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I Didn’t Expect TikTok’s Smoky Eyeliner Hack To Work This Well

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
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If you're awful at eyeliner, TikTok has your back. From fashioning a smoky flick using nothing but your fingernail to using concealer as a guide to make winged liner even, you have to hand it to the app's beauty obsessives — they're certainly creative.
This week, it's less about symmetry and more about accidentally perfect eye makeup. In a video with 2.5 million views, TikToker Elise aka @elpltt_ achieved viral status when they shared their trick for lived-in liner — the kind that's sooty and smudged, with an air of Kate Moss at Glastonbury in the early '00s.
@elpltt_ I’ve seen the water method or sleeping in ur liner but this works better lol #eyelinerhack #mascara #makeuphacks ♬ eredeti hang - Bogi Felkai
Elise enlisted a creamy kohl eyeliner pencil and lined both the bottom and top of each waterline. Elise gave both eyes a rub with their fingers and, in an instant, achieved a smoky eyeliner look that takes most makeup wearers (even devotees like me) a good while to perfect. Lashings of jet-black mascara elevated the look, giving it an indie sleaze feel. Think dishevelled yet considered.
Elise isn't the only TikToker to champion the smudged eyeliner hack, with @lenkalul also amassing millions of views and @hayleybuix gaining hundreds of thousands. As you might expect, the comments are a mixed bag. Some are convinced they'd resemble a racoon, others are sold, and still others are completely in love with the Effy from Skins vibe. Having recently binged Netflix's Wednesday, the smudged, smoky eye look is one I'm keen to make my signature.
First, a caveat: I'm a dab hand at eyeliner. It's one of the very few things I know how to nail, though it often requires a very steady hand and plenty of patience. (Eyeliner can sense fear, you know.) But could this 10-second, smudgy hack take the chore out of it all?
A kohl liner is your best bet here, something like Huda Beauty Creamy Kohl Eye Pencil, $30, or Rimmel London Soft Kohl Kajal Eyeliner Pencil, $5.39, if you have less to spend.
@lenkalul trust the process 😗 would you try this? using products from this months @boxycharm 💘 ad #boxycharmpartner @Meet Alleyoop 4 in 1 multi tasked makeup brush @Beauty Bakerie proof is in the puddin’ palette @Benefit Cosmetics they’re real magnet mascara ib @elise 🤍 #makeup #makeuphacks #makeuptutorial #makeuptransformation #makeupvideos #beautyhacks #eyeliner ♬ original sound - ice spice
Using a pencil, I lined both the top and the bottom of my waterline on each eye, but I found it impossible not to get any liner on my bottom lashes. This, I found, only adds to the sultry, smoky effect, so there's no need to worry. I did spot a handful of TikTokers fretting about the rubbing motion, particularly in regard to fine lines. First of all, fine lines around the eye area are normal, especially as we age. I can also confirm that the rubbing action is quick and minimal, and unlikely to cause any issues. (I have more contact with my skin when I wash my face twice a day.) My advice is to be gentle and use your ring finger like Elise, or your little finger like me.
Before smudging
As I rubbed my eyelids, the liner from the top of my waterline transferred to the area under my lower lashes pretty seamlessly, though it did leave me a tad bleary-eyed. I was surprised by how well it worked. To achieve this usually, I would swipe the pencil onto my skin, which would almost always snag, however fancy the texture of the eyeliner. Here, the rubbing motion pretty much did the application and the blending process for me.
@jacquelinekilikita Didn’t expect this smudged eyeliner hack to work, but… IB: @elise, @Hayley, @lenkalul #smudgedeyeliner #eyelinerhack #linerhack #eyeliner #makeuphacks #beautyinatik ♬ Dream Girl - Slowed + Reverb - Crisaunt
I could have gone straight in with a coat of mascara but something told me that if I didn't tidy things up just a little, I'd regret it during the day when the liner eventually smudged further. I took a clean blending brush and gave the liner a quick once-over. You can add more liner as you see fit, but I transferred the product on the brush to my eyelids for more definition. Just underneath the bottom liner I used a brush (which had the remainder of my concealer on the bristles) to make everything appear cleaner. A good coat of mascara really brings this smoky eye look together. Otherwise, it just looks like you've slept in your makeup.
My only real issue with this quick hack is that dark eyeliner tends to collect in the corners of my eyes during the day. Next time, I'd avoid going so close, but I can't deny that I'm feeling the subtle grunge vibes. The real test was logging onto a Zoom call with the R29 beauty team, who were very complimentary. More importantly, though? My inner emo kid approves.
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