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How to Do Waterline Eyeliner Like a Pro

Lining this small area can transform your eye makeup look.
August 23, 2023


Once upon a time, you may have rimmed your eyes in black eyeliner to sport grunge eye makeup or simply add a ‘90s flair to your look. If you’re still a fan of the look, you’ll be happy to know that this makeup trend is pretty classic. Lining the rim of your eyes, also called tightlighting, requires placing eyeliner on your waterline, aka the inner rim of your top or bottom eyelid. 


It can be a tricky eyeliner technique to execute since the waterline is a sensitive place, but with the right application skills and the best eyeliner for your waterline, you can certainly do it. Below, learn the ins and outs of how to apply waterline eyeliner — and how to make it last.

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Is Eyeliner Safe for Your Waterline?

First thing’s first, you may be wondering if eyeliner is safe for your waterline. The eyes are a sensitive area, so it makes sense that applying eyeliner so close to your eyes could cause irritation. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of eyeliner formulas out there that are perfectly safe to use on your waterline. Just be sure to be very gentle when applying makeup near your eyes with the pencil as you don’t want to poke yourself. It’s also best to use a waterproof formula to prevent as much transfer into the eyes as possible. 

Another thing to note is that eye makeup expires much quicker than the rest of your makeup. Always look at the packaging to see what is recommended but typically, mascaras and eyeliners are only good for three to six months. Make sure you’re switching out your eyeliner frequently because using an expired formula could lead to eye irritation.

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Which Eyeliner Is Best for the Waterline?

The best eyeliner for your waterline is typically going to be a gel formula that can glide across the rims of your eyes without tugging. As we mentioned, one with a waterproof, smudge proof formula is also beneficial because the eyes water and you don’t want transfer. One eyeliner that checks each of these boxes is the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Grip Mechanical Gel Eyeliner. It also comes in a range of shades from classic black and nude to fun colors like turquoise and emerald green. 

How to Tightline Your Upper Waterline

If you’re ready to learn how to apply eyeliner to your upper waterline, keep reading for a simple breakdown.

1. Expose Your Upper Waterline 

Use your ring finger to gently lift your upper lid and expose the waterline beneath your upper lash line.

2. Absorb Excess Moisture 

Carefully swipe a cotton swab along your waterline to soak up any extra moisture that could interfere with your eyeliner application. The drier the area is, the more long lasting your look. 

3. Gently Apply the Eyeliner 

Use a waterproof pencil eyeliner, like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Grip Mechanical Gel Eyeliner or the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Waterproof, Up to 24HR Pencil Eyeliner, and carefully press it along your waterline. Make sure to look straight into a handheld mirror, and slightly tilt your head down while lining your waterline. It may feel unnatural the first time you do this, but you'll get comfortable over time. 

Keep building it up with additional layers until you get your designed pigmentation. 


How Apply Eyeliner to Your Lower Waterline 

Once your upper waterline is complete, you’re ready to move on to your lower waterline.


1. Expose Your Waterline 

When it comes to mastering how to apply eyeliner to the bottom waterline, looking head-on won’t allow you to see your full waterline. To achieve perfectly lined eyes, gently pull your lower lid down using your ring finger.

2. Absorb Excess Moisture

Just as you did with your upper waterline, use a fresh cotton swab to remove excess moisture to ensure there’s no smearing or runny eyeliner

3. Line the Waterline 

Once your bottom waterline is prepped, trace your eyeliner along the exposed area. Continue swiping the liner on until you’ve achieved the desired intensity.

4. Set the Eyeliner With Eyeshadow 

While you can certainly stop after applying your eyeliner pencil to your waterline if you don’t typically have a problem with runny liner, there is one more step that can make it more long lasting. 

You can lock the eyeliner in place by gently applying a powder eyeshadow that matches the eyeliner on top of it using a small angled eyeliner brush. A matte eyeshadow, like the L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Monos Eyeshadow in Noir C'est Noir, is best for this. Be sure to tap the excess powder off of your brush before applying it to your waterline so you don’t get it in your eye. 


How to Remove Eyeliner From Your Waterline 

Properly removing eyeliner from your waterline is important in order to avoid irritation. This calls for a gentle makeup remover since this makeup technique involves the product being super close to your eye. 

Micellar water or eye makeup removers are great for this because they lift and remove makeup without any rinsing or rubbing required. Saturate a cotton pad with the cleanser and gently swipe the pad over your eye makeup until clean. For any lingering eyeliner on your waterline, dip a cotton swab in micellar water and gently sweep it across your waterline to clean up the remaining makeup.

Next: How to Fill In Blonde Eyebrows With Eyebrow Makeup


Photographer: Stephanie Price

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