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9 Reasons Why Your Eyeliner Keeps Smearing

But don’t worry — each one has an easy fix.
November 16, 2022


It may feel like it to most of us but Mercury isn’t always in retrograde. So while we may want to blame all of life’s mishaps and spills on it, we do have to look at other factors. Chances are, when most things are going wrong it’s a simple matter of human error — that includes makeup messes like (unintentionally) smudged eyeliner. 

After you’ve spent precious time perfecting your makeup look, smeared liner can be downright frustrating, and while there are multiple reasons that could be contributing to your unfortunate eyeliner fate, the good news is that they each come with a solution. Read on to find out the reasons why your eyeliner smears and how to move forward with making your eyeliner last all day with some tips and tricks.

Why Does My Eyeliner Smudge?

While having your eyeliner constantly smudge can be annoying, once you know how and why it keeps happening, you can easily amend the issue with these easy fixes.


1. You Skipped Makeup Primer

Just like when you apply a primer before your face makeup, if you forget to apply an eye makeup primer prior to applying your eye makeup, you can get some smudging. An eye makeup primer will prep your skin for your eye makeup and help increase its lifespan.

How to Fix It: This one is pretty self-explanatory — use an eye primer. If you’re in a pinch, a dab of concealer or foundation will do the trick.

2. You’re Not Using Waterproof Eyeliner

Many eyeliners, including ones with a kohl or cream formula, aren’t waterproof. While these are great if you want a liner that can easily be applied and blended for an intentionally smudged eyeliner look, they aren’t ideal if you want to make your precisely applied eyeliner stay in place throughout the day and night. 

How to Fix It: Invest in an eyeliner that’s waterproof. Swap your liquid eyeliner for a waterproof one like the L’Oréal Paris Grip Precision Felt Waterproof Eyeliner, L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Waterproof, Up to 24HR Pencil Eyeliner, or the L’Oréal Paris Le Liner Signature Easy-Glide Mechanical Eyeliner, Waterproof.

3. You Didn’t Set Your Eyeliner

Even if you use a waterproof formula, sometimes your eyeliner can still budge, especially when it’s applied near your waterline. To prevent your eyeliner from moving, it’s important to set your eyeliner in place, just like you use a face powder to set your foundation.

How to Fix It: Set your eyeliner using a long-wearing eyeshadow in a color that matches your liner. Apply the L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow with a small flat top brush, pressing it on top of your eyeliner.

4. You Didn’t Set Your Makeup

Setting your makeup with a setting spray is super important when it comes to keeping not just your eyeliner, but all of your makeup, in place and lasting throughout the day.

How to Fix It: Apply a setting spray over your makeup once you’ve finished your look. Spray the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray in “X” and “T” motions over your face so your makeup maintains that “just applied” look all day long.

5. You Curl Your Lashes in the Wrong Order

If you whip out your eyelash curler after you’ve applied your eyeliner this could be the cause of your smears, as an eyelash curler can easily smudge or move your perfectly placed eyeliner.

How to Fix It: Curl your lashes prior to applying any eyeliner. You’ll get the best of both worlds: Perfectly curled eyelashes and totally intact liner.

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6. You’re Piling on Eye Cream 

While eye cream is a skin care essential, there’s a chance you’re applying it at the wrong time. If you apply too much eye cream before you apply your makeup without giving it enough time to absorb, it can prevent eyeliner applied to your lower lash line from drying. 

How to Fix It: Apply your eye cream during your skin care routine, then style your hair or pick out your outfit instead of jumping straight to your makeup. This will give your eye cream and other moisturizing products time to sink into the skin before you reach for your eyeliner.

7. You Don’t Consider Your Eye Shape

Your eye shape can also affect how your eyeliner wears. If you have hooded eyes, for example, there’s a chance that your eyeliner is smudging because you aren’t applying it in a way that steers clear of your extra layer of skin.

How to Fix It: If you have hooded eyes, stick to applying eyeliner in a thin line right against your lashes to avoid any product transfer. 

8. You Try to Draw One Long Line

Getting perfectly straight eyeliner of the right size takes practice. If you’re trying to go across in one swoop every time, you can easily end up with crooked and smeared eyeliner.

How to Fix It: Start with small dashes first, then go back and fill in the spaces to connect them. Eventually you’ll have one line and you can go back over it if you want it darker or thicker. This might seem like it takes longer at first, but it beats smudging your liner all over your upper eyelid or under-eye area and needing to start your entire look from scratch. 

9. You Apply With A Shaky Hand

Applying any makeup with a shaky hand is difficult to do, but with eyeliner the stakes are even higher, as one wrong move can lead to unwanted eyeliner smudges or eye poking.

How to Fix It: Lay off the caffeine until after you’ve completed your makeup. It might be tempting to sip that fresh cup of joe right before you start or even as you apply your makeup, but holding off on anything that can cause your hands to shake, namely caffeine, might be a savior in helping you avoid smeared eyeliner.

If you find that your hands shake even when you don’t drink any coffee, you can hold your hand against your face to steady it as you create your eyeliner look.

How to Apply Eyeliner

Now that you know how to avoid eyeliner smearing, here are some steps to help you apply eyeliner.

1. Choose your eyeliner

As mentioned before, a waterproof formula is one of the best ways to avoid smudging. Additionally, for lash line liner or winged liner pick a product with gel or liquid consistency, but if you want to add some liner to your waterline, go for a pencil. 

2. Dot your liner

Whether you’re a newbie to eyeliner or just want to reduce the chance of smearing, creating dots close to the lash line then connecting the dots is easier than trying to do a straight line across your eye in one motion.

3. Connect the dots

Connect the dots that you just drew to form a line. You can then retrace the line to make it darker or add a wing at the corner. 

Next: How to Apply Liquid Eyeliner

Edited by: Témi Adebowale, Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn

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