I'll just come out and say that I have never been a big fan of eyeliner. I have large, round, doe eyes with plenty of skin real estate, but the moment I applied eyeliner above the upper lashes, I'd see little beady piggy eyes staring back at me in the mirror. How could something so seemingly minor so drastically change the appearance of my eyes?
I realize that eyeliner is a desert-island item for many of you, but I had never mastered the look on me, despite repeated attempts over many years. I felt a bit vindicated for not towing the, um, line after I saw a Pixiwoo video where Sam demonstrates how to make large eyes appear smaller with the use of eyeliner and dark eyeshadow. In fact, the below video make it immediately clear why I had never felt comfortable wearing eyeliner all these years. On the flip side, I was nodding right along with the small-to-large-eyes demonstration ... right up until she decided to add eyeliner at around 09:20m. Immediately, the large, bright, open eye she had created closed up. Still very beautiful, but visibly smaller.
Maybe some of us don't need eyeliner. Despite dark-ash blonde hair, my lashes are charcoal colored, and they used to be very thick and sooty. Given my love of natural-looking makeup, it makes sense that I'd find a thick line alien on me. Sadly, however, my lashes aren't as thick as they once were. In fact, when I look closely at my naked lashes in a 10x magnifying mirror, I can see gaps where the roots meet the skin. Gaps.
Here's where tightlining became useful, by providing an application method where I could make my eyelashes look thicker and darker at the roots without giving the appearance of wearing any makeup at all. In fact, tightlining lets me easily skip mascara.
If you don't know how to tightline, here are the basic steps:
- Wash your hands and make sure the brush you choose for your eyeliner product is clean.
- Assemble the product of your choice (gel liner/brush, pencil, liquid eyeliner). All items must be at least water resistant.
- Raise your lashes upward by gently lifting the eyelid skin in order to expose the inner skin area at the lash roots.
- Look for tiny gaps between the hairs, and starting at the outer corner (where you'll want the most pigment) lightly wiggle the color from the brush or pencil into those gaps as close to the roots as possible.
- [Optional] Tightline your lower lash line by wiggling color into the gaps from on top, between the roots and the water line.
That's it. It's up to you whether you choose a color that matches your lashes or something brighter. Be careful of shimmer products, where the particles can get into the eye and cause irritation. Those are probably best used over the upper lash line, not on the water line, and even then, sparingly. Our lashes have a purpose—to protect our eyes against dust, pollen, rain, and sun, not glitter.
One more tip: If you use waterproof liquid eyeliner, try not to blink until it sets or you could end up with color on your lower rim. It's hard! The applicator always tickles my eyes, and they water, so I tilt my head back, open my eyes very wide, and it seems that if I then blink, the lids do not touch. Also, any tears run out the outside corners of my eyes and down my temples, so nothing gets smudged.
The following video from Beau Nelson of Beauté Cosmetics is how I learned how to tightline.
If you don't have time to watch the video yet, I took a screen capture of the before-and-after image. Impressive, isn't it? The result is extremely natural looking, which is not going to appeal to those of you who like a retro cat eye/flick.
The tightlining method was such a revelation for me. I started with the MAC 212 flat liner brush and Bobbi Brown gel eyeliners, and then I discovered the the most amazing eyeliner brush after reading comments on The Non-blonde blog: The Paula Dorf Transformer brush is slightly curved to follow the curve of the eyelid. I gave this brush a cursory review in my 2011 Favorites post.
I still rarely use pencils, which apply too thick a line, so having the right brush makes all the difference when applying color both over and under the lashes.
My eyes can sometimes feel irritated when I tightline below the lash line, so I decided to try Laura Mercier's tightline method (who is credited with having coined the term), by applying color over the top. Tools useful for the job are the Hakuhodo K005 or one of the Paula Dorf bushes (angle liner or transformer). I push color into my lash roots to make the most unobtrusive line possible, sometimes using gel, but most often using powder.
The powder products that I found work best are stiff, even a little waxy, or super pigmented. Here are my favorites, which I occasionally use with Paula Dorf Transformer liquid:
- Laura Mercier Matte Eyeshadow (Deep Night and Twilight Grey)
- Chantecaille Lasting Eye Shade (Celestite and Obsidian)
- Alima Satin Matte Eyeliner (Black Violet and Pewter)
- Bobbi Brown Matte Eyeshadow (Navy and Charcoal)
UPDATE: After several months more of experimenting, I have found that nothing compares to using natural animal hair for tightlining—particularly the Hakuhodo K005 (aka the Kokutan Eyeshadow Brush SL with the ebony handle and black ferrule). I realize that many of you will only use synthetics, and to be sure, they do an excellent job, but the uncut weasel hairs get in between the lashes the way a flat liner brush cannot, lets you follow the natural curve of your eyelid more easily, and the natural hairs deposit color like no one's business. And if that weren't incentive enough, the Hakuhodo K005 ($18) costs less than the MC 212 flat liner ($23). I have nothing to gain by saying this; I don't work for Hakuhodo, and I receive no kickbacks or free product. The K005 is just one outstanding brush. Period.
Photo credits: (1) Google images, (2) mine