Play It Up: Your Polygenic Phenotypic Character

After my stylist finished coloring my hair, I turned and looked at her, my face tilted upward toward the bright lights above.

“Your eyes are green! When you came in here, they were brown. I changed your eye color. I am a genius!”

Until recently, my dark hair and olive skin played down my hazel eyes. People generally registered them as brown – dark brown, even – but now, with the end of summer brightening the sky and my newly-red locks sending out signals, my eyes are unmistakably hazel.

I’m lazy when it comes to eye makeup…well, makeup in general. I love my e.l.f. mineral powder foundation, my Radiant Cosmetics mascara and Buddha Balm lychee pomegranate lip balm, but rarely take the time to use eyeliner, shadow or even an eyebrow brush on most days.

When I do, though, people notice. “Did you do something different? Your eyes look so bright today.” “Wow, your eyes are really big!” I’m sure you’ve all had similar experiences. Eyes, windows to the soul, all that jazz.

Now that I’m a hazel girl, I’m thinking about how to “play up” my (new?) eye color.

Ah, the color wheel. I remember it from those art classes I had to take in high school.

I hated art class. Structure my creativity? How dare you! But for you, dear readers, I’ll try to get over it so we can use the wheel to talk about this eye color thing.

When choosing eye makeup, you want to go for the colors that are opposite your natural eye color; otherwise the color on the lids will mesh your eye color, which makes it stand out even less. Because my eyes are both brown and green, I can easily wear both sets of “complimentary colors” on my eyes depending on what color I want to play up. Neat!

If the color wheel is confusing, or if it forces you to relive traumatic artist-stifling memories, here’s a handy list of which shades look best on each eye color:

Brown Eyes: Blues are the hard hitters for brown eyes, and if you have warm red undertones, teal is like a beacon. Avoid plum, which looks less like eye shadow and more like you got a black eye in a bar fight last night. Imagine a calm, cool sea viewed from your own private island.

Blue Eyes: No, you don’t have to wear red eye makeup (though it does look totally sexy when it’s done right). Blue-eyed babes look amazing in rich, warm taupes and coppery eye liner, and can also pull off silver better than any other eye color I’ve seen. Think earthy for day, and metallic at night.

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Green Eyes: Now these babes can wear plum – lots of it. Green eyes look amazing when matched with purples, and if you’re going understated, a bit of champagne-colored liner along the outer rim of your eyes will make them stand out without the need for shadow or dark mascara. The desert at night – dark purple skies and warm, shimmering sand – is your inspiration.

Hazel Eyes: If you have blue-green hazel eyes, you can use those two palettes to play up your color of the day. Green/brown? Same thing, different colors. You are a chameleon. Don’t stick out your tongue too much.

Violet Eyes: First, how unique and cool are you? You get to wear lots of chocolate browns, creams and greys. Imagine being surrounded in the softest, most luxurious bedding you’ve ever imagined, on an ornate metal bedframe while being delivered dessert in bed.

If you want to make it really, really easy on yourself, you can buy eye-enhancing palletes of eye shadow, and even matching eye liners and mascara. (FYI: I’ve seen zero positive reviews for “eye color-enhancing mascara.” Stick to shadow and liner unless you have cash to blow.)

Jane Iredale makes a set of cruelty-free, sensitive-skin-loving shadows I am absolutely craving, but they’re expensive: $56 per set.

But look at them! They’re cute little staircases of color!

Your cheaper option is Almay intense i-color eyeshadow trios…which I already own in green and hazel. (Yes, I tried to force the green to the forefront of my eyes. I’m not ashamed.) I really like this set, actually, and use it whenever I get a hankering for eye shadow. Having all three shadows in one case makes it super compact and easy to use, and the little foam brush is surprisingly adept at putting shadow where I want it and blending it in subtle ways.

See that paper and plastic packaging? Drugstore, baby! This eyeshadow trio costs $7.49 at, and is often on sale at my local Rite Aid. (Related: I also use the dark brown in the “hazel” set to darken my eyebrows, eyebrow pencil be damned.)

Do you use eye color-enhancing products? What brand(s) have you tried?

Color wheel image via

  • Deidra W.

    milk chocolate-y brown eyeliner works well with green/brown hazel eyes too (and looks way better than boring black).

  • Samantha

    I have olive skin and dark hair and always wanted to go red but I didn’t think it would work on me! Post some pictures, lady! Also, how can I do teal shadow without looking like I work the streets?

  • haley

    I used to have the Almay set for hazel eyes! I really liked the idea of it and it’s what got me into doing ~cool eyeshadow~ in high school, but I find that the greens made my olive skin look a little sallow and the purple just…not really as rich as I like it. My hair is so dark that I like generally rock a really dramatic eye and not much else as far as make-up goes, so I took the idea and ran with it and matched the color palette to colors that were richer/darker/went a little better with my skin. Learning experience, and it was awesome! :)

  • I have brown eyes and my favorite color eyeshadow is purple. Oh no, you’re saying not to wear plum eyeshadows if I have brown eyes:( Maybe I will try teal. I haven’t worn blue or green eyeshadow in a long time.

    By the way, I was reading this post on your front page, but when I clicked on the link to comment, which brought me to the post page, instead of seeing the post at the top of the page, I’m seeing “this webpage can’t be found” where the post should be. I’m on Internet Explorer 9 – maybe it’s just my browser.

    • Thanks for letting us know, Jeni! :)

      PS – Rock that purple eyeshadow if that’s yo’ thang. :D