For anyone that grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s, eyeliner was probably the first makeup product that made you feel capital-M-Mature. You’d find the darkest black they made for under a dollar (for me, that was Wet N Wild’s Baby’s Got Black), layer it onto your lower waterline with abandon, and head to the mall. That was the look du jour, and it barely wavered throughout my teens.
Then, for a while there, we gave our bottom lids a break: first, when cat-eyes were exiled exclusively to the upper lid, and again when no-makeup makeup meant a swipe of mascara and a tiny smudge of liner along the top waterline—if that—was more than enough. Fast forward two decades and the look is back, albeit way less juvenile than your preteen days.
Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes says the coolest way to wear bottom eyeliner to make it smudgy: “Turn the shower on and let the steam melt it a bit,” says Hughes, who likes M.A.C’s Eye Kohl in Smolder. “Once you’re out of the shower, line you bottom waterline and just clean up what you don’t want with a Q-tip and Bioderma.”
Makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci agrees: “A hard line can look too goth in all the wrong ways,” says Ciucci, who recommends Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Pencil, as well as the M.A.C pencil Hughes likes. “And if there’s liner along the lower lash line, keeping the waterline naked looks a little incomplete. Polish the look by lining the waterline with a black liner for a smoky look or a beige-y taupe for more of an ‘I-just-napped’ look.”
But there’s still that one little problem: Liner on the waterline can sometimes make your eyes look even smaller. To combat that, Ciucci says to “line only halfway or three-quarters of the way across the lower lash line, and pop a highlighter onto the inner corners of the eye.”
Finish the look with a volumizing mascara (Hughes likes L’Oréal Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara) to “balance out the look.”