Me and my cat-eye makeup go way back. As soon as I was allowed to wear eyeliner in middle school, I instinctually extended it up and out past the end of my lashes. My friends and I all shared makeup and would doll each other up, but of all the products, the winged liner really felt the most me. Later on in life I loved how it channeled pinup culture and 50s screen stars, but at 12 I really just thought it made my small, squinty eyes look bigger, more defined, and IMHO way better. I started out with a pencil, worked up to the angled brush-and-pot varieties, and finally landed on pure liquid amazingness (if DHC’s Liquid Eyeliner EX ever gets discontinued, I may go into hiding).
These days I am almost never without my winged liner. I wear it about 365 paired with vibrant red lips. And I do mean every single day. It’s on my face when I’m at the gym, running errands, at the airport, doc appointments, you name it. It’s as much a part of my morning routine as coffee with almond milk or changing my outfit three times. It is not understated. It is not for everyone. But it is 100 percent for me. (If you really need more proof, just troll my Instagram.)
My flick and red lips are more than just my signature. They’re a little piece of my identity. They represent something I can control in this crazy, unpredictable world. And best of all, they make me feel hella fierce. My usual makeup may not be office-appropriate in most 9-to-5 settings, but I work in the beauty biz so the rules are a little different. Aside from wanting to show off my creative side (and super-steady hand) through a flawlessly painted face, having my liner in tact makes me feel like I can handle shit.
A few months into my beauty career, I attended NYFW, reporting from backstage. I felt total imposter syndrome amongst the gorgeous models, edgy tatt-ed up hair and makeup pros, and chic PR babes running around with clipboards. As I waited anxiously to get the interviews I needed, a pink-haired artist from the MAC team grabbed me and said that my cat-eye was “flawless” and asked what liner I used to create it. It happened several more times throughout the week. My winged eye felt like my ticket in. It was like a wristband or VIP card. Having it on made me part of the club, after that I never wanted to be caught without it.
But I’ve spent nine years writing about beauty trends and preaching that everyone should break out of their comfort zones, so I figured it was time I took some of my own advice. Sure, cat-eyes were my thing, but it wouldn’t kill me to experiment with some other looks once in a while.
A little backstory: The idea for this story happened right when I decided to leave my staff position as a magazine editor and try freelancing for the first time ever. Then shortly after I randomly got a dream job offer on the West Coast and decided to up and leave everything and everyone I knew 3,000 miles behind and move to San Francisco. I’ve never been more risk-taking or transitional than I am right now. So a week without liner is a small way to exercise or celebrate this independence from the rules, the norm, and any boxes I’ve put myself into. Life is too short to be stuck in a rut, amirite?!
So I committed to five days of liquid-liner-less Loni. I still wore my red lipstick though. Small steps, people! I created a Pinterest folder, pinned all the cat-eye-free looks I wanted to try recreating, and then got busy. Here’s how it went.
Day 1: Highlighter Only
I was rushing out to go shopping and do some boring grown-up stuff, so I didn’t have a ton of time to experiment with products I hadn’t used before. I was about to just wear my everyday red lip with naked eyes (the horror!), but I saw this Clinique highlighter stick in my backup makeup bag. I swiped it along the top of my cheekbones and was out the door. I wasn’t too devastated to be without my liner, since I wasn’t going anywhere fab, but it did feel weird whenever I caught a peek of my reflection (a.k.a. when I checked myself every half hour in my phone cam). I bumped into a friend later on that day she said something looked different and that I looked younger. Since I just stepped into my early 30s, I loved hearing that and started to wonder if my usual look might be aging me. Still, I missed my liner, but I loved how illuminated my skin looked.
Day 2: Soft and Neutral
Here’s when I started to feel it. I needed to present a big idea for work, and it seemed impossible to feel like a girl boss without my liquid liner courage. I rarely wear eye shadow, but I’ve always thought it looked really polished so I decided to give it a try. I ended up using a matte nude shadow from the Urban Decay Naked Basics palette to create some depth, sweeping a beige shade along the lid and a light brown along the crease. Then I traced along my upper lash line with a dark grey pencil for definition. I did not feel like the 100 emoji, but the presentation still went great. We set up a follow-up meeting, which I made sure to schedule after this experiment was over so I can put my best (liquid-lined) face forward.
Day 3: Bright Metallic Gold
It was about three seconds after saying hi to my buds outside our brunch spot before I blurted out, “I’m not wearing liquid liner! It’s for a story! That’s why I look weird!” Issues much? Since the restaurant is pretty casual, I wore a playful lipstick tee with some gold accents on it and thought it would be fun paired with a gold metallic Kat Von D eye shadow and a few coats of mascara. This was harder to pull off than I expected. It made my fair and pinkish skin look even paler than usual, so I layered on some bronzer and then the bright pink Tara Harper Lip and Cheek Stain. But even still, something seemed off. I fought the urge to layer a quick sweep of liner along my lashes in the ladies room (yes, I always have two emergency liners in my purse) and decided to just live my life and stop obsessing. Ultimately, this look was just not for me. Liquid liner creates a strong contrast, so adding that to this gold look would have helped a lot. I’m not used to seeing myself with so little definition in the eye area. That said, the eye shadow was really sparkly and pretty! If I could’ve added the liquid, I would’ve been into it.
Day 4: Dark and Smoky
Now, I’ve busted out a smoky eye on occasion (usually NYE, because what even is December 31 without lots of black shadow on your lids?), but I always finish it with liquid liner on top. So when I was heading to a sexy cocktail date with my hubs and needed to do something a little extra, I tried out a smudgy rimmed eye sans liquid. I actually really liked it and was surprised at how easy it was to create. I just lined my top and bottom lids with Smashbox Always Sharp 3D Liner, a blendable black pencil, smudged it out a bit, and topped it with Ritual de Fille Ash and Ember Eye Soot in Obsidian, an equally dark shadow up to the crease. I tried very hard not to wing it out, but it may be slightly more wingy than I intended because old habits die hard. It felt very “night out,” which may or may not have led to me drinking a few more cocktails than usual which may or may not have led to a rough morning the next day. But YOLO.
Day 5: Bold and Fun
This look made me feel a little cray at first but then I loooooved it. I was going to a Cage the Elephant concert with my husband and some friends, and I figured if there was ever a time to experiment with color, this was it. I was especially terrified of pairing the super-graphic, winged teal sparkly lid (I used Make Up For Ever Aqua Matic Eye Shadow in Iridescent Turquoise) with my go-to red lip – which is CoverGirl Colorlicious in Hot. (Would I look like The Joker? Mimi from The Drew Carey Show?) But IMO it totally worked. I got so many compliments on my makeup all night. It definitely attracted a lot of attention. I figured that my hubs would think it was way too much makeup, but he said I looked like a rock star. Maybe he was doing the thing where he said what I wanted to hear, but I decided to believe him.
What I Learned from My Challenge
While I immediately went back to my usual face once this cat-eye makeup detox concluded, I am very excited about the new options I’ve added to my makeup rotation. Naked eyes with extra glowy skin and red lips is super easy and way more flattering than I expected. And that shimmering teal shadow stick took a little getting used to, but everyone loved it that night and it looked really cool in pics.
And even though all the feedback I got on these experimental looks was positive, everyone seemed shocked to see me straying from my usually clear makeup course. It almost seemed like I was being disloyal in a way. I know that it’s just eyeliner. But I think I may have realized that sticking with this signature is how I communicate that I know who I am.
This article was written by Loni Venti from Glamour and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.