It happened to me: I applied eyeshadow primer, slapped some shadow on over it, and looked in the mirror two hours later to find that the color had vanished without a trace. Very mysterious, indeed.
I don’t wear eye makeup often, and this is exactly why. No matter which primer I use, no matter which shadow I use—this one was out of the Urban Decay Naked Palette ($54), so there definitely wasn’t a question of a shitty formula—my eye makeup smears, creases, and more often than not, straight up disappears. Eyeshadow, even long-wear versions, invariably seems to get practically eaten by my skin, and in my years of trial and error, I’ve only found one (one!) liquid eyeliner that doesn’t make a mess of my lids. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slick cat eye, but sometimes I wish I could actually get some use out of the shadow palettes I’ve hoarded over the years. We always want what we can’t have.
“The staying power of eye makeup has a lot to do with both the texture and the shape of the lid,” explains celebrity makeup artist Gina Bass. “Oilier lids cause makeup to melt and fade.” So as much as I’d like to blame my little problem on the quality of the products I’m using, it’s not them, it’s me … and my oily skin.
More specifically, it’s my oily eyelids, which is actually a thing a person can have. “The more oil they make, the harder it is for the skin to hold onto the makeup—think about applying makeup to oily skin and how difficult it is to get the makeup to set properly,” says NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz, founder of DermTv.com and creator of BeautyRx.
But having oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean you have oily eyelids too—because the oil glands on your lids are different than the ones on the rest of your face, the two are not linked. “[The eyelids] have three special types of glands that can contribute to the oiliness of the lid, and the proportion and production of those glands has nothing to do with your skin type,” says Dr. Schultz.
All I (and other oily-lidded persons) can do is load up on the primer—I’ve had relative success with NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base ($25), Jouer Long-Wear Eye Brightening Primer ($24), and Urban Decay Eyeshadow Potion Primer ($20)—choose our shadows carefully, and accept that the lifespan of our eye makeup is significantly shorter than we’d like it to be. We now know why it’s happening, but unfortunately there’s no guaranteed way to make it stop.
For my part, I’ll be compensating with bold lipstick looks from here on out. As much as I love to play with eyeshadow, there’s nothing quite like a case of disappearing makeup to make me feel like I’m failing in every other area of my life.