Winged eyeliner. The cat-eye flick. Call it what you want, but it’s only fair to say that this makeup trick has been iconic dating as far back as ancient Egypt. Worn by the likes of Cleopatra, Audrey Hepburn, and Ariana Grande, winged eyeliner is a timeless beauty trend. And yet, achieving this otherwise ‘simple’ look isn’t necessarily perceived as the easiest to do.
When I first started experimenting with makeup, the elusive cat-eye was my ultimate goal. I loved the look but could never seem to acquire the skills to properly draw two straight, let alone even, flicked lines. I eventually gave up and my high school days became a routine of applying dark, Tumblr-girl-esque eyeliner with a pencil. Forget wings: resembling a raccoon had become my new goal. But that all changed when I began rehearsing for my ballet school’s production of Swan Lake.
You may already be familiar with the type of makeup associated with this ballet, but winged eyeliner is a huge key. Not only are ‘flicks’ mandatory, but the makeup itself has to be extremely dark and dramatic (think Natalie Portman in Black Swan) to combat the harsh stage lighting. Going into rehearsals, I knew that choreography wouldn’t be the only skill in dire need of polishing.
And yet, it didn’t take long for me to realize that winged eyeliner, is actually really easy. Months in the fast-paced backstage environment provided me with the secret to attaining the perfect wing. There’s really only one thing behind getting a smooth, clean line: speed.
Liquid eyeliner is notorious for showcasing even the smallest of errors. So, how can you ensure clean, precise ‘flicks’ without having to rely on a Q-tip? While confidence and speed are key, you first need to acquire a target. It’s impossible to draw a line if you don’t know where to put it!
Although there are plenty of YouTube tutorials on the Internet, I personally believe that unless the YouTuber in question possesses the same facial structure as yourself, they tend to be unhelpful. See, there are really only three possible angles you can go for: upward, downward, or straight. And since you, yourself know your face best, only you can determine which angle is most fitting. (Tip: eyeshadow is a great tool for experimenting with different angles).
Once you know which angle works best for your eye shape, it’s time to start practicing. Not being able to get it right on the first few tries doesn’t mean you “can’t do eyeliner”. There’s no one way to do eyeliner. As long as you have an appropriate angle in mind, the beginning process is all about practicing until you’re able to hit your mark every time. And once you can hit your mark fairly well, all you need to do is apply some speed and confidence. It’s not the shape or ‘wing style’ that determines whether your eyeliner looks good: so long as the lines you draw are precise and clean, it’s nearly impossible for your ‘flicks’ to appear sloppy.
There you have it. Winged eyeliner, although intimidating at first, is not as daunting as it may seem. I firmly believe--and this goes for any makeup you apply--that there is no wrong way, as long as whatever you put on your face looks like it was placed with intent. Cleaning and blending lines are the "make it or break it" for any makeup look.
And honestly, even once you can draw clean lines quite consistently, there will be days when your hand just won’t want to cooperate. And on those days, you'll just have to wing it!