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I am 42 years old, and for as long as I can remember, I have lusted over the look of cat-eye liner. Whether on the lids of the fashion models I worshipped growing up in the '90s, or worn effortlessly by my friend's very cool artist girlfriend, it has always seemed like the epitome of chic makeup. It's like a great pair of jeans, a statement ring, or a bold red lip - it instantly makes the wearer look all the more cool, put together, and fashionable. Plus, there's the showmanship aspect of a cat-eye. Wearing one demonstrates your advanced makeup skills. It announces to the world: Yeah, I did this. And I look cool as hell.
But I've never mastered the cat-eye; I've never confidently slid the delicate tip of an eye-liner across my lid, flicking it out and up toward my brow with ease. When I've tried it, it at best looks like one of my kids has gone to town with a crayon all over my lid. There is no cool as hell happening over here.
Because recently I decided, it was time: I needed to learn how to do a cat-eye on myself, once and for all. It's never too late, right?
"I like this one," the salesperson at Sephora says, handing me an M by Mario Master Mattes liquid eye liner. Their own lid is marked in a beautiful cherry red liner that curves up toward their brow, like a little wave across their face. It's bold and adventurous and cool, all the things I am aiming to be with this cat-eye plan. I grab the liner, and a few other products, and head home to stare at myself in the mirror until I get it right.
I reach out to Sonia Valencia, one of my favorite beauty Tik-Tokkers who focuses on beauty for the over-40 crowd, for tips. "The biggest advice on a cat-eye is practice!" She tells me. "Don't be afraid of color and there is no limits to what a cat-eye can bring to your look. Cat-eye is timeless and is for every age."
Makeup artist Kim White offers similar sage advice. "Makeup washes off," she says, "so don't stop experimenting! What you shied away from previously might look great now. Focus on your eye shape and be deliberate with your placement, application, and colors."
And so I get to work practicing, following a tutorial (also on TikTok) from celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg. I trace my upper lid with my pencil, and then work on stretching the wing by following the curve of my bottom eye line. Comedian Cat Cohen, who rocks an amazing cat-eye, advises me to "keep some micellar water and Q-Tips handy to correct any mistakes." This advice proves to be life-saving. The Q-Tip and micellar water combo work like magic, and even helps me shape the line. I finish up with my first try feeling fairly pleased with myself, and decide to wear the cat-eye to the live zoom event my podcast co-host, Doree Shafrir, and I are hosting for listeners. I receive compliments on my liner-work, and taste the magic of that super-cool cat-eye feeling. "I love it because it's so simple yet creates such a dramatic effect," Cat says, and I finally get it. I am hooked.
The next day, I bust out the Kaja Wing Eyeliner Stamp kit I picked up at Sephora. This idea seems easy enough - line your lid and then press the little triangle-shaped stamp at the corner of your eye and voila - you've done it! It's not quite as easy as it looks, but thanks to the micellar water and Q-Tip hack, I create something close to a cat-eye. I speak at another Zoom panel with my eyes lined, and am pleased with my handiwork.
Cat uses the Maybelline Matte Precise All Day Liquid Liner, so the next day I give that a try on one lid, and then play with Maybelline's Tattoo Studio Pencil Liner on the other. Pro makeup artist and beauty expert Shannon O'Brien raves about the power of the eyeliner pencil, telling me: "They are so versatile! Pencils are bit easier to control and are a bit more forgiving when applying. You can also get multiple looks and textures from a pencil. With one pencil you can get the look of a liquid or gel slick cat-eye - or blend it out with a brush to get something a little more relaxed and soft."
Her tip is to "extend the pencil beyond the end of the eye and blend out until there is a wash of color left. Then, with a tight cotton bud dipped in oil-free makeup remover, clean up the bottom, sweeping the cotton bud up and out." It's similar to Cat's earlier trick, and it works, giving me a lovely, lifted cat-eye. I head out into public with only my eyes lined, and no other makeup on. At my daughter's softball practice, a friend and fellow parent stops to say say hi and then, "Wow, look at your eyes!"
I nod, confidently. "Yeah, I did this," I tell her proudly. "And I look cool as hell."