Water Activated Eyeliner Is the Secret to TikTok's Graphic Makeup Trend

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Doja Cat wearing graphic eyeliner

Doja Cat

Going bold is the way to do eyeliner these days. From an over-the-top cat eye to graphic liner that almost makes geometry fun, there’s no wrong way to do liner—the point is that it makes a statement. So, what’s the secret to nailing the look? It just might be water activated eyeliner, the product behind the head-turning styles you’re seeing on TikTok. 

“Many of the trends we can expect to see in the new year will focus on the eyes, and with that in mind, it makes sense that we’re beginning to see different products and methods of doing eye looks start to emerge,” says Naseeha Khan, CTZN Cosmetics co-founder. “While there has been so many massive creators jump in on this trend, Monet McMichael is behind one of the most viral posts and mixes micellar water into her eyeshadows to achieve the same look.”

Why It’s Trending

Graphic eyeliner can be tough to execute (at least for those of us who aren’t professional makeup artists or didn’t go to art school), but water-activated eyeliner makes it easier to get the look. Water-activated liners typically come in a palette of multiple bright colors that can be harder to find in a traditional liner formula. The pigments are dry, but when mixed with a little bit of water they are easier to manipulate than creamy formulas to create ultra-detailed looks like celestial stars and abstract swooping lines. “It’s great because it's easy to use and very pigmented, so you don’t need to add multiple layers to get a strong color,” Khan says. “It also dries matte, so if you want to add other colors, they won’t mix or blend in if you wait for them to fully dry.”

Plus, the more ways you have to make graphic eyeliner looks, the more designs you can create. Let water activated eyeliner expand your pool of graphic liner looks and inspiration. “I love that this is another trend that lets people be creative and expressive through their makeup looks,” Khan says.  

How to Turn Eyeshadow Into Eyeliner

Though water-activated liner palettes will give you the most pigmented results, you can turn any powder eyeshadow into a liquid eyeliner with a bit of water. Just keep in mind that if the original formula isn't waterpoof, they may turn a bit streaky when mixed with water, warns Khan.

Khan breaks down how to transform regular eyeshadow into liner: First, take a drop of water and add it to your shadow. Next, be sure to thoroughly mix the water in with the formula to get a creamy, paste-like consistency. Then take a thin eyeliner brush and apply the formula, gliding it into the shape or design you desire. 

“If you want to achieve a traditional wing, simply start by dragging your brush across your top lash line, starting from halfway to ¾ of your inner eye,” she says. “When you get to the outer corner, drag the brush slowly out in a small ‘flick’ motion and fill in as desired.”

To make the most of your new potion, it’s important to avoid major missteps. “One common mistake is not fully mixing the water into the product, or over/under watering it,” Khan says. “If you add too little water, it won’t be smooth enough to drag or paint across your eyelid. If you add too much water or do not fully mix with the eyeliner, the formula can become streaky and not as bright or pigmented.” 

Now that you have the recipe to creating water activated eyeliner, let your imagination—and eye makeup—run wild.

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