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6 Mesmerizing Ways to Wear Red Eyeliner—Plus, How to Pull Off the Look

Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

There’s a special place in our hearts for a good red lip, red dress, and glass of red wine, so why doesn’t that love extend to our eye makeup? Well, starting now it just might: A trend has slowly but steadily emerged—and it’s a pretty darn gorgeous one, too. Although the idea of red eyeliner may sound scary at first, well, blush, it can be quite wearable when done right. We turned to Bobbi Brown National Makeup Artist Michele Shakeshaft to weigh in on the basics of the makeup trend, and to provide some insight on the prettiest celebrity inspiration. Then, stick around for our product picks to try the trend out on your own.

About the Expert:

Michele Shakeshaft is a Bobbi Brown National Makeup Artist based in Washington, DC.

How to wear red eyeliner:

The first rule of red liner: Find the right red liner. “It depends on what style of the look you are trying to create,” explains Shakeshaft. “If you are trying to make the eye color pop, consider the complementary color.” Here’s how it works: “Look at the color wheel. The color that sits on the opposite side of the wheel from your eye color will pop the eye color more. For example, green is the complementary color to red, so a true red will bring out the green color of the eye. If the eye is blue, a yellow-orange based red will bring out the blue.” Brown eyes, however, have a little more room to play around. “Look closely at the flecks of color you see in the iris. Choose the color you want to accentuate and choose a red based on the complementary color,” advises the makeup artist.

Skin tone plays a role in color selection as well. “If you want the red to be more subtle, you can choose a color that is similar in undertone to the skin tone,” says Shakeshaft. “For example, if you have warm undertones, a warm-based red will look more natural. A blue-based red will have more of a contrast to the skin tone, therefore it will stand out more.” The alternative is true as well. “If you have cooler undertones in the skin, a cool red will be more natural, and a warm red will make more of a statement.” That same idea applies to how fair or deep the skin tone is, says Shakeshaft. “The more contrast between the depth of the skin and the liner, the more of a statement the red becomes.”

Once you’ve chosen your shade, the next step is actually putting on. When in doubt, start small. “An easy way to wear a trend without the trend wearing you is to use the color as an accent,” recommends Shakeshaft. “A fun way to wear a pop of color is to use it as an accent to a neutral colored eyeliner. For example, create a black winged eyeliner using BOBBI BROWN Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Black Ink and apply the red liner directly above the black. The black will provide more definition and balance the boldness of the red, and the red becomes a subtle accent vs. the focus of the look.”

Because red liner can be somewhat dramatic, it’s usually best to keep other makeup simple. “I would suggest keeping the rest of the look soft so the red eye makeup is the focus,” says Shakeshaft. “You can balance the red eye look with a neutral cheek and lip or a soft wash of color on the cheek and lip.” Be careful not to go overboard with the blush, and to counteract any redness with concealer or foundation. “I think what’s key is neutralizing any red in the skin with foundation,” says Shakeshaft, who adds, “Nothing will take away from a statement red eye more than redness in the skin.”

Our Favorite Red Eyeliner Looks:

Here’s how some of your celebs have tried out the trending look IRL.

1. Smoky

Close-up of Joan Smalls rocking a glittery red smoky eye makeup look, top bun, and gold dangling earrings
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

Joan Small’s red-tinged look is a pretty update to the standard smoky eye. “The warmth of the red against the warm undertones of her skin creates a natural, but sultry smoky look,” says Shakeshaft.

2. Soft Haze

Close-up of Lili Reinhart rocking a slick back hairstyle, soft red smoky eye makeup, and silver dangling earrings
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

Lili Reinhart’s look demonstrates how to make red eye makeup the star of the show, without being over the top. “This statement eye is balanced by her perfected skin and soft, neutral lip,” Shakeshaft explains.

3. Bold Cat Eye

Close-up of Kristen Stewart rocking a rose eyeshadow and maroon cat-eye makeup look
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

“This is a beautiful way to create definition with a monochromatic look,” Shakeshaft says of Kristen Stewart’s exaggerated cat-eye, done in a shade that complements her dress. “The soft wash of rose on the lid and crease, defined with a darker maroon wing is trendy but not too extreme,” Shakeshaft adds.

4. Crimson Lids

Close-up of Jasmine Tookes wearing a wine red eyeshadow makeup look and high ponytail hairstyle
Photo by Dia Dipasupil / Staff/Getty Images

Jasmine Tooke’s darker shadow is an unexpected but stunning take on the trend “This beautiful merlot-burgundy eye is perfect with her golden undertone skin,” says Shakeshaft. Tookes’ look also demonstrates how adding black eyeliner can help add dimension. “The black liner anchors it and gives a strong definition,” adds Shakeshaft.

5. Red Pop

Close-up of Emily Ratajkowski rocking a red eye makeup look and black hoop earrings
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff/Getty Images

Paired with a simple LBD, middle parted hair, and neutral lip, the focus of Emily Ratajkowski’s look remains on the eye makeup. “The truer red pops of her warm skin tone,” says Shakeshaft. The finishing touch? Black mascara to add contrast against the cat-eye.

6. Matchy-Matchy

Close-up image of Elizabeth Olsen rocking a shimmery maroon smoky eye makeup look and gold dangling earrings
Photo by Michael Loccisano / Staff/Getty Images

Elizabeth Olsen’s makeup look reinforces how the perfect red can enhance eye color unlike anything else. “The green of her eyes just pops against the beautiful red eyeshadow,” says Shakeshaft. (And yes, it perfectly matches her outfit too!)

6 Red Eyeliners We Love:

1. MAKE UP FOR EVER Artist Color Pencil in Either Cherry

MAKE UP FOR EVER Artist Color Pencil in Either Cherry
Courtesy of MAKE UP FOR EVER

If you’re looking for a true red, you’ve found it in this multi-purpose pencil, which can technically be used on lips or eyes (just be sure to sharpen or disinfect the pencil before swapping to avoid cross-contamination).

2. COLOURPOP BFF Liquid Eyeliner in Try Me

COLOURPOP BFF Liquid Eyeliner in Try Me
Courtesy of COLOURPOP

Shaky hand with liquid eyeliner? The felt tip makes application easy (and fun), whether you’re drawing a sharp line or filling in a wide cat-eye. Plus, it’s feather-resistant and smudgeproof.

3. CHARLOTTE TILBURY Eye Colour Magic Liner Duo in Mesmerising Maroon

CHARLOTTE TILBURY Eye Colour Magic Liner Duo in Mesmerising Maroon

One end houses a deep, matte maroon liner; the other, a light pink shimmer for added punch. The pair may be intended for green eyes, but they make a nice entry point into the trend for just about anyone.

4. SHISEIDO Kajal InkArtist - Shadow, Liner, Brow in Azuki Red

SHISEIDO Kajal InkArtist - Shadow, Liner, Brow in Azuki Red
Courtesy of SHISEIDO

Use this creamy, waterproof crayon to line directly around the eyes, or apply like a shadow and smudge with the built-in sponge. Bonus: It comes with a detachable sharpener too.

5. NYX Vivid Brights Liner in Vivid Fire

NYX Vivid Brights Liner in Vivid Fire
Courtesy of NYX

We can’t decide what we love most: The super-skinny tip that allows for extra control, the nearly neon shade of red, or the fact that it costs just $7.

6. FENTY BEAUTY Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Cherry Punk

FENTY BEAUTY Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Cherry Punk
Courtesy of FENTY BEAUTY

This thin, twist-up waterproof eyeliner pencil goes on like a dream, especially on the waterline. You’ll fall for the high-pigment formula, but it’s the long-lasting formula that will have you reaching for it again and again.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated January 27, 2021 12:00 AM