And we suspect actual tears — and irritation — aren’t all that uncommon. There are a number of safety concerns. “Washing your eyes with eyeliner on can be very irritating to the ocular surface. Eyeliner debris can enter the tear film and front portion of the eye (cornea and conjunctiva) and cause eye redness, irritation, foreign body sensation, tearing discomfort, and possible infection,” says optometrist Monica Hazien. A safer, more effective way to remove eyeliner is a makeup-removing balm or solution like micellar water or CeraVe’s Comforting Eye Makeup Remover.
Meet the experts:
- Naseeha Khan is a Los-Angeles-based makeup artist and co-founder of CTZN Cosmetics
- Allison Kaye is a Flordia-based makeup artist
- Judi Gabbay is an NYC-based makeup artist
- Monica Hazien, OD, is a Florida-based optometrist for Now Optics
- Priyanka Ganjoo is the founder of South Asian makeup brand Kulfi Beauty
It’s not worth the mess or potential harm, particularly because you can achieve sultry, defined eyes — without washing off your eyeliner. As comments under the videos of the trend point out, the end result is similar to a look you’d get from using kajal or kohl — an age-old ingredient and beauty ritual used in South Asian cultures. “The practice is hundreds if not thousands of years old and originates from South Asia, but also in ancient Egypt,” says makeup artist and founder of CTZN Cosmetics, Naseeha Khan, a Pakistani who lives in Los Angeles. Actual kohl is banned in the U.S. because it can contain high levels of lead, according to the FDA, so when you see the word used on eyeliner packaging it’s most likely just alluding to the intense black pigments and creamy textures of traditional kajal that those liners mimic. “Traditionally, kohl formulas come in a super fine loose powder which gives a naturally smudged look as the pigment disperses over time,” explains Priyanka Ganjoo, founder of South Asian Beauty brand Kulfi Beauty.
If you’re after a not-too-intense smudged look but are not into the risks that washing your face with liner on poses, skip the transfer-proof, waterproof formula. Makeup artists Allison Kaye and Khan recommend using kohl-inspired liners. Khan likes the Victoria Beckham Satin Kajal liners because “they are soft enough to blend out but long-lasting enough to last throughout the day.” Kaye suggests trying a dual-ended eyeliner with a small sponge or brush like Estee Lauder’s Smoke and Brighten Kajal liner. “These are great to be able to smudge out the eyeliner to create this look. Apply the liner first, and then use the other side to blend it out using an upward and outward motion,” says Kaye.
Kulfi Underlined Kajal Eyeliner
Estée Lauder Smoke and Brighten Kajal Eyeliner Duo
Another option: Kulfi Beauty’s Kajal liners, which have won Allure editors over and earned a Best of Beauty Award in 2021. “Many of us can’t go through our daily makeup routines (including yours truly) without reaching for one of the richly pigmented and long-wearing liners,” commerce editor Sarah Han writes. Ganjoo recommends placing her brand’s liner horizontally next to your waterline, and slowly pulling the applicator for the best results. The pulling motion helps achieve that slightly smudged look.