Why do women use black eyeliner on the bottom of their eyes?
July 30, 2009 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Why do some women paint the bottom of their eyes with black eyeliner? I'm not talking about Goth women. These are women who are otherwise conventionally dressed, coiffed, and made up. I understand other make-up, such as mascara, lipstick, foundation, and blush, but do people really find dark eye bottoms attractive? They make me think of raccoons.
posted by espertus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In the abstract (ie, from farther away, or if you're not looking to closely), darker-rimmed eyes will make someone's eyes look larger and brighter.

If it's really thick, then it's called "smokey eye". Cosmopolitan tells us that it's sexy and alluring.
posted by muddgirl at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

When it's done well, with a light touch, it makes your eyes stand out.

This is especially true for fair-skinned women. There's not enough contrast between pale skin and white eyeballs, so eyeliner creates definition between your eyes and the rest of your face.

Disclaimer: although I'm pasty white, I never learned the trick of doing this well, so I skip eyeliner myself. I'm speaking from observation, not experience.
posted by marsha56 at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: Well, if they are oily-skinned women like me, it's because our make-up has started to run all over the damn place and we're too distracted to remember to glance in a mirror to see if we need a touch up.
posted by jamaro at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

It's perfectly usual and conventional for Indian women, for example, to wear kohl or eyeliner on the bottom of their eyes. It looks great when done well, such as here. I'm sure there are other cultures where outlining the whole eye is common.
posted by peacheater at 6:52 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh my god it's hot.

(This coming from a man who (honestly, truly, not-being-fooled) doesn't like makeup.)
posted by Netzapper at 7:03 PM on July 30, 2009

It makes your pupils look more dilated. Similar to blush and lipstick, one reason is to make you look sexually aroused.
posted by Houstonian at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: In the abstract (ie, from farther away, or if you're not looking to closely), darker-rimmed eyes will make someone's eyes look larger and brighter.

Erm actually a dark rim around the entire eye makes eyes look smaller. If you want your eyes to look bigger, line the top eyelid, and the bottom eyelids only from the outer corners to the edge of the iris.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2009 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I rim the bottom of my eyes, because when I don't, I look like I have the flu. For serious.

Every now and again (like today, strangely enough) I will decide that I should forgo the eyeliner and go for a more natural look. And then I get people asking me if I'm feeling alright, if I got enough sleep, if I want to go home early...

It's basically a necessity, but it's a pain in the ass because it smears like crazy!
posted by firei at 7:25 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use black or brown eyeliner on the inside part of the bottom of my eye, and it makes my eyes stand out and gives them a more defined shape that can be noticed from far away, and makes the brown of my eyes look more interesting than just plain ol' brown. But because I don't put it on the outside of the eye, it doesn't like going-out-at-night-dramatic.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:27 PM on July 30, 2009

Best answer: We covered this a couple of years ago, and I linked to this NY Times article from 2005 which explains how the "smoky eye" started on the runways and was being pushed by the cosmetic companies.

And, yes, on some women it can look great.
posted by nicwolff at 7:46 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

It makes many women's* eyes stand out (self included).

It's fashionable.

It's not (to quote Penny Arcade), for you--or, in less snarkilicious mode, many other people like it and de gustibus non disputandum est.

*I am also a big fan of undereye eyeliner on men, but I seem to have lost that battle except for Adam Lambert.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

I think it's mainly a lot of women who don't know how to do their own makeup. They want the smoky look but don't know how, or maybe their mothers told them to line the under part (mine did) or they think it makes their eyes stand out, or they don't understand that less really is more. They're so used to seeing themselves that way that they don't see what the rest of us see: raccoon eyes.
posted by katillathehun at 8:12 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

(which is not to say that everyone who does this looks bad. But very few women can pull it off, I'll say that.)
posted by katillathehun at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2009

Actually, dirtynumbangelboy, lining the entire eye often makes the eye look bigger because, as some have pointed out, for pale women the only part of the eye people read is the iris, which is smaller than the eye. On women who have contrasting skin and sclera colors, liner can make the eye look brighter, which people will read as bigger. Tried to google for an image of Audrey Hepburn without makeup, which makes the second point very dramatically, but failed!

There's no telling why any particular woman does this - perhaps the racoons who have caught the eye of the OP are big fans of Barbara Steele.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:33 PM on July 30, 2009

I never understood why some women only put eyeliner on the outer half of the bottom lid. The job always looks half finished to me, but maybe I'm the only one who sees it that way.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:42 PM on July 30, 2009

Ballet dancer eyes.... her husband insisted that she wear the makeup home after the annual Nutcracker performance.(dancer friend's story)
posted by hortense at 8:44 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

You mean black-eye chic? I've seen equal amounts of men and women sporting it. Like any fashion trend, it looks good on some people, not so good on others. But it's just that: a trend. Someone saw someone do something and decided it was "cool", so now lots of people do it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:46 PM on July 30, 2009

I think it's mainly a lot of women who don't know how to do their own makeup. They want the smoky look but don't know how

Using eyeliner (or shadow) under your eye is part of the smoky-eye look. See this YouTube tutorial from MAC cosmetics and the Ford Model Agency, for example.

Eyeliner under the eye is a feature, not a bug.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:22 PM on July 30, 2009

HotPatatta: If done right, it makes the lashes look fuller. One's eyes look wider and prettier if the lashes look fuller towards the outer corners. What you are more than likely seeing is a bad job. When done well, you aren't seeing it.
posted by oflinkey at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2009

Eyeliner under the eye is a feature, not a bug.

Yes. If done well. But I'm talking about women who draw a harsh, solid line under there like they're circling their eyes in case they forget where they are. That's not "smoky." That's a coloring book.
posted by katillathehun at 9:43 PM on July 30, 2009

Applying makeup is not a skill women are born with - you learn how to do it, usually from early teens, experimenting with friends, trying out different things on each other. I've seen 14-year-old girls with eye makeup that looks as if a professional did it, it's so skillfully-applied, through practice.

But for those of us who grew up friendless, geeky and not one of the cool kids, without the sleepovers, the girlfriend trips to the drugstores, the big sister to guide us, well, we relied on, and tried to copy, what we saw in magazines, but without any feedback. As someone who lived Janis Ian's "At Seventeen", I have no idea how to apply makeup. I once had a makeup lesson from a consultant in a department store - have you seen how much makeup those women wear? I felt like a clown at the end of it and couldn't wait to wash it off.

I've tried lining my eyes with soft smudgy pencil (looked like bruises) and liquid liner gave me that oh-so-sexy Tammy Faye Bakker look. To look right, it has to be really, really subtle, and that's very difficult to do unless you practice and have a girlfriend to tell you "that looks like crap". Also, as you get older, eyeliner is a bad idea as the skin around the eyes loses tone and elasticity.

So, in answer to your question, yes, we are told in magazines that the 'smokey eye' look is sexy, but it's very, very difficult to get it right. Done right, it looks fantastic, but done wrong, particularly on an older woman, it's really bad.
posted by essexjan at 1:09 AM on July 31, 2009 [9 favorites]

I have seen women it works on, but only ever when it's applied with extreme restraint. The photos and videos shown here, to me, all look overdone and artificial. Yes it makes the eye stand out but I find that more offputting than attractive. As oflinkey says, if it's done right, you can't tell it's been done at all - at least not until you're right up close and personal. And if studying her makeup is your pastime at that stage, you have your priorities skewed :P
posted by fearnothing at 1:21 AM on July 31, 2009

One thing to think about is that the models rocking this look on the runways and in magazines look good with it because they're being photographed. Think about actors in plays wearing make-up an inch thick and men wearing lipstick. You have to exaggerate your make-up when you're being seen from far away. And the make-up models wear often looks quite severe and bizarre in backstage candids; no eyebrows, stick straight eyebrowns at crazy angles, bruise colored eye shadow, etc.

I can't really pull off the under-eye-liner look so I was really excited when I did a photoshoot recently and had an opportunity to smear tons of black shadow around my entire eye; I looked like an abused wife in real life, but I looked all high-fashion and shit in the photos.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2009

Response by poster: I should have mentioned that I was thinking of caucasian women, with eyeliner heavily applied. I agree that the woman in the picture linked to by peacheater looks good.
posted by espertus at 11:08 AM on July 31, 2009

Response by poster: It's a good point that, when done right, I might not notice it. In fact, my aesthetic preference is for make-up indistinguishable from a makeup-less great-looking person.

Also, I was standing very close to the woman whose eyeliner looked so bad to me. It might have looked great from a distance.
posted by espertus at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2009

Aesthetics, just like with all other cosmetic options a person chooses to wear. I've almost always worn undereye liner in some form, even way back in my makeup neophyte days in high school. I've got practically every lining medium - pencil, gel, liquid, mineral powder, cake. Each works differently.

Now, there's a difference between undereye liner and lining the waterline.

The waterline is the wet edge of your lower eyelid that sticks to your eyeball. Both can be lined, and they give you different effects.

Dirtynumbangelboy is off in that lining under the eye doesn't really make your eyes look smaller, and in fact, it can brighten up the area. Lining the waterline does make your eye look smaller, but the effect may be worth it if it's pleasing.

I tend to go for undereye lining, because to me, it adds something to my look and it looks rather half done otherwise. Sometimes it's more subtle and blended, or just barely there. Sometimes it's black, brown, plum, green. My makeup usually depends on where I am going, time of day, mood, clothes I'm wearing, casual or formal, etc.

I do line my waterline sometimes, but more rarely. My eyes are fairly deep set and look big enough to get away with the waterline lining. Which can also be, for many, a way to complete a look. I have also seen women use a very bright burst of color on their waterlines as a contrast. Not my thing, but it can look nice.

For those of you who have said you have trouble, your friend when it comes to undereye liner is the foam-tipped smudger brush. In fact, brushes really make a big difference in eye makeup overall. I also have a Bare Escentuals mineral black liner and brush that are marvelous, as an alternative to pencil. And the color is quite buildable (use it wet for max), so it can be more subtle if you like.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:27 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

By the way, since you mentioned it, in that photo peacheater posted of Shilpa Shetty, she has her waterline lined.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2009

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