I'd like the liner to actually form some manner of line
February 4, 2011 9:09 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my eyes hold! damn! still! when I'm trying to put on eyeliner?

I don't know if I have insanely ticklish eyelids or what, but I've never been able to put on eyeliner because my eyes twitch like crazy when I try. When I apply any pressure to my eyelid at all, it seems like my eye just won't stay shut, and it blinks open involuntarily. I've watched all manner of instructional videos on YouTube but it seems like all their eyes hold still, and I've never seen anyone mention anything like "If your eyeliner looks like it was applied by a child or perhaps a puppy because your eye is jumping all over the place, you should..."

Have you had this problem? How did you fix it? I don't want to wear eyeliner every day, but it would be nice to have it in my bag of tricks for special occasions. If the answer is "tons of practice", I'm likely to just give it up as a bad job and move on since I don't care dreadfully much, but if you came up with some kind of awesome trick...pray tell!
posted by little light-giver to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Are you using liquid eyeliner? My eyelids get very twitchy with liquid, but I can put on pencil eyeliner just fine. I use Cover Girl Perfect Blend Pencil, it's creamier and smoother than a dry pencil and it's more forgiving of slight errors.
posted by amyms at 9:19 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, ANY eyeliner. I forgot to mention that. I've heard liquid requires a practiced hand so I've never even given it a shot, but I've tried pencils thin and fat, plus something that rolled up out of a tube, and also tried the supposedly easier trick of wetting a thin brush and applying eyeshadow with the wet brush. Same disappointing result with all of the above.
posted by little light-giver at 9:22 PM on February 4, 2011

I hold my eyelid still by pulling on the outside corner of my eye until the eyelid is taut. Otherwise, I have the same problem that you do.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Have you ever tried putting your finger at the outside corner of your eye and kind of pulling outward, to make the eyelid taut? Maybe it will help to stabilize things.
posted by cabingirl at 9:27 PM on February 4, 2011

Tons of practice worked for me. I still can't apply liquid eyeliner, though, so I stick to kohl pencils and the wonderful Smashbox cream eyeliners with good makeup brushes.
posted by halogen at 9:28 PM on February 4, 2011

Best answer: I'm an eyeliner newbie myself, and something that helped just last night was getting a good eyeliner by Urban Decay. It's a really creamy pencil-type liner. It is so much easier to apply than any drug store eyeliner I've tried, where I had to press hard repeatedly just to get the stuff to appear. If you get it at Sephora, they've got a really lenient return policy so you could just bring it back if it doesn't work out for you.

Aside from that, you mention that your eye doesn't stay shut during application... but I don't actually apply eyeliner with my eye shut. It's usually kind of half open, and the pressure I apply is more towards the brow bone (pulling the lid vertical) and not to the side. So my lid is almost getting pulled open while my eye wants to close.

I found this video to be helpful.
posted by wondermouse at 9:29 PM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Some people stretch out the outer corner of their eye to get a flat surface to draw on - it sounds like you've tried that and still get involuntary blinking. Another technique that was useful to me is stretching the *inner* corner. Put a finger on your eyelid near the inner corner, and pull it in (toward your nose). Then draw eyeliner on the part that's not covered by your finger. It's still pulling the skin tighter, but it's not so tight that it's pushing on your eyeball so it might be more comfortable.
posted by astrid at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with amyms on the creamy pencil front. I like Clinique's Cream Shaper for Eyes, and it helps if your eyelids are freshly moisturized so it's even less likely to drag/skip.

You can also "line" your top lid by applying dark eyeshadow with the edge (the thin side) of the eyeshadow applicator right above the lashes. That plus a non-glumpy mascara may be all you need!
posted by argonauta at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2011

The so-called push brush may be the right thing for you. You'll still need to hold your lid taut at the outer edge, but you can apply your liner one brush-width at a time--just hold the brush full of shadow against your lid line--then repeat till you have covered the length of your lid. (You can practice on the back of your hand.) Pick a dark eyeshadow that suits you. Dry application works well. After you have applied one brush-length at a time, you can go over the same line again with a sweeping motion if you can hold the lid still enough. Hope this helps!
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:49 PM on February 4, 2011

Best answer: I pull my eyelid taut from the corner as everyone's saying and I use this eyeliner. I can't get eyeliner as straight with any other kind. MY chicken 13 year old (who I have to practically sit on if she needs drops in her eyes or something) can get the eyeliner on straight with this stuff and she's only been allowed to wear makeup for a couple of months and even then, only once in a while. She is very jumpy and can't actually see close up really well without her very strong glasses and I rarely have to fix it when she'd done.

Also, when I do get it crooked or too thick, I dampen a q-tip and wipe off the extra. If you do it right after applying the eyeliner, it takes it right off, right where you want it.
posted by artychoke at 10:32 PM on February 4, 2011

Try this brush. Use a cream eyeliner. Also, don't worry if the line isn't perfect - smudge it out and you'll look fucking hot. I figured this out after always looking like my cats were doing my makeup.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:51 PM on February 4, 2011

I just wanted to chime in and say I watched the video wondermouse posted and learned more about putting make-up on in ten minutes with a few videos than I've ever learned from various makeovers over the years. The eyeliner lessons are excellent. Thanks!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:30 PM on February 4, 2011

2nding the q-tip fix trick! My eyes twitch, my hand is terribly unsteady and I'm usually rushing in the morning. Instead of worrying about poking my eye out, I do my best to apply quickly (with liquid liner) and then clean it up to the appropriate line thickness/so it's anywhere actually near my eye.
posted by dayspteh at 12:17 AM on February 5, 2011

For the lower lids, pull down on the skin just below your eye to move the lid a bit away from your eye. For the upper lids, gently grab your eyelashes and use them to pull your upper eyelid just free of the eye - it straightens out the lids, and prevents them from moving around if you twitch. I know it sounds weird to tug on your eyelashes, but just do it slowly and gently, it works really well. I dig lots of black eyeliner, and have been doing this for years.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:52 AM on February 5, 2011

One of the easiest eyeliners I've ever tried is the EmphasEYES liner by Tarte. It's very creamy and goes on smoothly, and the tip is so thin that it's really precise. Now, I don't have the issue you do and I love eyeliner of all sorts (liquid being a favorite), but I love that liner. The Urban Decay liners suggested above are creamy and apply nicely, but they're also smudgy and not very precise.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:35 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Using liquid eyeliner for bottom eye, apply going from the outside to inner eye after taking a couple of deep yogi or tummy breaths, always look a little bit forward (towards your goal) to reach. Do this without wavering, a light touch is best. On the top lid, do the opposite, inner to outer, taking deep breaths before starting. As artychoke said above, the q-tip is an essential tool.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2011

i went to sephora yesterday and asked them to show me how to apply eyeliner. (ulta, mac, benefit, department stores will do it too.) if i thought about it, i wold have gone when they were less busy ... but she still spent at least a half hour with me.

i wanted to learn liquid liner, but ended up with gel and a brush because she thought it might be easier to manage (she was right). someday i might go back for liquid lessons, but she taught me how to achieve what i wanted - and there was no hard sell.

do this.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 9:24 AM on February 5, 2011

I do much better with gel eyeliner than pencil or liquid (I use this one from Bobbi Brown in sepia which is more forgiving than black), and I use the tip where I pull my eyelid taught with my finger from the outer corner. Putting on gel eyeliner is easier because you don't have to put it on in one fluid line, you can do it a little bit at a time with a small flat brush, which may help while you're twitching. Although this one from Benefit Cosmetics might make it even easier for you. They also talk a little about technique on that page.

Also, I mention above that the color I use is more forgiving in black - that's b/c it's less harsh and the line blends in a bit better, so you can't see mistakes as much.
posted by echo0720 at 10:15 AM on February 5, 2011

Instead of holding my eyelid with a fingertip, I raise my eyebrows, half-close my eyes, and open my mouth to stretch out the surrounding skin. (Totally habitual, or else I would be laughing, because this does look entirely ridiculous.) Putting the eyeliner on during a long, slow exhale might help too.
posted by clavicle at 11:13 AM on February 5, 2011

A gel or liquid might be easier for you. I do a thin, flicked out line of liquid liner with mascara and a bit of blush most days, and I find liquid far, far easier than gel. It lasts longer without smearing on me, too, but I think I'm very much in the majority. I use a Rimmel liquid liner - I think it has glam in its name.

It really helps me to tip my head right back and look down my nose when I apply, or look down into a mirror. This helps me get the brush right, right into my lash line. If i pull the outer corner of my eye out I end up with a weird little gap. I usually do a short stroke from the Start of my lash line to the outer third, then a second one from the outside in to make the flick then draw a line from tear duct to lash line. This sounds complicated, but I find the less i think about it the better i do. It's quite zen, really, like doing calligraphy on my face.

Hope this helps!
posted by nerdfish at 12:20 PM on February 5, 2011

Try angling your head away from the mirror (like, looking upwards) and then looking into the mirror - your eyes will naturally be closed more but you won't need muscles to hold it that way.

I can't explain myself very well, I hope that makes sense.
posted by R a c h e l at 2:20 PM on February 5, 2011

I'm going to third what nerdfish and R a c h e l are saying-- I also do the half closed/look downward thing. I find that deliberately focusing my eyes downward keeps me from blinking or twitching. It also helps to get the eyeliner as close as possible to my lashline.

I also opt if possible to put my elbow or the hand with the eyeliner against a hard surface (tabletop or wall or mirror or whatever) so that it's more stable.

Also if it's a sensitivity to pressure, try looking downward and using your finger to lightly tap the bottom edge of your eyelid like a hundred times or like two minutes (really until you get bored and your eye doesn't care anymore) while still looking down to just get used to the sensation of something touching your eyelid. Use a mirror, and I think after you get used to feeling pressure on your eyelid, you should be somewhat desensitized, and then try with eyeliner after that. I don't know if this would help, but it would only take a few minutes to try.
posted by tangaroo at 8:53 PM on February 5, 2011

The recommendations for a push brush are good ones, along with pulling your eyelid out to the side so it's taut. But the bluntness of the brush will do a lot to overcome the ticklishness--a thin brush is too delicate and tickly. Same with really pointy pencils, so if you're using pencil, blunt the tip a bit. And don't try to do the line all in one go. Instead, start with short little dashes and then connect them.

I also find that the inner corner of my lid is much more ticklish than the outside, so I start at the outer corner and work inward with the brush.
posted by MsMacbeth at 9:28 PM on February 5, 2011

I always had trouble with lining the upper lid too until I spotted a couple of Lauren Luke video tutorials where she lined the inner upper water line and pushed the liner through the lashes in a series of short sweeps, building up a rather fetching line at the base of the lash. Essentially youre lining the eye from underneath the lash.

It really is much easier to do this than it is to line the upper lid since youre pushing up and out and in small movements. You'll need a smudge or waterproof liner since normal khol will soon go Panda when its on your water line and then you need a good eye make remover since its much harder to get off. Also youre going to blink like crazy doing it but it doesnt matter since youre not trying for a straight line in one movement.
posted by Ness at 8:56 AM on February 7, 2011

I've had tons of practice, yet the only brush I can get a good result with is this flat, angled type (though not that particular brand). I use it directly on the lash line -- that is, along the root of the lashes, as if to create a line connecting the lashes at their base. (on preview, what Ness said.) The make-up artist who showed me this method also suggested that I not close my eyes all the way. A gel or cream eyeliner is good for this application. I actually use a powder shadow to make the line. I lightly wet the tips of the bristles with water, and then brush back and forth near the edge of the eyeshadow cake; test on my hand, and then press along the lash base. I don't try to brush a continuous line, but do smalls sections that connect. It's cool like water, but just damp, not liquid
posted by wryly at 12:31 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, I think Ness is crazy about lining the waterline (for the reasons already stated of both having to get the really waterproof stuff and it being tough to remove), but if you want to do that, I was taught to do the following to keep your eye open when putting in contacts:

using your opposite hand as eye (so R hand for L eye or the revers), reach across your forehead, rest the base of your hand on your temple, and use your fingertips (I use middle and ring fingers) to trap your eyelashes against your brow bone. This physically prevents you from closing your eye unless you let go.
posted by tangaroo at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2011

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