How Do You Stop Eyeliner from Migrating?

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To

Yesterday MBB reader Megan emailed with a question about something that I’m guessing all of us have encountered at one time or another but may have been too shy to discuss: eye boogers.


Yep, eye boogers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Megan writes: I have a problem with eyeliner buildup in the outer wrinkles between my lower and upper lids.ร‚ย What I can I do about it?ร‚ย Also, to be blunt, eyeliner builds up with my eye boogers throughout the day, and it makes me want to stop lining my upper or lower lashes.ร‚ย How do I remove them without messing up my makeup?

Hi Megan!

Ahh, migrating eyeliner… Such a pain, isn’t it? But there’s hope! You didn’t say which liner you’re using, but I’m assuming it’s a pencil or cream because both are rather nomadic and tend to migrate throughout the day.

Here are a couple of things you might try:

Layer a primer beneath your liner

LOL! I just made a rhyme. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, though, if you haven’t tried using an eye primer, give one a try. They’re like makeup magnets, strengthening the hold of eye products that are layered on top of them. I’ve been using Urban Decay Eden Primer Potion ($18) lately and am pretty happy with it, but Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($18) and LORAC Behind the Scenes Eye Primer ($20) work well for me, too.

Set your liner with a coordinating powder eyeshadow

If you’re lining your eyes with pencil, it could help to set your liner by applying a powder eyeshadow directly on top. For black liners, consider MAC Eyeshadow in Print; for browns, try MAC Eyeshadow in Brun ($14.50 each). I like to use an angled brush like the MAC 266 Small Angled Brush ($19.50) for precise application.

Switch to a long-wearing liquid or gel

Liquid and gel liners can take a little more time to apply than pencils do…but they frickin’ stay on like Donkey Kong! The most smudge-proof, user-friendly ones I’ve worn are LORAC Front of the Line Pro Liquid Liner ($22) and MAC Fluidline Gel Liner ($15).

Try a makeup corrector pen

Designed to fix makeup mistakes, they’re also great at touching up migrating makeup. One to consider: L’Oreal Clean Artiste Makeup Corrector Pen ($10). It has a slanted tip applicator to reach inside the crook at the outer corner of the eye, and it removes waterproof and long-wearing makeup, too.

As for those eye boogers…


You’re not alone, girl! The grossest ones I get are when I use glittery products (aka glitter boogers). Honestly, I just use clean fingers to gently coax mine out. When they’re particularly stubborn, I’ll carefully use a dry Q-Tip to push them away. As with anything involving your eyes, of course, please be careful.

Ladies, do you have any other ideas for Megan? How do you deal with eye boogers (LOL!), and do have any tips to prevent liner from migrating into the outer corners of your eyes?

Please share in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,




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  1. Rae says:

    I second the motion to switch liners! Some things just won’t stay put on me, no matter how often I touch them up, or what I layer under and over them. The ONLY liners that don’t migrate on me at all are ones that are really glittery or metallic, and thus based in a more lash-glue-like medium. As long as I set those well with powder, they won’t budge!

    For a regular liner, though? Still searching for that Holy Grail ๐Ÿ™ Maybe I’ll have to try that LORAC fave of yours, Karen!
    Rae recently posted … Picspam Review- Revlon Mauvy Night

  2. Vanessa H says:

    Oh, girl, we all have that problem!

    1. Invest in a good liner; Stila’s Eye Kajal stays put pretty well on the water line and Revlon’s Colorstay Liquid liner stays on lids like you wouldn’t believe.

    2. Primer on the lids helps a lot, I just realized this last week.

    3. To clean up eye boogers, use a *CLEAN* q-tip, the pointed tip ones that are sold in drugstore beauty aisles pick up the black goo without disrupting your other eye makeup. It’s gross, but we all have to do it.

    4. For the waterline, you can try wiping it with a clean, dry, q-tip before lining to give it a better grip.

    Hope this helps ๐Ÿ™‚

    Vanessa H recently posted … Stormy Eyes and a Mini Haul

    • Sydney says:

      Great idea with the dry q-tip before applying on the water line! I can’t wait to give this a try tonight! So far, I haven’t found a single eyeliner that stays on my water line for more than an hour or so, granted I do buy cheap liners… LOL! But maybe this will help!!

    • Karen says:

      Great tips, Vanessa!

  3. P. Cruz says:

    I love eyeliner and this is my problem too until my roommate bought E.L.F.’s liner sealer and primer duo. The liner sealer side’s basically like a pen dipped in some sort of formulation that will keep your eyeliner stick to your eyes lids like, well not glue, but like a ballpoint pen. :)) Keeps the liner from traveling and prevents inadvertent liner-induced raccoon eyes. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Lauren says:

    I definitely had to switch liners. I have oily eyelids like you wouldn’t believe so pretty much all creamy pencil liners would smudge and give me a black eye. Even MAC’s blacktrack fluidline won’t stay on my lids, I think because my eyelid actually folds over the area where I put eyeliner, so friction + oil = no eyeliner. I switched to Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof eyeliner and that stuff actually works for me! It’s a felt tip liquid liner pen that can give you super thin lines! ๐Ÿ™‚ HTH!

    As for the eye boogies, I definitely agree with the pointed q-tips. They get right in there without disturbing the rest of the party. ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. I second the sealer recommendation! I use the one from TKB Trading, and it works like a charm. I also use it as a mixing medium for wetlining eyeshadow, which seems to have staying power similar to liquid eyeliners.

  6. Alexandra Z says:

    Oh, these are really good tips! I hate it when my eyeliner glides off my eyes, more than anything! I prefer using a waterproof liquid liner instead. Much more secure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. NeenaJ says:

    I find that using 2 eye primers works best for me. Here’s my method (madness):

    I use MAC Paint Pot all over the lid to hold and easily blend shadow over. But, then I apply UDPP with an eyeliner brush to the upper and lower lash lines. While I find blending shadow over UDPP to be a chore, that stuff holds liner in place like glue.

    Whatever order you put your eye makeup, be sure to apply the liner directly over the primer (even if it means lining the primer over your shadow).

    If you’re using UDPP and your liner still migrates, try using a little less of the primer. Just a tee, tiny bit of primer does the job beautifully. Too much and it can turn your lids into an ice skating rink!

    As for the boogies, mine usually adhere pretty well to a dry tissue corner!

  8. Kim says:

    Again, with the timely! I was just ordering my LORAC Private Affair on Sephora and figured I’d better add a Front of the Line Pro too. Sadly, there was no silver (sigh). I was asking about the migrating cream pencil liner the other day too, so this is just in time. Add to basket….. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Maddy says:

    I use Urban Decay primer potion in Sin lightly over my lid, line with Jordana Fabuliner in 01 Black (though I want to try Lorac, as only UDPP can make this stay on all day!), and set with a black shadow over the eyeliner alone. It stayed through the hot first day of Sophmore year… it was 95 degrees in the classrooms this week! It looks really natural, and gives a slight glimmer.

    I need a better black shadow, though, as the CoverGirl one I’m using has fallout and tests on animals… (I bought it for Halloween when I was a makeup newbie and didn’t know!!) And I love my kitties, so I need to get a non-animal testing black matte shadow. Does anyone have suggestions?

  10. Melissa W. says:

    I have small eyes so I don’t line my eyes all the way to the inner corner. This makes them appear a bit larger but it also keeps eyeliner out of the corner of my eye. Also, always set your eyeliner with a similar shade of eyeshadow to keep it from smearing/migrating.
    Melissa W. recently posted … Final Fantasy XIV

  11. Rinnie says:

    I tried the primer under the liner advice and it’s quite effective, especially when I line my lower lid since that’s where I get the most migration and thus have the raccoon eyes. The liner looks smoother and more vibrant also. I’m also a major liquid or gel liner girl, especially the liners I got from Asia, they don’t budge for nothing! Physian Formula shimmer strips gel liners are a good contender, I get practically no movement with them.

  12. Sydney says:

    Great ideas!! I love to do cat eyes with my liner & I get a lot of build up in the outer corner of my eyes. I’m thinking it might be time for me to switch to a liquid liner… I don’t have much experience with them & have only tried a couple of brands (which is probably my problem) but everytime I do try I get one eye perfect & ruin the other! So then I end up late with smeared makeup from trying to fix the liquid liner that dried all crooked & smeared on one eye! Any tips for affordable liquid eyeliner brands/application of said liner for a liquid liner n00b??

  13. shontay says:

    Oh, those darn eye boogers. My worst enemy. I line my eyes with Feline eye kohl by mac and set it with mufe aqua black gel liner. I try not to go all the way to the inner eye b/c I do get those eye boogers. I think, no matter what, you will get some kind of smudging after a number of hours in the outer corner of the eye. That’s the price we pay for those cat eyes.

  14. knownever says:

    The tip about using primer is a pretty good one. when i use that with liner i usually just apply it to my lash line with a brush for a gel eye liner and then apply the liner over it. that way it just holds what needs holding. i also find that this works better than applying primer all over your lid if yu just need it to keep on your liner because you apply more product at the critical area
    knownever recently posted … Behind the Times Beauty Tip- Black Lip Balm

  15. Kayann says:

    I fell asleep with Lorac Pro Liner on and it didn’t smudge until I took it off the next morning! ๐Ÿ™‚ It made me happy!

  16. Nina says:

    I think the key is to find the liner that works for your particular skin tone/condition. Id have to say my HG eyeliners would be the UD24x7 pencils On my oily-ish eyes, they stay on for more than 12 hours.

    If I must use other brands of eyeliner, I do what Karen said above and just set the eyeliner with a matching eyeshadow. This serves a dual purpose – makes the eyeliner stay put and intensifies the color.

  17. Arianne says:

    For my really oily lids, a combination of primer and the right liner is key. For an inexpensive pencil, I really like Sephora Flashy Liners as a great alternative to UD 24/7 pencils.

  18. Stephanie says:

    Hi there! First time reader (and I honestly don’t understand why I haven’t read your blog until now!), and this is a great post! I’ve never had issues w/ liner migration on my upper lid, but have shied away from using it on my lower lash line or waterline b/c I get smudgey-wudgeyness like WHOA. UD 24/7 was my first foray in to that, but that still created a hot mess under my eyes. MUFE Aqua Eyes faired quite a bit better for me, but still smudged a little. ‘ll give it another go with the recommendations in the comments here. Thanks so much for this post; I’ll be sure to be back for more! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Karen says:

    I only line my waterline and I wish I could find something that has great lasting power!

  20. Advah says:

    Yeesh I remember my friends in high-school burning the tip of the pencil with a lighter before applying it to their waterline.. The still got boogers though. Stupid boogers, they’re the pain of my life.

    I’m a bit wary to put more than just pencil liner on my waterline though (ie shadow or primer), isn’t it rather painful??

  21. Sylvie says:

    I get those eye boogers when I waterline, be it with a pencil or even with Guerlain’s loose powder kohl, so I often press my finger to my tear duct and remove it throughout the day. It usually sticks onto my finger. I also noticed that Kohl Powers from MAC are also prone to migrating, especially Feline. On my waterline, it ends up both in the inner and outer corner of my eyes. Again, I use my trusty ol’ finger and do the same. For the outer corner, I just flick it upwards and you have a sort of instant cat eye.

  22. Wendy says:

    Okay my routine is ridiculous, but it’s the only thing that works for me. NO eyeliner stays on my eyes – I don’t care what brand or how much it costs. I got to great extremes to keep my eyeliner on – because I love eyeliner and refuse to give it up. Now don’t laugh, here is what I do for the most oily eyelids on the planet:

    Primer on lid and lower lash line. I use Benefit Stay Don’t Stray. Top liner is powdered eyeshadow used with Too Faced Liquif-eye. Inner lid is Estee Lauder double wear eyeliner – those are constants for me. Lower lash line is whatever – UD, EL, Mac, etc. And with the sealer routine I’m about to tell you about I can even get cheap ass drug store brands to say on my lower lash line!

    After I do my lower lash line I apply matching poweder to set it. Then I use Sephora’s Eyeliner Last and I dip the brush into Benefit’s She Laq – and put two layers over upper and lower lash line – but NOT in the inner rim – because it will burn like hell. This combo may sound extreme, but it keeps my eyeliner on through and 8 hour day. the inner rim needs a touch up around noon time but that’s it!. It’ a lot of work, but for me it’s the ony thing that works.

    Shephora’s Eyeliner last is getting ready to be discontinued – I bought 12 – yes 12! LOL I don’t know what I’ll do when I run out in like 10 years! LOL

  23. Shiny says:

    Just glad to know it happens to everyone… I thought I was applying the liner wrong or something!

  24. Christina says:

    This post is amazing! Everyone’s got the eye boogers, I just gently put my ring finger in the corner of my eye. They’re sticky so they latch on to the finger and I just lift up and away!
    I have yet to find a liner that stays put on my waterline, not even UD24/7 liners stay put! The MAC fluidline doesn’t either, even though both of them are champs on my lashline.

    I always find it difficult to top my liner with powder after I line, just because I line right on my lashline between the bases of the lashes, and whenever I put a powder over it, it gets everywhere and just looks messy. Any recommendations for exactly how to layer powder over pencil liners?

  25. Bobby brown Gel Eyeliner!

    All problems fixed IMO

    you may see by my website that I worked for them, but I’m not bias, I have worked for many many different companies & for my own business I choose to use products from a WIDE variety, and for eyeliner you simply cannot go past Bobbi’s gel.

    Great blog btw!

  26. Elle says:

    I’m no expert but I want to voice in my opinion as I spent years finding eyeliner that work. I second what Lisa Michelle said, Bobbie Brown Gel EyeLiner staying power is one of the best for me, wish it didn’t irritate my eyes though. A few more products and primers that I find work great for not just eyeliner but eyeshadow too:

    -Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes pencil
    -Chanel La Ligne De Chanel Eyeliner Duo (cake eyeliner that you can use wet or dry :P)
    -Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof
    -UPDD eye primer
    -Prime Time eyelid primer
    -Dior SkinFlash Radiance Booster Pen
    -Concealer also work really well on super hot day to keep eyeliner stay put for me ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. CookieZea says:

    This might seem weird, but I use waterproof mascara and go from the inner eye and
    sweep upward, then back and forth a few times until it makes like eye liner. Make sure
    it’s WATERPROOF. Also, a good way to prevent migration to the corner is to take
    your pinky, dip it in cornstarch, and poke right below the lash.

    Inexpensive, safe, and it works!

    Thanks for your help!

  28. Victoria Marie says:

    For your top lid eyeliner you could you a make up setting mist, but make sure not the put too much on or you’ll break out like crazy. Another thing I use to keep the top eyeliner from traveling up my lid is hair spray. I recommend using a pump bottle hair spray, but if you don’t have access to a pump bottle, one little push of the arisol can will do the trick too. But again remember not toooo much

  29. R says:

    No no no! You do not need to use all that! Switch to a good primer and eyeliner. You already said the one you use burns! You do NOT need eyeliner that bad. Liquid eyeliner lasts a lot longer even in cheap brands.

  30. Ryanna says:

    It seems like no matter what I do, my eyeliner continues to run. I’ve used primer. I’ve tried to set it with eyeshadow. I’ve used many different kinds and brands of eyeliners (I’ve used pencil, crayon, gel, and liquid). Since I’ve started using a liquid eyeliner pen, my top lid doesn’t crease near as much, but my bottom lid hasn’t improved in the slightest. Please help me!

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