Is it a hyperbolic to say a makeup tip has changed your life? As someone with small-ish eyes who counts black eyeliner as a life necessity, right up there with food and dirty chai lattes, the answer is simple: no. I’ll start off by saying that I thought my eyeliner game was already vastly superior to that of my peers, mainly due to the fact that I started at a young age, and like all things you start at a young age, it quickly became a habit; I now swish and apply with the ease of a seasoned artiste.
Like the bands I love (#RIP screamo) and my taste in men, my eyeliner preference has also evolved—I started dabbling with pencil, but nowadays I use the felt-tipped liquid kinds exclusively. It’s the only type of formula and applicator that doesn’t smudge of smear on my semi-monolidded eyelids, or leave me with dark rings under my eyes like a sad panda.
Anyway, back to the eyeliner tip that changed my life. A few months ago, makeup artist and L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador Sir John B stopped by the Byrdie studios to shoot a winged eyeliner tutorial, inspired by a look he had done on his client Beyoncé—you may have heard of her. She’s, like, a singer or pop star or something.
As I watched him apply an exquisite sweep of liner, transfixed, he casually shared a tidbit that changed my eyeliner game forever. In fact, it was so unassuming, so mind-blowingly simple that it took me a full six months to process and absorb it before I put it to use. Keep scrolling and allow me to explain.
I mentioned before that I’m comfortable around eyeliner. Eyeliner and I are like friends who pig out in sweats and binge-watch 10 episodes of How to Get Away With Murder together, hungover on a Sunday afternoon—there’s no awkwardness or formalities. We get each other.
In fact, rarely do I leave the house without my requisite sleek black line applied and flicked. Call me vain, but I never feel fully put together without liner on—it’s the only thing that helps me look and feel awake and wide-eyed (other than the aforementioned dirty chai latte). Concealer? I’ll skip it. Lipstick? Ugh, you’ll have to tear it from my tightly gripped claws, but if worse comes to worst, I guess I could (barely) survive.
Eyeliner? You will take my firstborn child before you take it; go ahead, I dare you. These days, I can apply a sleek, perfectly even line on both of my lids in under 30 seconds—I can even apply it while driving (at a stoplight, obviously—I’m not that crazy). Thus, I have reached peak eyeliner game… or so I thought.
As Sir John was creating his ‘Yoncé-inspired eyeliner look, he walked me through what he was doing. “Here, I’m creating a smooth base for her makeup,” he tells me. “Now, I’m using my magic skills to give her skin like an angel.” (Well, something along those lines.)
Watching him work was like watching an artist create a masterpiece—it was mesmerising, and glorious, and so beautiful that I actually felt emotional multiple points throughout his process.
After he created an expertly flicked cat eye with black liquid liner, he then did something strange. He lifted up the model’s eyelid and then proceeded to fill in her waterline with a pencil eyeliner.
I watched transfixed and wanted to scream, “What’s happening? Please tell me. I need an explanation. I can’t breathe!” but tried to calm myself and manage to squeak out, “So, um, what are you doing now?”
He explained to me that this is a trick he uses on Beyoncé (!!!) and all his clients (you can see evidence of it in the photo above). Basically, he traces a winged-out liner on their lid first—this was the step that I had mastered and was proud of myself for accomplishing for the past decade or so.
But there’s another step—an extra step that will take you from blah to Bey. And that added step is simple: lift your lid up, and trace your waterline with a soft pencil eyeliner, making sure to fully connect it with the initial line you traced on your eye.
You’ll have to really wiggle your eyeliner into the base of your lashes to connect the two lines, or you can smudge the two lines together with a soft, fine-tipped sponge, like the ones that come on the ends of some pencil liners. This tip will make a world of difference—trust me.
I’m not sure exactly why it took me so long to put this tip into use—I can only blame the fact that my body had gone into shock and needed time to absorb this information. When you go over half your life believing one thing only to have a sage, wise master tell you you’ve been living a lie, you need some time to collect yourself.
So, a few weeks ago, something within me stirred and I finally decided to put this trick into action. I grabbed my Eyeko Black Magic Liner (£15), and traced my normal thin black line, right above my lash line. Then, I grabbed Rimmel’s Magnif’Eyes (£5) in Back to Blacks, twisted up the tapered end, and swiped it horizontally (so that it was parallel to my eyelid) against my waterline. (Surprise! This is actually how you’re supposed to use these weirdly-shaped, fat and pointy-tipped liners—another makeup artist trick I learned.)
Then, I held it vertically and used the pointy tip to fill in any gaps along my lash line. I looked at the eye with the eyeliner applied on top lid and waterline, and the other eye with just the eyeliner on the top lid, and the difference was astounding.
The eye with the waterline filled in looked so much more defined, and had more depth, which is the pretty much the epoch of Asian-girl beauty goals. The more I looked, the more it seemed like the eye with only eyeliner on the top lid was strangely bare—the line was stark, and glaring, and stood out in a really unnatural way. I applied the liner to my other eye, and marveled at my newly bright, defined eyes. I was a different person. My life felt like it had begun again. Everything was exciting and shiny and new again.
Some things I recommend: First, I’ve found that it’s best to apply liquid liner, then curl your lashes, then apply the pencil liner to your waterline. If you try to curl your lashes after lining your waterline, most of it will come off on your eyelash curler and you’ll have to redo it all.
Second, I highly recommend a soft, twist-up liner for the second step—or else you’ll poke yourself with a too-sharp or too-hard liner and I don’t want that on my conscience. I really like Rimmel’s version (I pretty much only use the side with the pointed tip), while Stila’s Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner (£15) is another good option because it has a really fine twist-up tip.
Basically, the softer the pencil, the easier it will be to pull off the second step. And third—well, there’s really no third. Just think of Queen Bey and how amazing her eyeliner always looks, and know that you, too, can achieve eyeliner nirvana. Thank you forever, Sir John, for this life-changing tip. Now—onto lipstick?
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