If there’s one beauty victim of 2020’s absolute shambles, it surely has to be lipstick. I, for one, can barely imagine wearing lipstick ever again, let alone buying a whole new one. While the bottom half of our faces remain strictly private, though, there’s one winner. Eye makeup now has to do the work of a full-face look.
While shadows, glitters, and creams are all valid contenders for the new world of eye-makeup domination, liners also need to take their rightful place on the podium. There are a ton of different eyeliner formulations to try, and when it comes to creating innovative looks, the possibilities are basically endless. Simply adding a few colorful squiggles around your eyes is enough to elevate a masked makeup look from daytime to party time. And if you’re still struggling for liner-spiration, never fear. I got you.
For a clean line that truly lasts, there’s little better than a liner pen. A classic winged liner look in a bright tone of your choice is always a fun twist on a classic. And for those confident in a little freehand drawing, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Adding different accented lines and dots around your peepers generally leads to something both avant-garde and surprisingly pretty. Plus, it offers a brief moment of truly creative joy in a year that’s been, frankly, barren of the stuff.
The Diorshow Art Pens are amongst the best options on the market—but at a higher price point, buying multiple different shades can quickly add up. A more wallet-friendly alternative is the NYX Professional Makeup Vivid Brights Eyeliners. These have more of a paint-like quality (the Dior options feel like a weightless yet highly pigmented ink) but apply smoothly, last well, and come in all the colors of the rainbow.
While pencil liners don’t always have the unbeatable longevity of a liquid, they’re way more forgiving, especially for those lacking a steady hand. Many of the best formulas offer a little bit of playtime in order to get your shapes right, then set and stay put until you take them off. Pencils can offer a little more versatility in terms of lid looks, too. You can apply a wash of color, blend with a fingertip, or sharpen your pencil to a point for more precise, graphic shapes.
In terms of color options along with superior wear time, my two favorite kohls are the Glossier Color Slides and the Fenty Beauty Longwear Flypencil Eyeliners. Both have a huge range of shades with some extra unique options.
Going for a pomade liner with a brush can give even more of a blended style to your liner. The KVD Vegan Beauty Super Pomade Vegan Eyeliner, Shadow, and Brow Pigments are ideal for this technique, offering bright, bold shades in a formula that can create sharp wings and watercolor blends. For even more brightness, the Kryolan Aquacolor UV Dayglow Palette is hard to beat. It looks bright in the pan, but if you ever get under a UV light, your eye looks will be literally glowing.
I’m also a fan of creating a glittery liner look with the Colourpop Super Shock Shadows, which come in a mind-boggling array of shades from the soft and neutral to the bold and brash. For a smudged, shiny, grungy effect, the Surratt Lid Lacquers are also excellent. They never quite set, but offer that worn-in, glossy look that’s just undeniably cool.
With any of these cream pomades, you’ll need the right brush for the job. I find ELF to be an altogether amazingly satisfactory brand for more extravagant eye looks. Their Flat Eyeliner Brush is a perfect option for drawing graphic lines and shapes, offering the perfect balance between density and flexibility. Their Concealer Brush is brilliant for building up color in targeted areas. And for softening any edges, there’s nothing better than their aptly named Fluffy Eye Blender Brush.
For those totally new to the liner scene, I think a liquid eyeshadow is a perfect bridge between shadow and liner. These newer formulations that come in what looks like a lip gloss tube allow for targeted application without the high stakes of most other liner options. Simply dab into place, pat with a fingertip to blend, and you’re good to go.
In terms of shine, there’s nothing better than the Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows. Their shade “Diamond Dust,” a holographic silver, isn’t just my favorite liquid shadow, but is a contender for my favorite eye look of all time.
If glitter isn’t your bag, though, don’t fear—the Glossier Sky Washes offer all the fun without a hint of shine. Their collection is mostly neutral, but the shade in “Lawn” (a neon, chartreuse-y green) is a firm favorite of mine. You can add it along your lash line, wing out the shape, then build up the opacity with a second layer. For people afraid of a bright liner look, this is basically foolproof.