How to Waterline Your Eyeliner Like a Pro

An easy trick for extreme eye definition.

How to Waterline Eyeliner _ makeup artist applying eyeliner to model's waterline

Arun Nevader/Getty Images for Vancouver Fashion Week

If you like the eye-opening effect of using eyeliner the traditional way, chances are you’ll love the extra drama of applying liner to your waterline. “The waterline is the watery area inside the rim of the eye between the lash line and the space between your eyes,” says Sandra Saenz, makeup artist and artistry ambassador for KVD Beauty.

Plus, there's an advantage to this technique. Depending on the color you choose — more on that below — “applying eyeliner to your waterline can make your lashes appear fuller, accentuate the natural shape of your eye, or add extra sultriness to a smoky eye look,” says Sara Wren, Milk Makeup global director of artistry.

Makeup artists have been using this technique for decades, but with some help from the pros, you can get the hang of it, too. Follow these tips and tricks on picking the best eyeliner product for your waterline and applying it correctly.

Choose the Right Eyeliner

You don’t necessarily need an eyeliner specifically marketed for your waterline. When selecting a product, “it’s best to look for a super-smooth, waterproof formula,” says Saenz. A pencil eyeliner is ideal since liquid liners have a greater chance of getting into your eye.

“Also, for that same reason, avoid any pencil liners with chunks of glitter when applying them to your waterline,” says Wren. For a gentle glide and a precise application tip to make the process more comfortable, try: KVD Beauty Tattoo Pencil Liner Waterproof Gel Eyeliner, Milk Makeup Infinity Long Wear Eyeliner, or Make Up For Ever Aqua Resist Color Pencil.

Consider Your Color

Color is both a matter of preference and the effect you want it to have. While you could stick with the same color on the upper and lower lash line for a cohesive look, “when you use a black or brown eyeliner on both waterlines, it could make your eyes appear smaller — though it’s perfect if you’re going for a smoky, sultry look,” says Wren. You could also do a classic black liner on the top waterline and a different color on the bottom.

If you use a white or beige shade on the lower waterline, “it can create the illusion of bigger eyes,” adds Saenz. You could also match the color of your eyes with a statement blue or green to make them pop. “Have fun and experiment with different shades and styles to find the look that works best for you,” says Saenz.

Do Prep Work

Since your eyeliner will come in direct contact with your eye, it’s important to sanitize it before each use. “Give your eyeliner pencil a fresh sharpening and spritz it with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to ensure it’s clean. Then, wait for it to dry completely before using,” says Wren.

Curl your lashes to sweep them away from your eyes so you can see your waterline better. To ensure you’re not tugging at your skin, use your ring finger (it has a lighter touch than your pointer finger) to gently lift your upper or lower lid to expose the area beneath your lash line. 

Dab away excess moisture along the waterline with a cotton pad or roll a cotton swab (being cautious not to poke your eye), making it easier for your eyeliner to adhere to your waterline and less likely to smear.

Apply Your Eyeliner

Carefully line your waterline by tracing along the edge of your eye — getting as close as possible to the root of your eyelashes. “I like to start in the middle of the waterline and gently run the pencil back and forth. However, since you’re not creating a new shape and just following your lash line, it doesn’t matter where you start,” says Wren.

Draw the line as thin as the natural line of your eye. “If you apply it too thick, it can make your eyes appear smaller. Unless that’s intentional, keep the line on the thinner side,” adds Saenz. Then, allow the to product set for a minute before layering if needed. “Make sure you’re not blending the eyeliner in," Wren says. "You don’t want to do anything that causes friction and irritates the eye area."

Finally, don't rush the process when you’re working on such a delicate area. “If you find your eyes starting to water or get tired, close your eyes and give yourself a moment, ” says Wren. If you made a mistake, no need to start all over. “Dab a cotton swab in a micellar makeup remover like Milk Makeup Hydro Ungrip Makeup Remover + Cleansing Water to gently remove unwanted lines or smudges,” says Wren.

Want to take your eye makeup look up a notch even further? “If you’re using eyeshadow, you can apply it as a first step since it doesn’t overlap with the waterline. However, to make sure you’re not smearing your shadow, it’s best to waterline first,” says Wren. Then, apply mascara to top off your look.

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