Monday, June 8, 2009

Know Your Options: Eyeliners

Today while I was on one of my favorite makeup forums someone asked what the difference was between a few common types of eye liners. Here's the answer!

Pencils are generally the easiest to control for most people. They offer an almost unlimited range of shades, and are widely available at any price point. Depending on how you apply pencil, you can expect a moderate to thick line. Pencil can give a bold definition but also works well if you want a softer, smoky look. Just apply the pencil and then use a brush, q-tip or your finger to smudge it a bit. How long a pencil stays on will vary by brand and your own skin. If you have an issue with fading or smudging, you may want to try a waterproof pencil.

Liquid and Gel liners are often interchangeable; they create bold, crisp lines which can range from extremely thin to dramatically thick or even artistic. Liquids are applied with a brush which is usually built into the product's cap. Several lines also make liquid liner "pens" that have a felt-tipped applicator; I find these are easier for most people who are newcomers to liquid. Gels, both those that come in pots and those in compacts, are applied similarly to liquids. The color ranges for most gel and liquid liners are more limited than that of pencil liners, though there is an increasing variety becoming available. In my experience, most liquids offer very good wear (though they will smudge easily until they dry). Gels seem to be more varied, depending on the brand. Some I've used smear easily and instantly transfer to my upper lid; I actually stayed away from them for a long time because of this. If you want to try a gel, I like MAC Fluidline, which I has exceptionally long wear and sets to a smudge free finish.

Loose Kohl is a time-honored (as in Ancient Egyptian) way of getting a dramatic, smokey eye. Kohl is usually applied with a stylus (just like the one from your Palm Pilot) thought some brands employ a brush or sponge-tipped wand. Kohl is traditionally applied to the waterline by placing the wand on the inner rim of the eye, closing the eye on top of the wand, and pulling it toward the outer corner of the eye while it is still closed. This method results in a rimmed, smoky eye that lines both the top and bottom waterlines simultaniously. While pencils can be used in the waterline as well, the traditional "eastern" method of applying kohl results in a line that melds from your lower waterline onto the skin just beneath the lashes. Since kohl is designed to be placed on the waterline, it offers superior wear as compared to pencils, though the method of application can be a bit trickier and messier at first. If you're interested in trying kohl, be aware that some of those sold in other countries may contain unsafe ingredients such as lead. I'd recommend Guerlain's Terracotta Loose Powder Kohl Liner, it truly is the standard by which all other kohl are measured.

Using eyeshadow as liner is a great trick- it gives you endless color options and can be used over other liners to alter their color. I always apply a bit of shadow over my pencil liner; it helps to keep the liner on longer and gives the pencil a softer look. Shadow applied alone as a liner tends to look soft and much more natural than other forms of lining. If you want a more dramatic line, many brands can be used wet to produce a look that mimics a gel or liquid liner. Applying shadow alone as a liner typically does not wear as well as other forms of liner, especially if it is applied dry. I generally reserve this technique for layering over another type liner, though it is a good option for the bottom lash line, which should be lined less dramatically than the top to keep the eye looking wide and open!

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