Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Hypocricy of Retractable Eyeliner

Self-sharpening they say. Bah.

I don't know of a single "self-sharpening" twist-out pencil that actually does what it claims. All these eye and lip pencils do is extend and retract (well, some of them don't actually retract), so why the false advertising? Do cosmetics companies think we customers are that easily duped?

Maybe we were fooled initially. When retractable pencils first emerged on the market, my first thought was that they contained an internal razor/sharpener up near the top, which shaved the output down to a point and held the castings within the plastic tubing. It took only one purchase to realize I was mistaken (though I still think it's a good idea), so the continued self-sharpening claims that are printed on pencil packaging have become a pet peeve.

Brand new, these pencils are great. The tip looks much the same way I'd expect from a freshly-sharpened traditional pencil; its point puts down a very fine line, indeed, at least one one eye. I could even tightline under the lashes with such a fine edge. But by the time I move to the second eye, the point becomes blunted, and within a very short while, the tip equals the width of the "lead," a width I am stuck with until the pen runs out—where I never get any advance warning because of its hidden design.

I know I could roll the tip at an angle against a tissue to bevel the edge, but that seems wasteful for a product advertised to do this sharpening on its own. 

Chanel and some other brands include a tiny sharpener tucked into the base. (See Dovey's NARS article for an excellent review and closeup pictures of these wee sharpeners.)

While the inclusion of such a tool might prove useful, I still have to pull the thing off the base, sharpen the lead, and then clean the sharpener.

I own a few of these types of pencils and have have no issue with the design, whose primary benefit is that they don't require fumbling about in the dark for a separate sharpener. I don't mind the width of their lead, especially for the lower lashes, so they are a convenience to me in that they never need sharpening.  However, that does NOT mean they are self sharpening, and I wish companies would stop pretending the pencils are something other than what they truly are.

What do you think of these pencils? Are they a major convenience or overpriced/overhyped tubes of plastic?


  1. Hahaha you are so right! I never thought about it before! They aren't really self sharpening! I agree-I think it's just so that they can price them higher.

  2. Hi Zuzu,

    Thank you for the link! I totally agree about your self sharpener point. When it comes to eye pencils, both retractable and otherwise, I've given up sharpening to a point even if I can. I end up wasting too much pencil and getting a point that's not to my liking. I don't mind a little width, so its ok. If I want a clean line, i'll go for a gel or wet eyeshadow instead.

  3. I have no problem with the Tarte eye pencils. They don't need to be sharpened, they are very smooth and the right size to use. The only problem once I turned the top to get some more pencil out, I can't turn them the other way to put them back in. So I need to be careful when putting the cap back on..

  4. That has always bugged me too, but today I found Smashbox Always Sharp Waterproof Kôhl Liner after some research and I can't wait to try it.

  5. I've never been able to get regular pencil eyeliner to make a mark on my eyelids, and tend to prefer liquid liner as a result. Retractable pencils actually do leave a mark on my eyelids, and I use them for tightlining.


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