Call it the Euphoria Effect or a ripple from the launch of Glossier Play earlier this year. Either way you slice it, neon eyeliner is definitely the makeup trend du jour. Seen on our favorite celebs—from Rihanna to EmRata—the neon eyeliner trend isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s artistic, expressive, and all about things like geometric shapes and ultra-vibrant hues. If that sounds super intimidating, we get it—it’s a little more adventurous than your average smoky eye.
That said, it’s certainly easier to achieve than you probably think. Whether you want something subtle and chic or loud and 'gram-worthy, we have all the tips, tricks, and products you need to pull it off.
The First Rule Is... There Are No Rules
To quote Grease, “the rules are there ain’t no rules.” Seriously—the beauty world is all about self-expression and personalization right now (this is the age of YouTube and Instagram, after all).
If you’re usually all about no-makeup makeup and want to try something new and a little artistic, embrace the trend with a subtle, bright-white liner on your lash line (Urban Decay’s Yeyo shade is on-point)—or if you’re more of a dramatic-black-cat-eye-kinda person, try a graphic cobalt-blue instead, using a saturated, matte liquid liner (Sephora Collection has a super-vibrant, long-lasting one).
Either way, if you love the idea of upping your makeup game and you’re not totally keen on showing up to your next party with asymmetrical, lime-green polka dots on your lids (although this look does sound spectacular), you can certainly ease into the trend and just do what you’re comfortable with. Dip your toes in and have fun. Bottom line, though (no pun intended): Don’t be afraid to try it, because the payoff is great.
Start With a Clean, Primed Canvas
If you don’t use eye primer in your regular routine, WYD? Just kidding—you may be able to get by without it on other days, but with neon eyeliner, you’ll certainly need a good primer to keep your look sharp and vibrant (especially if it’s summer or you live in a humid climate). Fenty Beauty and Tarte Cosmetics both have epic, makeup-artist-approved primers that stay all day.
So, before you get started on creating your look, make sure you have a totally clean base and apply a good eye primer, which will prevent your neon eyeliner from creasing on your eyelids (the worst, right?) and ensure your look stays in place throughout the day (or night). Also, it’s important to note that eye primer is different from regular primer—it has a slightly stickier, tackier texture that helps it “grip” your makeup, if you will, to your thin eyelid skin.
Try a Crayon Formula If You're New to Eyeliner
We know—it’s a lot, especially if you’re a beginner in the funky-neon-makeup sphere. You could start with a regular turquoise pencil on your lash line or a dot of hot pink on your tear ducts, using a tiny brush and potted liquid liner. If you're new to eyeliner application entirely, we recommend using a gel crayon formula for more control.
If you sport a basic black cat-eye usually, try outlining your regular black liner with a vibrant hue like bright yellow, or vice versa—outline a bright yellow liner with a bold black one. You can also start even smaller by just doing a pop of color at the tip of a black cat-eye. A highlighter-yellow crème gel liner (like this one from NYX Cosmetics) is easy to apply in a way that doesn’t demand precision (and easy to touch up in case of mistakes).
Eventually, you can start experimenting with geometric shapes, unexpected color combinations (we love a coral-and-aqua moment, for instance), and more.
Have Some Angled Q-Tips on Hand
No matter what look you’re going for, try to take it one step at a time and simply build on each step. You’re not going to do a full, flawless neon look in one fell swoop—and you shouldn’t. Just take a step back before you execute a whole look to completion.
Net-net, slow down, take your time, compare your sides to make sure they’re even, have your Q-tips on-hand for smudges and to achieve a sharp shape or edge (you can use a small makeup brush for this too). We love these swabs from Alleyoop that are angled for precision pre-soaked with makeup remover.
You can use moisturizer in place of makeup remover for when a line goes too far or you need to clean up a wing. No smudges, no problems.
Don't Be Afraid of the Smudge Tool
Your face is your playground and your canvas here. Neon eyeliner is more creative than your traditional jetblack wing by design, so this is definitely the time to play around with different application techniques. Experiment with shapes (like polka dots and boxes), textures, and shades (like contrasting pops of color on the bottom and top). And if you find it difficult to create different designs in the beginning, the smudger tool will be your best friend to create more abstract looks.
Play with asymmetry if you want to, and try something you wouldn’t normally do with your regular everyday liner. An undereye cat-eye is a huge neon makeup trend on Instagram for a reason—it’s big and bold (and definitely racks up the likes). Connect your cat-eye wing with a pop of color on the bottom for a dramatic look that can almost give you a different eye shape.
Imperfections Are Encouraged
To quote Grease again (I’m sorry), the rules really are that there ain’t no rules. This isn’t regular makeup, this is cool makeup, and it’s important to not take it too seriously. If you mess up on one side and just can’t get it to match the other? Try the asymmetry trend.
Again, it may seem intimidating from the jump, but get ready to find your selfie lighting with this trend—because you’ll definitely want to document it.