We see makeup trends come and go, but sparkly eye makeup has practically stood the test of time. In prehistoric eras, sparkling minerals like hematite were used as makeup and ancient Egyptians crushed up beetle shells to create a glitter effect.
The glitter we know today was accidentally invented by an American cattle rancher and machinist named Henry Ruschmann in 1934. He was actually looking for a way to compress old garbage and, in the process, he ground up plastic scraps that became the first form of glitter.
The process of creating glitter has of course been modernized since then — though it has gotten a bad rep in the past when research studies revealed that the particles were not eco-friendly or biodegradable. However, thanks to the efforts of activists, many beauty brands have begun to launch glitter makeup that is plant-based and eco-friendly.
Whether you’re currently obsessed with “Euphoria’s” makeup artist’s IG account and feeling inspired by the glitter eye makeup, or experimenting with your next virtual party look, here is what you need to know before you shine on.
Is it Safe?
Glitter-based powders and shadows have tiny particles in them that can aggravate your eyes
According to the American Optometric Association, glitter-based powders and shadows have tiny particles in them that can aggravate your eyes and the FDA’s guidelines regarding glitter in cosmetics can be difficult to decipher. This does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe, however, you just have to consider the type of glitter that you’re using.
“People have used craft glitter on their eyes in the past, but it is not safe,” explains Kenny Screven, a celebrity makeup artist. While cosmetic glitter is usually made from some form of polyester, craft glitter is made from (cheaper) metal and “if it gets into your eyes, it can cause tiny tears and irritations that you may not notice until you start to feel discomfort.” Though craft glitter looks the same as cosmetic glitter, “craft glitters have different dyes and are cut at different shapes (like hexagons) that can cause skin irritation,” Screven explains.
How to Apply…
The right type of eye shadow formula for you will depend on your skill/effort level and how dramatic you want the glitter to look.
- If you are new to glitter makeup, Screven recommends starting with a cream eyeshadow like Ciaté London’s Marbled Metal Eyeshadow. This type of formula gives you more control since you can apply with your fingertips and the pigments in cream shadows are unlikely to cause fallout. Since the particles in cream shadows tend to be super-fine, the end result is usually more subtle.
- Another fool-proof method is liquid glitter. A formula like Stila Cosmetics Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow not only will not flake off, but the included sponge applicator makes it easy to apply and build to your desired level of shine.
- If you are looking to contour your eyes, mix a few different shades, or blend all the way into your crease, go for a pressed powder shadow. It is rich in pigment, yet easy to blend since the formula is dry. You can use a traditional eye shadow brush to apply a pressed powder shadow like the ones from HipDot.
- For the boldest glitter effect, loose glitter has the most payoff. However, it can get a little tricky since it tends to flutter a bit on your eye shadow brush. Try to layer it on top of an adhesive base like an eyeshadow primer to give it something to stick to.
In a study published in the journal Eye and Contact Lens that tracked the movement of glitter pencil eyeliner when participants wore it on their upper and lower lash lines, they found that “glitter particles [were] suspended in the tear film.” This is not to say that glitter eyeliner is off the table, but you definitely want to be more mindful of what kind of formula you use. Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner features super-fine glitter that is suspended in the gel so it sticks to your skin without flaking off.
“If you want a more radical shine, mix glitter powder or shadow with a mixing medium (like the Mehron Mixing Liquid) and apply it with an eyeliner brush,” says Matin, a makeup artist based in New York City
Glitter mascara is great for rocking the look with minimal effort. Most glitter mascara acts like a topcoat for your lashes. Apply your regular mascara as you normally would, then swipe on two or three coats of Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Vinyl Couture in “I’m the Endless” to transform your lashes into a sparkly statement.
Screven recommends waiting until your glitter makeup is done before applying mascara. “Always apply mascara last when applying glitter. Sometimes glitter can get caught in your mascara which increases the risk of glitter falling into the eye.”
While decals are not makeup per se, it is a convenient way to quickly rock the glittery look without committing to makeup application. Paired with a glitter base or neutral shadow, NYX’s Shaped Glitter is easy to apply with a safe clear makeup adhesive (like Lottie London Glitter Fix Balm Adhesive) before placing your glitter pieces with a Tweezer, says Screven.
How to Remove It
Use regular Scotch tape to pick up any loose glitter particles that fall off during the application process.
When you are ready to remove your look completely, do not scrub at your eyes. Loosen and break apart the pigments by removing glitter with gentle but targeted control. Use a cotton pad to apply “a cleansing oil onto your eyelids for at least one minute so it can start to break apart and separate the glitter from your eyes,” Screven says. “Keep your eye closed to avoid the glitter and oil getting into your eyes. It’s best to do one eye at a time because if you do both at the same time you wouldn’t be able to properly clean the glitter off if you aren’t able to see exactly where the particles are going.”
“If you’re wearing waterproof products, an oil-based makeup remover is highly recommended,” says Matin. Remember: Be sure that the glitter you are using is not craft glitter, but if for some reason that is what you were using, rinse thoroughly with warm water and seek medical help if needed.
We only recommend products we have independently researched, tested, and loved. If you purchase a product found through our links, Sunday Edit may earn an affiliate commission.