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Bette Davis De-Puffed Her Eyes Using Cucumber and Vaseline

Makeup artist reveals how to make her trick work for you — plus makeup secrets to 'Bette Davis' eyes'

Bette Davis easily has the most famous eyes in history. While the All About Eve star graced the big screen for 50 years and was best known for her portrayals of strong and independent women, no doubt it was her eyes that stole the show.

“Part of Davis’ great appeal was that her stunning eyes were accented by the perfect makeup for every role,” says 19/99 Beauty lead makeup artist Simone Otis who has beautified the eyes of celebrities like Sandra Oh and Tilda Swinton. The actress’ peppers were so stunning and prominent they inspired the classic 1981 Kim Carnes song “Bette Davis Eyes”. And while the song still resonates so too does the envy of Davis’ big, beautiful eyes. 

One key to making her eyes really stand out? Davis made sure to de-puff her eyes before going to sleep every night so that her eyes, and her eye makeup, looked perfect the next morning.

Why do we wake up with puffy eyes?

As skin around the eyes loses elasticity with age, there’s more room for fluid to gather plus as “this loss of skin tone allows fat to shift into the lower eyelids,” states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The result? Puffy swollen eyes.

Other factors contributing to puffy eyes include lack of sleep, smoking, allergies, too much salt in your diet and genetics. Luckily, you can stave off the effects of age-induced eye bags as Bette did without extreme measures. 

How Bette Davis de-puffed her eyes  

The Death on the Nile actress always appeared wide-eyed and awake, thanks to a DIY two-step trick she reportedly did nightly, using items from her kitchen and her medicine cabinet. 

Step one: She would apply cooled cucumber slices over her eyelids to reduce swelling and under-eye bags. Cucumbers have a high water content and antioxidant properties, so applying them on the puffy eye area can reduce inflammation and hydrate and soothe the skin, especially when chilled. 

Step two: After applying the cucumbers for 10-15 minutes, Davis smeared petroleum jelly (a.k.a Vaseline) under each eye to help hydrate the area. The skin on the eyelids is the thinnest on the body and can get easily dry and irritated, so this cheap, quick fix helps to protect and heal it while you sleep. 

Bette Davis in 1932
Bette Davis shows off her intense gaze in 1932Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

How to get Bette Davis’ smoky eye makeup to complete the look 

Those two steps provided the perfect smooth and puff-free foundation for her eye makeup application come morning, further accentuating her wide-set bedroom eyes. While you likely already have cucumbers and petroleum jelly in your home, the makeup look can similarly be done with items already in your makeup bag.

Here, Otis’ step-by-step tutorial to get Davis’ signature contoured or soft smoky eye look. 

Bette Davis
Bright-eyed Bette Davis in 1951Snap/Shutterstock
  1. Start with a creamy, blendable eyeliner pencil, such as the 19/99 Beauty Precision Colour Pencil in Barna (Buy from 19/99 Beauty, $26), and a small eye shadow brush. 
  2. Define the crease of the eye with the eye pencil by drawing a sheer line along the crease with the pencil and blending it with the small eye shadow brush 
  3. Using the same brush and pencil, encircle the outer corner of the eye and sweep across the lower eyelid. Draw a line across the upper lash line to complete this look’s “smoky or contoured” part. 
  4. Repeat the steps using the dark pencil and brush until you get your desired look. Soften by blending well. Set the dark brown eye pencil with a setting powder — leaving the actual eyelid bare.
  5. Next, choose a highlighter shade that complements your skin tone (Try Physician’s Formula, Buy from Amazon, $9.99), and apply it to the center of the eyelid, blending with a small eye shadow brush or your fingertip. 
  6. Apply the highlighter to the inner corners of the eyes to widen and brighten the eyes. 
  7. Apply the same shade under the eyebrows along the brow bone, and for added effect, use the same highlighter along the water line (the inner part of your lower lid).
  8. Curl the eyelashes and apply a volumizing mascara (Try Maybelline Lash Sensational, Buy from Amazon, $8.47).

You can also follow along with this YouTube tutorial! Voila! You’ve got eyes worth singing about. 


Jene Sena

Jené Luciani Sena is a veteran journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author of The Bra Book: An Intimate Guide to Finding the Right Bra, Shapewear, Swimsuit, and More! and Get It!: A Beauty, Style, and Wellness Guide to Getting Your #It# Together. She’s also a style, bra and beauty expert regularly seen on shows like Access Hollywood and NBC’s Today.


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