Much to our dismay, it’s quite difficult to mask tired eyes—whether it’s from a poor night’s sleep or just general exhaustion. The eyes tell all! Thankfully, brightening waterline eyeliner can awaken tired eyes in an instant.
“It brightens the eyes and by default makes your eyes look more awake!” says celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon. “It can also create the illusion of bigger eyes—I love using an eye brightening pencil in the inner corners as well to elongate and cheat the shape.” The pro, who counts Rachel Brosnahan, Florence Welch, and Kate Bock as clients, explains that the idea is to neutralize or cover the natural pink, red, or dark tone of your waterline. In a way, it’s like color-correcting for the eyes.
On what shade to choose to brighten the waterline, Aharon notes that “it really depends on your skin tone, the natural color of your waterline, and the effect you’re attempting.” For every day, she’s partial to an off-white or nude shade that’s a bit more versatile and subtle than a stark white. “Bright white can give you a more editorial or theatrical feel,” she says, “Though on fair skin [it] will be less noticeable.”
Makeup artist Peter Philips etched dramatic flicks of white eyeliner on models at Dior’s spring 2022 couture show earlier this year to complement the collection’s color palette of metallics and white hues. “The collection is a bit more fluid, less graphic,” Philips previously told Vogue. “Black eye makeup would have made it more classic, and the white made it more luminous.”
The technique is a celebrity favorite too. Victoria Beckham muses that she “cannot go a day without” using the Instant Brightening Waterline Pencil from her eponymous beauty brand. “It is very rare for me to get a full night’s rest, but, thanks to this, nobody has to know,” Beckham remarks. “The neutral shade balances any redness along my waterline and brightens the whites of my eyes. I almost consider it part of my skin-care routine. If I am skipping makeup, you can trust that I am not skipping my Instant Brightening Waterline Pencil. I like to call this the magic moment of my routine.”
Whether you prefer it for everyday wear or for statement-making glam, a stroke of a brightening pencil creates the illusion of illuminated eyes with minimal effort. Below, shop several of the best waterline eyeliner options to choose from.
• Victoria Beckham Beauty Instant Brightening Waterline Pencil: A top pick by Beckham and Aharon, this pencil won’t steer you wrong. Formulated with aloe and ginseng, this not only neutralizes redness but soothes and conditions the lash line simultaneously. What’s more, Aharon says this universal pencil “comes in a beautiful cream shade that’s flattering on even the darkest skin tone.”
• Chanel Le Crayon Khol Intense Eye Pencil in 69 Clair: Chanel makes some of our favorite eyeliners, so we’re keeping its brightening shade, Clair, top of mind. It’s a soft, peachy nude in a semi-matte finish that can supply the ultimate barely-there hue for subtle illumination.
• Diorshow Khôl pencil in 009 White Khôl: Take a page from Philips’s playbook by shopping for the eyeliner he used at the aforementioned Dior show. He applied shade 009 White Khôl for what he called a “white-gray veil” to the waterline and root of the lashes. The creamy pencil even features a blending tip to further customize your look.
• Charlotte Tilbury Rock ’N Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Eye Cheat: Fans of Charlotte Tilbury’s kohl eyeliner in classic shades like black and navy should certainly grab its brightening shade. Crafted to add wideness and fullness to the eyes, the pencil is infused with crushed pearl powder to hydrate and smooth skin where applied—not to mention it’s waterproof for up to 14 hours.
• Glossier No. 1 Pencil in Pure White: In the market for that bright white liner? Add this Glossier pencil to cart. Its creamy long-wear formula is meant to pack a bold punch for strokes of vibrant color applied to the waterline or anywhere else you want a defined etched line.
• Surratt Beauty Inner Light Baton: Think of this liner by Surratt Beauty as a two-in-one must-have for illuminated eyes. One side features a traditional redness-reducing waterline pigment, while the other is a golden-hued shimmering highlighter to add a hint of glow to the inner corners or brow bone.
• Chantecaille Eye-Brightening Kajal – Nude: “It’s soft, glides on easily and has a soft pink shade that’s really flattering and works well for the inner corners,” Aharon says. The featured aloe in the formula means it shouldn’t irritate the lash line, while illuminating the whites of your eyes.
• Jillian Dempsey Khôl Eyeliner in FTA White: When we asked celebrity makeup artists for the best eyeliner, Jillian Dempsey’s formula came at the recommendation of Romy Soleimani. Infused with a cocktail of shea butter and both jojoba and marula oil, the pigment goes on with smooth precision. Apply its shade, FTA White, for eye-opening, waterproof wear.
• Trish McEvoy Eye Brightener Pencil: Described as a bright, pale pink, Trish McEvoy’s pencil is that faint brightener you’ve been looking for. Surely a multitasker, this can be used to accentuate the inner corners and brow bones too.
• Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil in 500 Boundless Bisque: Make Up For Ever’s versatile Color Pencils are a must-have for a travel makeup bag, as they are designed with the eyes, lips, and brows in mind. You can’t go wrong with its nude-ish shade, Boundless Bisque, to offset any eye redness.