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What are Water Activated Eyeliners?
If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok, you’re definitely aware of the makeup micro-trends that have popped up – from fake freckles to putting your foundation in water. Odd as they may be, there are some hidden gems over there. And if there’s one trend that’s here to stay, it’s cake liners.
Cake liners are water-activated eyeliner products responsible for some of the most colorful graphic eye makeup looks you’ve seen online. These are the looks that aren’t quite achievable with regular liquid liners. Cake liners, on the other hand, are pigmented, bold, and perfect for creating out-of-the-box makeup looks with stunning details.
What is a water-activated liner?
A water-activated eyeliner is a type of makeup product with a special water-transformed formula. These liners are very similar to watercolor paints because the water turns them into a creamy liquid that is easy to manipulate and dry down into a bold matte on the lids.
Although I rarely dabble in the world of more artistic makeup, the cake liner trend is too good not to try. The idea behind them is that you’re able to have more control over the colors, density, and consistency of your liner.
Cake liners allow you to customize, unlike a liquid liner where you’re limited to the consistency and hue of the product with not a lot of wiggle room. You also get fun colors like different shades of bright blue, pink, orange, you name it.
They’re usually smudge-proof, but not water-proof, so removing them requires little effort. Still, most high-quality cake liner products have enhanced staying power so you can enjoy beautiful makeup looks all day long (or take as much time with your bedroom selfies as you need).
Is water-activated eyeliner just face paint?
Water-activated eyeliner is quite similar to face paint in terms of function and pigmentation, but these makeup products are safer to use on the skin for long periods of time and can also last longer. Unlike makeup, face paint tends to smudge and transfer easily.
Pressed shadows might be a more apt comparison in makeup terms. Celebrity makeup artist Benjamin Puckley tells Allure magazine, “When you mix them with a liquid they turn into a creamy liquid liner that dries down to a matte finish. I like how the application process feels more painterly.”
Cake liner is a lot more versatile in the sense that you can create more than just one type of color out of it. You can make a gradient effect with two or three different colors before the makeup dries, add less liquid or more liquid depending on how bold you want your color to be, etc.
Another pro is how easy it is to experiment. Since the product isn’t waterproof, you can easily redo and retouch any mistakes along the way.
Are cake liners the same as water-activated liners?
Cake liners are another name for water-activated eyeliner. The formula is unique because it allows you to have more control over your makeup look, whether it’s a strong pigment or a light stain, similar to watercolor paints. You can choose to add less liquid or more liquid depending on your preference.
The best brushes to use for water-activated eyeliner
Thin Liner Brush
A thin eyeliner brush allows you to place pigment directly on your skin with control and ease. These brushes have a pointed tip and allow you to trace your eyes with both precision and width depending on technique. These tools are great for creating bold eye-opening eyeliner looks.
Fine Flat Angled Brush
Another good brush to have in your bag of tools is the fine flat angled brush. This is similar to what one might use with a dip brow pomade and its angular, flat end lets you create smooth symmetrical lines with ease, like when you want to go over your lash line. If you’re new to eyeliner in general and don’t have much control over your brushes yet, using a flat angled brush is ideal.
Nail Art Striping Brushes
Pros – or people with impeccably steady hands – this one’s for you. One of the beauty tips we’ve learned is to use nail art brushes with your beauty products if you want laser-sharp precision, whether for concealer or eyeliner. Its small tip allows you to add detail to your eyes.
How To Apply Water-Activated Eyeliner: Tips and Tricks
We take great care of our skin over here, so the first step to any makeup look is primer. Not only does this protect our skin, but it makes any beauty product glide on seamlessly. If you don’t have one in your mix yet, this is your sign to buy one. For now, though, using a foundation or concealer will do.
You may or may not skip this step depending on the look you’re going for. But it’s always good to add a little color to your eyes before proceeding with pigment. Think of the eyeshadow as the backdrop to your painting – what do you want the colors to be? How can they make your liner pop even more?
#3: Prepare Your Eyeliner
Dip your wet brush into the pan to activate it. The water-based formula should come to life immediately and transform into a cream-like cake liner.
#4: Create Your Look
After you activate the pigment, get ready to line. The best part about cake liners is the endless styles you can go for. A blue cut crease look? Go for it. Ethereal white cat eyes? Why not!
Try experimenting with different consistencies. You can dip your formula in more water if you want spreadability, but the wetter, the lighter the color will turn out. On the other hand, using equal parts liquid and eyeliner produces a more neutral tone on the skin.
If you’re looking for inspiration, this video by makeup YouTuber Tammi Clarke is a good one to watch:
No look is complete without lashes. Add some mascara to make your eyes pop, and voila!
How to Remove Cake Liner
Water-activated liner isn’t waterproof, so you won’t need to use an oil or high-strength remover like with waterproof makeup. Instead, take a cotton pad and soak it with micellar water and dab it onto the pigment to remove.
Experimenting with water-activated eyeliner is a great way to get creative, and that’s exactly what beauty is all about!
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.