How To: Retro Cat Eye + False Eyelashes

Defining makeup awesome: easier than you think.

On the whole, I’d have to say the staff’s favorite makeup look is the cat eye. Why? Because we are lazy. So when we want to dress things up, we like to do it with as little effort as possible. And while a cat eye certainly requires a certain level of technique, once you’ve got that down, it makes enough of a statement that you don’t have to go all out with a ton of extra makeup. It’s like a giant gemstone necklace for your face.

First, I’m just going to come right out and say it. Doing a perfect cat eye takes practice. Or, as a good friend of mine says, “You have to f*ck up a lot before you get any good at it.” In the meantime, our stylist Shana of Fox & Doll Hair & Makeup has some tips for making the mastery of your technique just a little easier.

First, you’ll want to start out with a freshly primed face using our pro foundation tutorial. And don’t forget to use eye primer for this look to make sure everything stays put! Next, gather your supplies. We badgered Shana for her favorite cat eye products, since so much of making sure it doesn’t smudge is in getting the right brush and eyeliner. Her list includes:

Liner Brush: MAC Cosmetics 209 Liner Brush or Sonia Kashuk Eyeliner Brush (or if you’re new to makeup and want to buy a good starter brush kit, Shana says this one from adesign is the best bang for your buck.)

Liner: Shana has a whole list of favorite liners (she does a lot of cat eyes), but for Meg’s look she used MAC Cosmetics Fluidline gel liner in Blacktrack.

Shadow: For the base, Shana used a MAC Paint Pot in Soft Ochre. She then layered Stila eyeshadow in Chinois as the base and Starlight as a highlighter along the browbone and inner corner of Meg’s eye. As an alternative to buying multiple shades, Shana said Urban Decay has a lot of great nude palettes that carry a variety of neutral colors.

Brow Powder: Shana says that Smashbox makes great brow powders. Just make sure to pick a shade that either matches your natural brow color or is one shade darker.

Lashes: We used a standard set of lashes available at Sephora, and then cut them into thirds. You can also buy individual lashes for more precise application. One thing Shana does recommend is getting black eyelash glue if you can get your hands on it.

Finishing The Look: To get the rest of Meg’s look, Shana used a pale pink blush on Meg’s cheeks (Benefit’s Dandelion) and then finished off the look with a combination of Elizabeth Street’s Street Stick in Ames and Street Gloss in Elizabeth on her lips.

She also offered up a few tips for making sure you don’t end up throwing down your eyeliner brush in frustration because your first attempt at  cat eye looks more like Rose McGowan at the end of Jawbreaker.

Prepping: After priming, prep your eyes using an all-over eyeshadow and dusting a light highlighter along your brow bone and along the inner corners of your eyes to add definition.

Lining: I’m pretty sure the mistake I’ve been making all these years is trying to get the perfect winged line in one go. Not advised, says Shana! The best way to do it is in parts. Draw the shape of your line with your liner brush (drawing a slight angle up at the end for the “wing” part), then line along the bottom of your eyelid closest to your lashes. Once you have the basic shape, fill in any gaps. It took me putting together this tutorial to realize that drawing a cat eye is basically like drawing anything else: outline first, then color in (also, look at the first few pictures. Even Shana didn’t get it right the first time, but she went back and filled in where there were gaps to smooth out that line.)

And finally, if you’re planning on doing a cat eye for your wedding, Shana recommends practicing different variations prior to the day to find the shape and thickness that works best for you. And keep eye makeup remover and a pointed Q-tip on hand to clean up mistakes! (Of which, there will be plenty.)

False Lashes: False lashes are another thing I’ve been doing wrong for years. But the good news is, it turns out the secret to getting them perfect is really, really easy. Just make sure that when you squeeze out the lash glue (either onto the back of your hand or a piece of paper), let it sit for at least a minute so it can get sticky. Otherwise it’s going to slide all along your eyes and you’ll end up with the top half of your lid stuck to the bottom like I do. Every. Time.

Finishing The Look: When you’re done, just go over your lashes with another coat of mascara, then add extra eyeliner as needed over your false lashes to cover up excess glue.

Tada! The perfect cat eye and false eyelash application. No, it’s not the easiest or most minimal of looks, but with practice it’s fun to have in your toolkit for when you want to experiment a little with your makeup or for when you feel like emulating Liz Taylor. Which, I’d assume is just about every day, right?


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  • I just yesterday asked my BFF to teach me how to do a cat-eye the next time we hang out! I am generally pretty makeup-challenged, but I think I’ll give this a whirl on my own before I next get to see my bestie (which won’t be until May. We live in different parts of the country, boo).

    I love these tutorials!

    • Yay Kelly! Let us know how it works out. Practice. And read the other ladies tips below.

      Fox & Doll

  • I struggled to do my own fake lashes for years (and OMG black eyelash glue…I thought it was an urban beauty myth!!) and the best advice I ever got was from a fabulous drag queen! She told me to keep my eye closed when applying them…I had always tried to put them on with my eye mostly OPEN, which was a huge fail. But closing my eye and then squeezing really hard to get the lash to attach made a huge difference! Best advice ever.

    Another thing that helps a ton is getting good quality fake lashes. I’m not a fan of drugstore brands, but I’ve had great luck with the Sephora brand and they are pretty affordable! And Shu Uemura faux lashes are pricey but totally worth the splurge for a big event — they look AMAZING. With any brand, I usually cut them in half so I get two pairs out of them. :)

    Man, I love talking eyelashes/mascara/etc. I could go on and on.

    • Adi

      THAT is excellent advice. Noted!

  • Beautiful! i wish i had Megans eyebrows, so flattering! Please do a “how-to” have perfect foundation with perfect blush application! Her skin looks flawless!

    • nevermind… you already did, thanks! lol

    • meg

      Meg! Or Margaret if we’re getting formal. And thank you ;) I just have a lot of eyebrows is all.

    • It’s funny—when I was a kid I HATED my eyebrows because they were so bushy. Now full eyebrows are “in” so…lucky me? ;) Or at least lucky until bushy eyebrows are “out” again.

      • meg

        If you’re pale, eyebrow definition is always in. You just wax them to whatever shape.

  • Is it wrong that I’m wondering whether I can get away with wearing false eyelashes to work tomorrow? Because now I feel like I HAVE THE POWER.

    • Maddie

      DO IT.

      • I’ll just tell people that I gave up being less than fabulous for Lent.

        • Best Lenten sacrifice EVER.

          • WAY better than giving up complaining, which is what I’m really doing. UGH! Complaining is my FAVORITE.

        • meg

          I love you.

          • Why, Meg, I’m an engaged lady!

        • Eff yes.

    • Please tell me you have been wearing them everyday since you read this!

      Fox & Doll

  • How is it that I can have the dexterity and hand control to draw these things:

    But put eyeliner in my hand and all that control goes right out the window. Still, this tutorial is quite nice. However, I’m wondering if any pros have additional self-application tips?

    The “f*ck it up a lot until you get the hang of it” approach is what I use normally, but I feel like I wear makeup so infrequently that any trial and error all ends in tantrums.

    • I am not a cat-eye expert, but I will say that trial and error sessions are better without the pressure of an event. Play dress up with all your sassiest clothes, put on an indulgent movie/playlist, grab your favorite drink, and try it a bunch of times. That way if you eff it up six times in a row, you still feel fabulous, and if you happen to get it right on the seventh (or hundredth) time, you’re a total badass.

      Also- I just thought of this. What if you used eyeliner to draw on paper a few times until you got familiar with how it applied? Obviously, drawing on your face is different, but it might help?

    • Not a pro, but a fellow artist who had trouble the first few times. I found that drawing on my eyes freaked me out at first, so take it slow, and in small steps. I had to scale it back to a basic straight line above my lashes (not dramatic like a cat eye, more what my make up wearing coworkers wear to work). After I got that down (with more than a little practice) I was able to branch out a bit more- adding a bit of a cat eye, or contrasting lines of color, or a smokey eye. I’d definitely invest in a very soft eye pencil when starting out. It glides on instead of smudging, and it was a lot easier for me to manipulate a pencil instead of a brush.

      The other thing that helped was stabilizing my hand on my cheek. It helped a lot to have my hand rest on something. I can’t do anything with liner without stabilizing my hand, even if it’s lightly resting my palm on my cheekbones.

      Good luck!

    • Yes! I agree with the other ladies. Practice! Do it right before you are ready to wash your face for the night, when you aren’t under pressure to do it right. And have a drink, I tell my ladies in my Cat Eye class to do this (I even provide a recipe). And yes, steady your hand. Set yourself up at a table with a mirror and seated to practice. And get to know your liner and how it flows, make different lines on the back of your hand. You can do it!

      Fox & Doll

  • Rose

    Does anyone have advice on mascara for complete beginners? After multiple attempts, I’m still terrible at it. I have white eyelashes, and even with lots of curling I can only seem to get mascara on the bottom half of the lashes—leaving a weird white stripe.

    • Do you do the wiggle? I had this problem so instead of sweeping the mascara on (I guess is the verb to use?) I put the brush at the base of my lashes and then just wiggle it back and forth while slowly moving it along the lash, until I reach the end.

      (I am not an expert, though. It’s likely my way of doing it causes some sort of rare eye disease, or something. That’s usually how things work out for me.)

    • I do the same move Erin uses- and I’ve heard make-up artists recommend it on TV (like Carmindy on What Not to Wear)

      Don’t worry, Erin- eye disease comes from sharing mascara (which my mom and I did for years when I was a teen without incident).

    • Class of 1980

      Besides wiggling the brush at the roots and then brushing through the lashes … try a brown mascara on your blonde lashes. It will be less glaringly obvious where you’ve missed.

      Not black. Not brown-black. True brown.

      • ItsyBitsy

        Yeeees. Yes yes yes.

    • Aine

      I’ve had some good luck with slightly bending the mascara wand, so the brush part is at a very slight angle from the stick- not so much that it won’t go back into the tube easily. It makes it a little easier to control where I’m putting it, and I don’t poke myself in the eye as much. Much easier to get the fine lashes at the corners of my eyes as well.

      My sister points the brush towards her eyes and draws it along the lashes from the lid outwards- not sure why it works but she always looks fantastic.

    • Love the brown mascara suggestion and the wiggle! Also, get a new mascara. So many of us use old ones that are dry and get too thick and crumbly. A fresh new tube can do the trick of being able to get from the base all the way through. I love brands that have the silicon wands.

      Fox & Doll

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