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.”

9 Bad Beauty Habits to Break ASAP

Expert tips to help you quit.

Everyone has a bad habit. Whether it’s leaving wet towels on the bed or sleeping with a full face of makeup, we’re all guilty of something because…life. That said, some quirks are worse than others, particularly when it comes to your beauty routine. Your hair, makeup, and nail missteps may seem harmless now, but eventually they could require even more effort to repair. SELF reached out to some of the top beauty experts in the industry for those killer practices they all really wish we’d stop doing. Think of them as your New Year’s “glam-o-lutions.”

1. Change your pillowcase often.

Even if you can’t see or smell the nastiness that’s gathering on your pillowcase, just trust us: it’s affecting your skin. “Excess dirt, oil, and makeup accumulate on your pillowcase, particularly if you sleep with a dirty face. This accumulation can not only cause skin irritation the next day, but also blocked pores and breakouts,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

You want to change your pillowcase often, and make sure to wash your face before bed. If you’re just too tired to cleanse at night, cheat. “Keep a container of cleansing towelettes by your bedside. While they may not be quite as effective as traditional cleansers, they will do the job if you are too lazy to walk back to the bathroom.” Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Daily Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths ($8.94, Walmart.com) are cost-effective and will take care of it.

2. Don’t use dull razor blades.

We’re all guilty of hanging onto that blade too long, but Dr. Whitney Bowe, board-certified dermatologist, says this habit could cause serious issues. “Keep your razor blade sharp by storing it in a dry place after use, which can prevent rusty blades and decrease your chance of a bacterial or fungal infection,” she says. “It’s also important to rinse your razor out thoroughly. If you don’t, soap and shaving cream will dry in between the blades, making them dull.”

3. Throw out old hair products after a year.

Stockpiling hair products in your shower? It’s time to purge that stash. “Don’t keep any shampoos and conditioners more than a year,” recommends Kattia Solano, owner of Butterfly Studio Salon. “The formula can break down, rendering the product less effective.” Solano suggests pairing cleansers down to two. “I like to keep two shampoos in the shower: a cleansing version like Shu Uemura Art of Hair Cleansing Oil Shampoo ($57, Birchbox.com,) and another for specific needs, like color preservation, moisture, or volumizing.”

4. Quit picking your cuticles.

This is a particular sore spot for Jin Soon Choi, celebrity manicurist and creator of JINsoon Nail Products. “A surprising number of people bite their nails and pick at their cuticles,” she says. “Moisturizing your nails and cuticles prevents hangnails and the temptation to bite them.” If regular manicures or applying vinegar around the nail bed isn’t enough to prevent chewing, Choi suggests applying Tiger Balm Ultra Sports Rub ($11.95, Drugstore.com) to nails and cuticles. “It has a very strong smell, yet it moisturizes thoroughly.”

5. Remove all your makeup before you work out.

Sweaty makeup is never as cute as you want it to be. “From an aesthetic standpoint—unless you’re wearing waterproof—it might be dripping down your face. From a dermatological standpoint, makeup and sweat are never a good combination,” explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Laser Medicine at Metropolitan Hospital, and dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. “When you’re hot, the body naturally cools by sweating and sweat escapes through your pores. If you have a layer of makeup over those pores, it’s causing a blockage. So now there’s sweat, bacteria, and makeup trapped in a pore with nowhere to go, which can lead to pimples. Dr. Engleman recommends an antioxidant serum like Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum ($62, Sephora.com) applied to a clean face prior to sweating for maximum benefit.

6. Stop playing with your hair.

Although cute in the first grade, according to Janelle Chaplin, Global Creative Director, Original & Mineral, you’re wrecking things as an adult. “It creates stress on your locks and adds to oil build up.” Chaplin recommends keeping a small smoothing brush along with a detangler like O&M Mini Know Knott ($11, Originalmineral.com) in your purse. “No twisting, touching, playing, or using your dirty mitts on your locks!”

7. Give up tanning.

Tanning is never OK. “Stop thinking that a tan is ‘healthy’ as long as you don’t burn,” warns Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Founder & Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The George Washington Medical Center. “A tan is a sign the skin has already been damaged. Protect your skin from premature aging and skin cancer by regularly using sunscreen and more importantly cover with a hat and clothing. It makes a big difference!” Try gentle sunscreens like Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 ($38, Sephora.com).

8. Don’t skip the serums.

What’s the most common skincare mistake? Forgetting to bolster your sunscreen with antioxidants. “The most preventable cause of aging is sun damage from daily outdoor exposure, but common SPF creams prevent only about 50-60% of environmental damage,” explains Dr. Jennifer Myers, board-certified dermatologist of Myers Dermatology. “Environmental exposure to UV rays and pollutants lead to wrinkles, dull texture, brown spots, and even skin cancer. The most effective anti-aging secret is the use of an antioxidant paired with sunscreen every single day. These serums reverse free radical damage and give an added layer of protection.” Dr. Meyers recommends SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($162, Skinceuticals.com) used in combination with a zinc and titanium-based sunscreen with SPF 50 for maximum benefit.

9. Stop over-processing your hair.

Bleach paired with heat styling equals the mother of all recipes for bad hair. So beautiful, but so bad for you. “Dry, damaged, and brittle hair is typically the result of too many chemical services (color, perms, relaxers, straighteners, extensions); repeated or inappropriate use of heated styling tools; and environmental stressors like the sun, hot water, and chlorine,” says David Adams hair colorist for Aveda. “Over-processing breaks down the protein (keratin) in the hair, which causes breakage, split ends, and dull look.” Plus it destroys the cuticle, causing dryness and frizz. If this describes your hair, Adams suggests a combination of regular salon treatments and proper home care like Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment ($36, Aveda.com) paired with proper lessons for blow drying and heat styling.

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