The Best Eyeliners For A Foolproof Feline Flick

What links Audrey Hepburn, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Cleopatra and Angelina Jolie? Liquid eyeliner of course. While make-up trends come and go, the feline flick is a timeless classic and suits every aesthetic. From the ultra glamorous to the insouciantly rock’n’roll, it can be dressed up or down. The trick is to work out the right look for your face and chosen aesthetic, and stick with it.

How to successfully apply a liquid liner

Heed Vogue contributing beauty editor Pat McGrath’s advice, and draw the wing first. It’s easy to place the wing too low or high once you’ve already sketched a line along your lashes, especially considering that the natural curve of the eye slopes downwards at the outer corner. Instead, look straight ahead in the mirror, place a small dot where you want the line to end, draw your flick, then line along your lashes.

How do I choose an eyeliner?

Start by considering what effect you want from your eyeliner; while liquids offer a more precise finish and achieve that striking Hepburn-esque wing, gel and kohl liners tend to be more forgiving and can be blended and buffed in for a softer, more diffused effect. It might sound obvious but those who want a product just for the waterline should opt for a pencil or gel formula, as a liquid won’t stay put.

What is the best eyeliner for beginners?

The perfect eyeliner for you will also depend on your familiarity with the product. To beginners and those not au fait with applying it regularly, a liquid liner might seem intimidating as it requires a steadier hand. In this case, it can be wise to start with a pencil, whether gel or kohl, or for a pen-style liquid if that’s the effect you want. Beginner or not, the trick is just to go for it – liquid eyeliner can smell your fear. One of McGrath’s biggest tips, whatever your liner abilities, is to finish by tidying up with a cotton bud – even the pros get it wrong sometimes.

Is gel liner better than pencil?

Not necessarily – it all depends on the effect you want. Gel liners bridge the gap between liquid and pencil liner, as they impart much of the impact and precision of a liquid, but with more of the malleability and softness of a pencil. They’re an excellent option for those who like a soft, smudgy finish, if you’re creating more impactful eyeshadow looks (many make-up artists use them as a base for shadows), or if you like to apply haphazardly and buff and blend your line into place. Gel liner is also a great option if you like your liner to stay put once it’s set. Meanwhile, pencil adds intensity to the waterline and can offer a more exact effect.

From long-wearing gel liners to easy-to-use felt tips, find your perfect fit within Vogue’s edit, and get yourself in front of the mirror for practice. Shop the 15 best eyeliners below.

Best Gel Eyeliner: Victoria Beckham Beauty Beauty Satin Kajal Liner

Few liner formulas match up to this creamy, ultra-blendable number which, once set, stays put for hours. As versatile as they come, you can smoke it up with the built-in smudger or keep it to a minimal line. A must try.

£22, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Best Eyeliner For Beginners: NARS High Pigment Longwear Eyeliner

Brilliant for beginners, this eyeliner glides onto skin, delivering excellent colour from the off (but it can be further built up), and stays put wherever it sets – no faffing around.

£19, available at Spacenk.com.

Best Eyeliner For The Waterline: Charlotte Tilbury Rock ’N’ Kohl Black Eyeliner Pencil

Queen of a serious sultry stare, it is only right that Charlotte Tilbury has an eyeliner that creates the look in seconds. Brilliant for all parts of the eye, this one is particularly good in the waterline – expect it to roll on and stay put for hours.

£19, available at Charlottetilbury.com.

Best Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner: Too Faced Better Than Sex Easy Glide Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Whether you’re diving into a pool or a hot steamy encounter (as the name might suggest), Too Faced’s Better Than Sex waterproof liner is a product you can rely on. It promises to stay put up to 24 hours without smudging, budging or fading. 

£18, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

Best Eyeliner For Cat Eyes: Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen

Two liners for the price of one, really. The dual-ended pen has a thicker side for a more graphic finish, or a finer side to help you get the line snug against your lashes. Genius.

£46, available at Lookfantastic.com.

Best Brown Liquid Eyeliner: Byredo Eyeliner in Practical Brown

It might be under-the-radar but Byredo’s liquid eyeliner is beloved by any and all who try it. This brown hue is particularly flattering and lends a gentle shimmer to eyes for a soft, sultry effect. Plus, it’s vegan too. 

£31, available at Selfridges.com.

Best Smudge Proof Eyeliner: Gucci Stylo Contour Des Yeux Eyeliner

As well as looking extra chic in your make-up bag, Gucci’s eyeliner is waterproof, offers pigmented colour and truly stays put for hours. You can use it for flicks, in the waterline or even buffed in as an eyeshadow, plus there are lots of different colours to try.

£24, available at Selfridges.com.

Best Eyeliner Felt Tip: Pat McGrath Labs Perma Precision Liner

A favourite of Vogue beauty and lifestyle director Jessica Diner, this liner is rich in pigment but effortless to use. Perfect for a more defined wing.

£26, available at Net-a-porter.com.

Best Eyeliner For Sensitive Eyes: La Bouche Rouge Le Kôhl Noir

Developed without microplastics and with 98 per cent natural origin ingredients, this is a good bet for those who have sensitive eyes. It delivers impactful colour in both the waterline and around eyes. 

£26, available at Net-a-porter.com.

Best Brush Eyeliner: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner

An industry favourite, Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner has a budge-proof formula and inky black finish. Use the finest brush you can find for perfect precision.

£21, available at Johnlewis.com.

Best Coloured Eyeliner: Dior Diorshow On Stage Liner

From pink to green, Dior’s coloured eyeliners are the best in the business. The brand’s make-up artist, Peter Philips, regularly uses them backstage for the iconic looks he creates for the shows, plus the flexible felt tip is super easy to use. 

£28, available at Selfridges.com.

Best Waterproof Eyeliner: Stila Stay All Day Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner

A true cult classic, you’ll find this handy pen rolling around in many a make-up artist’s kit. The super-smooth tip helps you glide across your lash line with zero tugging or pulling for a neat flick.

£16, available at Lookfantastic.com.

Best Supermarket Liquid Eyeliner: Maybelline Express Eye Liner

Quick to dry but still bold in colour, this liquid liner combines the rich pigment of an ink well with the ease of a felt tip. It’s purse-friendly, too.

£5.10, available at Feelunique.com.

Best Vegan Eyeliner: Kat Von D Tattoo Liner

Tattoo by name, tattoo by nature, this liner is ideal for those who simply cannot be touching up their make-up once it’s on. Fully waterproof, its staying power is near legendary.

£18, available at Boots.com.

Best White Eyeliner: Shiseido Kajal InkArtist Shadow, Liner, Brow – Kabuki White

From an eyeshadow to an eyeliner, this Shiseido number is an excellent multi-tasker. White eyeliner is brilliant for making the eyes look more awake, so roll its Kabuki White shade in your waterline and expect to look infinitely more rested.

£24, available at Cultbeauty.co.uk.

VOGUE ARTICLE

The 10 Most Reliable Eyeliners, According To Makeup Artists

Purchasing an eyeliner can feel like a gamble. You walk into your nearest Sephora, money in hand, on a mission to find a formula that doesn’t pull, tug, skip or drag. After perusing the shelves, you’ll settle on one in hopes that it won’t smudge before lunch.

The truth is, you never really know if you’ll get a return on your investment until you take it home and try it for yourself. By then, it could be too late. To make the entire experience feel less risky, experts who know a thing or two about eyeliners weigh in. Ahead, shop the 10 best eyeliners, from pencils to liquids, according to professional makeup artists. They’ll make you feel like you won the jackpot every time.

BEST GEL LINER – AMC Eyeliner Gel

“When I’m creating a bold eye, Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel is my go-to eyeliner, as it’s available in a variety of rich high-pigmented shades,” says makeup artist Millie Morales (also a Garnier celebrity hairstylist). “The creamy formula glides on with ease, but most importantly, it boasts long-lasting wear.”

Shop $16

BEST SMUDGE-PROOF LIQUID – Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

“When it comes to precision, I like to use a marker-like tip, as it gives me the freedom and flexibility to create an elegant wing or a thick dramatic look,” says Morales. “Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner dries fast, won’t smudge and only comes off when you take it off!”

Shop $22

BEST BRIGHT FORMULA – 24/7 Eye Pencil

If you’re looking to try a colored eyeliner, look no further than Urban Decay’s 24/7 Eye Pencils. Makeup artist Steve Kassajikian says, “these shades are bright, pigmented, creamy, easy to blend, and glide on like a gel.” As if that’s not enough to get you on board, Kassajikian adds, “they set in 60 seconds and don’t budge throughout the day. Plus, they’re specifically made for wet surfaces like the waterline.”

Shop $22

BEST FOR CAT EYES – Flash Cat Eye Liquid Eyeliner

Celebrity makeup artist Claudia Betancur, a L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador, is a fan of the brand’s new Flash Cat Eye Liquid Eyeliner because it “has the perfect tip to create a precise wing, and glides on super smooth. The cap has a wing stencil attached to help create the perfect cat eye,” she says.

Shop $10

BEST WATERPROOF – 1.5 MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner

“This micro-fine gel pencil has next level staying power,” says makeup artist and artistic director of Glamsquad, Kelli J. Bartlett. “I originally tested the Hourglass 1.5 MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner on my hand, and it lasted through a workout and a shower, so you know it means business. I love to use it on the inner rim of the upper lash line to create a lush look as it holds up to watery eyes.”

Shop $18

BEST LONG-LASTING PENCIL – BADgal BANG! 24 Hour Eyeliner Pencil

Celebrity makeup artist Lisa Potter-Dixon says this liner “is a hard worker. It works wonders on the waterline and stays put due to its waterproof formula.” She adds, “it also works beautifully as a lash liner, plus the blending tool on the end means you can even use it to create a simple smokey eye.”

Shop $22

BEST PRECISION – Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner

Makeup artist and co-founder of Shespoke Makeup, Rebecca Perkins, says it doesn’t get better than Pat McGrath Labs’ liquid liner. She says, “the pen tip is so fine, you can do super subtle details. Mother does not mess around, and her products always do what they say.”

Shop $32

BEST TRUE BLACK – Infallible 16HR Never-Fail Eyeliner

Finding a true black formula can be difficult. Luckily, Perkins assures that her pick is “tried and true.” She says, “L’Oréal’s carbon black shade comes in a gel pot (perfect for when I am doing someone else’s makeup) or the mechanical pencil (for when I’m doing my own makeup).” Finally, she adds, “it’s not fancy, but it works every time.”

Shop $8

BEST DRUGSTORE – Matte Liquid Liner

Dell Ashley, YSL Beauté Director of Makeup Artistry, knows a thing or two about luxury beauty, but there’s one drugstore favorite he keeps in his kit. He says the NYX Matte Liquid Liner is “a great budget-friendly eyeliner because it offers rich color and has a nice, long wear.” And at $8 a pop, you can keep your makeup bag stocked with it too.

Shop $10

BEST VERSATILE FORMULA – TattooStudio Sharpenable Gel Pencil in Brown

Vincent Oquendo, the artist behind Hollywood’s most beautiful faces (Lily Collins, Gabrielle Union, Nina Dobrev), recommends you pick up this other drugstore option. “I use it to create my shape before I perfect it with a black liner and for subtle definition in the waterline when I’m creating a sultry look,” he says. “The combination of black and brown liners create a more natural makeup look when smudged at the lash line.”

Shop $7

ELLE article

4 Foolproof Steps To Create Audrey Hepburn’s Classic Cat-Eye Flick

When it comes to creating the ultimate feline flick, look no further than Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn. “Her almond eyes were synonymous with the winged eyeliner that adorned them, and the perfectly defined lashes that fluttered as she gazed through the window of Tiffany & Co, eating a croissant,” says Vogue make-up artist, Celia Burton. “When Alberto de Rossi died, Hepburn’s make-up artist of 25 years, she was said to have declared she’d rather not work again. A perfect tribute to the enormous role that make-up — and the man applying it — had played in her career. Legend has it that de Rossi would apply mascara and then separate each individual eyelash with a safety pin to emphasise her doe eyes.”

Indeed, famed for her feminine brows and signature cat-eye, Hepburn’s was a beauty that surpassed all others. And one that will be under the spotlight once more thanks to a new documentary on the Breakfast at Tiffany’s star. Masterminded by the same BAFTA-nominated team behind 2018’s McQueen, a film about Alexander McQueen, Audrey takes an intimate look at one of cinema’s iconic actresses, featuring never-seen-before footage as well as interviews with her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Givenchy’s former artistic director Clare Waight Keller, and Tiffany & Co design director emeritus John Loring. Though the film promises to uncover the woman behind the red-carpet glitz and glamour, focusing on the psychological effects of her difficult upbringing, it will no doubt bring some of her iconic beauty looks back into focus, too.

To mark the occasion, Vogue make-up artist Celia Burton breaks down the steps to recreating Audrey Hepburn’s signature cat-eye flick.

Step 1: use liquid eyeliner to mark the position

Look straight into a mirror, with your chin lowered. Consider your eye shape, and use a liquid liner — my favourites are Glossier Pro Tip or Voyeur Waterproof Liquid Liner by Hourglass — to mark out with a dot or dash where you want the ‘flick’ to finish. For the Hepburn effect, I recommend a sharp, squat flick, angled upwards and outwards from the end of the lash line at 45 degrees.

Step 2: drag the eyeliner across the eye

Tip your head back, so now you’re looking down at the mirror, and drag the liner across the eye from the inner corner, staying as close to the lash line as possible. Always have a cotton bud and oil-free make-up remover to hand, to neaten as you go.

Step 3: connect the dots and thicken up

Stop when you reach the end of the lash line, return to looking straight into the mirror, and join the dots from the marked spot to the main event. You can leave this skinny, as a subtle flick, or thicken it out at the wing — just make sure to keep the 45-degree angle.

If you prefer your liner soft or blurred, use a gel-liner pencil in the same way — my favourites are Charlotte Tilbury Rock ’N’ Kohl pencils or Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayons — and smudge it along the lash line with a brush or finger before it sets, then tidy up the bottom of the flick with a cotton bud and oil-free make-up remover.

Step 4: finish with lashings of mascara

Finish with an intensely black, lengthening mascara such as Glossier Lash Slick or Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara by Hourglass, making sure not to clump the lashes in tribute to Alberto de Rossi and his safety pin.

VOGUE article

The Real Story Behind The Cat-Eye Flick, The World’s Oldest Make-Up Trick

From Dior and Chromat to Chloé and Valentino, winged eyeliner dominated the SS21 shows, in bright colours, graphic lines, and geometric shapes. Today, the feline-inspired beauty go-to is highly individualistic and takes many forms — but where did it all start?

The cat-eye flick is undoubtedly one of the most powerful makeup statements of all time. The sultry, feline-inspired beauty go-to has been made a style signature by many, from the queens of ancient Egypt to its modern-day incarnations at the SS21 shows of Dior, Valentino, and Chloé.

From cultural traditions to famous interpretations worn by screen legends Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor, Vogue charts the fascinating history of the iconic winged-eyeliner look.

The origins of the cat-eye flick

The cat-eye is one of the oldest makeup tricks in the world, dating back to ancient Egypt (from 3100 BC to 332 BC). The look was said to have been made popular by the likes of Nefertiti and later, Cleopatra, who used minerals such as copper ore and malachite to create either thick lines etched from the eye upwards to the hairline, or little flicks that stretched out parallel to the brow. The style was also popular among men, as exemplified by Pharaoh Seti I.

According to beauty historian and Makeup Museum co-founder Doreen Bloch, kohl and minerals were worn around the eyes for health reasons. “Kohl had immunological and antibacterial properties that supported eye health and minimised glare from the sun,” she tells Vogue. “So, ancient Egyptians, especially the ruling class, would use this cosmetic for health benefits, and lined their eyes accordingly.” Samples of makeup from ancient Egypt on display at the Louvre were found to contain nitric oxide, which is said to help revitalise the immune system.

As well as for health reasons, women wore a cat-eye as a way of warding off evil spirits. “Women used kohl liner for centuries as protection against the evil eye,” says Makeup Museum co-founder and celebrity makeup artist Rachel Goodwin. “But, like most things, the practice evolved into a way of signifying social status, eventually becoming the ultimate sign of beauty for both women and men of all ranks.”

Though the idea of the cat eye is believed to have its roots in ancient Egypt, there were also both subtle and extreme forms seen in men and women in ancient Asia and the Middle East, dating back to 3000 BC. In the latter, for example, crushed-up kohl (made from lead sulfide and other minerals mixed with water) was used around the eyes as a means of protection from the harsh desert climate.

A re-emergence in the ’20s

In the west, the story of the cat-eye as we know it began in the ’20s, with inimitable French entertainer Josephine Baker wearing the style during her intoxicating dance performances. Elsewhere, actresses Louise Brooks and Greta Nissen wore it for their red-carpet appearances, teamed with high-volume lashes and skinny brows.

“The discoveries of items from ancient Egypt [in the ’10s and ’20s], such as the bust of Queen Nefertiti, put styles and looks from a bygone era into the public consciousness,” explains Bloch. “Movies such as 1917’s Cleopatra,starring Theda Bara, showed the cat-eye worn by a modern-day superstar. As cosmetics became more acceptable for use by mainstream women, eyeliner became more prevalent.”

The look brought about a sense of theatre, mystery, and exoticism, which tied in with the rebellious flapper fashion of the time, as women were shedding their restrictive garments and cutting their hair short. During this period, soot and Vaseline were mixed together to create the eyeliner.

Recreated by mid-century icons

The cat-eye was the style du jour during the ’50s and ’60s, with women making it part of their everyday style. Less dramatic than that of the ’20s, pin-up icons such as Hedy Lamarr would wear subtle, skinny flicks of winged liner both on-screen and off.

The ’50s saw the mass production and commercialisation of makeup, and the invention of liquid eyeliner. “That innovation, plus movie makeup artists Max Factor, Ben Nye and the Westmores using the style on Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Audrey Hepburn, helped define a whole new era in beauty,” says Goodwin.

In Italy, some of the biggest movie stars of the ’60s, such as Sophia Loren, captivated audiences with their own version: swiped-on inky black, with heavy lashes and dark brown or blue shadow worn to the crease. “There’s a vintage ’50s advertisement from beauty brand Borghese, which speaks to Italian women about ‘a new eye look called ‘cat’s eye’,” explains Bloch.

Meanwhile, British model Twiggy gave the look a space-age twist with her graphic lines and feathered lower lashes. There was also Elizabeth Taylor, whose turn as Cleopatra in Hollywood’s 1963 epic only reinforced its overwhelming popularity. And, finally, model Pattie Boyd, who in 1965 wrote a beauty column for US magazine 16, on how to perfect the subtle cat-eye flick.

Sweeping through music and youth culture

The cat-eye took a turn in the ’70s and ’80s as youth culture exploded, with punks, goths, grunge lovers, and metal fans taking the look and making it their own. Blondie’s lead singer Debbie Harry wore a smudgy, messy cat-eye in the ’80s, and her fans followed suit, as did fellow rockstar Pat Benatar.

Style pioneers Grace Jones and David Bowie played with feline shapes and mixed new colours with bolder lashings of blush to amp it up even more. Bowie was known to use Indian kohl around his eyes, often lining the lashes and sweeping up slightly. “I always had a repulsive sort of need to be something more than human,” he once told Rolling Stone of his makeup application.

Elsewhere, Siouxsie Sioux experimented with sharp lines and graphic shapes, as did Robert Smith of The Cure. Egyptian actress Soad Hosny was also fond of a feline flick, as was China-born Singaporean star Gong Li, especially in the early days of her career in the ’80s and ’90s.

By the time the 2000s rolled around, the cat-eye was divided into two camps. Amy Winehouse took the classic look and blew up its proportions with a heavy-handed wing that extended past the eyebrow. Other celebs, such as Lauren Conrad on US reality TV show Laguna Beach, went for a much more subtle version.

“The early 2000s became a time in the world where there was suddenly a lot of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood,” says Goodwin. “Women such as Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese began paying homage to their beauty icons. The cat-eye was moved forward and reframed through a reverent and rebellious lens.”

Iterations on the runway and social media

Today, makeup artists such as Pat McGrath, Fatima Thomas, and Isamaya Ffrench are refining the shape for a modern generation. At Chloé spring/summer 2021, McGrath lined the models’ eyes in a smoky, sultry, elongated cat eye, which extended from the bottom waterline. Meanwhile, at Chromat, Thomas did duochrome neon in cobalt blue and highlighter green.

For Dior, Peter Philips executed a thick yet minimal look that wrapped around the entire eye. At Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, Ffrench used exaggerated white-and-black pigment and drew ’80s-inspired winged lines towards the temples. Makeup artists are taking the humble cat-eye to new heights, making it both customisable and adaptable to the prevailing mood of whoever is wearing it.

On social media, beauty Instagrammers such as Juliana Horner create works of art based on the simple cat-eye, as does directional makeup artist Rowi Singh. A search for ‘cat-eye’ on Instagram gets 2.6m results, proof of its popularity, and you’ll see the classic shape covered in rhinestones, red and orange flames, cloud motifs, chunks of glitter, and even flower petals.

“The biggest evolution of the cat eye is that unlike past eras where it symbolised social status or conformity, it now symbolises the total opposite,” says Goodwin. “The cat-eye of today is much more versatile, and it moves with ease between classic beauty applications and subculture with absolutely no irony.”

VOGUE article