How to Keep Eyeliner from Smudging: Best Tips for Smear-Free Makeup
There’s nothing we hate more than taking the time to painstakingly perfect our cat-eye, only for it to go haywire on us within a few hours. Even with the clever tape tricks or business cards as a guide to a precise wing, it never seems to last. Whether it smudges like we’ve been crying, or the once-crisp line starts to separate and fade, it’s an annoying beauty problem that we don’t recognize until the day is over and the mirror shows what we’ve been missing.
This is why we’re on cloud nine to have learned from top makeup artists Kathy Jeung and Toby Fleischman, their tricks for getting liner to stay in place all day long, including a mind-blowing beauty hack you’ll use from now until forever.
Keep scrolling for the secret to infallible liner.
How to Apply Eyeliner
Here’s how you can apply eyeliner for a flawless look:
- Shake your eyeliner if it’s a liquid.
- Begin in the middle of your eye and move toward the outer corner, following the upper lash line as close to your eyelashes as possible.
- Line from the inner corner of your upper lash line to the middle of your eye to close the gap.
- Add wings by moving in at an angle toward your lower lash line.
Choose a Long-wear, Waterproof Formula for Best Results
Both Jeung and Fleischman say your best bet is to reach for a long-wear, waterproof eyeliner formula. Jeung’s favorite is Rimmel’s Scandal Eyes Waterproof Gel Eyeliner ($6), and Fleischman likes Lancôme’s Le Stylo Waterproof Eyeliner ($28).
Consider Your Skin Type When Selecting Your Eyeliner
A mismatch between your skin type and your eyeliner may be to blame for constant smudging. If you have oily skin then you’ll want to avoid softer formulated eyeliners. These are more prone to running when combined with oily skin. Instead, reach for a liquid or felt-tip option to nix smudging for good.
Prep Your Skin by Cleaning, Toning, and Moisturizing
Clean, tone, and moisturize your eyelids to remove oil from your skin. A water-based moisturizer like Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer ($39) will hydrate the skin without making the area slippery. Allow your eyelid to dry before adding the primer. If you have oily skin, lightly dab excess oil with a tissue. And if you have really oily skin you can skip the moisturizer and go straight to primer, since you’ll want to avoid any additional moisture.
Curl Your Lashes First, Then Apply Eyeliner
Always, always, always curl your lashes first. There’s nothing worse than spending time on your eyeliner and getting it just right then smudging it while curling your lashes. If you save lash curling for last, try swapping it out as the first thing you do when it comes to your eyes.
Apply Concealer to Your Undereyes
Try applying concealer to your undereyes to prevent running eyeliner. The concealer will create a barrier to help the eyeliner appear fresh for longer.
For Smooth Application, Always Use an Eye Primer
If your lids are oily, primer is a necessary barrier from natural oils. A primer creates a smooth canvas for makeup application. Without an even base, the liner may skip across your eyelid as you apply, especially if your skin is on the dry side. Matte concealer is a helpful dupe if you don’t have an eye primer. Apply a small dot of the primer with your finger and pat it into the eyelid.
Powder First, Line Second
Jeung also recommends using powder before the first swipe of liner, for additional protection. “Before applying eyeliner, you want to make sure the eye area along the lashes is free of excess oil. To do this, lightly dust along the lash line with a very small amount of translucent powder to absorb excess moisture and oil, and then apply your long-wear eyeliner and powder for maximum eyeliner longevity,” she recommends.
Double up on Eyeliner Layers for All-Day Wear
Jeung, let us in on the secret to Rita Ora’s all-day wear: “After your first application of eyeliner has dried, with a small fluffy brush, carefully dust a tiny bit of matte translucent powder, like Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder ($6), over the eyeliner with short inward strokes; then, draw a second coat of eyeliner for extra intensity and staying power.”
Use Dusting Powder in Between Liner Layers
Dusting powder in between layers of a liner is also the secret weapon of Fleischman, to Anna Kendrick’s precise feline flicks. “The key to making sure your eyeliner stays put is to layer, layer, layer,” says Fleischman, specifically in the liner, powder, liner order. “It may take a bit more time but it will be worth it in the long run when your flick is still on point by the end of the night.” With gentle sweeping motions, brush off the powder so your lids don’t feel heavy.
For “super bulletproof” liner, Jeung recommends layering formulas. You can layer a shadow in the same shade as your eyeliner on top of the last coat to set and lock it in.
Don’t Apply to Your Waterline
Not only is it bad for your eyes (potentially obstructing glands within the waterline) but it leads to watery eyes. If your eyes are watering, it’s guaranteed that your eyeliner will start smudging. Even if you like the look of eyeliner lining your waterline, you’re better off avoiding this technique if you want to avoid smudging.
Use More Than One Liner
Drugstore eyeliners help Jeung layer on products without smudging. “For extra intense eyeliner, first draw your eyeliner line with a waterproof eye pencil like Rimmel’s Scandal Eyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Pencil ($4) or Exaggerate Auto Waterproof Eye Definer ($4), then apply a waterproof liquid, pen, or gel liner like Rimmel’s Micro Liner ($4) over. This helps keep eyeliner strong along the lash line,” she says.
Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On ($23) is a favorite for cat-eye lovers and tightlining pros alike. The eyeliner is hydrating and dries to a long-lasting finish that does not fade away. If you’re a fan of gel liners, Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($32) contains a humidity-resistant and waterproof formula.
Spritz Setting Spray
Lock in your hard work with a long-lasting setting spray (or setting powder). In an ‘X’ motion, spray across your face, being sure to keep the bottle six to eight inches away from your face. Keep your eyes closed and fan your face. Opening your eyes immediately may cause early creasing.
Buy Waterproof Eyeliner for Smudge-Free Wear
Possibly the best way to prevent smudging is to start with a product that aims to be smudge-free. Purchasing a waterproof eyeliner will lead to long-lasting wear without running. The staying power of a waterproof eyeliner can work wonders against tears, sweat, and any other causes of smudging.
Unfortunately, cream and kohl waterproof eyeliners aren’t easily found. If you’re looking for a waterproof formula, you’ll likely end up purchasing a liquid or pencil eyeliner.
Use Oil Absorbent Sheets to Decrease Oiliness That Leads to Smudging
If you have oily skin try using an oil absorbent sheet before application and periodically throughout the day. This can cut back on oiliness that will lead to your eyeliner smudging.
Why does my eye makeup smudge under my eye?
There are many possible reasons why your eye makeup is smudging. It could be caused by applying product too quickly without allowing time to dry between layers or by simply applying too much product in general. Eye makeup will smudge under your eye if your eyes weren’t primed prior to application or if setting powder or spray wasn’t used to hold the look in place.
How can I keep my eyeliner in place all day?
Keep your eyeliner in place all day by selecting a waterproof formula and using both primer and setting powder. By using products that are built to extend wear you can avoid smudging and running throughout the day.