How To Nail The 'Barely-There' Eyeliner Trend

It seemed to make perfect sense that lipstick sales in the United States plummeted by at least 15% during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks and lipstick were a sticky union that many people chose to avoid, and for good reason.

But how did the pandemic explain an even bigger drop in eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow sales? A report by McKinsey & Company noted that beauty product sales dropped between 20% and 30% in the first few months of 2020 alone. Between being locked out of the office, restaurants, and even public parks, many disheartened people apparently decided that applying makeup required more energy than they were willing to exert.

Today, these relaxed beauty standards appear to be inching toward a middle ground now that more people are returning to the office and their pre-pandemic social lives (via NPR). The movement is largely being referred to as the "barely-there" makeup trend because it so aptly describes the final look.

The trend has homed in on the facial feature that many people believe is their finest (and which, ironically, has been visible all along): the eyes, which is why you may be seeing and hearing so many people touting barely-there eyeliner tutorials on YouTube and TikTok. In myriad ways, minor to significant, this is one pandemic that has prompted people to refocus their priorities.

Barely-there eyes call for a light touch

To focus your priorities on your eyes, keep one guiding principle in mind: Barely-there eyeliner, like barely-there makeup in general, is all about using a light touch (via Allwomenstalk). Less is more — a lot more. So if you're used to making firm, dramatic lines over your eyes, ease up, and consider drawing a few lines on a piece of paper first. You'll see how exerting varying degrees of force on a pencil can make a big difference in how dark a line appears.

And therein lies another guiding principle: Barely-there eyes are better achieved with a pencil, not liquid eyeliner. Here too a little shopping around and then experimentation may help. There are hundreds of shades of brown, and finding the one that complements your eyes best is bound to take some time. It's worth taking it.

Once you do, follow three basic steps recommended by the U.K.-based beauty salon John & Ginger: First, apply the pencil to your top lash line using short, quick strokes. The upshot here is that short strokes may force your hand, literally, to go easy on the depth of coverage. Smudge the line with a cotton swab or the sponge at the end of the pencil until you create a soft, (you guessed it) barely-there appearance.

Tightline like a pro

Since working with any type of makeup can create a little mess on the best of days, use a cotton swab dipped in water to clean up any overspill. Once you do, consider adding a few dots of concealer around your eyes. You'll derive the added benefit of brightening the area.

Then comes the tightline: a technique that focuses on the line of flesh directly underneath your eyelashes (via MasterClass). You may not even be aware of this area, but after this step, you forever will be. To highlight this area, you'll have to lift up the skin below your eyebrow with one hand while using the pencil with another. But this is easier than it sounds. The great benefit of tightlining is that it can make your eyelashes appear instantly darker and thicker (as it should since this line of skin lies just below your eyelashes). By contrast, when you don't tightline, this area is plain to see. And it probably explains why your eyes don't "pop" as they could.

Just be sure to use a pencil when you tightline and not a shadow. No matter how skilled you are with handling eye makeup, bits of powder will invariably drop in your eye and cause it to well with tears. And who has time to wipe tears when you have better things to do? Your minimalist look may prompt you to reach once again for your lipstick drawer and grab a natural, barely-there shade to complete your new, eye-catching look.