and in a thin line under the eye, and Multi Tasker as the dark accent shade on the outer corner.  If I want more intensity, I switch to Power Player for the main shadow.  These mauve shades work well with my hazel eyes.

For the bright highlighting that you see on the inner upper and lower eye in the diagram, I switch away from the matte shadows, and use Nars Velvet Shadow Stick in Goddess, a sort of matte-shimmer cream/peach shade.  I use this because all-matte can be a bit dull on older skin that is already a bit flat, and the subtle shimmer adds some campus-appropriate shine and pop without going into a Kat Von D or Wet N’ Wild metallic sparkle. I apply this with a micro-brush since the crayon shape would never reach into those corners.

Now once the shadow is on, the real point of contention arrives, which is: eyeliner. I’ve gone through so many eyeliners, it’s really just tragic.  I’ve used Revlon Colorstay (which is a great product line overall), Mac Pro Longwear, Mac PenUltimate, Urban Decay 24/7…. the list goes on. As you may recall from previous posts, my absolute non-negotiable requirement for all makeup is: extreme durability. It has to last through a 12+ hour day on a campus, as well as a midsummer dance class. None of the products above delivered, or delivered without leaving me red-eyed and sniffling from my extreme sensitivites.

But after years of searching, I finally found one that did:  Eyeko Sport Waterproof Eyeliner.  Eyeko Sport has a cult following, and yes, it does what it says. Both the mascara (which I’ll mention below) and the eyeliner go on, and they. do. not. come. off.  In fact, you have to be careful how you apply! Because any mistake you make, no matter how small, will be sitting there all day.  In the end, after weeks of frustrating smears and smudges, I finally started applying it with a small detail brush. That worked great.

However, having just sung the praises of the Eyeko Sport Eyeliner, I do have to tell you that I have recently switched over from a pencil liner to applying the charcoal-black Fashionista powder shade from my Tartelette eyeshadow palette as a liner, with a small angled brush.  The fact is, it’s almost impossible to carry off a bold black eyeliner look when you’re dealing with middle-aged eye wrinkles. 🙁  The powder, being much more blendable, is a softer and better look on older eyes, imo – at least for me with my priority of a relatively natural and unobtrusive makeup look.

Now we reach mascara: the truly heartrending struggle of my makeup life. There are so many hundreds of high-impact mascaras, but in the end they all smudge, or clump, or run, or if they don’t do any of those–then I’m allergic to them and I’m crying rivers of inky black tears while I’m walking out to the car. But after years of searching, I finally found two precious items, that I love dearly: No.7 StayPerfect Long Lasting Volume Mascara, and Eyeko Sport Waterproof Mascara.

The No. 7 is my go-to item for 12+ hour travel days or long days of talks. Coming in at about $10, it performs better than fancy designer brands that cost 3 or 4 times as much. It uses tubular technology, meaning that each lash is enveloped in a tube-shaped film that gives this smooth, elongated, flexible look with absolutely no clumps. And it stays… and stays, and stays. Until I wash it off with… just warm water! Amazing, right? There are lots of other brands that make a tubular mascara option, but I haven’t tried them, because I don’t need to. No.7 is the best, especially because it uses a small molded plastic/rubber wand that in contrast to stupid bushy brushes, allows for precision application.  And, it comes in a shiny gold tube – yay!

But even my precious No.7 can’t quite stand up to my sweaty face at dance class. So my search continued. I tried Tarte Lifted Waterproof Mascara which makes claims for sport-level-durability. I got a sample in an Ipsy bag.  No.  It did not work. Now, I did have a huge allergic reaction to it, so that could have been the issue. But after my test-class at dance, there was no mascara left on my lashes.

Anyway, the search continued until I read about Eyeko Sport online. Not having ever heard of this brand, I hesitated for months, but finally, I gave it a try and, yeah: this stuff is the real deal.

The Best Wand

Apparently it’s loved by athletes, and I can attest: this Eyeko mascara and eyeliner look as fresh at the end of my dance class as they do at the start.  It is truly remarkable.

My only complaint about Eyeko is its huge curved brush that scatters mascara everywhere. Not to make everything about age, but another aspect of middle-aged eyes is thin eyelashes. They won’t hold mascara bulk, and if you’re not very very careful, the product flies through them onto your skin. After weeks of frustrating mistakes, I finally started just applying it with my beloved No.7 wand.  Whatever works, amirite.

I’d actually like to tell you about all the brushes and tools I use for all of the eye makeup I’ve talked about so far, but it’s late and this post is already too long. So I’ll leave brushes and tools for another post.

But before I sign off, I do want to mention one rather obscure product that has made a big difference for me: Tarte Fake Awake Eye Highlight. This pale peachy colored product goes on the inside of the lower rim, to cover redness, and perk up tired eyes. It’s way better than the white-eyeliner-on -inner-rim trick that I learned from a famous newscaster, because white is… not a naturally occurring color… on even the palest caucasian face.  So Fake Awake is an improvement, at least for peachy-colored white people. While I find this product too chalky and clumpy for any of its other supposed highlighting uses,  on the inner rim, for someone with chronically allergic red eyes like me, it really helps.

And before I let you go, let me share one final product that I love with all my heart and cannot live without: Elf Makeup Remover Pen. This little item, which costs all of $3, precisely removes each and every smudge and blotch and smear and run, without interrupting the rest of your makeup. I use it daily without fail.  If you are not using a makeup remover pen in your routine, well, trust me: you’re going to want to start.



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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


Makeup Monday: All About Eyes — 4 Comments

  1. For years I’ve used Clinique Lash Power long-wear mascara, which I’ve worn since high school. I think it does a similar tube-encasing thing, lasts all day and comes off with warm water. But it’s spendy and I’m due for a new mascara, so I’m going to try this recommendation!

  2. Longtime follower & lurker, I’m a huge convert now to eyelash tinting. I learned about it in India, but you can get it done at any Indian (and maybe other) salons in the USA. I’m allergic to the preservatives in eye make-up, so it’s really hard for me to wear anything long-term. Basically, to tint your eyelashes, the stylists will take henna dye and dye your eyelashes, that’s it! It was $15, lasts a month, and takes ~30 minutes. It looks fabulous, removes the need for mascara entirely unless you really need to doll up, and you can even buy a DYI kit on Amazon if there are no nearby salons.

    • My eyelashes are already black-brown, so tinting wouldn’t do much for me! I need volume!

  3. [Comment from a reader who couldn’t get the comment to load]

    I like wearing makeup, but have never considered myself girly or high-maintenance at all. I work as a research coordinator and an academic coach, often running all over the hospital and campus and rarely looking in the mirror. I always liked looking done up, a little, bit hate the look up makeup and especially eye makeup running down my face. As a runner, I would go meet up with friends to run near campus and always end up with raccoon eyes, even if I tried awkwardly taking my makeup off in the bathroom first (while hoping I didn’t run into a PI I was working for).

    Seriously, eyelash extensions have been so wonderful and make me feel confident. They are a little pricey, but the convenience of waking up and not feeling the need to put on makeup is amazing. And my eyelashes always look good. It saves me in days when I’m rushed. I feel like I can get ready in 5 minutes. I never look in the mirror halfway through the day and think “oh shit I look awful” anymore. As you can tell, I’m a convert and think everyone should try them. My mom is in her 60s and also swears by them.

    Side note: love you blog and everything you do. I send a lot of my graduate level clients your posts to read.