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What Causes Hooded Eyes? A Brief Explainer, Plus How To Open Them Up

It's common, natural, and easier to make up than you think.

Have you ever tried to apply your eyeliner but just couldn’t seem to get it right? No matter how many times you wiped away the makeup, sharpened your pencil, and tried to draw a smooth line, it just ended up crooked, turned downward, or hidden in the fold of your eyelid. The beauty gurus in magazines make it look so easy — what are you doing wrong?

I’ve been there, and I can tell you that you’re doing nothing wrong. If the above scenario sounds familiar, it’s possible you have hooded eyes — excess skin below your brow bone that makes applying eye makeup a bit more complicated. Attempting certain makeup looks with hooded eyes can be frustrating, but the good news is that there are many ways to work around this common facial feature. Keep reading for everything you need to know about hooded eyes, including makeup tips to help you make them appear lifted.

What are hooded eyes and droopy eyelids?

Let’s start with the fact that this facial feature is totally normal and common across every eye shape. A person with hooded or “droopy eyes” has loose or excess skin around their eyebrow that sags a bit to cover part or all of the eyelid. This forms a visible crease (or a “hood”) above the eye. This can make one appear sleepy, and make certain makeup looks difficult to execute.

Whether or not you have or will have hooded eyes is dependent largely on your genetics. Some people are born with hooded eyes, while others develop them as they age. Some people only have one hooded eye, although this is less common than two. However subtle or pronounced your hooded eyes are, they are neither a health risk nor a beauty deficit. Plenty of gorgeous celebrities rock their hooded eyes on the red carpet all the time, like Jennifer Aniston. Having a little hood of skin over your eyelid might mess up your eyeliner, but one thing it absolutely shouldn’t mess up is your self-esteem.

What causes hooded eyes?

As earlier mentioned, some people are born with hooded eyes. Others droop over time. That’s because as we age, the muscles that support our eyebrows loosen and start to sag — hence, hooded eyes. The outer corner of the eye is particularly affected by age. I’ve definitely noticed a subtle difference in the natural crease of my hooded eyes as I’ve gotten older, and you might too. This is both normal and natural, and short of expensive cosmetic eyelid surgery, thread lifts, and botox fillers, there isn’t anything you can do about them. Like ’em or not, hooded eyes are a fact of aging. So, let’s talk about how to work around them with mascara, eyeliner, and more.

Makeup Tips for Hooded Eyes

Though I don’t wear as much makeup as I did in my younger years, I still like to do a smoky eye — or even a modified cat eye or winged eyeliner — for special occasions. Here’s how to work around hooded eyes.

A Step-by-Step Eye Makeup Tutorial From a Makeup Artist

The biggest challenge presented by hooded eyes is that they block much of the eyelid, a.k.a. your makeup canvas. This makes it difficult to wear different eyeshadow looks and can also mess up your eyeliner. Even the steadiest hand and the perfect wing can succumb to hooded eyes; the second they’re open, the line will point downwards or get lost in the hood.

The trick to avoiding this is to apply eyeliner with your eyes open, looking straight ahead. While this is tricky at first — for years, I applied my eyeliner the “normal” way, closing one eye and drawing a line to match my eyelid’s direction. But, without fail, every time I opened my eye, the eyeliner created downturned eyes or pointed sideways. Once I made the switch to applying with my eyes open, that changed. I was finally able to draw something akin to a cat eye and flatter my natural eye shape.

To do this, start with an eyeliner pencil or felt pen. Use light strokes to outline the shape of your wing, and periodically stop to see how it looks from multiple angles. Depending on exactly how hooded your eyes are, drawing on eyeliner with your eyes open may leave a big lid space once they’re closed. You can go ahead and fill that in by connecting the two points of liner that you drew with your eye open. If liquid eyeliner is your preference, switch to it after mastering the technique with pencil eyeliner.

Another Strategy

Here’s another eyeliner strategy for opening up hooded eyes: Start from the lower lash line. Starting your liner or smoky look from your bottom lashes as opposed to the top gives you a little more space to create the desired look (because you aren’t bumping against the hooded eyelid).

Take a thin, angled eyeshadow brush and line your lower lashes with the desired eyeshadow color, starting just outside of your pupil. Continue lining upwards until you reach your upper lid, following its natural shape. (I recommend doing this with your eyes open to ensure you line at the correct angle.) Once you’ve established the initial line using eyeshadow, deepen it with other colors to add dimension or trace over the line with eyeliner. I love to start with a dark taupe shade, then deepen it with smoky browns. Blend it thoroughly into your lid. Keeping your eyes open, try blending the line onto your upper eyelid for a natural smokey eye that flatters your hooded lids.

How To Make Your Eyes Look Bigger

Let’s forget about eyeliner for the moment. What other makeup tricks and tips can you use to flatter your hooded eyes? When part (or all) of the lids are covered, it can make the eyes look smaller. Using highlighter will make eyes look a little bit bigger, despite the hood. Take your favorite liquid highlighter and dot it onto the back of your hand. Then, use a Q-tip to dot the highlighter into the inner corner of your eye. Doing this adds shimmer to the eyes, and makes them look larger and more expressive — it’s a win-win. 

This technique can also be used to apply highlighter to the center of the eyelid, right above the pupil. Use the pad of your finger to blend the highlighter out so that it looks more naturally luminous. Creating a point of lightness in the middle of your lid adds dimension and vibrancy, both of which open the eyes up.

Eyeshadow Makeup Techniques

Along with using highlighter to emphasize your eyes, try using eyeshadow that’s a complementary shade to your natural eye color. For instance, if you have green eyes, try gold or bronze eyeshadow; for blue eyes, matte brown shadow makes the color pop. Use a color wheel to find shades that naturally complement your eye color or experiment with eyeshadows at home until you find a look that you love. (That’s the great thing about makeup — at the end of the day, it’s about having fun.) For women with hooded eyes that cover the entire eyelid, try eyeshadow in a flattering shade with some shimmer or sparkle in it. You might be intimidated by such a bold eye look, but the small flecks of light the glitter adds will lift and brighten your eyes

Eye-Opening Results

The point of makeup is to help you look and feel your best — whatever that means to you. Don’t be afraid to try variations on these recommendations and hacks. The most flattering look is the one that you feel the best in, and I promise there’s a look out there that you’ll love — hooded eyes and all.

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