Is Eyeliner Dead?

While putting on my makeup one recent morning, I decided not to reach for my eyeliner. This act in and of itself sounds unremarkable, but represents a tidal shift. Eyeliner has been a cornerstone of my makeup routine since seventh grade. Jet-black liner (the only color I ever wear) has been on my stranded-on-a-deserted-island list for upwards of ten years. It’s right up there next to Nutella and four-cheese pasta.

While I wish I could say this change was sparked by a beauty revelation or my keen intuition for changing trends, in truth my decline in eyeliner use can absolutely be attributed to general laziness. Transforming from a college student who’s only slightly worried about being late for class to a (semi?) functional adult who must either get to work on time or face unemployment does mysterious things to your mind, body and soul. I was dragging myself to bed later, waking up earlier and finding less and less patience with a beauty routine that ate up 40 precious minutes of sleeping time.

On that fateful day, I let my Smashbox gel liner sit untouched and swiped on an extra coat of mascara instead. At first, I thought I had sunk to a new level of not giving a shit, but then I started to like it. I mean really like it. I went eyeliner free the next day and the next day and the next. I liked looking more natural. I was ready to watch countless hours of wing practice circle the drain.

At first, my decision was purely based on the desire to sleep more. But I began noticing a lack of eyeliner elsewhere. My favorite beauty bloggers were backing away from it, choosing fake eyelashes or eyeshadow instead. Clearly, these are strange times.

During a text conversation about eyeliner, a hair and beauty vlogger friend of mine seconded my findings. “More and more, I see beauty gurus and even my friends switching from harsh liquid and gel liners for eye shadow smudged softly into the lash line or skipping it altogether,” she pointed out. “Even I will choose mascara over liner most days!”

There you have it. I doubt eyeliner will ever fully pass on to the other side, but it’s buckling up in the backseat while other eye-emphasizing products take the wheel. Me? I’ve stocked up on mascara to happily ride out the wave while enjoying those extra morning minutes.

Illustration by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; follow her on Instagram @heysuperstar.

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  • Can someone explain the eyeliner hype? I mean, realllly explain it? I’ve always opted for mascara & (maybe) eye shadow instead of eyeliner, and I only recently started tight-lining my upper lid on a semi-regular basis, but honestly, I’m not sure it makes much of a difference.

    Every time I’ve worn eyeliner on my lower lash line or on the rim of my eyes, it makes them look smaller and sunken in. And I always get raccoon eyes by the end of the day (oily skin woes). Why does everyone love this stuff so much?

    • Valerie

      I’ve never gotten into eyeliner either… I’ve always hated the harsh line look. I DON’T GET IT!!!

    • Cay

      Liner on the lower lash line is not a good look on most people. If you have deep-set or small eyes, it’s going to emphasize qualities that you probably don’t want emphasized.

      I think that tightlined upper lashes and a simple, subtle wing is very flattering on a lot of people, though. It makes the lashes appear fuler and extends the line of the eye.

  • I too have recently put down my eyeliner and I don’t miss it. It is a more natural less harsh look and makes my eyes pop even more.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      I find not using eyeliner makes my eyes pop more too.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Lol! I recently stopped wearing eyeliner on a regular basis as well. I’ve worn it when I was going for a more dramatic look but on an everyday basis I focus more on my lashes and eyebrows. I’m loving how awake I look when I apply tons of mascara but no eyeliner. It actually makes my eyes pop more.

  • Miss J

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one! I used to love the look of liner but don’t have the patience in the morning to put it on- I’d much rather enjoy a few extra sips of coffee. Since summer, I’ve only been using shadow or going bare. (Bare for me means primer, light foundation, mascara). Now I use eyeliner only for heavy night makeup on the weekends.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      This is what I’ve been doing this winter (concealer, foundation, a neutral shadow and mascara). I also make sure my brows are done and have been loving neutral matte lipstick as well.

      • Kate Walters

        Me too. Frankly, a cleaner eye and a pop of bright lip color is so much more fun and modern-feeling.

  • Lady_A

    I have never been good with the winged eyeliner, plus my eye shape is not really ideal for it (hooded eyes), but I’ve found that I can add some fun color to my makeup by keeping it simple on the lid and add a colourful liner to my lower lash line and that takes exactly one minute to apply. Take those wings and fly away, winged eye trend.

  • Alyssa Neilson

    I haven’t worn eyeliner a single day since my freshman year of college! I don’t even own an eyeliner (I’m 24 now and it’s been 6 years). I didn’t wear it one day and I fell in love with my bare eyes. If I even try to put it on now or experiment with it (even very thin liquid or something) I feel like I don’t look like myself so this resonates

  • Sam

    Omg this is exactly how I felt when I ditched eyeliner years ago! I thought I was just being lazy but I ended up really enjoying not having jet black on my eyes. At the absolute most, I’ll tightline with a liquid eyeliner after curling my lashes/putting on mascara. On normal days I just wash my face, moisturize and add Glossier boy brow.

  • Cate

    I think that there’s a movement away from the very intense Instagram/YouTube liner, with super defined wing + tightline, with heavily contoured eyeshadow and fake lashes.

    But you can pry my jet black cat eye from my cold, dead hands. I work in beauty, and eyeliner is definitely holding very strong in the makeup category, so I don’t think that it is going anywhere.

    • Sam

      Keep on doing it! I have one friend who always has a perfect wing and I swear she is the reason eyeliner exists. Please, all of you ladies with the perfect wing, continue to wear it and soar high for those of us who can’t/don’t want to. 🙂

    • Poots

      Cat eye liner every day, forever.

  • fatou diaw

    I do and will forever use eyeliner

  • I wish I could go without eyeliner! My face just wouldn’t look right, it makes my eyes bigger and after about five years of putting it on most days, I just wouldn’t look right without eyeliner, maybe some day though.

    • Poots

      No eyeliner means my coworkers ask if I’m not feeling well. I look off. I’ll never skip it.

  • Abby

    I’ve also given up eyeliner, after 15 years of a black cat eye every single day. I look so much more awake without it!

    • Erin Zahn


  • Anni

    I mostly do a ombre cat’s eye now – less rockabilly, a barely there gigi hadid flick and around midway on my eyelid I transition to a gold liner or blend into my nude glitter eyeshadow.

  • Bria

    I wore liquid eyeliner everyday from ages 17-20 and I was pretty good at nailing the wing when I took my time. I wore a smudged kohl liner in the outer corners for a while and now I just skip it altogether. When I do wear eye makeup, I usually swipe some Nars lip pencil in the shade “Het Loo” across the tops of my lids for some color and then I add a shit load of mascara to my lashes.

  • This is very true! Definitely see the gap between the less-is-more trend and insane contouring/ombre’ lips widening exponentially these days.
    Personally, I am feeling that “less is more” mood in make-up more than ever – and my running-late-in-the-morning tendencies thank me for it. Aside from the beauty IRL “normcore” trend (Glossier etc) playing a big part, I do think it comes with age and being comfortable in your own skin… I wear generally less more make-up than I did 10 years ago especially eyeliner. I would wear a full on cat eye at work while now I’m more likely to smudge a brown kohl pencil. It’s a mixture of factors 😉

  • Luarnaiz

    This is me! I’ve been wearing eyeliner since I was in highschool. It has been my ultimate beauty staple. I was the one applying eyeliner to everybody. And one day I just stopped, bought a better mascara, thank you marc jacobs, And love the new look.

  • Samantha Lee

    You know, I’ve tried to go without the eyeliner on a day here and there, but I feel so naked without it. I just use a liquid pen on top, so it doesn’t add much time – TBH my mascara takes the longest.

  • I have been going without for more than two years now, and I recently started to forego mascara too. As a wearer of contact lenses, I find it more comfortable to be without eye makeup. Aside from the preference for clean eyes from a contact standpoint, I also just plain dig the look.

    Instead, I curl my (relatively dark brown, but short and straight) lashes with my Shu Uemura curler and go about my day.

  • i rarely if ever wear eye makeup anymore and while this is primarily attributed to laziness there’s also something very refreshing about having swapped out the heavy make-up routine of my youth for the skincare routine of my late twenties. now i’ll swipe on a bold lipstick plus some highlighter and call it a day

  • I wear liquid eyeliner every day, still feel kinda naked without it. It just seems to take my eyes from drowsy to doe-eyed. Although I have to admit I’d love to have the extra minutes in bed because it’s a tricky thing to do right, even after all these years. 🙂


  • Summer

    I do think a lot of it has to do with the color of your lashes. I started getting my naturally dark brown with blond tipped lashed tinted about a year ago and since then, I’m way more likely to go w/out liner. But if I’m at the end of my tint, my eyes just look so nekkid and tired. A bit of dark brown liner smudged into the top lashes does so much!

  • jukeboxxrequiem

    Y’all can pry my eyeliner pot out of my cold head hands, haha. I’ve been rocking a wing almost every day since high school, and considering it’s the only makeup look I can reliably reproduce (underwater, blindfolded, under the gun etc.), I’m keeping it. 😉

  • Kattigans

    I gave up eyeliner and eyeshadow every day about a year ago. Idk when and why I stopped. I think for similar reasons..valuing sleep more and kinda not caring about what I looked like at work. I’ve pared my beauty routine down so much over the last few years. It feels great to have a minimal amount of products that are also reliable. I know have spent my money and time focused more on skincare

  • I forgot how to eyeliner. I used to love it when I first started wearing makeup and in college, but as you said working full time does wonders. I also got a dog which meant I had to take a chunk out of my morning to walk her, and no more time for eyeliner.
    I wear mine occasionally when I go out and I know I have an hour to spare to try and draw symmetrical wings before hand, otherwise I’m happy with mascara and lipstick.

  • Preeti V

    I’ve tried going eyeliner free and I look really tired, bordering on sick. Since the rest of my makeup is nil (i just use sunscreen and lipstick), my eyes definitely need a pick me up. Of course my sleep is very important to me and I have a kid who needs to be dropped to school while I get ready for work, so I use an eye pencil and draw a thick line. No cat eyes and no defined, careful lines. Takes me less than 20 seconds!

  • x_x

    i’ve switched to basically a 1940’s look. strong but natural brow, a little glowy blush on the cheekbones + hollows of the eyelids, and red lipstick. no mascara or liner.–JfKoal-w–/oewb2nor6hnovy9lwejw.jpg

  • Tanya

    Even if I don’t have a drop of makeup on my face and/or my hair is dirty and/or I am dressed like a bum I will always have on my cat eyes (minus when I’m working out). It’s not that I’m uncomfortable going bare, rather the look has just become a part of me. My eyes are my best feature and the eyeliner just really amps them up. I feel the same way about my straight hair. It’s naturally curly, but I won’t feel myself unless its straight….even a messy, pulled in a bun version of “straightened”. So yeah, don’t go touching my flat iron or my eyeliner.

  • Until a few months ago I had been rocking the cat eye every day since high school. I’m loving no eyeliner too! Saves time and it’s much more modern too.

  • Dina

    I never wore eyeliner simply because I felt too ‘done-up’ with it. Happy to see this is somewhat trending!! Eyeliner makes me feel like a high-schooler (I never even wore it then due to the fact that I would look more like one). I’ve been a fan of wearing light brown eyeshadow on my lids without a liner and I love that- contrary to what a lot of people I know think. It makes me look more awake and makes my eyes brighter without trying too hard.

  • chouette

    I get way less blackheads since I stopped wearing pigmented eye makeup! Been wanting to get a light eyeshadow since my lashes and brows are naturally pretty dark, maybe mod white?

  • Slushee

    No – I like to define my eyes with a wash of shadow, but eyeliner is like that extra accessory too much. Also I think it looks juvenile – but also very pretty 😬

  • Coco

    I had been considering to stop wearing eyeliner (THAT I HAVE BEEN WEARING FOR 16 YEARS!!) and it is a life changer. Today instead, I doubled up on my mascara and my eyes look brighter! Why didn’t I ever think of this before?!?

  • Caroline Chuang

    I’m feeling the same way about eyeliner, only I’m Asian and don’t have a deep set eye crease – yet, I challenged myself to feel comfortable without eyeliner, which I was starting to think makes my eyes appear even smaller. So, I may try a bold lip now or just mascara and see if it makes an understated statement to offset no eyeliner.

  • Anaid Chrietzberg

    I tried going without eyeliner one day… and then 3 hours into work I caved an ran across the street to Sephora to pick up KVD Tattoo Liner. The minute I swiped on the last inky touch to my flick I knew that eyeliner and I have attachment issues. Stands to reason since I’ve been wearing since I was 13. Plus, liner is the only thing I can get done quickly!

  • BK

    Wind back three years and I would have been aggressively wearing it every day. Now I can’t be bothered. I wear tinted moisturiser, brow gel and mascara. Sometimes I just go for clear mascara. I tried putting on liquid eyeliner the other day and after a solid half hour of mistakes, touch ups and adjustments with damp Q-tips, I finally made it out the door and everyone at work said I looked tired.

  • Gina Fuchs

    Yes!!! I stopped wearing eye liner after my freshman yr of college. I did this mainly because I’m so trash at applying it– it always ends up in a soupy mess under my eyes.

    I love the mascara + eye shadow look. Still, I envy people who CAN pull off great winged liner, that talent will never go unappreciated.

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I like Clinique’s Skinny Stick eye liner. It’s creamy, and the narrow line goes on easily for a soft look. I use blue and brown. I’ve never worn black eye liner because it is too harsh for my fair skin.

  • Megan Allen

    I rarely have ever used straight eye liner, except when I want to do a dramatic cat eye with liquid liner! I got into the habit of using eyeshadow as eyeliner at a young age after my first visit to a MAC counter and have never looked back since!

  • Meg Bowie

    I just stopped too, out of nowhere! Another plus is that I have something to save for Wedding and Event Makeup

  • Kateland Kes

    I feel like glossier caused this

  • Lyn Phillips

    I think that skipping the eyeliner looks prettier. You can see the unique and beautiful natural eye shapes. And I think that it looks more approachable. I think that it’s less intimidating to men. And that frees us up to wear red and other dramatic shades of lipstick without having to balance it out with eye makeup. Thanks for the article.

  • Lucie Lu

    I won’t ever give up my eyeliner. I’ve developed this skill of putting it on in a few seconds. I tried going without it but ended up trying to compensate for it with eyeshadow and a lot of mascara, which took me much longer than with the actual eyeliner.

  • Kim

    So relatable. After 3 years of a daily cat eye, I also decided to rock bare eyelids (out of pure laziness) and I’m never going back! Oddly enough, I think my natural eyes actually look nicer. It feels good to embrace my natural features and also get an extra 10 minutes sleep 😊