6 Ways to Wear Eyeliner in 2021 (and 1 Look That’s Best Left in the Past)

2020 saw a dip in lipstick sales and the renaissance of eye makeup, which makes sense given the mask mandates at the time. Why labor over your lips when they would be covered up with a mask anyway? Why not embellish your eyes instead?

Though things are slowly opening back up and face masks are coming down, the emphasis on eyeliner isn’t going anywhere. If anything, we’re seeing bolder, more expressive looks and—like many other beauty trends of the moment—a nod to the early aughts.

We’ll show you the six top ways to wear eyeliner in 2021 (and one look to leave behind).

The ‘90s Hair Trend That TikTok Revived (and We’re *So* Thrilled It’s Back)

1. Do: A Soft Smudge

This smudged liner (as seen at Victoria Beckham’s show) was one of our favorites at New York Fashion Week this year. Described by Posh herself as “a cool ’90s girl look,” you can recreate it by rimming your upper and lower lids with a charcoal eyeliner and gently smudging the edges with your fingertip.

2. Do: Try Bright Colors

Makeup melt is real during the muggy summer months, which is why we’re ditching the messy eyeshadows and opting for a crisp slash of colorful eyeliner instead.

3. Do: An Accent Liner

Another way to wear bright eyeliner is to draw it on just the outer thirds of your eyelids, so it’s more of a peep of color, rather than the whole look. (Note: Lana Condor’s earthy orange and turquoise pairing is especially on trend this year.)

4. Do: Inky Liner With Colorful Shadow

Tip: When wearing a vibrant shade (like the pastel purple you see here) it’s important to anchor the color with a darker eyeliner to define the shape of your eyes and make them pop.

5. Do: Go Retro

Floating eyeliner a la Twiggy is still going strong in 2021. This is another look that’s best worn with a clean, neutral base so the eyes are the main focal point. For the easiest application, we recommend a creamy gel pencil, which tends to be more considerate of shaky hands.

6. Do: 90’s Underline

Call Avril and Christina, because the tightly rimmed eyeliner look is back. It’s been a while since we’ve worn this much liner, and thankfully, we’ve learned a few things since then. Like the joys (and, um, necessity) of waterproof formulas when rocking this style.

7. Don’t: Over-the-top Smokey Eye

Bring back the heavy eyeliner, sure, but it’s probably best to leave the heavy smokey eye in the past (or, at the very least, in the hands of pros). Not because we don’t think you could totally pull off the look, but because it’s time-consuming to do and nearly impossible to not get everywhere.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023
Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
read full bio