The Truth About Cat Eyeliner

Some things are not quite what they seem.

For instance, spring in Chicago.  You may imagine a fairly sunny season full of warmth, flowers, and the occasional rain shower because that’s what spring is always pictured to be, but it definitely snowed all day last Friday and dipped into the 20s.  Or it can happen with plot twists in a movie- you see things one way, and then you’re thrown for a loop and it turns it HE’S ACTUALLY A DEAD PERSON, TOO.

No spoilers.

But anyhow, I believe the same can be said for cat eyeliner.  Ah yes, cat eyeliner.  The sharp lines, the pitch black color, the precise and even wings.  The look of retro glamour and cool chicks everywhere (though I tend to prefer a small wing which I refer to as “kitten liner”, as seen in the picture below).  And cat eyeliner is an intimidating feat to pull off because it requires such precision and steady hands, right?  You see the look on a friend and you think Gee, how did she manage to not mess that up?

But you know, I’m convinced that the process of creating a great cat eye isn’t as bold or precise or perfect as the look itself.  I find that creating a cat eye requires a lot more resourcefulness and flexibility rather than the exactness of a surgeon.  And I believe the look is easier to achieve than we might think.  Below, a couple tips on giving it your very best shot, no med school required:

1.  I use a different method nearly every single time, and I use a different kind of liner nearly every single time.  There is no one right way to do cat eyeliner, and I mean this quite literally.  You can do the trick with the credit card, holding it up to the corner of your eye and drawing your “wing” along the edge of it.  You can do the trick with the angled brush where you essentially play connect-the-lines and make a sort of mini triangle on top of your lids that you then color in.  You can create your cat-eye with eyeshadow first and then go over it with liner.  You can do the weird trick with Scotch tape.  You can use liquid, shadow, pencil, or gel.  You can do whatever you want, and you can do it differently each time.  And for those that are able to create the perfect freehand cat eye, well, your hands are steady and I give you props for it.  But that’s not most of us.  And I can’t exactly give you my own tried and true method for cat eyeliner because the process is different for me almost every time I do it.

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I typically use about two products to create cat eyeliner that I’m happy with- one to create the precise lines, and one to color it all in, get the shade of black I want, and perhaps add thickness to the lines.  If I’m lucky, I can pull it off with just one of the two.  I almost always start with L’Oreal’s Infallible Super Slim Liner or Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner because they’re skinny enough to make small moves and create tight, precise lines in my inner eye area.  What I use after that could be Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Liner in Black (the most long-lasting of any I’ve tried and what I most frequently use) paired with an angled brush, Maybelline Eye Studio Master Graphic Liner (good color, capable of creating thick lines, but very messy), or occasionally an eye pencil like one from MAC.  I typically don’t use eye pencil for cat eyeliner because it’s hard to get a precise, neat look with pencil.  I may use one to color things in and add depth, though.

The eyeliner itself, however, isn’t my greatest and most useful tool when creating a cat eye.  And this brings me to my next point …

2.  Rather than trying to create perfect liner, just do your best and then erase or conceal what you don’t like.   My favorite trick involves a bit of working backwards- do your very best freehand cat eyeliner, and then take an Almay Makeup Eraser Stick and simply “erase” what you don’t want until it looks right.  This allows for editing and correcting your own mistakes without starting all over, and eliminates the painstaking effort of trying not to mess up.  Next, with a small concealer brush, touch up the area around the eyeliner with concealer to clean it up and keep the skin looking even.  The skin around my eyes can be very discolored, so concealer in a few select places really neatens things up when I have eye makeup on.  You can even do the “erasing” part of this trick with concealer itself, using it to cover up the parts of the wing you don’t want.

Speaking of discoloration around the eye area, I also like to add eyeshadow all across the lid in some kind of nude or neutral shade to even out that area, too.  When the undereye area looks even and clean but the lid looks greasy or reddish, it drives me bonkers.  I like to use MAC’s eyeshadow in Orb for this purpose.

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3.  But this all being said, you should quit when you’re ahead.  You know those memes where people start applying winged liner, only to look like Amy Winehouse five seconds later?  You know that’s happened to you.  It’s very easy to overshoot it with cat eyeliner because the perfectionist in you thinks just a little bit more will do the trick.  However, there have been times where my eyeliner has looked like a solid A- effort, and then my next couple moves have ruined it (especially when I try to make the wings longer or completely and visibly even), sending me into Winehouse territory and forcing me to start over.  So, my advice is if it’s looking pretty good, stop.  It’s good enough!  This is why the majority of times I end up with “kitten” liner, because I know that if I try to take it one step further I may screw up what’s already looking just fine.  But seriously, don’t sweat the little imperfections.  Cat eyeliner is almost never perfectly even.  Load up on the mascara and barely anyone will know the difference.  And if they do, well, they’re probably a makeup artist and they probably get paid to notice things like that.

4.  Lastly, do NOT forget about eyebrows.  Strong eyeliner paired with weak eyebrows creates an odd and noticeable imbalance.  It’s like a beautiful work of art without any kind of frame.  If you’re wearing cat eyeliner, at least use a gel or wax like Glossier’s Boy Brow to brush up your eyebrows and steady them in place.  You don’t necessarily need to stencil in big thick ones or do anything crazy, but just be sure they’re present.  A groomed eyebrow will complement cat eyeliner quite nicely.

So next time you give cat (or kitten!) eyeliner a try, tag me in your best selfie and show me how it turned out!  And if the whole effort goes to crap and you have to start all over again, relax- it’s only makeup.  xo, MR

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