The year is 2002, and I'm a burgeoning 13-year-old who has just discovered the inky-black allure of kohl eyeliner. I had experimented with bronzer (MAC Bronzing Powder, $27), brushing my face with layers upon layers of the shimmery powder each morning before school. I snickered each time I pulled Nars Blush in Orgasm ($30) out of my makeup bag, feeling both provocative and grown-up each time I swiped it on the apples of my cheeks. But, eyeliner was a product I had yet to master. My first one, L'Oréal Colour Riche Eyeliner ($9), glided along my lids like freedom. I started wearing it every single day, first along my bottom waterline, and then, after a few weeks of practice, I mastered a thick line above my lashes.
For the next decade, wearing eyeliner was a way of life—that is, until I fell out of love with it. Call it laziness, call it a trend, call it resistance, but I think my yearning for a more natural look, sans smolder, is part of something more personal. Just like the "less is more" approach we've seen crop up on runways around the world (subtlety, in that way, is subversive), I unmasked my face for all to see. Throwing away my eyeliner was liberating. That, and no longer having to sweat those annoying, melty smudges.
On top of all that, black liner doesn't always do your eyes any favors. "Black liners can look a bit abrupt and tight, making the eyes look even smaller, confirms Gregory Arlt, MAC's director of makeup artistry. He suggests, "Using a nude or pale eye pencil on your inner waterline will make your eye appear larger." Plus, it can be super irritating. I began developing eye infections because of how much I wore eyeliner (without washing it off…). In fact, a study published in the journal Eye and Contact Lens Science and Clinical Practice says eyeliner particles along your waterline can cause discomfort and can lead to irritation and redness, harmful bacteria, and even eye infections or blurred vision. I'm always after a big, bright, doe-eyed look—one that's easier to replicate with my now-signature nude shadow, liner, and an eyelash curler.
At this point, I don't have to wear much makeup to recognize the person staring back at me. It's easy to fall into patterns, covering up perceived flaws with products. But, I can say with confidence I won't wear black eyeliner again, but rather, play with other makeup that feels more like me. And, now that I'm no longer spending my time trying to even out a feline flick, I'm also no longer perennially running ten minutes late.
Next up, try these eye-opening makeup tips that work better than a shot of espresso.