Take it from someone who spends an excessive amount of time scrolling through TikTok with slack-jawed wonder: The best sort of beauty videos are the ones where you can't quite tell what's going on until the end. You know the type—creators always start off with some unexpected element (alien-green concealer or red lipstick around the eyes) only to emerge fully glam-ified by the next transition. Like a baby who has yet to grasp object permanence, I'm utterly transfixed by what I see—and am always keen to try it out myself.
So when I came across some TikToks touting plain old white eyeliner as a shortcut to a sharper contour and highlight, I knew it was one "hack" perfect for a test drive.
Much like traditional face contouring, the white eyeliner method capitalizes on something of an optical illusion. "The color white is always used to brighten and add radiance," explains Gargi Patel, lead makeup artist at Vasanti Cosmetics. "It reflects light and highlights a specific point on the face to make certain facial features stand out."
In this instance, the white liner acts as a highlight—making select areas look like they're catching the light (and more lifted, as a result). The facial features around those highlights look sculpted, recessed, or contoured by comparison. Some use this hack purely for further carving out cheekbones and emphasizing jaws and chins. Other TikTokers are more into the highlighting aspect of this technique, placing it strategically on nose tips, brow bones, and cupid's bows for added glow. Both videos I've watched utilize a fat, creamy crayon liner like the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil ($5.50), but it seems like any blendable white pencil will do.
According to Patel, ideally, you should apply white liner after you've finished the rest of your makeup. This will make it easy to identify which areas of the face to enhance. "The best way to apply is by drawing a thicker line in the areas you would like to highlight," she instructs. To blend, use a concealer brush like the Vasanti Cosmetics Concealer Buffer Undereye Setting Brush ($23) for a smooth, well-blended look."
While the white eyeliner selection at my local CVS was utterly ransacked (is everyone trying this trend right now?!), I managed to snatch a creamy-looking Maybelline pencil and headed back home to start drawing.
White Liner Contouring Technique
Almost forebodingly, my pencil's tip snapped as I pulled its cap off. But ever the optimist, I pressed on. First, I did my everyday makeup as usual, skipping my preferred contour routine save for a bit of bronzer just to give my winter-pale skin some life.
Typically, I use just one product to contour, the Charlotte Tilbury Liquid Contour Wand ($40). In my opinion, it's simple and effective, but it can get a bit messy, so I was excited to try an alternative that might cut down on my cleaning time. Consulting the first video and some notes from Patel, I carefully drew three thick lines on either side of my face. The first ran from the corner of the mouth to mid-face, just under the cheekbone. The second went along the top of my cheekbones from the corners of my nose. In theory, the first acts as an eye-lifting accent—it's applied where you might usually place some light concealer. Despite the tip mishap, the pencil glided on with ease—very promising!
Patel says the line in the outer corner could help eyes look more awake and radiant, and considering I spent much of last night watching TikTok (shocker), this was one spot I really wanted to emphasize.
Blending the pencil was trickier than expected, though. I used a well-trusted, fluffy undereye brush from Real Techniques and found I had to blend harder than usual to diffuse the white lines. So hard, in fact, that I ended up rubbing off much of my concealer and tinted moisturizer. After a touch-up, I assessed the face situation again and did see that my cheeks looked slightly—the operative word here—more defined.
To paraphrase one TikTok user, did this work? Sure. Is it easier than more traditional contour methods? Not exactly. So far, this is a hack I'd file under MacGyver Beauty—works in a pinch, but probably not what you'd choose with your full product collection on hand. I do think, though, that it would probably look better and more pronounced on deeper skin tones than mine.
White Liner Highlighting Technique
That said, there is another half of this trend still left to try: using white eyeliner as a highlighter on the high points of my face. A high school love affair with Benefit's High Brow Eyebrow Highlighter ($22) has primed me to love this hack already, so I was eager to give it a try. I drew some on beneath my brows (I have deep-set eyes, so I'm always looking for some extra lift), in the inner corners of my eyes, on the tip and bridge of my nose, above the cupid's bow, and on the middle of my chin. "For those with receded chins, draw a vertical line across the lower half of the chin and blend to add fullness and projection to the chin," Patel adds.
Though blending was equally tricky this time, I saw much more noticeable results than the last white liner method. I looked perkier and more alert, and extra emphasis on my face's literal high points is always welcome. However, I still asked myself the same question: Is this necessarily better than regular highlighting? In some ways, yes. Because a white eyeliner lacks the reflective, glossy formula typically found in highlighters, it's less apparent—ideal if you're after a daytime, no-fuss look. But, when you're looking for more of a glazed donut-type glow, this is one to leave in the drawer or use as a base for layering with a more shimmery product.
The Bottom Line
While TikTok's white eyeliner contour hack is theoretically effective, I can't help but feel like most testers will stick with traditional contour methods. As a highlighter, it's excellent... in the right circumstances and with the right formula. I would opt for a thick, crayon-like liner that blends easily.
Overall, I'm writing off this white eyeliner hack as mostly bogus. I'm reminded of the feel-good Einstein quote decorating guidance counselor offices the world over: If you judge a person (white eyeliner) by its ability to climb a tree (or be a contour stick), it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. In short, I'm using my makeup products the way their creators intended.