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Yes, You Absolutely Can Wear Winged Eyeliner in Your 50s

Photo of a woman with wavy salt and pepper hair and winged eyeliner looking at the camera

I've learned a thing or two in my 52 years on the planet, but nothing really prepared me for the sheer volume of untapped knowledge that I was going to have access to once I joined TikTok. Granted, a lot of what you see on TikTok boils down to where in the algorithm you end up, which of course depends on which rabbit holes you choose to go down...then of course there are the very real national security and data concerns....

But all that aside, last week, I happened to be in the right place at the right time, I found myself in the makeup TikTok algorithm! There I came across several videos all showcasing what the kids are calling "puppy liner." Twee name notwithstanding, puppy liner is essentially a more user-friendly version of a classic winged eyeliner, that works with the natural shape of your eyes to produce a flattering result that (allegedly) works on everyone. After watching a few of these videos, I realized that it did indeed look ridiculously easy, that I needed to check it out as a matter of urgency, and that I had probably been attempting (unsuccessfully) to achieve winged eyeliner the wrong way for pretty much the entirety of my life. National security be damned, this is winged eyeliner we're talking about here!

Up until that point, I had mostly moved away from the liquid and felt liners that one needs to use to create a winged eye. This is really due to their difficulty of use (for me) and harsh appearance, which I realize now speaks more to my lack of skill than to the actual product itself. Of course there's also the inconvenient fact that putting on winged eyeliner in your 50s is a little like trying to put eyeliner on a 17 year-old hairless Shar Pei. It can be particularly daunting when you get it wrong, and hoo-boy do I excel at getting it wrong. Luckily for me, turns out it's never too late!

Since adopting this ridiculously simple technique, I have done some version of a winged eye just about every day since I learned this little trick, and now I find it fun. Needless to say I've also been scouring the internet for every imaginable color of liner, trying to make up for lost time! Read on for the basics on how it works.


Winged Eyeliner in Your 50s: Puppy Liner Basics

As the kids on the TikTok tell it, the reason that puppy liner works so well on everyone is that instead of trying to create the upward flick of a cat eye by drawing it in an upward direction, you use the natural canthal tilt of your eyes as your guide. We'll get to what that is in a minute.

This technique is quite subtle, and for people with quite positive canthal tilts it may not change what you're doing all that much if you do a winged eye on the regular. However, for those of us with maturing skin, hooded eyes, who anyone else who struggles with wings (or any eyeliner potentially ending up "above the fold"), it's a life-changing adjustment, even if it does at first feel a bit counterintuitive.

Besides a good name for a band, what on Earth is canthal tilt?

Having witnessed the absolute flurry of anxiety on TikTok that ensued after the canthal tilt filter was introduced, I'm not going to dwell too much on canthal tilt other than to provide a brief overview. I believe that using digital trends to inform any assessment that affects your self image is a slippery slope, and quite frankly, kinda dumb. However, from an eyeliner perspective, the filter does a pretty good job of putting the line in the right place, making it as good a jumping-off point as any.

For the sake of neutrality, let us now turn to our good friends at Wikipedia for a quickie definition of canthal tilt to get started.

The tilt of a line drawn from the outer corner (the lateral canthus) to the inner corner (the medial canthus) of one's eyes; a lower inner corner is referred to as a positive tilt while a lower outer corner is referred to as a negative tilt.

There are all sorts of scientific (and a whole lot more pseudo-scientific) theories on how a positive (upwards) or negative (downwards) canthal tilt influences whether or not we percieive someone as attractive. I am not touching any of that with a 10 foot barge pole. This article is quite simply about where to start the base of your winged eyeliner.

If however you're interested in learning more about canthal tilt, This recent article written by Danielle Sinay for Glamour goes into greater detail about what canthal tilt is, how it supposedly influences our perception of attractiveness, and why it is a source of consternation for those who harbor anxiety about all things appearance-related. A word of warning however if you're on TikTok and specifically wish to scroll the canthal tilt search results; the incels have grabbed hold of this trend mightily, so if you're going to wade in there I strongly suggest you tread lightly, bring something sharp with you, and always know where your exits are.

My winged liner road map

A still photo of a woman using the TikTok canthal tilt filter

So this is what I started with; this is the notorious TikTok canthal tilt filter. If the filter is to be believed (and in the context of eyeliner it can be), I have a neutral to very slightly positive canthal tilt. You can see that over my nose it makes a slight v-shaped dip then very subtly goes up towards the temples. For me, that means my perfect winged liner will have a baseline right where the little line extends from the outer corner of my eye in a very gentle slight upwards slope in the direction if my temple.

This is a lot less of a steep incline than I had been attempting to draw before, and a whole heck of a lot easier!

A quick word about tools

When I made my first attempts at this liner, I actually found that I was more relaxed and more able to practice without angst when I was using a cheaper tool that I didn't have to worry about wasting. Really, the only requirement when you're starting out is that you're comfortable with whatever eyeliner you choose, so I'm not gonna dwell on products too much at this point. That said, you'll have an easier time if you have a nice thin brush or felt tip to work with, and plenty of product left in whatever eyeliner you decide to use.

For what it's worth, I've found that felt tip liners promise convenience and ease of use but ultimately are actually more problematic than liners you use with a little brush. Felt tips can be difficult to handle because product-wise the formula gets dry and they tend to skip and pull a bit, whereas with a brush you have more control over how much product is on the bristles and you can ensure a nice glide. Whatever tool you're using, create your winged eye using the following guidance, beginning with the bottom line based on your cantal tilt. I've made the liner orange for this particular demonstration so it stands out (it does look kinda cool though - Halloween).

Start small. There is nothing wrong with using multiple small strokes to get there, that's how I do it. You can continue to layer and shape as you go, and you can use a q-tip and some micellar water to walk it back if you mess-up. As you get better with practice, you'll be able to use longer, more confident strokes.

Personally, once I get the liner where I like it, I often will finish mine with a layer of eyeshadow on top to smoke it out and soften the edges, giving it a less "done" appearance. What you do after you get the basic shape done is completely up to you, but the basics stay the same. Play with it, have fun, and don't be afraid of color!

A four-part illustration of how to apply winged puppy eyeliner

A woman wearing a winged eyeliner created with a brown felt liner and a gold highlight liner

A woman wearing a winged eyeliner created with a teal liner

A woman wearing black winged eyeliner with brown smoky shadow

A close up of half of a woman's face, focusing on her smoky winged eyeliner


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