I like a bit of a messy eye makeup look, I really do. But it has to be done right, and it’s not for everyone, or for every situation. If you are working a professional job outside of the beauty industry or something creative/artistic, you might need more of a clean makeup look during work hours. And nothing kills an otherwise polished face like eye makeup that looks like it is slowly melting off.
So many of my clients tell me they are fighting a losing battle with chronic smudged eyeliner or migrating mascara. Many give up and abandon eye makeup altogether. But ladies, ladies, ladies–you need not despair! There are a few factors that could be causing the issue, and some things you can do to fix it. I would like to help you identify the root of the problem and win this battle.
Let’s start with eye primer. I think anyone who wears any type of eye makeup should use an eye primer. It is the first step in any makeup application I do (unless I know I will be changing the eye makeup soon after), and I wear eye primer every day. The natural oils on your eyelids can make eyeliners become slippery and smudge-bound, but having a primer there creates a barrier. I have tried a ton of them and my favorite is still Too Faced Shadow Insurance (at Sephora).
If you wear eyeliner and think it may be the source of smudging for you, let’s talk about that. Is it a liquid liner? Gel? Pencil? If it’s a good quality liquid or gel eyeliner (and I will address that in the Crappy Products section), it should not smudge once it has set. If it’s a good quality pencil liner, try tracing it with an eyeshadow in the same color. This will set the liner, keeping it in place.
For those of you who like the look of eyeliner and mascara only, this part is for you. Even with a good primer and eyeliner, you may still experience smudging if you don’t wear eyeshadow (usually just with pencil liners, especially when they have not been traced with an eyeshadow). This smudging is something us makeup pros call “transfer,” and the transfer I am referring to happens on your eyelid, not underneath the eye. Depending on your eye shape, the thickness of the liner drawn and the amount of oils on your eyelid, your eyeliner can transfer from your upper lashline to the crease of your eye. Super easy fix though, don’t you worry. After applying your eye primer but before applying your eyeliner, apply a matte eyeshadow that is the same color as your skin all over your lid and into the crease. Apply your pencil liner, then set it with an eyeshadow. If you don’t do those two things, the oils from your eyelid may breakdown your eyeliner when you look up, which causes the transfer. Having a primer and eyeshadow there blocks those oils from wreaking havoc on your eyeliner. And choosing a matte eyeshadow in the same color as your skin will still give you that no-eyeshadow look.
Many people think that their regular mascara is what causes the smudging, so they switch to waterproof. Waterproof may solve the problem, but it’s likely to cause another one–eyelash breakage. Waterproof mascaras tend to be harsh and in my opinion, are not made for everyday use. If you find that your mascara migrates, whether from watery eyes or unknown causes, try using a beauty tubes mascara (like Blinc Mascara or Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara–the latter is obviously just for the bottom lashes). Beauty tubes mascara is applied exactly like a regular mascara–it’s just the formulation that is different. Instead of coating your lashes, beauty tubes encapsulate them. It’s the difference between a cardigan and a wetsuit, you feel me? The point is, beauty tubes mascara stays on until you physically remove it with water and a gentle pressing motion.
If you switch to a beauty tubes mascara and that still doesn’t work (I have never seen or heard of that happening), I give you permission to wear waterproof mascara on your bottom lashes only. Unless you are full on crying (like when watching Long Island Medium or thinking about the current state of hip hop), any tearing will most likely only effect your bottom lashes. So using waterproof mascara on the top lashes on a daily basis is probably not necessary.
There is another big culprit for smudging, which could be root of the problem if you wear undereye concealer. Undereye concealer–unless it has been set with powder–eats at away at mascara, causing the mascara to smudge when the lower lashes touch the concealer. Applying a thin layer of powder over the undereye concealer before applying lower lash mascara could be the fix you need. The powder becomes a barrier between the concealer and mascara, so no damage can be done.
Do you regularly line your waterline with a dark eyeliner? If so, this could be causing the smudging. Our eyes naturally water during the day, so even the best waterline liner will eventually wear away. But where does it go, you ask? Check your tearducts and if they’re clear, look under your eyes. Find it? You can stop this runaway liner from journeying to under your eyes by applying a very thin line of eyeshadow in the same color family at the lower lashline, as close to the lash roots as you can get. This shadow will “catch” the waterline liner, absorbing it before it gets any further.
If you have tried some or all of these tips and your eye makeup is still smudging, you may have a case of Crappy Products. Crappy Products can be found in all makeup lines, both low and high end, but not surprisingly, the cheapest of the cheap are often Grade A Crap. (However, I have found that drugstore waterproof mascaras–Maybelline Falsies Volum Express is my fave–outperform the higher end waterproof mascaras.) Crappy eyeliner pencils seem to be the worst offenders, but there are some gel and liquid liners that flake off then melt into little smudges. If you suspect you might be using a Crappy eyeliner pencil, I recommend switching to Top Shop Kohl liners; a Crappy liquid liner could be replaced by MAC LiquidLast eyeliner; and a Crappy gel liner could be replaced by MAC Fluidline or Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Liner.
You do not have to resign yourself to living with smudged eye makeup, nor do you have to give it up completely. It may take some time to pinpoint the cause, but once you have done that, you can turn things around. Don’t know where to start? I would first try the eye primer (use it even if it doesn’t solve the smudging problem–more about that in a future post). If you wear dark liner on the waterline, try the eyeshadow-at-the-lower-lashline trick next. Still smudging? It’s time to start powdering your undereye area after concealing. Issue not resolved? Go ahead and get yourself a beauty tubes mascara. If all of these methods fail, it’s time to look inward and ask yourself, Do I buy Crappy Products? If so, get yourself some quality products. They might be more expensive than what you normally use, but if you want or need to have a professional image, I think it’s worth it.
I do want to add that even if you are using the best products in combination with the right techniques, you might see a tiny bit of smudging after 10-12+ hours. That’s why God gave us pinky fingers–to wipe away any trace of rogue eye makeup. No one looks perfect all day, folks. Touchups are necessary. Your 6:00am makeup will need to be refreshed at 6:00pm, and you may have some small smudges that only you can notice. That’s normal. What I want to do is get you away from those super obvious smudges that distract people when you are talking to them. And hopefully this post can help with that. Because, dear Lord, people are going to have a hard time listening to your flawless presentation/perfect sales pitch/inspired lesson plan if you look like Ke$ha.
Questions? Get at me.
Have a beautiful day 🙂