Here's the Hack for Creating a Perfectly Smudged Eyeliner Look

Grunge is back, baby!

How to Do Edgy Smudged Eyeliner Without Turning Into a Panda
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Whether the dropping temperatures are inspiring you to lean into darker makeup looks or you're simply into the rock n' roll aesthetic in general, smudged eyeliner is the signature style we keep coming back to.

Unlike other types of eye makeup looks, like a cut-crease or siren eyes, smudged liner is easy to achieve and it can flatter every type of eye shape. What's more, Jasmine Ferreira, Lancôme's National Director of Makeup, says a little messiness can even add to the look's feel — you don't need to worry about perfecting the technique or having a skilled hand.

That's not to say there aren't a few tips that can help you along the way, though. From the type of eyeliner you use and how quickly you have to smudge it after application to the types of skincare to avoid beforehand, four celebrity makeup artists walked us through how to get the coolest and longest-lasting smudged eyeliner look. Their answers, below.

How Do You Define the Smudged Eyeliner Look?

"The smudged eyeliner look is the minimalist version of the smoky eye, it's softer and worn in, it's the 'I just woke-up like this' version of the cat eye," explains Smashbox Global Pro Lead Artist, Lori Taylor Davis.

We've all seen iterations of smudged eyeliner — they range from minimalistic to dramatic and from the classic black and grey fade to a chock full of rainbow shades. It's part of what makes smudged eyeliner so cool.

"The shade you choose can help create any number of vibes," explains Nick Lujan, Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin. For example, the expert says that deeper, matte shades are sultrier and frame the whites of the eyes with the most contrast. Lujan adds that pops of bright, matte colors create a more playful look and contrast the white of our eyes less, while shimmer-textured liners take on a life of their own depending on the way light reflects off them. "This is a great way to incorporate hints of color," Lujan adds.

Of course, how much you smudge your eyeliner can either tone down the look or amp it up. According to Ferreira, level one is when the smudged eyeliner is stays close to the lash line whereas level three is the full-out grunge look from the 90s, and level two falls somewhere in between.

What's the Best Way to Do Smudged Eyeliner?

You could always apply some eyeliner and smudge it with an eyeshadow brush, but if you want a top-notch finish, follow the instructions below.

  1. Prep the area. Taylor Davis says that eye prep is key for long-lasting results. To do so, she says to use an eyeshadow primer that's either transparent or close to your natural skin tone.
  2. Line the inner rims. For that Avril Lavigne/Victoria's Secret Angel look, Lujan says to apply eyeliner all the way around the waterline. For best results, Ferreira and Lujan says to use an eyeliner that has a creamy texture, like Kevyn Aucoin's The Precision Eye Definer, so that it can glide and be blended with ease, while Taylor Davis prefers to use a water-resistant kohl liner, like Smashbox's Always Sharp Waterproof Kohl Liner, as she says they're soft and easy to smudge.
  3. Smudge the eyeliner into the lash line. Lujan says to use the tip of your brush to start smudging the liner in the roots of the lashes, slightly expanding, and stretching outward in the desired shape. This will cover any visible skin.
  4. Apply eyeliner to the roots of the lashes. Now that the waterline is done and the color has been smudged into the lash line for that tight-line effect, move on to applying eyeliner to the roots of the lashes on both your top and bottom lashes. "Keeping closer to the lash line makes for an easy smudged liner look that works on most eye shapes," adds Ferreira.
  5. Smudge again. "Smudge the applied liner with your brush into the desired shape. Then, repeat the process as many times as you'd like until you achieve the desired intensity and shape," says Lujan. If you want to streamline the process, Ferreira says to look for an eyeliner with a smudger on the opposite end, like Lancôme's Le Stylo Waterproof Eyeliner.
  6. Add eyeshadow on top. Ferreira says that doing so will seal in the look. "You can use a flat brush and pack it over liner," she adds. "It will not move." Sasha Ghodstinat, Global Makeup Arist & Brand Trainer for CODE8, says she recommends the brand's Iconoclast Eyeshadow Palettes as they have a technology that gives them spreadability and they can be used wet if you want a more intense finish.

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What Are Some Mistakes People Making When Creating Smudged Eyeliner and What's the Best Way to Avoid Them?

We know we said that messiness can add to the overall feel of this look, but there's a difference between intentional mess and hot mess.

Before even touching your eyeliner, Ghodstinat says to steer clear of oily products around the eye area, such as eye cream, right before doing eye makeup as that will encourage the makeup to move around and melt away. Instead, use your eye cream and facial oils before going to bed.

Then, when picking your eyeliner of choice, Lujan says to avoid using liquid eyeliners as they are much harder to smudge and tend to gunk up the smudging brush. On that note, Ferreira says to steer clear of eyeliners that are creamy but have zero dry-down as they just melt off, and to avoid liners that dry down so fast you have zero time to blend. "You need a good 30 seconds of blending and moving around to get it where you want it," she adds. All our experts recommend opting for creamy, waterproof formulas instead.

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