How to Wear Black Eyeliner at Every Age

Black eyeliner is likely one of the first types of makeup you played around with when you were a teenager. It can make eyes stand out and add drama. As you get older, black liner can continue to be a go-to product in your beauty kit, but you may have to tweak how you’re using it so it doesn’t age you. Some of our favorite beauty experts gave us their best tips on how to wear black eyeliner at every stage of life.

Your 20s

Anything goes! “In your 20s, makeup is fun and playful, which means this is the time to experiment and take risks,” says Nordstrom makeup artist Jessica Kramer. “Whether it’s a thicker, bold-lined eye, cat eye, or rimming around the entire eye, my go-to product is Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Eyeliner Pencil. It’s perfect for the waterline [the area between your lashes and eyeball] as well as easily smudged for a smoky sultry look.”

Jenny Patinkin is the founder and creator of Lazy Perfection Brushes and a guest celebrity artist for Cos Bar. Patinkin says your 20s are a great time to experiment.

“Before you have fine lines or any drooping on the lids, consider trying a liquid eyeliner,” Patinkin says. “Black liquid liners with a glossy or metallic finish bring light to the eyes and make the whites pop even brighter.”

Celebrity makeup artist Josie Volpentesta says women in their 20s should be bold and make more of a statement. Try using black liner across your lid with a “wing” at each of the outer corners. For this look, Volpentesta suggests a felt tip liner like Kat Von D Ink Liner for the upper lid and Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Perversion for the waterline.

Your 30s

Blend, blend, blend! In your 30s, you may start to notice subtle signs of aging in your skin that can be brought on by common stressors such as work, marriage and pregnancy. Women in their 30s may be less interested in experimenting with their makeup and instead want a look that’s polished and easy. Consider wearing liner on your top lids and skipping it underneath. Or, think about blending your liner into your shadow for a more natural look. 

Patinkin says that when you start to see small changes in your skin, it’s a good idea to switch to a black pencil liner. “The best textures are very soft and glide over your skin instead of tugging at it, and have a tiny bit of sheen to attract the light,” she says.

Kramer says to enhance your features without overloading on eyeliner.

“The only time you should wear heavy eyeliner is if you’re going out at night and it’s part of a dramatic eye look,” she says. “To get more of a thin, defined line, my favorite product is the Stila “Stay All Day” Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner. This is an easy-glide formula, lasts all day, and won’t smudge, feather or run.”

Your 40s

Bring down the intensity! We all know women who have a heavy hand when it comes to applying their eyeliner. While black eyeliner can make eyes stand out and add drama, when used incorrectly it looks dated. During this time, skin loses elasticity and eyelids may begin to droop. The idea is to make the eyes appear more open.

“Black can start to look harsh when skin gets into the 40s and beyond,” says Patinkin. “Tight lining under the upper lash line with a gel liner and a brush is a more forgiving way to use black as it will make the lash line look thicker and more defined without creating any severe lines or angles.”

Start your liner a few lashes away from the inner corner of your eye and create a thin, clean line, as recommended by Patinkin. Your eyeliner should follow your lash line, but don’t let it extend too far past the outer corner, which can call attention to crows feet. Kramer suggests using a brush dipped in a gel or eye shadow to apply your eyeliner. Try Smashbox Arced Eyeliner Brush, which provides better control and easy application in one quick stroke.

Your 50s and Beyond

Excess liner ages the eyes and makes them appear smaller. After age 50, lighten it up! Since skin at this age is less supple, Patinkin likes to use a muted black or dark grey eye shadow on the upper lash line to create a smoky definition without looking too strong. She dabs the powder into the roots of the lashes with short, soft strokes (rather than trying to apply it in one long, smooth line) and gives the outer corners a little lift by smudging up and away from the lash line. She finishes with a nude color liner under the lower lashes instead of black to keep the look refined.

Kramer likes to focus on making the lash line appear fuller by giving more space to your eyelid. Use a push and wiggle motion with your brush to apply a tight, thin line across the upper lash line, making eyes appear bigger.

“We call it the eyelift without the surgery,” she says.

For this technique, Kramer suggests Laura Mercier “Tightline” Cake Eyeliner and Laura Mercier Flat Eyeliner Brush.

For your 50s and beyond, Volpentesta swears by Sephora Collection Contour Eye Pencils in matte shades like 5th Avenue, Starry Sky or Love Affair. These waterproof liners apply smooth and won’t budge in humidity.

How to wear eyeliner at any age  |