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The Easiest Eyeliner Trick Ever

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Cat eyes are as crazy-hot now as they were back in the ’50s and ’60s. And for good reason: the timeless look makes your lashes look thicker and your eyes bigger, all while lending a distinct air of sophistication.

But for daytime, a black cat eye often feels too harsh on me, so I’ve developed a quick and easy trick to take it down a notch while still getting the eye-opening punch of a black line. Whenever I share my routine with even my makeup-savvy friends, I get an initial eyebrow raise. After all, it’s not exactly a difficult or off-the-wall technique.

Getting the hang of a cat eye can take some practice, but once it’s in your beauty arsenal, you’ll find yourself making use of the technique again and again. Begin with a thin (or thick, depending on your mood and eye shape) cat eye; see our how-to here. I use a liquid liner for precision and depth of color. My favorite right now is Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner in Trooper (a super dark black). The felt tip is fine, and the brush is flexible for a smooth line, but sturdy enough to be user-friendly (shaky hands rejoice!). It also lasts longer than other similar versions—no drying out within a month or two. If you’re still working on your liquid liner game, try an ergonomic version or Selena’s favorite $3.99 classic. The reason I prefer a liquid liner over a pencil or a gel is that a sharp, wet tip is able to fill in the space between lashes quickly and easily, and with less damage to the lashline.

Once you’ve got your lash-framing wings in place, grab your favorite brown pencil liner. I’m in love with Make Up For Ever Aqua Shadow pencil in 2E Matte Brown. It’s chubby enough to use as a shadow or shadow base, but can also be sharpened into your desired thickness. It’s creamy, so you can smoke it out with fingers or a brush (my preferred technique), before it sets into a waterproof finish.

Using the cat eye line as a guide, follow along the top “swoop” all the way to the end. This softens the hard black line into a pretty, not-quite black, not-quite brown. The one-two punch of this two-second technique ensures that the dark black along the lashline opens up the eye and gives the lashes some drama, while the brown tames the hard line along the top and makes it look like you spent some time blending shadows into the perfect subtle, smokey eye. I always finish with some mascara, but it’s your call whether you want to follow suit.

And there you have it! Throw these two products into your makeup bag and give yourself, say, a few extra seconds in the morning. You can do your eyes on the train! Or in between stoplights if you’re brave enough. Not that I’ve ever done that.