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Which, liiike — no. You can get a cat eye with literally any liner. Take your cat eye stencil to Sophia Loren or Adele’s makeup artist, and they’d laugh and laugh. But it’s interesting that we’ve clung to the cat eye even with the trends bumping around Instagram — it's the backbone of our look economy, the achievable one in every slideshow.
Working from that foundation, do these products take the "already pretty attainable" and make it any-dummy-can-do? More importantly, what will happen to Q-tips now? We timed how long it takes to do a cat eye with a standard pen (and how many Q-tips used (average 18)), and how each branded innovation-claimer stacks up.
Too Faced’s new Sketch Liners were the standard — an eyeliner with no pretenses. The felt tip is easy to draw, drag, flick; all the necessary components are there. My cat eye technique is not complex, and this fits the bill (kind of does it for you, still there in an hour), and lasts four days on your hand, which is very impressive.
Time: 1 minute 18 seconds, 53 milliseconds. A life’s work.
Tip count: One side of one.
L’Oreal does great liners (the Lineur Intense Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner, $8.99, is Lancôme’s Artliner Precision Point EyeLiner, $30.50, it’s a modern miracle), and this is no exception. It’s ultra-crisp, self-explanatory to use, and lasts through humidity and sweat. It’s also very fun to own — lightweight with a calligraphy-fine tip and an extended, pointy end, it’s just a good-looking, stylish product. It looks like something Anne Hathaway as Catwoman would use.
Time: 45 seconds, 7 milliseconds.
Tip count: 0! No Q-tips used.
Two oblong products stand before me; they are identical at first and equally silly upon uncapping. Maybelline’s summer launch is a twin to the older Physician’s Formula Eye Booster 2-in-1 Lash Boosting Ergonomic Felt-Tip Liner + Serum (combined word count: 15), but where the Maybelline has a mysteriously elliptical applicator, the Physician’s Formula looks like a drill bit. Neither makes any difference because you just use the tip, but the Maybelline is a quick smudge, where the Physician’s does a slow fade, à la an avoidant date.
Time: For the Maybelline, 3 minutes 8 seconds, 59 milliseconds. It was a meme situation. For the Physician’s, 1 minute 35 seconds, 78 milliseconds.
Tip count: Maybelline, both sides of two. Physician’s, both sides of one. Physician’s is the better deal, and it has a thumbprint sign where you should hold it, which is considerate.
Max Factor’s "back again" collection was created by Pat McGrath so the urge to worship it is strong, but the stuff isn’t great! According to the brand, it’s an "edit of essential products designed for a modern take on a classic glamour look: the sexy cat eye paired with a nude lip."
It gets there, but no better or worse than any liquid liner or mascara not specifically designed for that purpose. The liner has a flat, paddle tip that’s easy to lie against your eye and drag for a quick flick, but you can do the same thing with any pen-style liner. It works best for a modular, blocky look, but it does smudge. Very ‘60s, but also in the way that it could easily be better.
Time: 1 minute 52 seconds, 48 milliseconds.
Tip count: One side of one.
You can see what they’re trying to do here: the felt tip is angled so that you could, in a dream world, stamp on a cat eye, but that doesn’t work because the formula’s too dry. Instead you’ve gotta drag the tip down and in, which kind of hurts. The result is sharp and long-lasting though, unfortunately. It’s always easier to like or dislike things through and through, but now I must keep it forever and use it rarely.
Time: 2 minutes 31 seconds, 52 milliseconds.
Tip count: One side of one. The pain, the long-lasting definition: it’s a tough call.
ABLE Cat Eye 101, $40
The tester I received of this was super dried out, but the publicists told me they were on their way to meet with the Kardashians, so I respect it. Pros: The name is very encouraging (ABLE), it’s heavy like an expensive pen, the little bit of formula that comes out stays all day, and the instructions are so clear an idiot could do it (there are instructive hieroglyphics). Cons: This is a straight edge. Use a business card.
Time: 1 minute 37 seconds, 51 milliseconds.
Tip count: 2 sides of one. My left eye was somehow much, much easier than my right. The hieroglyphics had no answers.
The first eye is fine to use: You position the sticker how you want it, and then you liner all over without a care in the world and pull it off to reveal what you have created. My first eye looked like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, which was not the look I was going for.
Using these is a mixed bag though, because of what you learn from the first eye. You learn how to position the sticker for a passable wing, but you also learn what eyelid flesh looks like pulled all the way out while you’re peeling off the adhesive. It’s grotesque, and then you head into the second eye knowing what lies in wait.
Also, oh my God use waterproof liner or else all will be for naught!! The tears while you’re pulling it off. It feels like you’re waxing your eyelid. Many months of eye cream, undone. I don’t know how the people on social media do it.
Time: 4 minutes 43 seconds, 97 milliseconds.
Tip count: Two sides of one, and even then it wasn’t good. I may have urgently said the words "my eyes, my eyes!!".
If anyone looked at a guitar pick and then this and still chose to give Sephora $16 for the liner.designer, I would be surprised. This is a flexible rubber material, but no one needs it unless they’re truly afraid of what they might do. It’s easier to do a cat eye freehand.
Time: 2 minutes 59 seconds, 75 milliseconds.
Tip count: Both sides of one. It creates a misguided sense of safety for the top of the wing, which is way harder to fix than the bottom.
None of these "create a cat eye," because how could they? Mascara can only do so much! A skillset that doesn’t include changing your eye shape. Nonetheless. They did their best.
This is just a mascara, and not a particularly great one. It won’t give you wings, to borrow a trademarked phrase (with creative improvements so I don’t get sued).
I had my doubts about this, but the Noir proved me wrong. The classic Voluminous Feline mascara is only okay, and while the Noir wand is virtually identical — a mildly scary, thick plastic brush with spaced out bristles, it’d fit in in any medieval torture chamber — it’s good! The original Fat Cat doesn’t layer all that well, but the Noir gets very fluttery, equivalent to the Marc Jacobs mascara that was livin’ large three months ago. You don’t get tons of length, but it picks up every lash so the cat eye promise is semi-upheld.
Not the best. They went for the curved, single-sided wand more often seen in butterfly metaphor mascaras, and while the brush looks formula-heavy it can only do a very delicate lash. It’d be good for work. Not outstanding, but in a diplomatic way.
This has the ugliest packaging in the world, but it works pretty well! It’s hard to pick it up without laughing, with the Gothic swirls and red fishnet inlay and high heel charm, but on the plus side the swirls makes it really easy to grip. And if you can just totally disassociate from the product, it’s good for a thique lash.
The chubby brush is about the size and shape of half a caterpillar, and while that looks intimidating, the dry formula is easy to build and doesn’t smudge against your lid. It’s not fantastic for length—integral to the cat eye shape—but probably not worth the scorn, laughter and mockery that the packaging immediately invites.
I love a luxury brand, but this mascara is nothing special. The packaging is gorgeous, but the wand is so bendy and yet feeble that it feels like you’re going to break it just sliding it back in the tube. There’s the promise of science with the spikes built up at the top and bottom, and mascara does get on your eyelashes, but it doesn’t build into a cat eye shape. Probably only a false eyelash applicator taking the place of tweezers could do that.