Dear Daniela: How Can I Stop My Eyeliner Smudging?

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,
How do I get my eyeliner to stop smudging? It’s so annoying. I can get a fairly decent, neat line done, and then halfway through the day it becomes a smudgy mess. Argh! Please help.
Alicia, 23
It’s one of life’s great injustices that the jobs we do in the name of beauty are rarely 'one and done'. Makeup has to be touched up, hair restyled and nails repainted. I’m always reminded of that bit in The Bell Jar where Sylvia Plath talks about how frustrating it is to keep having to wash your hair and how she just wants to wash it once and be done with it. I can’t do much about the larger issue at hand, however, the eyeliner smudging thing is a particular bête noire, because it takes about three times longer to apply neatly than, say, blusher, but takes a split second to go rogue.
I asked Keeley Wilson, my go-to makeup artist, for some tips. I told her I wondered if chronically smudging liner could be a case of really oily eyelids or a sub-par formulation, but she said it could be a number of things. "Everyone will find a different reason for it happening. All I can say is the more you prep your eyelid with an eye base, primer or eyeshadow, you’ll find the product should stay on longer and smudge less. If your eyeliner is a liquid, the product is quite wet, so avoid looking straight into the mirror after applying and try keeping your head tilted until it dries, which sounds silly but works."
Keeley pretty much always uses gel eyeliner on me. "They dry quicker and are more resistant to water, sweat and heat so stay pretty pristine all day without me having to touch it up at all. I also make sure I use an eye base or cream eyeshadow stick before applying." If you do have oily lids, giving them a bit of 'grip' first with a soft base like this could be the key to liner longevity.
If you think the issue is more to do with straight-up transfer than smudging per se, Keeley had some tips there. "If you find your eyeliner transfers to your eyelid as soon as you put it on, try pressing a dark eyeshadow over the top of your eyeliner to set it. This should help stop the transfer. Also ensure your eyelid is completely clear of any oils before applying." Keeley suggests a dusting of setting powder, but it also pays to keep eye cream to a minimum to prevent the slip and slide. "Eyeliner genuinely can sense your fear," Keeley concluded, "so go in with confidence when applying and I guarantee your eyeliner will follow suit."
Personally, I use Charlotte Tilbury Barbarella Brown Pencil, £19.99, every day, come rain or shine. I scribble it along my lash line, then use the Bobbi Brown Smokey Eyeliner Brush, £25.50, to smooth it out into a baby wing, and neaten up underneath with a cotton bud if it goes a bit too chunky. Keeley’s favourites include: Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner, £19.50, Illamasqua Precision Gel Liner, £21, and Urban Decay Waterproof 24/7 Glide-On Pencil, £16. If you’re prone to allergies (or just a lunchtime sob session, we’ve all been there on a tough day), Keeley advised this for an on-the-go touch up: "I tend to keep a waterproof pencil or eyeshadow in a similar colour with me so if my eyeliner smudges or wears away throughout the day, I have that to top up with, and it looks good as new."
Good luck!
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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