Is it a hyperbolic to say a makeup tip has changed your life? As someone with smallish eyes who counts black eyeliner as a necessity, right up there with oxygen and Seamless, the answer is simple: no. I’ll start off by saying that I thought my eyeliner game was already vastly superior to that of my peers, mainly due to the fact that I started at a young age. And like all things you start at a young age, it’s quickly become more of a habit than anything; I now swish and apply with the ease of a seasoned artist.
Like the screamo bands I used to love and my taste in men, my eyeliner preference has evolved—I started dabbling with pencil, but nowadays I use the felt-tipped liquid kinds exclusively. It’s the only type of formula and applicator that doesn’t smudge or smear on my semi-monolids or leave me with dark rings under my eyes like a sad panda.
But I digress—back to the eyeliner tip that changed my life. A few months ago, makeup artist and L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador Sir John B stopped by the Byrdie studios to shoot a winged eyeliner tutorial, inspired by a look he had used on his client Beyoncé—you may have heard of her. She’s, like, a singer or something.
As I watched him apply an exquisite sweep of liner, transfixed, he casually shared a tidbit that changed my eyeliner game forever. In fact, it was so unassuming, so mind-blowingly simple that it took me a full six months to process and absorb it before I put it to use. Keep scrolling and allow me to explain.
I mentioned before that I’m comfortable around eyeliner. Eyeliner and I are like friends who eat Cheetos out of the bag in sweats and binge-watch Big Little Lies together, hungover on a Sunday afternoon—there’s no awkwardness or formalities. We get each other.
In fact, rarely do I leave the house without my requisite sleek black line applied and flicked. Call me vain, but I never feel fully put together without liner on—it’s the only thing that helps me look and feel awake and wide-eyed. Concealer? I know I’m lucky, but on most days, I can skip it. Lipstick? I might cry a little, but I think I would survive at the end of the day.
Eyeliner? You will take my firstborn child before you take it, just try me. These days, I can apply a sleek, perfectly even line on both of my lids in under 30 seconds—I can even apply it while driving. Thus, I have reached peak eyeliner game… or so I thought.
As Sir John was creating his ’yoncé-inspired eyeliner look, he walked me through what he was doing. “Here, I’m creating a smooth base for her makeup,” he tells me. “Now, I’m using my magic skills to give her skin like an angel.” (Or something along those lines.)
Watching him work was like watching an artist create a masterpiece—it was mesmerizing, glorious, and so beautiful that I actually felt choked up multiple points throughout his process.
After he created an expertly flicked cat eye with black liquid liner right along the lash line, he then proceeded to do something strange. He lifted up the model’s eyelid and then filled in her waterline with a pencil eyeliner.
I watched transfixed and inwardly screamed, What’s happening?! but tried to calm myself and ask in a somewhat level voice, “So, um, what are you doing now?”
He explained to me that this is a trick he uses on Beyoncé and all his clients (you can see evidence of it in the photo above). Basically, he traces a winged-out liner on their lid first—this was the step that I had mastered and was proud of myself for accomplishing for the past decade or so.
But there’s another step—an extra step that will take you from blah to Bey—and that added step is simple: Lift your lid up and trace your waterline with a soft pencil eyeliner, making sure to fully connect it with the initial liquid line you traced on your eye.
You’ll have to really wiggle your eyeliner into the base of your lashes to connect the two lines, or you can smudge the two lines together with a soft, fine-tipped eyeliner smudger or brush. This tip will make a world of difference—trust me.
So, a few weeks ago, something within me stirred, and I finally decided to put this trick into action. I grabbed my Eyeko Black Magic Liner ($20) and traced my normal thin black line, right above my lash line. Then, I grabbed my Beauty Pie Gel Liner ($22) and swiped it along my waterline, pressing it into my lashes.
Stepping back, I looked at the eye with the eyeliner applied on my top lid and waterline, alongside the other eye with just the eyeliner on the top lid, and the difference was astounding.
The eye with the filled-in waterline looked so much more defined and had more depth, which is the pretty much the epoch of Asian-girl beauty goals. The more I looked, the more it seemed like the eye with only eyeliner on the top lid was strangely bare—the line was stark and glaring, and it stood out in a really unnatural way. I applied the liner to my other eye and marveled at my newly bright, defined eyes. I was a different person. My life felt like it had begun again. Everything was shiny and new.
Some things I recommend: First, I’ve found that it’s best to apply liquid liner, then curl your lashes, then apply the pencil liner to your waterline. If you try to curl your lashes after lining your waterline, most of it will come off on your eyelash curler and you’ll have to redo it all.
Second, I highly recommend a soft, twist-up liner for the second step—or else you’ll poke yourself with a too-sharp or too-hard liner, and I don’t want that on my conscience. I really like Beauty Pie’s version, while Stila’s Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner ($22) is another good option because it has a really fine twist-up tip.
Basically, the softer the pencil, the easier it will be to pull off the second step. And third—well, there’s really no third. Just think of Queen Bey and how amazing her eyeliner always looks, and know that you, too, can achieve eyeliner nirvana. Thank you forever, Sir John, for this life-changing tip. Now—onto lipstick?
Shop some Byrdie-approved eyeliners below!
This story was originally published on April 19, 2016, and has since been updated.