Something odd's happening. For years and years, the only girls I ever spied wearing inky eyeliner were either channelling a goth, punk or retro aesthetic - oh, and then there was my mum, who hasn't left the house without her customary slash of molten kohl, for, gosh, I'd say coming up to thirty years. But, all of a sudden, it's everywhere. I've seen lid-flicks on so many different women in the last month (none of whom are Amy Winehouse), that I have no choice but to assume we're in the midst of a full-fledged frenzy - hell, even my make-up shunning mate turned up to an East London gig wearing nothing but electric blue ticks - and no, they weren't on her trainers. It's easy to see the attraction. A well-lined upper lid does something extraordinary to eyes - it's like wearing a thick rack of false lashes, except you don't have to worry about them falling off or getting a globule of glue in the eye. Focus is immediately shifted to the peepers and even the least likely to flutter take on a doe-eyed quality - something that Lily Allen (who, let's face it, looks a stone's throw away from ordinary without it) has mastered well. Add an inky line and eyes are immediately more intense, flirtier, sexier - get the line right and even piggy eyes can be transformed into Pocahontas style slits.
The problem is, the trend has stolen my thunder. I've always loved a good flick. So much so, in fact, that I've spent the best part of the decade trying to settle on the single most foolproof way to cultivate a precise, symmetrical set of lines. There are several additions to the market this month that promise to make the enterprise easier. Bad news is that most of them are TERRIBLE. They promise foolproof application and long-wearing colour, when in truth, they dribble on and rub off at the first sign of a sweat.
First up, Estee Lauder Double Wear Zero Smudge Liquid Eyeliner in After Hours. It's limited edition this one, which is no bad thing, as it's really rather dire. Even after giving it a good shake, the consistency borders on fountain pen ink - watery, imprecise, lacking in definition. The brush isn't terrible - it's a sort of hard, pointy felt tip - but the wand is too long, making it difficult to manoeuvre it along the eyelid. The long-lasting formula also flakes, rather than wipes, away - annoying when you're trying to correct the line with a cotton bud dipped in make-up remover.
Next up, the new L'Oreal Superliner Carbon Gloss. The formula's better with this one - you get a TRUE, inky, deep pigment, but once again, the wand's not up to much. The 'precision tip' liner is basically a pliable piece of skinny sponge that does not have anywhere near enough firmness to create a neat line. I've used it about 3 times now and the result has steadily improved, but it's another example of a design that's making an already-tricky technique even trickier. It's got the same flake-away formula as the Estee Lauder wand too (although not quite as bad), which means that if you want to neaten up the flicks afterwards, you're invariably taking away an entire clump of the stuff, rather than leaving a neat, precise line behind.
Then there's MAC Liquidlast Liner. It has the best formula of the lot, but still, application ain't child's play. You've already got to be pretty savvy with a stick to get the line of your dreams - but at least it comes in a dazzling array of colours and the formula doesn't flake away when approached by make-up remover.
My favourites? I have two. One is Shu Uemura Liquid Eyeliner. It's an exquisitely crafted brush pen - press lightly against the eyelid and you'll get a thin line, press harder and the line will widen, but it won't wobble or look uneven. The ink dispenser button at the bottom also means that it lasts an eternity without drying out or up - something that can happen a lot faster with pot-style liners.
But, you still need a steady hand for the Shu (and yes, some practice). The real foolproof option (and one that I go back to when I'm in a rush in the morning), is a flat liner brush (the Ruby + Millie Eyeliner Brush is cheap and also, the best I've ever tried), dipped in water and then pressed into a jet black shadow. Tap off the excess and then, looking into the mirror, simply line the brush up with lashline on the upper lid and press down onto skin. It will leave a neat black dash behind, and work steadily across the lid, wetting and dipping the brush again if colour starts to weaken, until you have a neat line running all the way across the lid. For a flick at the outer corner of the eye, simply angle the brush slightly upwards and away from the lashline and press against skin - it will leave a short, neat flick behind that you'd struggle to get first time with an inky liner - and unlike inky formulas, it can easily be neatened up with make-up remover.
Go on, catch a flick. You won't regret it.
8 hours ago