5 Mistakes You’re Making When Applying Liquid Eyeliner

Mastering a cat eye is easier said than done.
woman putting on liquid eyeliner

Not to brag or anything, but I know a thing or two about doing my makeup. My brows are always on point, and I get actual compliments on my just-so blush application technique. However, I’m not going to claim that I’m an out and out pro when it comes to applying liquid eyeliner. In fact, I’d probably consider myself a novice at best, as much as I really hate to admit it.

For one reason or another, I can never quite make a straight line across my eye with liquid liner. I blame an unsteady hand, overactive eyelid, or both. When I do manage to draw a decent (read: not weirdly diagonal) line, nine times out of 10 I end up smearing it so that my attempt at winged liner looks more like a Rorschach inkblot.

What am I doing wrong? I posed the question to beauty blogger Felicia Walker-Benson, creator of ThisThatBeauty.com, and Kat Von D artistry collective artist Steffanie Strazzere. Here’s their list of the top five mistakes that will turn your cat eye into raccoon eyes—and how to fix them.

1. You’re using the wrong type of liquid liner.

“One thing that I think is very important is to choose a product that feels comfortable for you,” says Walker-Benson. There are different types of liquid liners, and if one feels more natural to use, then you’re going to find it easier to control. “Does a liquid felt tip pen feel comfortable to you? Does a gel liner pencil work? I would recommend playing around in a Sephora or Ulta and try all of those different tools—I think a lot of times people try to get a look with the wrong tool, or a tool that doesn’t feel comfortable for them.”

Walker-Benson swears by the E.L.F Cosmetics Intense Ink Eyeliner explaining that it’s, “so good. It’s really the only one I wear. It’s super rich, which is great for darker skin tones, plus, the felt tip gives me great precision and control.”

2. You’re trying to draw one even line across your lid.

“A common mistake that I see so many people make it that they think their liquid liner is meant to be one line,” says Strazzere. “I can never do one line for a cat eye! What I do are lots of little lines—it’s almost like sketching it out—then I’ll connect them. Once I have a pretty straight line, I’ll go back with a little more of a heavy hand and really perfect it.”

Walker-Benson advises testing a variety of application techniques in order to lock in which ones work best for you. “I think in addition to trying out different liquid eyeliner tools, it’s also important to try out different techniques,” she tells SELF. “Maybe it is drawing dashes and then connecting them, maybe it’s a free-handed stroke coming from the outside in. The fun part of makeup is that it wipes off so you can just experiment with different ideas.”

3. You’re trying to line your lashes and create a cat eye flick in one stroke.

In my experience, it’s almost impossible to draw a seamless line and classic cat eye flick at the exact same time. Strazzere agrees, saying it’s best to do it in two steps. You should actually draw the outline of the wing you want before lining your lid. Start by drawing a line up and out from the outer edge of your eyelid, where your lashes end. That’s the outer edge of the wing. Then, move the tip of the liner slightly inward along your lash line (toward your nose) and make a second line connecting to the first, meeting it to form a point. You’ll be left with an open triangle shape. Repeat on the other eye. “Next,” she explains, “draw a line across your lid directly on top of your actual lash line. Finally, go back and fill in your flick outline, and you’ll have the perfect cat eye that’s symmetrical to your eye shape.”

4. You’re holding your liner brush too close to your eyelid.

The amount of pressure used during liner application can dramatically change the type of eye look you end up with. “Say I’m doing a liquid liner and I want like a really perfect end,” says Strazzere, “the further away you hold it the less product will come out, and the more tapered of a line you’ll get.”

The closer you hold your liner tip, the more pressure you’ll have when drawing a line, which equals more product on your lids—which is not always ideal. Strazzere advises holding your brush closer to its end rather than at its base for a more precise and intentional line. “It’s almost like holding a baseball bat—the further down you hold it, the further the ball goes,” she says.

5. You’re closing your eye and tugging at the corner of your eyelid.

Another common eyeliner mistake is pulling on the corner of your eye to hold your lid taut. Strazzere explains that tugging on your eyelid will actually cause your makeup to look worse. “What you don’t realize is when you close your eyes, your eyelid contracts so your skin sort of goes together more,” Strazzere tells SELF. “When you’re doing that, a lot times when you open your eyes there’s that skipping, almost heart monitor [look]—that’s because your eyelid is closed.”

According to Strazzere, if you look down while you’re putting your eyeliner on, it helps to expand the eye skin which in turn allows your liner to go on more evenly. “If you look down, your eye naturally has this smoothness to it, so you don’t have to pull or tug at all,” she says.

Walker-Benson says, “What I like to do is throw my head way back to the point where my nostrils are super high, then I can see my eye area better. It’s best to find ways to apply without pulling on your eye—if you try straight on in the mirror, it’s more difficult to see your eye, which is why so many people tug their lids.”

Eyeliner In Your Inner Eyelid Increases Risk Of Vision Problems .

For the first time, scientists have studied the effects of applying eyeliner to your inner eyelid, or ‘waterline’, to find that your risk of contamination, eye infections, and blurred vision is a whole lot higher than if you choose to apply it to your outer eyelids.

The researchers, led by Alison Ng from the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo in Canada, followed the movement of eyeliner particles for two hours after application, and report that when drawn into the waterline, these particles more readily contaminate and alter the tear film of the eye – the thin layer of liquid that wards off foreign contaminants. If left unchecked, contamination can lead to discomfort and disease, particularly in those who wear contact lenses, or those with chronically dry and sensitive eyes.

“We noticed that the makeup migration happened quicker and was greater when eyeliner was put on the inner lid margin,” Ng said in a press release.

The pilot study was carried out with three volunteers who were tested after using both the outer and inner eyelid techniques. They used pencil eyeliner infused with glitter to make the movement of the particles easier to detect. According to the paper published in the journal Eye & Contact Lens, the team used a slit lamp video recorder to track the particles as they became suspended in the tear film and moved about the eye over a two-hour period.

They found that within five minutes of application, up to 30 percent more foreign particles had made their way into the tear film when eyeliner was applied to the inner eyelid, and they moved much faster than the particles from the outer eyelid application. And once they’re in your eye, these particles, which are made up of various waxes, oils, silicons and gums that are designed to make your eyeliner stay put, are very tricky for the eye’s natural cleaning process to remove. After two hours, the team found that the particles had disappeared from the tear film, which suggests that they had migrated elsewhere internally or had been cleared out of the eye.

“People who wear contact lenses are most likely to notice some problems,” said Ng. “If they have eyeliner stuck to their lenses, increasing deposits might cause vision disruption as the lens becomes cloudier.”

Now, there are a whole lot of limitations to this study: they only included three participants; they used glitter eyeliner rather than solid coloured eyeliner, but say they’d expected similar results; and they didn’t track the transfer of bacteria from the eyeliner to the eye. This is important, because it’s well-known that the older an article of make-up is, the more bacteria it could harbour. So while it might not be cause to stop lining your inner eyelid straight away – let’s face it, it looks really pretty – it’s motivation to take steps to make it safer for your long-term eye health.

“If you thoroughly sharpen your pencil eyeliner before each application and get rid of the stuff that’s stuck to the end, you’ll have a fresh tip which can help prevent infection,” said Ng. “With twist-up eyeliner, cut some off the end before each use. And always make sure to fully remove eye makeup before bed.”

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