Monday, August 15, 2011

The Nude Eye

source: Film: Velvet Gloss Lip Pencil

Olivia's Neapolitan ice cream-eye post pushed something I have been thinking about for the last couple weeks to the front of my brain. Anyone who regularly reads this blog probably knows how I feel about nude lipstick (which is part of my "I don't get it" series), but a nude eye .... now that's something entirely different.

Obviously I don't mean truly nude. I wake up with that look every morning, thank you very much.What I mean is an extremely natural, polished eye makeup look, similar to the screen shot I captured above from a film on the NARS web site. I have written to NARS customer service to ask what they used for the model's eye makeup, which I tried to capture in a still screenshot of the film below.

screenshot taken from NARS web site

Before I heard back from NARS, I went on a mission to duplicate that look, and it was much harder than I imagined it would be. I would show you swatches of the colors I tested from my own eyeshadow stash, but 1) my Mac is still at the Apple doctor so no photo transfer from camera > computer > blog and 2) the look I seek is so subtle that any swatching would be lost against my skin tone or even on white paper. 

Could the NARS model be wearing only powder or foundation on her eyelids (aside from the black eyeliner and mascara)? I thought that at first, but when I looked more closely, I could see very subtle depth in the crease. Here's the short film of the ad. Aside from the silly wind machine and the sexually provocative head turning and gratuitous lip pursing, I really like her makeup:

Maybe such a look occurs on 20 year old skin only! I had my time and now it's over. But I don't think so—surely there's the right beige out there for me, but I don't know what it is. That's where I need your help, and I am hoping that someone out there can recommend a cool-toned light beige/greige, a whisper darker than pale skin, that I can wear in the crease.

My criteria are not legion for this perfect shade I have yet to find:
  • I prefer matte and will consider satin formulas
  • It has to be light enough that it complements my porcelain-pink (NW15) skin
  • The hue must be cool or neutral-cool
  • The eyeshadow cannot be warm, golden, or yellow
My oddly-colored eyes (navy blue irises with grey rims and an amber starburst around the irises) make choosing eye makeup more challenging than it probably is for many of you.  Blue-green eyes (which is how my eye color appears from a distance, almost olive) seem designed for brown eyeshadow, especially golden or orange-tinted bronzes; yet, those colors make me look like a cadaver, as do almost all brown eyeshadows that do not heavily lean grey.

When I was on the NARS web site, I wondered if NARS Biarritz might be it. I have not yet seem this eyeshadow in person, and it could be more yellow based than it appears online, so I'll have to add this to my list to test. So far, it's the only one on my list!

I also considered NARS Blondie, but I have a strong suspicion it would be too dark and almost certainly too warm (although NARS web site calls it taupe, which implies at least some grey). The following image looks like a warm red-brown to me.

Obviously the eyeshadow does not have to be NARS just because I love the look of the model.

Here are the colors I tested, some of which worked better than others but none of which was The One for my crease:
  • Bobbi Brown Cement. This could very nearly be The One if it didn't oxidize. I have this problem frequently with BB eyeshadows and don't know how to stop it. My eyelids aren't even that oily any more. But Cement is certainly exactly what I am looking for ... in the pan. Boo hiss.
  • Bobbi Brown Woodrose. Too pink.
  • Bobbi Brown Flesh. Too yellow.
  • Chanel Slate 88. A perfect complement for my skin but too dark for the nude look.
  • Chantecaille Basalt. A slightly lighter dupe of Chanel Slate, but still too dark.
  • Chantecaille Pewter (from the Tiger palette). A near-perfect color, but it's too shimmery.
  • Ellis Faas Creamy Eyes E107. Too dark and, sadly, too warm.
  • Jane Iredale French Toast. A gorgeous pinkish greige, but slightly too light. Discontinued, anyway.
  • MAC Wedge. Too warm and dark. Same for Omega, which is darker and even more yellow on me.
  • Prescriptives Mushroom. Described as "nude plum" this color used to be The One. I wore it on and off (mostly on) for decades, but now it oxidizes on me, even over Paula Doff primer. I'm disappointed it no longer works because it's still being manufactured and is still available online.
  • Shu Uemura M Beige 835. Nearly perfect but slightly too dark. Discontinued.
  • Shu Uemura M Beige 804. The color I use as the all-over wash, so it does not work as the crease color. Discontinued.
  • Stila Chinois. Too yellow and not enough contrast.
That exhausts all of the matte beige-grey, beige-plum and dusty lavender eyeshadows in my stash.

Those of you who are pale or just enjoy wearing pale, natural matte colors, I'd love to hear what your favorite nude crease colors are so I can check them out.

UPDATE 1: Here's what Tanya, a NARS artist told me: "... the list of eye shades used on the model in the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencils [film] were not archived. Based on the film, it looks like she's wearing matte vanilla in India Song Duo Eyeshadow and a light dusting of the pale peach in Key Largo Duo Eyeshadow into the crease and above."  

UPDATE 2: The colors used in the NARS film were too warm for me, but I finally found a very good "nude eye" shade combination: Chanel Quartz (or the well-loved Prescriptives Rose Powder) all over as a base, and NARS Violetta (the light shade from the duo or from the Douceurs de Paris palette) in the crease. Since I have a lot of blue in my eyelids, the very pale lavender makes sense. I wish I could get that color as a single. Two other matte lid options are NARS D. Gorgeous and Rouge Bunny Rouge Sweet Dust Seremia.

All photos from the NARS web site


  1. great post, i hate it when u dont have a list of products used on videos, its so frustrating!
    Grace xx

  2. Check out Viseart Basic Eye palette, a lot of makeup artists in the movie biz use that one for that soft eye look for the film. The texture is also smooth and very good on mature lids, thus the reason why it is used. ;-)

  3. Also you might want to try Sula's eyeshadow in See you in September and Written in the stars. Both work well as nudes and the color doesn't turn murky. Many light colors tend to white out because of the titanium dioxide.

  4. Maybe try Bobbi Brown Taupe? A small amount? :)

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, keep them coming!

    Flyavsted, it looks like Chanel Beige 52 has been discontinued. Not even available on eBay, though I am sure I could find it somewhere if I really search in earnest.

  6. Olivia, the Viseart palette is interesting. I'll have to search more later, see if I can find a bigger closeup of the individual colors. I have often wondered what that reddish brown color is that all women seem to wear in movies and daytime TV. I wonder if it's the color second from left in the middle.

  7. Olivia, you snuck another one in! Sula See You in September is definitely going to be in my next Ulta order. Your review convinced me. Written in the Stars looks beautiful, but after doing my eyeshadow inventory, I have three matte pale pinks/pinky flesh colors already (Laura Mercier Morning Dew, MAC Yogurt, and Shu Uemura M Beige 804).

  8. Magui, thank you very much for leaving a comment and a suggestion. Alas, Bobbi Brown Taupe is one of her eyeshadow colors that does not translate on my skin the way the product name is advertised (which can be typical of her products, where grey is actually brown and brown is grey). Taupe is so pretty in the pan, but too warm on me.

    My eyelids suck up color and turn most eyeshadows warm, especially as I get older. I do not know the physiological reason for this, but it is very frustrating.

    I know that taupe = brown + grey. For me the taupe must lean heavily toward grey, with just a hint of brown. For most of my makeup life, I just skipped taupe entirely and went straight for grey eyeshadows, but I don't think that's the right look for what I am going for here.

  9. I know exactly what you mean. There is one from MAD Minerals just like that, but not matte. Not shimmery, but not matte either - the finish is very natural. It's called 'cornerstone', and I love it because it's not gray and it's not warm at all. Light and perfect, kind of 'not there' eye shadow. Unfortunately I don't know of any pressed eye shadow in this color.
    Good luck :)

  10. For the crease, might I suggest MAC Era? It's not matte, but the shimmer is subdued, and the rose undertone keeps it from going dirty on cool skin tones. There's also Cairo, from NARS. I believe there is a matte malted rose-taupe from Laura Mercier as well... Cashmere? I can't remember. I've never tried Cashmere, but it might be worth a look.

  11. Renata, Cornerstone sounds exactly like my kind of color! "Creamy beige with gray tones." And I can buy a sample, too!

    Though I currently own very few loose eyeshadow pigments, I am not not opposed to them (MAC, minerals, etc). I have worn Alima in the past but admit to getting lazy around the loose stuff, but with the right brush, they apply just as easily as pressed. Thanks! I am definitely going to add Cornerstone to my list and will poke around the MAD web site even more. :)

  12. I've done that before - just slap on some powder foundation onto my eyelids with a 224. It works quite nicely if you're going for a matte look. I really like the color Naked from the Urban Decay Naked palette for this type of look (i'm about NW20/25). I agree with Dain on MAC Era. That sounds like it may be close to what you're looking for!

  13. What about using your foundation (maybe mixed with a highlighter) on your lids and a darker shade of face powder in the crease?

  14. I love the nude eye! :) Actually, a long wearing concealer works well.

  15. You are right, Z, Nars Blondie is quite warm and too dark for what you are looking for. I think you might like Biarritz (I've owned Edie, the shimmer version). What I see on the model looks like a pale pink to me, though, and I'm going to guess they used something like Silk Road or Alhambra. All About Eve has one side that would be too shimmery for you, but the satin side is very, very pretty. This is one of my favorite makeup mysteries-- the Perfect Nude Eye! Although I favor a satin finish over matte.

  16. I use mac paint pot in painterly for this kind of look!

  17. I thought it was interesting that someone else suggested Nars Cairo, it's one of my favorites for a "nude" look. It works well on my light-medium skin to give just a hint of definition. It's not matte but it isn't really shimmery either, just a subtle pearl. I used to use Bobbi Brown cream shadow stick in Vanilla which is matte and didn't give any color, so I guess more of a true "nude" look. For now I prefer the look of Nars Cairo.

  18. Dain, thanks for the suggestions. I believe you also prefer cooler colors on your lids, so your color offerings carry weight. All three of the eyeshadows you mention are precisely the colors I am drawn to for neutrals--especially Cashmere (I also tried LM Fresco). Unfortunately, Cashmere turned orange on me, and Era translated as golden brown on my lids (!). I once owned Cairo, but don't know where it is now. I will look for it, and if I can't find it, I will add it to my list of things to try. I think Cairo is shimmery, though--in the same texture family as Ashes to Ashes.

    I have found that eyeshadows are a funny lot. The very things that repels me at one time--such as the light, layerable pigment in Chantecaille or a color I toss aside in disappointment because it almost exactly matches my own skin--are the same attributes that later attract me.

    My taste has changed over time, though some colors have stood the test of time--at least in my heart. On my skin it is another matter entirely, and I would love to know why my !@%$%# eyelids turn everything yellow or orange or dirty when the skin itself is ivory pink with very faint lilac undertones.

  19. Kelly, thanks. Naked was another one of those colors that looked so gorgeous in the pan (and was so silky soft) but which turned into an orange hot mess on my lids! But Naked is exactly the color I imagine wearing ... if only it had some grey in it.

  20. Ammie, that's a thought. I might give that a try, though I don't really have any dark face powder. I have bronzer, but those would not work. Edward Bess is too golden, and Armani has shimmer. And that is the extent of my bronzer collection, none of which I really like!

  21. Vintage, I might give concealer a try, though I am afraid anything long wearing will make my eyelids look crepey. I can test the foundation/concealer thing on the next day I work at home. It's not a look I want to test drive at the office. :O

  22. Veuve, does that eyeshadow on the model really look pink to you? If so, I can always go back to Shu Uemura M Beige 804 and just keep looking for something a tiny bit darker in the crease.

    I once owned Edie and All About Eyes. I didn't care for either of them because I like matte for base colors. I guess I am sort if in a matte phase now, which makes sense, given I am trying to make this eyeshadow look as natural as possible. I suppose a bit of sheen could be youth enhancing, since our eyelids are oilier when we are younger.

    I don't think I have ever seen Silk Road or Alhambra, but I did order Biarritz using the free ship code.

  23. By the way, everyone, thanks for your input and don't let me raining on everyone's parade stop the suggestions! I really appreciate them, and I don't mean to sound ungrateful or like a contrarian.

    I really have tried so many beiges and light browns to achieve this look, and they all turn muddy or orange. I am beginning to think I have mutant eyelids!

  24. baby in a corner, I wish! Painterly looked great on me for a couple years and then suddenly ... you guessed it. Orange atrocity. I even repurchased it. TWICE. Thinking it had spoiled. Nope. I am dooooooooomed.

  25. Allison, thanks. I have added Cairo to my list of eyeshadows to test.

  26. Check out Frends Beauty Supply

    That is where I bought mine. If you don't like that one, Tricia Sawyer's Essential palette has the four basic colors for that no makeup look used on practically every man and woman.

    Also check out Flora's blog it gives insight on the natural/nude look which isn't easy but once achieved it is the most important make up when your a make up artist.

  27. Let us know if you get an answer from Nars about what they used! I'm really curious now.

  28. Olivia, thanks! I can't wait to start reading Flora's blog. Achieving a natural look gives me a whole new respect for makeup artists on period-piece movies and series, like BBC's Downton Abbey and Showtime's The Tudors. I watched those actresses very carefully, and I never detected makeup, though surely there was foundation (or at least powder), blush, eyeshadow, and a hint of tinted lip balm. I never once noticed mascara, and not one of them had their eyelashes curled.

  29. Veuve, I will definitely let you know! I'll update this post when I find out.

  30. I've been thinking this over and still can't think of something that would be perfect, I think shades like Chanel beige and Nars Biarritz would be better suited to the lid for your nude look as you need something a touch darker in the crease, I wouldn't go for blondie as that was too warm for me. I'll get back to you if I can think of anything :)

  31. Replica, I appreciate the effort. And I have been enjoying researching everyones' input. I think I need to steer clear of pre-made palettes because I never get full use out of them (e.g., I use only one or two colors and the rest go untouched). The Tricia Sawyer Essentials Palette would be perfect if I could buy just the two colors on the left. Olivia, if you're still reading, do you know if those pans pop out and, if yes, are they the same size as Julie Hewett pans, which I think are around 36mm (same as Chantecaille and Ben Nye)?

    Looking at the color in the pot, Painterly would be THE ideal base for me, so I sure wish I knew what changed in the last year. Eyeshadow has become like wearing a mood ring. Maybe it's my application technique. I like using my fingers because cream brushes need to be washed after every use, and I find that causes them to wear out faster (which is why I like Ellis Faas pens--the color stays moist inside the cap--even leftovers, as long as I use them the next day).

    I did some experimenting this morning and found that that right brush can take even a darker color and make it much more subtle. For example, I used Shu Uemura M Beige 804 all over the lid as a base, placed Chantecaille Agate on just the lid, and put the tiniest bit of Stila Rain in the crease, blending it out into near invisibility. I finished with dark brown eyeliner poked into the lash line, and used a single coat of mascara on the top lashes only.

    It's not bad at all, but it's not quite right. Oh, well, searching is the fun part, right?

  32. That Shu/Stila/Chantecaille combo sounds really nice!
    I was thinking its probably a colour like the tan in the D&G Nude eye quad that would be ideal in the crease for the total nude look. Although the shade has some warmth its not over the top and is a step up from a cream shade but without being overly dark.

  33. Excellent observation. I am going to add the D&G Nude eye quad to my growing list of colors to check out, thanks!

    I'm not opposed to warmth in general. I *do* have warmth in my own skin--at least I assume I do--I'm a mammal, after all. ;D It's just that warm eyeshadows do weird things to me, so I have to be careful and try them on, as I am almost always disappointed.

    Laura Mercier Burnished, for example, is an eyeshadow that is always recommended to me because of my blue eyes, but whenever I put it on, it just lies there looking flat.

    I think warm-toned people (who I believe are the majority) have a much easier time finding makeup and clothes that complement their skin tones. We cool people, especially the muted (NON Snow White) types who can't get away with vibrant cool jewel tones, have a rougher time.

  34. I can only speak for my own skintone NC42 and I get a really nude lid with either MAC's Arena (peach) or a combination of NARS Biarritz/Cyprus (from the recent Bright Lights, Big City palette). As far as crease goes I love using NARS Nepal or MAC's Soba.

    Good luck on your quest and I'm curious to see what you come up with or find out from the NARS peeps!

  35. Lexi, thanks! I loved MAC Soba and nearly cried when I had to give it to a friend. I have high hopes for NARS Biarritz, and I will be sure to update this post with what NARS says and/or what colors I end up deciding on.

  36. Hey! Maybe Paula Dorf Tumbleweed? It's nice and matte. I actually use it as a base or highlighter because it matches the skin on my eyes so perfectly but I'm darker than you so it might be good for your crease. Good luck with the search!

  37. Elizabeth, that intrigues me! Even the color sounds right. I am a huge fan of PD Eye Primer (been wearing it for more than a decade) and her brushes, but I have never tried a single eyeshadow. Crazy, I know, especially after reading all of Gaia's reviews.

    Another one added to my list, thanks!!

  38. Oh, wait. I just reread your criteria and realized that PD Tumbleweed is, indeed, sort of manila. :( But maybe check it out or some of her other eyeshadows - she has a great formula!

  39. Elizabeth, that was sweet of you to come back and clarify. I did look for Tumbleweed on, and it looks like that color has been discontinued.

    Fear not! These suggestions and ideas are all super helpful, and they are sending me in the right direction. I also think I can get Tumbleweed at a beauty discounter for about half price, so it might be worth trying anyway. :) I've been meaning to try PD eyeshadows for a long time, anyway.

  40. I freaking love the nude eye, too. One of the most difficult things to achieve. Good luck! You should update us with a post when you find your colours!

  41. I second Liz's comment :D I thought I commented earlier, but I think it got eaten. All of my nudes are peachy champagnes, so I can't think of anything that might help atm, sorry :( Good luck!

  42. Wow, lots of people with opinions and suggestions on this topic! You have a lot of luck with those "nude" posts of yours, lol!

    I'm currently using Laura Mercier's "Buttercream" shadow as a base for nearly everything. It's a perfect neutral cream that is light enough to brighten my entire eye area, yet not so light as to stand out as white. It's perfection for me. It's also matte, so it melds with the skin and becomes virtually invisible.

    For the crease, I'm liking Too Faced Birthday Suit and Pillow Talk. Both are slightly shimmery, slightly brown taupes that look completely natural on the eye. It's an incredibly easy and gorgeous look. Plus, it's perfect as an accompaniment for my beloved red lipsticks! :)

    For the crease for a subtle eye, I've

  43. Shannon, thanks. I can't remember if I have ever tried Buttercream (or Vanilla Nuts, for that matter). Given how much I love Laura Mercier products, I should try one or both.

    The Alima eyeshadow samples came today, and I had the chance to try them all. Wow, what a collection of incredibly soft neutrals. The two I liked best were:

    - Fleur, a pale pinkish nude
    - Bramble, a light taupe with a hint of plum

    But, yikes, what a mess I made all over the table and my shirt. Color lasted through a post-work nap without any fading (or primer) though, so that's good.

    I don't have anything like Bramble, which is the kind of color you'd see in period piece films, lending that vulnerable, haunted, "bruised" look to the actress. I'll order a full size, but I do not think this is The One.

  44. Liz, I'll have to go re-read some of your eyeshadow posts to see what you're wearing and liking.

    Lari, thanks. :) Yep, peaches and champagnes don't flatter my skin tone.

  45. I think you'll need the new Becca palette -- Lost Weekend. Taupes with a mauve undertone ... might be just right.

    Meanwhile, maybe the Physician's Formula Canyon Classics matte palette? I find all four colors to be a little TOO cool for me (NC10-15, with muted blue-green eyes, Becca Sand, Soft Autumn, etc. etc. etc.), so they might work for you.

    Also, La Femme Taupe is the taupiest taupe I've ever found, not brown, not gray, but the animal in-between.

  46. Sarasotagirl, thanks! I love Becca and will take a look at Lost Weekend, as well as PF Canyon Classics. And I have always wanted to try La Femme, having heard great things about its quality--and it's cheap.

  47. I think my first suggestions might have been too dark. What I use when I want to define the crease without looking like I'm defining the crease is Graftobian's Natural Beige. It's a, well, neutral beige that would probably be about NC/NW20, maybe? Since I'm about NC10-15, it's just a touch darker than my skin. I think it could be neutral enough for you. (La Femme Nude matches my skin, more or less.) You can get Graftobian from them or from, IIRC.

    Honestly, I'd go to a theatrical makeup store (in real life or on-line) and pull all the matte beiges that are a bit darker than your skin. Ben Nye, Kryolan, etc. (Kryolan's TV Brown is that red-brown you were talking about, above.) You can get a bunch of different ones, all good quality, for the price of a NARS or Chanel. But that's just me ...

  48. Okay, here's my suggestion to add to the bevy of products you already have to try out. :)

    For a pale matte pinky-peach, you might like to try a very pale blush/highlighter. For me, that kind of nude colour would be Shu Uemura Glow On P42 Peach, which I use as an eyeshadow based, an under-eye brightener, and a highlighter. This might not be readily available online however, and in any case, any shell peach will do. To see a photo of P42 (bottom right):

  49. Hi Li! (Is it Li or Wen, or do you preferred to be called Diana?). Thank you for the suggestions and link. What a beautiful pale-neutral color! It's also an excellent idea and a method I used when I was much younger and did not wear eyeshadow. I felt that a bit of pink brightness in the eye area woke up my face.

    I actually have a Shu Glow On peach/amber blush in my stash somewhere and should locate it (although it is probably an antique by now, since I bought it in the late 90s).

    Meanwhile, I just tried on Chantecaille Whisper blush (also d/c), and it looked surprisingly good. Whisper is a pink nude. I prefer pinks over peaches, as peach is not my most flattering color, though I can often get away with a pinkish peach (like Chanel Sillage) or a coral pink, like Chantecaille Joy.

  50. ZP, Li Wen or Diana will do (both are my given names).

    Yep, Whisper is the kind of colour I was referring to. All the better if it was already in your stash. :)

  51. I heard back from the NARS makeup artist about the pretty eyeshadow worn in the model in the above video. Here's what she had to say:

    Unfortunately, the list of eye shades used on the model in the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencils were not archived. Based on the film, it looks like she's wearing matte vanilla in India Song Duo Eyeshadow and a light dusting of the pale peach in Key Largo Duo Eyeshadow into the crease and above.

    I would have to try this on before buying, as peach does not usually look good on me.

  52. Thats interesting, I'm sure the vanilla was quite yellow toned and I used to have Key Largo and found it too warm, like you say one to test out before buying me thinks! x

  53. I'm not sure if this info is too late or not, but you can try NARS Madrague duo.

  54. * I'm sorry, I meant NARS Bellissima duo.

    1. Thank you, it is never too late! The Bellissima duo has been in my Sephora wish list for ages, but I read reviews on MUA that the light side (or one side, anyway) has chunky glitter in it. My light colors have to be matte or satin (not shimmer or anything more), but I completely forgot to swatch it the last time I was in the store. I will do so next time I am in, so I can see if it will work for me. It sounds like something I would really like.

      I have discovered in my experiments that beige is not good for me. Four months after I wrote this topic, I had my colors done and learned I was purely cool toned, that my skin can handle NO warmth without looking muddy, drawn, tired, or theatrical.

      I accidentally feel into a combination of NARS Violetta and D. Gorgeous (and sometimes Becca Chantilly and RBR Sweet Dust Seriema) for an excellent nude eye. It's my version of nude because my eyelid skin undertones are a bit lavender. I press NARS Cordura or Laura Mercier Deep Night into the lash line, and am happy, but I am adding Bellissima to my mental checklist to swatch next time. Thank you for the reminder!

    2. Yeah, I totally realized there was a bit of shimmer right after I clicked submit. I have seen a couple of pics of a NARS duo coming out in the Fall 2012 collection (used during Fashion Week) called Vent Glace that looks soft and cool, at least from what I could tell; I'm wondering if maybe this duo was used in the ad, which is why they couldn't tell you what the shades are. I picked up a L'Oreal quad called The Neutrals a couple of weeks ago. It may be worth a try, as the shades are pretty sheer and on the cool neutral side, and *definitely* matte.

    3. Thank you, Anon. I will keep my eyes peeled for the Fall colors (eek, it's not even summer) and I updated the above post with the colors used in the Lip Gloss Pencil ad ... at least what the thought they were, since the makeup used wasn't documented. I will also take a look at the Revlon quad when I next go to the pharmacy.

  55. What a great post! I have exactly the same problem as you have with eyeshadows (I'm muted/soft summer colour type with grey-blue eyes). I use Artdeco Matt Eyeshadow - matt light grey beige, (30.514) wich is light and cool enough.

  56. Thank you, Monika—what a GORGEOUS color! It looks like cool, wet cement. I am definitely going to try it. :^)


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