Here’s Something I Like (Not that Anyone Asked): Sephora Liquid Eyeliner

Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!


Women are hard on each other. This may be news you, if you’ve never met a woman, but we criticize and compete and talk behind backs. We project our own wants, needs and preferences onto each other and sometimes hold complete strangers to these very personal standards. It’s not our fault, exactly. We’re constantly judged, so we can’t help but judge each other. This world pits us against each other and most of us are just doing our best to feel good about ourselves, a task that can feel impossible when we’re all but forced to compare ourselves to impossibly beautiful 19-year-olds who are huge on Instagram. (I, of course, am an absolute angel who would never speak ill of another woman, now matter how tacky her style is, that dumb bitch.)

We’re often at our worst when it comes to fashion and beauty. Trends appear seemingly out of nowhere (who could have guessed Hydro Flask water bottles, of all things, would become a fashion statement?) and we not only obey but enforce them. Instagram has made trends even more policeable, and therefore more universal. Have you ever noticed how every woman with more than 10,000 followers on Instagram looks exactly the same? Every Instagram “model” looks like a Kardashian, especially if the “model” in question is real-life friends with a Kardashian. If you can tell Kylie Jenner apart from any of her friends, I’ll give you a million dollars…right after I borrow a million dollars from Kylie Jenner. They all look exactly the same. It’s as if Kylie 2.0 were cloned or, more likely, as if her plastic surgeon introduced her to all her BFFs.

Another reason these women are blurring into one very hot and sexy animatron is because they all do their makeup the same way: dewey skin, tons of contouring, pouty, heavily lined lips, big eyes, strong brows. If they have money, they’re hiring celebrity makeup artists skilled in this look. If they don’t, they’re watching YouTube makeup tutorials and learning how to paint Kim Kardashian’s face onto their face.

For the last few years, the Kardashians’ favored makeup look has been no makeup makeup, i.e. wearing so much makeup that some of it covers up the other makeup so in the end you look like you’re not wearing any makeup. In other words, fake natural beauty. It’s like a wearable Instagram filter comprised of flesh-colored gunk and subtle highlighters.

It seems the tide, however, may be changing. While browsing the Glossier website (the no makeup makeup brand), it became clear that visible makeup is making a comeback. The brand now sells mascara (renamed lash slick), eyeshadow (disguised as lidstar), liquid eyeliner (a.k.a. pro tip) and even launched a line of glittery, colorful makeup the likes of which you can find in the bargain section of CVS’s cosmetics aisle. Makeup is back, baby! Though in fact it never went away — it was just hidden behind cutesy names and inside minimalist packaging.

No makeup haha (no but for real)

The boldest comeback I’ve noticed is eyeliner, which has long been a controversial product. Every once in a while, I’ll hear a woman make a derisive comment about someone who wears eyeliner, as if that’s a crime on par with sporting high-heeled sneakers in 2019.

Guess what? I wear eyeliner, bitch. I’ve always worn eyeliner. Well, not when I was a baby, but since I started wearing makeup in high school. I don’t rim my eyes in kohl like some kind of goth or movie star (have you ever actually looked at an actress’s onscreen makeup? It’s insane. In movies, women wake up not only with a full face of makeup, but with the kind of elaborate smokey eye that takes six hours and a cosmetology degree to perfect), I just swipe on a bit of liner every day before putting on mascara. I prefer to apply from inside my eye directly to my lash line because I’m a freak bitch.

Lately, however, I’ve been wanting more. A subtle cat eye, a lewk, as the kids say. The kind of dramatic eye that can only be created with liquid eyeliner. I’ve used liquid eyeliner before, of course — I’m a woman of the world! A refined and cultured lady who once bought a drugstore liquid liner in college, used it about five times and finally threw it out two years ago. I know what I’m doing.

I’ve written about my favorite discontinued eyeliner before, but since it was canceled like a C-list celebrity who tweets too much, I’ve been exploring other, more available options. A few months ago, I went where I always go to buy beauty products and/or conveniently kill seven hours: Sephora. I found the youngest, hottest girl working that day and hit on her. JK! I asked her about eyeliner. She convinced me to spend $20+ on a Marc Jacobs pencil that lives up to the hype — it glides right on and never smudges, but is easy to remove. Then she said the best liquid option was Sephora brand. “It’s the same as all the others, but cheaper,” she said, sauntering away to help some other clueless 30-something who learned how to do her makeup from those useless little illustrations in women’s magazines

I took her suggestion and guess what? It’s good! Like most liquid liners, it’s a little felt tip pen absolutely soaked in some kind of black liquid (the things women slather onto our mucus membranes!). I’m exceptionally bad at applying it. Like, really bad. I always accidentally draw at least one weird dot on my eyelid and it takes me about 20 minutes to get my eyes anywhere close to even, but that’s why I like this product: it doesn’t dry quickly so you can rub it off as many as 30 times (trust me) with nothing but a clammy fingertip.

Once the liner dries though, it’s not going anywhere. I absentmindedly rub my eyes every time I wear it, and it never smudges, but it’s easy to remove with a dab of coconut oil before bed. The felt tip gets a little worn, but that’ll happen with any liquid liner, which is why I wanted one at a low price point.

Sometimes I draw a dramatic, thick line that curves out far, but more often I just do a skinny flick of a cat eye, a little something to make my eyes look wider. I only use my liquid liner about once a week because I don’t have a lot of fancy engagements, but there’s something to be said about creating your own occasion, and good makeup certainly is an Occasion. Good makeup can turn a regular Tuesday night into a Tuesday night where you have two spiked seltzers and cry to your boyfriend about how much you love someone else’s dog.

It can also be a mask, a shield against the world. That’s the one thing I understand about all these identical Instagram “models”: their faces and bodies are intentional disguises, meant to hide whoever they were before they accumulated all those followers and turned being hot into a career. That’s why they’re so pleasant to look at, all these vacant, pretty faces that remind us of other vacant, pretty faces. Nothing about the appearance of these women makes us think about what’s going on inside of their heads and that’s the point, to not think about the person inside that flawless shell. Self-objectification is power.

I’m not trying to hide inside the costume of my body, but I’m both emotional and reserved, which can be a lethal combination when stepping out into the world. On days when sadness or anxiety (or both!) is leaking out of my pours, my appearance becomes important. If I look put-together, I feel more put-together, even if I stayed up way too late crying about someone else’s dog.

I’m certainly not advocating for repressing your emotions, and in fact my therapy journey (lol) over the last year has focused largely on learning how to communicate my feelings with those close to me instead of just telling everyone I’m fine so as not to make them worry, but I think we can all agree there’s a line, and I prefer not to cross it. I also believe in acting as if — if I look like the kind of woman who has the time and patience to carefully apply my makeup, I usually feel like I have a little more time and patience.

As usual, it all comes down to control. In a world where women are seen as fragile and emotional, presentation is important. My appearance allows me some authority over how I’m seen in the world, even if that authority only extends a few millimeters beyond the outer corner of my eye. If you see me with liquid liner on, you may not be able to tell that I’m having a bad day, or a good day, or a mediocre day. You see exactly what I want you to see: my face, slightly enhanced.

Though I don’t have anywhere near 10,000 Instagram followers (after five plus years on the app, I just crossed 1,000! Huzzah!), I suppose I’m still acquiescing to makeup trends, perhaps even attempting to look like everyone else. Many have argued, after all, that makeup is a tool of patriarchy used to make women conform, but I think at its best, makeup can be a form of self-expression, and liquid eyeliner is certainly a bold statement.

I’m not trying to look like a Kardashian (though don’t we all hope to age like Kourtney?), even if my butt is (naturally!) huge. I’m just trying to look like the best version of myself, even when I don’t feel like it. Some days, that means not wearing any makeup at all. I don’t mean no makeup makeup, I mean sometimes I don’t wear any makeup. I’m so brave! It’s not like the dogs I walk notice, or if they do, they’re too polite to tell me. This is why I’m always crying about other people’s dogs — they love me no matter what I look like! They see through my body costume straight into my heart and accept me whether I’m happy or sad. Maybe we should all be a little less like the women we follow on Instagram and a little more like the dogs I walk, many of whom have (natural!) kohl-rimmed eyes. Now that I think about it, my eyeliner inspiration all along was Yuna! I mean, talk about a lewk.

Beauty queen Yuna and her perfect smokey eye!

As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares about my new eyeliner. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, liquid eyeliner or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!

Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!

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