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A Makeup Artist's Tips To Master Winged Eyeliner, Once & For All

Image by Liliya Rodnikova / Stocksy
October 27, 2022
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Every beauty professional has their nonnegotiable steps. In our series Like A Pro, we tap experts for the top three techniques they absolutely swear by. Here, you'll hear from a variety of industry insiders on the fail-safe tricks they always keep in their back pockets. We're all about simplifying your beauty regimen wherever you can, and sometimes the best routines are as easy as 1, 2, 3.
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"Don't be scared of eyeliner—she can smell fear," quips celebrity makeup artist Alexandra French when I ask her about her must-have application tips. As someone whose hands shake at the mere sight of a felt tip, I'd proudly slap that proverb on a bumper sticker and parade around town. It seems every time I attempt to create the quintessential flick, I wind up with a bathroom counter littered with cotton swabs and very angry, splotchy eyes. Of course, I'm not alone: A quick search on Google conjures plenty of "how-to" guides, each promising a wing so sharp it could cut glass (and no tears!).   

But if there's anyone to school us on an A+ eyeliner game, I'd argue it's French. After all, she won an Emmy Award for her work on Season 2 of Euphoria, which included a number of stunning graphic eye looks—some of which would be incomplete without a signature fierce wing.

Are you ready to excel at eyeliner? Find French's essential tips below:

1.

Sketch the outline. 

Unless you're feeling super confident with your liner skills, you likely won't master a razor-sharp wing with one clean glide. According to French, most people find it helpful to outline the shape of the wing first before filling it in. "I love to sketch out the shape first before going in with smudge-proof eyeliner," she explains. "I either do this with a pencil eyeliner or a felt tip one." FRECK makes an especially fabulous felt tip—it also contains peptides and panthenol to simultaneously encourage lash growth.

As we mentioned in our full eyeliner guide, it may even help to work from out to in. Decide where you want your flick to stop, then draw downward until you connect with your outer eye corner. Then with small strokes, fill in where needed on the eye, adding in more depth and thickness where you want.

After you have your desired shape, you can fill it in again with a smudge-proof formula and angled liner brush. French prefers this high-quality number from Bdellium Tools, and Omiana's Long Stay Vegan Cream Eyeliner Pot is especially rich and high-impact.

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2.

Then clean it up. 

If you don't get the flick just right, don't fret: Even professional makeup artists rely on touch-ups. "You would be surprised at how helpful tiny [cotton swabs] with micellar water can be!" says French. "If I have a client in my chair who is getting their hair done at the same time and their head is being pulled aggressively or they're busy with something, I will messily draw on the liner to get it in the right place and then take the [cotton swab] and just start cleaning it up and shaping it to perfection." 

All you need to do is use the tip of the cotton swab to erase any jagged edges and sharpen the wilted wing. Since micellar water can dissolve both oil- and water-based products, the pigment should lift right off. To make the contrast even sharper, French suggests tapping some concealer around the line, especially right underneath the wing to define the shape. 

If your cat-eye is simply unsalvageable, that's OK! Try, try again. "Don't be afraid to wipe it off and start over, too! I have done this many times on set," shares French. "I think it's important as an artist to be able to edit yourself and know when to start over. It happens to the best of us!" 

3.

Know your eye shape. 

Different eye shapes may require slightly different moves to achieve a wing—ultimately, there is no "foolproof" guide to applying eyeliner because not everyone will wield the tool the exact same way. Not to mention, using a different technique can help accentuate your eye shape even further.

"I have smaller eyes, so I prefer my liner to go straight out to elongate my eyes," notes French. Or if you have hooded eyes, you might want to attempt the popular "batwing" eyeliner trick. "It's important to learn your eye shape and learn what style you love," adds French. "Everyone is different! Every eye is different!"

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The takeaway. 

Look, eyeliner is tricky! It's a learning curve, and it takes time and practice to truly master the flick. At the end of the day, though, makeup should be experiential—remember that you can always start over if you're less than enamored with the result. "Makeup is fun. It's meant to be worn and not to be perfect," adds French. "Remember, eyeliners are sisters, not twins."

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