1. Choose Your Eyeliner Wisely
Ever think that maybe it’s not you? Maybe — just maybe — it’s your eyeliner formula? Liquids can be prone to wobbliness, pencils to smeariness. For creating a “beautiful, defined eye”, makeup artist Carl Ray (whose clientele includes former First Lady Michelle Obama) opts for gel liner: “it’s easy to apply and is very long-lasting,” he explains. Our choice? One of our 2017 Best Of Beauty winners: Revlon’s Colorstay Gel Liner.
2. Erase Mistakes Strategically
“Smudged eyeliner happens!” says Daniel Chinchilla, who works with cat-eye queen, Ariana Grande. When you slip up, “it’s best to not mess up the rest of your makeup.” Instead of starting from scratch, Daniel recommends dipping a Q tip in an oil-free makeup remover (he loves Neutrogena’s) and using the small head as a tiny eraser. Carl Ray notes that dipping a Q-tip in a small amount of moisturizer also does the trick. On the go? Almay’s Makeup Eraser Stickscontain pre-loaded makeup remover, so they’re great to throw in a travel bag.
3. Play Connect The Dots
Instead of trying to achieve the perfect liner look in one single swoop, take it from the pros and take it sloooow. Ray suggests using an eye pencil to apply small dots close to the lash line “then connect the dots with an eyeliner brush.” A worthy tool would be the Smith Cosmetics 202 Microliner Brush. Chinchilla adds that “smaller strokes allow you to have more control and get a more precise line”— regardless of what type of of eyeliner you’re using.
4. Set Your Liner With Shadow
Assuming you’re not going for an intentionally smudged look, try this hack for preventing blurry pencil lines: After lining with pencil, trace over them with a coordinating eyeshadow color, Carl suggests. “Eyeliners have oil in them so following with a dusting of powder helps keep it from budging or smudging.” Think of it like applying setting powder over your foundation — same idea, but the color possibilities are endless. For the most budge-proof base in every color imaginable, try the Make Up For Ever Aqua XL pencils.
5. Sharpen Your Lines With Concealer
Concealer is for more than just under-eyes and blemishes. Ray points out that it can also be used to “clean up and reshape eyeliner mistakes.” The trick: “dip a small synthetic brush in a little bit of concealer,” and apply to areas you’d like to clean up. Want a razor-sharp cat-eye? Paint the concealer right up against the liner. The right spackle for the job? NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer (JK, it’s not actually spackle, it’s just really good at coverage.)
6. Go Steady
If an unsteady hand is to blame for a wonky liner job, Ray suggests placing your elbow on a flat surface to “mechanically keep your arm and hand steady when applying eyeliner.” We’ve also found tackling eyeliner is much easier before a third cup of coffee in the morning or third glass of vino at night. Just saying.
7. Know Your Eye Shape — and Play It Up
Ray notes the importance of remembering that eyelids are shaped differently and that “liner looks best applied differently for each eye shape, from monolid, upturned, downturned, hooded, rounded, and almond.” Play around to find what enhances your natural contours — and don’t always expect looks to translate exactly from, say, a YouTube tutorial. Curb your expectations, basically — but mostly just know that eyeliner tutorials are not one-size-fits-all.
This one goes out to everyone who thinks they suck at eyeliner: You are not alone. The good news is that with practice, there’s only one way to go — up! We asked makeup pros for their tried-and-true eyeliner tips, from fixing mistakes to preventing them altogether. Some are for eyeliner beginners and some for the intermediate-to-advanced wing-wearers (but hey, who doesn’t love to talk shop regardless?). Consider this the Cliff Notes manual to never fucking up your eyeliner again.