Our beauty writer once wrote about how, for years, she used eyeliner to cover up her insecurity over her small eyes, while Kristen Bell told us she refers to her eyes as “small and ferret-like.” In many ways, girls with small eyes seem to have gotten the short end of the stick—eye makeup requires a completely different technique, mascara smudges on our top lid, and don’t even get us started on eyeliner. The perfectly flicked cat eye that looks amazing on our round-eyed sisters just doesn’t translate the same way on smaller, hooded lids. Sigh.
But before you throw your liners out at the injustice of it all, hear us out—we have a solution. Three, in fact. We spoke with Gregory Arlt at the opening of the brand’s first-ever fashion-centric store in Beverly Hills (which, by the way, has an 80-square-foot private makeup room) and asked for his tips for those of us with eyes more almond- than grape-shaped.
Meet the Expert
Gregory Arlt is a professional celebrity makeup artist with more than 25 years of experience. He is MAC Cosmetics’ director of makeup artistry and is represented by Forward Artists.
Keep scrolling for three makeup tricks every girl with small eyes should know!
Tip #1: Go for Nude
“Using a nude or pale eye pencil, like MAC Chromagraphic Pencil ($19) in NC15/NW20, on your inner waterline will make your eye appear larger,” Arlt says. Also, try Tarte Fake Awake Eyeliner ($20) or Stila Smudge Kajal Eyeliner in Topaz ($9).
Tip #2: Smudge a Bit
Not all lines have to be precise. According to Arlt, a little smudging never hurt, especially if you have smaller eyes. “If you line the bottom of your eyes with pencil right at the lash line, then smudge a little into the outer corners, it will make your eyes appear larger and wider,” he says.
Tip #3: Have a Softer Hand
“I love pencils that have been slightly smudged, or [using shadow] as liner,” Arlt says. “Liquid liners can look a bit abrupt and tight, making the eyes look even smaller.” For a softer look, try wetting your favorite brown shadow and applying it with an angled eyeliner brush.
Now that you have Arlt's very best application tips stored away, it’s time to find your destined eyeliner. Keep scrolling for seven of Arlt’s (and Team Byrdie’s!) favorites.
As one of Arlt’s top recommendations when considering a nude eyeliner, this highlighting formula truly brightens the inner corners of the eyes and applies with a dreamy, gel consistency that never tugs. Plus, because it’s Tarte, it’s infused with aloe vera and other antioxidants.
Another direct suggestion from Arlt, we found out the makeup pros over at Stila spent a whopping three years developing this luxurious eyeliner formula. It’s ultra-pigmented, soft, creamy, and specifically designed for the tear-prone waterline (read: it actually stays put).
Available in a slew of colors (which guarantees a flattering match), this retractable eyeliner from NYX Cosmetics is a best seller at Ulta and is the most affordable we could find without skimping on quality.
These malleable, long-wear liners from Urban Decay are cult favorites for a reason: They impart the most vibrant of color payoff, they're waterproof yet creamy enough to blend post-application, and they're formulated with skin- and eye-soothing ingredients like jojoba oil, cottonseed oil, and vitamin E.
This waterproof eyeliner from Smashbox has been my go-to for years, ever since my dance days when I'd have hours of rehearsals and performances I couldn't afford to sweat my eyeliner off through. The tip is super precise, so you never have to worry about that dreaded blocky finish, and it also self-sharpens every time you twist the cap for no-fuss maintenance.
We’ve heard makeup artist after makeup artist praise this little magical pot of (eyeliner) gold for years. It boasts a super-smooth gel formula that delivers a precise finish that's never too harsh and is easy to customize to your liking.
Ah, another pro pick we somehow never tire of. Not only does Chanel offer some of the richest hues we've seen (we especially love this plum version called Cassis), but it's also one of the best we've tried where dependability is concerned. The formula is strategically waterproof, perfect for light, feathery strokes, and even has a detachable sharpener on the opposite end in case you ever find yourself in a touch-up bind.
Next, the 10 best brown eyeliners ranked, according to Amazon, Sephora, and Ulta reviews.