Beauty, Fashion Tips, Features, Get the look, How to Wear, Nostalgia, Opinion
By Lauren Bravo on July 16th, 2013
Eyeliner was introduced to the Western world in the 1920s with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and we’ve been getting in a tizzy over it ever since… Here’s how to do kitten flicks without looking like a dog’s dinner
Tutankhamun, early eyeliner icon
I am in a make up rut.
I am the Marge Simpson of cosmetics – just the same wardrobe of Max Factor mascara, Garnier BB Cream, Bare Minerals foundation and L’Oréal Superliners in varying levels of crumbling dried-outness, stretching back ad infinitum. The rest of these items will get an upgrade every few years, or fall out of favour for a week or two while I play with something newfangled, but the one constant that always remains is the eyeliner.
Do you remember a time before liquid eyeliner? I do, dimly. I remember crayoning on khol, jabbing white pencils in my tear ducts to ‘brighten’ them, meticulously sponging on lilac shimmer up to my eyebrows – but it wasn’t until liquid liner made its triumphant comeback, around 2005, that I felt like I truly had eyes. Before that they were just plain, blinky holes in my face.
It all changed when the 50s and 60s stormed back into the present, kicked Dido into touch, and replaced the tedium of the early noughties with new icons like Karen O, Alison Mosshart and the queen of them all, Amy Winehouse. Women who gave great eyeliner. And because I was 17 and mastering a kitten flick seemed easier than trying to date someone from a low rent Brighton indie band, liquid liner became my hobby.
These are my eyes.
Eight years on and I’m pretty sure my look has been relegated to the retro cast-offs bin for longer than it was ever fashionable (when Kate Middleton got married in sultry panda eyes, it drew a suitably thick line under eyeliner’s reign as an edgy make up choice), but I don’t care. It defineth my face. And I mean that literally because without it I have an incredibly oval head, like a boiled egg.
Every so often I’ll have a fit of spontaneity and ditch the liner, because it does make my lashes look twice the length, but I just end up squinting into mirrors halfway through the day wondering why there’s a pink balloon with a mouth drawn on, hovering where my head should be.
So like Coco Chanel’s red lipstick and Cindy Crawford’s mole, precision liquid liner is my beauty ‘signature’ – and unlike my actual signature, I’ve become quite good at it after years of practice. So good I feel qualified to lay down my liquid liner laws. Ignore them at your peril! Or just comment below and tell me I’m talking bollocks.
LAUREN’S LIQUID LINER LAWS
1. Find your liner life partner
L’Oréal’s original Superliner (£6.49) has seen me quite literally through thick and thin. I love it because it has a flexible nib, somewhere between a felt tip and the flimsy brushes of yore, and because it stays put, but can also be easily wiped off during application if I mess up.
But if you feel more confident with a sturdier tip, Alexa Chung’s favourite is Eyeko’s Skinny Liner (right, £10), which is just like the felt tip you would use to do your famous bubble writing on school projects (bubble writing really was the social currency of the primary years, wasn’t it?). The inky nib makes it easy to get right up close to the lash line and good for a really sharp flick. Shout out also to Eyeko’s mascaras – I’m in love with the Mascara Wardrobe (£21), which gives you lengthening, volumising and curling wands to swap in and out as you please.
2. Thou shalt not rush.
Michelangelo didn’t do the Sistine Chapel in half an hour, and your liquid liner deserves the patience of a grand master too. But once you’ve got the knack, it’ll take no longer than shmooshing on a bit of shadow, I promise.
3. Eyes open!
Yes, yes, we’re all scared of accidentally blinding ourselves. But screwing your eye closed while you apply is only ever going to leave you with a weird feathery line and a blackened tear duct. So eyeball fear in the face, learn not to flinch and keep them open – it makes it far easier to see how your liner is actually going to look when you’re awake, too.
4. Diff’rent strokes.
One of the biggest myths people to seem to believe about liquid liner is that it needs to be applied in one complete sweep, from inner eye to outer, with no stops, no reversing and no do-overs, or else the make up police burst out from a cupboard and confiscate it in the name of Dusty Springfield and all things holy. NOT TRUE.
The best way is actually to start by using little strokes, bit by bit, to build up a line that perfectly follows the curve of your eyelid. Remember that school science experiment where you built a standing bridge out of wooden blocks? It’s almost, sort of, not entirely unlike that.
5. To err is human
If you go wrong along the way, don’t just keep painting over the mistakes until you can barely see – stop and wipe off the wonky bits as you go. You can get fancy with a cotton bud and eye make up remover if you like, but my preferred method is spitty finger.
6. Think thin – at first
Even if you fancy bold, felt-tipped go faster stripes, it’s best to start with a skinny little line right up against your lashes. You can always go back and thicken it afterwards, but drawing it halfway up your eyelid from the off is a sure-fire way to look like an Avril Lavigne tribute act (Avril Latrine).
7. Keep to your zone
The bigger the eyeliner flicks, the more chance there is they’ll look a bit ropey, or rub off during the day. So as a rule of thumb, the tip of the flick should line up diagonally with the end of your eyebrow and protrude no further.
8. May the best flick win
Now, you’re a busy lady. You’ve got stuff to do. You’re halfway through that PHD and the cat needs worming and Storage Hunters is on in a minute. You don’t have hours to spend with a protractor, checking the exact angle on each eyeliner flick. I get that.
But nothing undoes the power of a slick lick of liquid liner quicker (or makes your face look wonkier) than mismatched flicks at the end. So my rule is: may the best flick win. Freestyle as best you can, and if one comes out thin and spindly, the other thick and blocky, pick the one you like best, wipe the other off and try to recreate it so they match.