According to TikTok, the Key to Subtle "Model" Eyeliner Is Washing Your Face

Allow us to explain.

Kaia Gerber with pink hair and subtle eyeliner

Kaia Gerber

Eyeliner is one of those beauty products that you either love with all your heart or approach with extreme caution. Holding a sharp pencil or brush loaded with pigment super close to your eye and drawing on a precise line can be intimidating, to say the least, and there are so many techniques and tutorials for liner that it can easily make your head spin. If your liner skills aren’t quite up to YouTube pro par (which is totally fine), a new TikTok tip may give you the lived-in, subtly smoky and smudgy liner of your dreams just by drawing on some color and washing your face.

The Trend

TikToker Nykita Joy, whose channel is full of hacks and tutorials for everything from bombshell waves to Grinch-inspired eyes, shared her secrets to the perfect lived-in eyeliner look in a short “Get ready with me” video where she preps to head to a model casting. The vibe is no makeup-makeup, because according to Joy, models generally aren’t supposed to wear any to these appointments, but there are a few simple workarounds to make you stand out—and the liner trick is one.

Her first step is to messily line her eyes all the way around, including the waterline, with a Pat McGrath pencil. “Now, we wash our face,” she says. Wait… what? Nykita then heads off to cleanse and comes back not with pools of eyeliner or streaks of black running down her chin, but perfect, subtle definition of her upper and lower lashlines. You can tell she’s done something, but it’s not as obvious as a pencil line or swoop of gel. “It’s one of the best tricks,” she says. Um, no kidding. 

The Hype

The trick quickly caught on; Nykita’s video has more than 2 million impressions, and TikTok users couldn’t wait to try the easy hack themselves. When the messy liner melts away as you wash your face, a hint of color and definition sticks around and makes your eyes pop and your lashes look thicker. It also gives you a hint of Kate Moss-in-the-2000s edge, like you slept in your makeup and now it’s perfectly messy—perfectly aligned with the party girl makeup trends we're seeing.

Some users tried the hack as-is, with no other makeup, while others went about their usual daily routine and added eyeshadow and mascara. If the washed-off liner is a bit messy, all you have to do is grab a cotton swab and clean it up and voila, you’re basically America’s Next Top Model.

The Tutorial

As Joy and countless other demonstrated, the technique is simple. Just ring your eyes with a black liner pencil, covering both your upper and lower lash and waterlines. Don't worry about perfection here, considering you're going to wash away the excess anyways. Then, wash your face, without using a makeup remover, and you're set.

It’s worth noting that the finished look resembles the kohl and kajal liner looks popular in the Middle East and South Asia, though the techniques are quite different. While washing your face isn’t part of the technique, liner or a powder is applied to the lashlines and lower waterlines to define the eyes. User @morefromminaa shared her kohl powder liner technique, saying it gave the same effect with an easy application, as did user @minamouse016.

The face washing workaround is also similar to the tightlining method, which is used to create the illusion of super full lashes or subtle definition; it’s a classic makeup artist trick used on celebs and models all the time. Regardless of how you choose to define your eyes, you’ll be looking like a supermodel in no time.

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