As a makeup lover, eyeliner is one of my favorite parts of makeup. When I don’t feel like doing much in the way of makeup, eyeliner and mascara are always my go-tos to enhance my eyes and add a little “something.” I didn’t start wearing makeup until I was 19, and eyeliner, especially winged, took me so long to master that I often felt discouraged. Finding out what worked best for me and what I liked the most definitely took a lot of trial and error, and even wasting money on stuff that I ended up not liking.
The usage of eyeliner dates back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and was usually made from things like copper ore and antimony. Nowadays, eyeliner is usually made from a mixture of pigments, thickeners and film formers. It comes in a wide (and often confusing) variety, including kohl/pencil, creams/gels and liquid. But what are the differences between all of these, and which type is best for you?
Pencil eyeliners are probably one of the most readily available, cheap and easy to use for beginners. Different types of eyeliner effects can be achieved with pencil and kohl liners, including winged, but might require a little bit more effort to work with. Some pencil eyeliners can feel a little scratchy and drag against the eye as you use them. This feeling can be alleviated by warming up the product, either by running it back and forth on the back of your hand, quickly dipping it into warm/hot water or by (carefully!) putting a flame to the product for less than a second. Warming up the eyeliner makes it almost like a gel or cream and therefore easier to work with. These types of eyeliners come in a variety of colors.
I personally prefer using gel eyeliners because I find them easy to work with, long lasting, and (since my color preference is very black) have great color payoff. Gel and cream eyeliners generally come in a small pot and have to be used by dipping an eyeliner brush into the product and then applying it. The gel and cream eyeliners that come in the pots have a little bit of a learning curve to them; it can be a little weird to use them, especially if you’ve never used a gel or cream eyeliner before. However, some gel eyeliners come in pencil form, too. Unlike regular kohl pencils, though, the formula is usually much creamier and the color is much more saturated. Gel and cream eyeliners are also great for smudging out, and can be used as a base for eyeshadow because they can also come in a wide variety of colors.
Liquid eyeliner used to be my own personal nemesis. The first time I used it, I couldn’t get my hand or eyelid to stop shaking and I ended up making an inky mess all across my eyelid, in my eyelashes, along my lower lash line, in my actual eye, and I’m pretty sure across my face, too! But like all things, practice makes perfect (or at least experienced), and practicing using liquid eyeliner is crucial to being able to effectively use it without ending up with the disastrous results that 19-year-old me did. Liquid eyeliners can come in a pen form that are usually accompanied by a cushy felt tip or in a small bottle that you unscrew to reveal the applicator that is saturated in product. I use both of these regularly but pen liquid eyeliners are perhaps the simplest to use and provide a lot more control. The liquid eyeliners that come in the bottle generally require you to wipe some of the excess product off. Too much product makes it much easier to mess up- the product can pool in certain areas or the eyeliner won’t dry quickly enough and if you blink the eyeliner can end up all over your eyelid. Like pencils and gels, liquid eyeliners come in a wide range of colors- from basic blacks and browns to neon oranges, purples and greens!
Eyeliner is just as fun and creative as it is intimidating. Every person that uses eyeliner has their own preferences- some people only like to use kohl pencils, others strictly use gel eyeliners, while others swear by liquid alone. There’s no one-all-be-all type of eyeliner. Each type has their strengths and weaknesses, and finding out what’s best for you is definitely a learning process.
Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman
Images by Emma Kaufman