When you were a little girl you may have assumed that every woman intrinsically knows how to apply makeup perfectly. Of course, then you got older and realized that that is not the case. Makeup can be hard, and one of the hardest elements to master is the art of the cat eye — which is why we all need some genius eyeliner hacks in our lives.
You know how it is: You just want a little bit of definition for your eyes before heading out the door, but before you know it you've poked yourself in the pupil while attempting tight-lining, given yourself the patterns of a racoon in the quest for a dramatic smoky eye, and spent half an hour systematically making each cat eye wing larger while trying to make it match the other until they both took over your entire face. In the end you throw the eyeliner down and decide to stay home for yet another Netflix binge. Sound familiar?
Luckily I've been there too, and now I'm going to share all of my hard-earned eyeliner hack wisdom with you. Get your concealer, tape, and pencil erasers (really) ready for some serious flicking action.
1. Make an outline.
If you struggle with drawing the perfect cat-eye, try this technique. First draw an outline of the shape you want: one line going slightly up from the outer corner of your eye, and another line above it following the curve of your lash line to the middle part of your eye (as seen above).
Don't worry if it's a little messy. Bonus tip: I find it helps me to draw a better line if I look down at the mirror.
Then it's just a matter of filling it in.
Every time I take a minute to draw an outline first, my cat eye always comes out a million times better. Give it a shot!
And remember to do both eyes at the same time; meaning, draw a line on one eye, then do the same to the other eye, and so on. This will keep them looking similar.
2. Use tape.
I've heard about this hack for creating the perfect cat eye so many times, so I finally decided to try it.
Take two pieces of tape and affix them both at an angle so that a stencil in the shape of a cat eye is formed. Then fill in the space between the tape, as messily as you like.
When I peeled the tape off, this is basically what I had:
It was a little messier than I'd like, so I had to touch it up a bit, and I didn't love the shape either. This one wasn't my favorite technique, but part of that might have to do with the tape I used. This might work for you if you're short on time and steady hands (and if you have better quality tape!).
3. Do a smoky cat-eye.
Liquid eyeliner can be difficult to work with, because it has to be absolutely precise to look good, and it can also look somewhat harsh. So the next time you're dreading the prospect of struggling to perfect your cat eye, why not consider using a pencil eyeliner instead?
I like to use Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil when I'm in the mood for a softer (and much easier) cat eye. I simply line my upper and lower lash lines, smudge them a little with my finger, and then do a short flick at the end and smudge that a little bit too.
It's fast, it's easy, and it's completely mistake-proof. Plus it looks very romantic and flattering in a way that liquid eyeliner can't really achieve.
4. Make a cat-eye stamp with a pencil eraser.
Yes, you read that correctly. Meet my handy little pencil eraser stamp: I cut a pencil eraser in half, leaving a half-circle shape, and then whenever I need a quick cat eye I simply paint it with liquid eyeliner and stamp it next to my eye. Below is the result.
It usually needs a little bit of touching up, so I quickly connect the flick to my lower and upper lash lines. That leaves me with this.
A perfect cat-eye in ten seconds? Totally doable when you have this DIY stamp. (If you need a more detailed step-by-step, check out this tutorial.) I like this much better than the tape method, personally.
5. Keep your eyeliner from drying out.
Why does eyeliner only dry out when you need it the most? It's a sad fact of life, but there's a way to prevent that from happening to you. Whether you spent $30 or $5 on your eyeliner, make that purchase last by storing it correctly.
You should always, always store liquid eyeliner upside down. I keep all of mine standing upside down in a pretty candle holder from Ikea. This keeps them from drying out prematurely.
Gel eyeliner (the kind that comes in a little pot with a brush) is also notorious for drying out. Luckily there's a simple fix for that too.
Take whatever kind of oil you have around, such as argan oil or even the olive oil in your kitchen cabinet, and add a few drops to the gel eyeliner pot. Mix it around and voila: Your previously dry-as-dust eyeliner is now good to go.
6. Hooded eye makeup hacks.
If you have hooded eyes or eyes that, for whatever reason, don't have a lot of eyelid space to work with, you probably know all too well the struggle of trying to make your eye makeup be seen. Instead of fighting against what you have, embrace it. It will save you time and a lot of frustration.
If eyeliner and eye shadow doesn't show up on your upper lid when your eyes are open, apply your makeup to your lower lash line instead. This can mean an upside down cat-eye, or smudged eyeshadow below the eye for a flipped smoky eye look. It's dramatic and it's different, and it works with what you've got. See more makeup hacks for hooded eyes here.
7. Skip the black eyeliner for daytime.
Black eyeliner can be too harsh in the light of day. If you're looking for an easy and natural-looking way to define your eyes for work, try switching to brown eyeliner. Even if you pile on a thick line and smudge it outwards, like I did below, it still looks a lot more low-key and office-appropriate than black eyeliner would.
I used Pacifica Natural Eye Pencil in Fringe for this look. Gray eyeliner can also be an excellent choice if you're looking for a more subtle approach.
8. Erase mistakes in seconds.
We've all been there: the dreaded liquid eyeliner mishap. OK, maybe not as bad as this (I had a little too much fun exaggerating for the purpose of my demonstration), but you know what I mean.
So you messed up your cat eye and you need to fix it fast. Simply grab one of these bad boys:
This e.l.f. Makeup Remover Pen is only $3 and has saved me on countless occasions. It effectively removes every trace of even the most stubborn eye makeup in mere seconds. Below is my cat eye after just a few swipes of the pen:
See? Completely fixed. It really is that cheap and that effective.
You can even use it to remove other kinds of makeup, such as stray lipstick or mascara. Just be sure to wipe off the tip in between uses to keep it from smearing leftover traces of makeup on your skin the next time you use it.
9. White eyeliner is actually a beauty staple.
It may seem like something you would never need, but white eyeliner actually has tons of uses. Above I'm using it on my bottom lash line to make my eyes appear bigger, underneath my eyeshadow to make the pale lilac shade pop, and even on my brow bone as a highlighter.
The takeaway here: Buy white eyeliner. Use it. Love it. Celebrate it. It doesn't even matter what kind (although a pencil eyeliner is probably the most versatile variety in this case).
10. Use eyeshadow as eye liner.
Honestly, if you have a great eye shadow palette that you love then you may not even need eye liner. Get an angled brush like this one slightly wet and dip it in eye shadow for any shade of eye liner you want. Above I had fun with the rose gold shade "Liar" from my Urban Decay Naked 3 palette.
Of course you can also create a classic smoky eye with grey, brown, or black eye shadow or a smudged cat-eye. Be creative; that's half the fun of makeup.
Images: Kelly Dougher