When I first heard about the red eyeliner trend, I had my doubts. “How does that not look like your eyes are swollen?”, I thought. And yes, this type of makeup will look bad, if it's not done properly (but then again, wouldn't that be the case with all makeup?). I was curious, so I did some research, and I found out that red eyeliner has more history and significance that I first thought.
The best historical example of this makeup style are geishas. Although the West tends to see these women as prostitutes, they were actually sophisticated entertainers, trained for years in arts such as music, dance, poetry, and the tea ceremony. The best way for a geisha to show her elegance and beauty was through her makeup: white foundation, red lips, a combination of red and black eyeshadow, and eyeliner. The red was especially used by younger geishas or maikos, to show their status
as apprentices. And indeed, the red touch in their makeup adds a youthful energy to their gaze.
However, geishas weren't the only ones who used red eyeliner. Centuries later, this makeup trend was embraced by the New Romantics of the eighties, who found in this color a perfect complement for their highly theatrical and colorful esthetics. With their use of color, they created a glamorous visual style that went against the anti-fashion visions of the punk movement. Boy George is the poster boy for both this fashion movement as well as for going for this makeup look. Decades later, rock stars would also recur to red makeup to add drama and intensity to their looks, especially in the emo scene (My Chemical Romance, anyone?).
So, as we’ve seen, red eyeliner has prevailed over the years, and its best quality is the power and energy it adds to your gaze. However, if this style isn't as popular as black or brown eyeliner, it’s because, as I said in the beginning, it's not that easy to make it look elegant and not like you’re having allergies. The key is the kind of eyeliner you choose and the way you style it.
For instance, you can do a subtle yet intense winged eyeliner. The best way to do it is with liquid eyeliner and a small brush (you can use an angled brush). Clean lines are also important to make this style look sophisticated, and not like you’re scarred or wounded. In case you feel your lines are not as sharp as you’d like them to look, you can use concealer to outline them. Also, if you want to line the lower part of the eye, just avoid the waterline. Otherwise it’ll look like you’ve been crying.
Photo by Shannoona
Another way you can rock the red eyeliner is by matching it with your lipstick. Sometimes it might be difficult to find matching eyeliner and lipstick, but if you find an eyeshadow color that complements it, you can use it as an eyeliner. Just scratch a bit of the eyeshadow into a different recipient and moist it with primer, aloe vera, or a setting spray. Once it has the consistency of a liquid eyeliner, apply it. Of course, remember to check you’re not allergic to the primer or the spray.
Another killer combo is the geisha-inspired red and black, or red and white for a more dramatic gaze. For these two combinations, the key is using the darkest colors first and then the brightest. For instance, apply the black eyeliner first, and then do a red wing, or mark the red eyeliner with a white line. Or if you want something even more striking, why not top your black liner with an ombre eyeshadow combination of red and white?
Photo by Linda Hallberg
Photo by Bec Martin
One last piece of advice: always check which red best matches your skin tone. A great way to find out is by using the same tones as the lipsticks you use. For instance, orange-based reds look great on warmer tones, whole blue-based colors suit cool skin tones the best. Like with all fashion trends, the key is to know yourself and which colors are more flattering on you. With that in mind, you’ll find red eyeliner can actually look awesome on anyone.
Check out these beauty tips to enhance your makeup routine:
Cover photo by Linda Hallberg