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Makeup Tips: Here’s How To Keep Eye Liner From Smudging

by Beverly Hills MD

November 03 2021

Know what’s cool? Precisely drawn eyeliner that highlights the natural beauty of your eyes. Know what’s not cool? Eyeliner smudging, slipping, creasing, and raccoon eyes. Ugh. If you’re going for a powerful eyeliner look, how can you be sure it won’t end in embarrassing smudges? Don’t worry. Follow these tips on how to keep eye liner from smudging, and you’ll be good to go.

How To Pick An Eyeliner That Will Stay Put

Know Your Basic Liner Types

There are several different types of eyeliner, and they each excel at different things. Formulas that start liquid and then dry on the skin are often the longest lasting. Formulas that are creamy tend to smudge the easiest. Here’s a look at popular types of eyeliners.


  • Liquid eyeliner is long-lasting and is useful for drawing precise lines. You’ll have to wait a few seconds for this type of eyeliner to set. Once it dries, it doesn’t smudge easily.
  • Felt-tip eyeliner is a type of liquid eyeliner that uses a felt tip instead of a brush for application. Felt-tip eyeliner has the same strong staying power as liquid liner.
  • Gel eyeliners have a waxy consistency that does not smear or rub off easily. It’s generally a good choice for smudge-free eyeliner, and it tends to be waterproof.
  • Pencil eyeliner is a versatile option that is a cross between a creamy kohl eyeliner formula and a longer-lasting felt-tip formula. When used on its own, a pencil eyeliner generally stays put for about 3 hours.
  • Kohl eyeliner pencil is known for its creamy consistency. It is often used to create a smokey eye effect. Because of its texture, it may not be the best choice for an eyeliner that you want to stay put.
  • Eyeshadow or cake liner applied to the eyelid with an angle brush can serve as a more natural-looking alternative to heavy eyeliner. Cake liners look like pressed shadows that turn into a creamy liquid when you dip a wet brush into them. Both types can give you a matte, smudge-free finish, but they tend not to be waterproof.1,2

Choose A High Quality Eye Liner

how to keep eyeliner from smudging | Beverly Hills MDNo matter which type of eyeliner you choose, you’ll want to be sure to pick a high quality one. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on your makeup. Rather, you’ll want to look closely at the ingredients in the eyeliner formula. Harmful ingredients can irritate your eyes and skin, potentially causing watery eyes and eyeliner smudging.


With so many clean beauty lines out there these days, there’s really no need to use products with harmful ingredients. Try to avoid eyeliners that contain things like:


  • Formaldehyde
  • Parabens
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Carbon black
  • Carnauba wax3,4,5

How to Keep Your Eyeliner in Place All Day Long

Once you’ve selected a high quality liner (or liners) to use, it’s time to apply your makeup. It can be frustrating to carefully apply eye makeup only to have it slip-slide away by the end of the day. Here are several tips to support you in your quest for smudge-free eyeliner that lasts all day.

Start With Clean Skin

If you want to prevent eyeliner smudging, you’ll want to start with a clean canvas. If you have any lingering old makeup on your eyelids, be sure to wash your face and remove your makeup first.

Apply Concealer To Your Under Eye Area

Before you tackle your eye makeup, pat on a layer of concealer under your eyes. This will help fill in fine lines and prevent eyeliner from seeping downward.6

how to keep eyeliner from smudging | Beverly Hills MDTry Oil-Absorbing Sheets

Oil is the enemy of smudge-free eyeliner. If you tend to have oily eyelids, this trick is for you. Grab a few oil absorbent sheets and blot your eyelid area. Dabbing oily skin can help prevent creasing and eyeliner slippage.7

If You Curl Your Lashes, Do It Now

If you like curling your eyelashes, it’s a good idea to pull out your curler and do that before you apply primer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, or mascara to your lids. Your eyelash curler will likely touch your eyelid (and it will definitely touch your eyelashes). If you have no makeup on, this is no big deal. If you already have makeup on, you could risk smudges.

Lay Down A Good Base On Your Lids

If you want to make your eyeliner last, you’ll want to lay down a good base first. Try applying an oil-free eyeshadow primer over your entire eyelid. Once you cover your lid, set the primer with translucent powder.8

Apply Nude Eyeshadow Next

Next, cover your entire eyelid with a skin-toned eyeshadow. This reinforces your base and gives your liner something to dig into. This may help prevent your eyeliner from transferring into your eyelid creases.9


If you prefer using a cream-based shadow, just make sure you wait for it to dry completely before you apply eyeliner. A pencil liner may not set if it’s laid over a base that’s still wet.10

Apply Eyeliner

how to keep eyeliner from smudging | Beverly Hills MD

Try A Liquid Liner For Extra Staying Powder

Liquid eyeliner can have great staying power. After you apply it, give it a few solid seconds to set and dry. To prevent smudges while it’s still wet, avoid looking directly into the mirror and keep your head tilted downward to keep your lashes off of your skin. Once it dries, you should be good to go.11

A Cake Liner Is Also A Solid Choice

Cake liners are like little pots of pressed powder that are activated with liquid. Regular water will do just fine, but if you’re after extra staying power, try using a liquid setting spray instead. Cake liner is best applied with a fine flat angled brush. To help your liner stay put, use your brush to push it into your lash lines.12

Try The Layering Technique

If you’ve used a gel or pencil eyeliner, you may want to layer up to give it more staying power. For this trick, grab a matching eyeshadow (black eyeshadow over black eyeliner, for example) and layer it over your liner. This may give your liner a pretty, diffused effect and it will also help set it for the rest of the day.13

Use A Sealant

If you’re serious about helping your eye makeup stay put – or you tend to have watery eyes that ruin your liner – try this. Grab a cosmetic grade eye makeup sealant, and apply it over your eyeliner. A sealant creates a barrier over your liner to help lock it in place.14

how to keep eye liner from smudging | Beverly Hills MDApply Mascara

Once you’re happy with your eyeliner, finish off your look with a swipe of mascara. This helps cover any eyeshadow that may be sitting on your lashes, and it can give you a polished look.

Sneaky Bonus Tip: Reapply Throughout The Day

So, you’ve tried it all, and your eyeliner still smudged and smeared by lunchtime. (If you use all of the tricks above, this really shouldn’t happen, but hey, stuff happens.) No need to panic. Simply do what makeup-loving humans have done for generations: slip your favorite makeup items in your purse, so you can reapply throughout the day.


If it’s liquid liner, but sure to wait and let it properly set. If it’s pencil or gel, bring a coordinating eyeshadow with you to use for layering. If you are really anti-smudge, bring a small bottle of your sealant to finish off your look. No sweat. Wipe off the smudges, reapply, and go on with your day looking fabulous as usual.


Learn More:
Here’s How To Clean Makeup Brushes The RIGHT Way
Facial Exercises: Do They Really Work?
Skin Care Tips: How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?


Beverly Hills MD Dermal Repair Complex