Beauty, Lookbook

The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Makeup With Monolids

In middle school, we all had that friend who was obsessed with doing eye makeup. They would, inevitably, ask to do mine and….well, it never worked. They knew nothing about how to work my eyelids, didn’t take the time to figure it out, and never even brought it up with me.

“You look good,” they’d say, as all their work disappeared under my unexpected folds. I couldn’t exactly blame them. I watched the same YouTube tutorials, and flipped through the same fashion mags. I didn’t know any better than they that we were both slowly acclimating to Western beauty standards.

Their bathroom was littered with magazines full of White women adorned with dramatic cat eyes, and I’d always always always be sitting on their toilet. Desperately pleading for them not to ever do my makeup again, a silent prayer for nobody to ever acknowledge the difference in my eyelids, only for it to end up something like this time and time again:

When I reached a certain age (and a certain stage…I’m talking dark lipstick and band shirts), all I wanted in the world was a set of double eyelids. At 12 years old, my most searched for Google terms must have been “double eyelid surgery,” “monolids,” and “hooded eyelids.” To me, “monolid” was a category that belonged to new immigrants that didn’t speak English, Margaret Cho, and my family. It didn’t fit the blonde girl in every YouTube thumbnail and it didn’t fit the circle lens-wearing, dolly eyelash-applying, and eyelid tape-toting Asian that I had been taught that I should be. The Asian I was woke up with uneven eyelids.

So, somehow,  I had myself convinced (until this year) that I had hooded eyelids and not monolids. Never monolids. I had constructed, in my head, this idea of monolids as meaning that you have an entirely flat eyelid with no folds at all-a fair assumption, considering the only times I saw it referenced were never from people who actually had monolids (and, if they did, they never showed them.) Asian glam models littered magazine pages with huge graphic eyeliner, straight bang’d schoolgirls glared at me from my TV screen, and I never dared to touch my own eyes. In the dullness and idiocy of youth, I remember praising my exposed crease one second then turning my head and realizing I had lost it. I lived in a world where you had eyelids or you didn’t, and I appeared to fit in both categories.

Chances are, if you’re like me, you’ve just looked at your eyelids in the mirror making them do the disappearing trick for about 15 minutes, then got on the Internet to figure out just how the hell you’re supposed to ask them to lift their intimidating gates of fat and let you draw on them.

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For me, back when I relied on the generality of Google Search, I was mostly recommended tutorials that included the use of eyelid tape. While I’ve never used it, and so I won’t cover it, I want to say that it’s not for everybody. Some of you might have more access to it, some extra cash,  or no moral hesitations, while others of you might think it’s kinda fucked up that we have to emulate the “standard” double eyelid we’ve been molded to search for (or can’t afford it, etc…)

Now, before we start, I have to tell you something:

You know how to put on eyeliner. You know how your eyelids work. Stop pretending.

I was afraid of my own eyelids for a majority of my life, but I knew that I couldn’t put on eye makeup the same way as other people. I was deathly afraid to admit that I knew where all the makeup went after it disappeared. I felt that the colors were irretrievable from under my monstrous eyelid who ate everything it could. I also felt that all I had to do was lift up the fold. For years upon years, I was afraid to. Somehow, I’m still too embarrassed to explain my eyelids to people who want to do my makeup. I never suggested that I knew what my supposed defect was, but the day for my own redemption came when I finally lifted the lid to see what was inside.

Here’s the most important thing to learn for easy application:

All that practice making your eyelid disappearing and reappearing is about to pay off. You are either going to physically use your other hand to lift your eyelid (which I don’t), or you’re going to make the most ridiculous face that has ever existed. Here, just to break the ice, let me share mine.

That’s right. Step 1:

Apply eyeliner with open eyes. Tilt your head upwards, raise your eyebrows, anything that’ll make those creases lift up.

From there, apply according to how you want them.

If you’re more adventurous, you might purposely overline your eyelids so that the line is thick enough that it appears above the top lid to create a bold, graphic line. The perpetual struggle of monolids is the worry of applying too much. If you apply so much so that it’s a solid line from the bottom of your lid to where it’s visible when your eye is closed, then from certain angles you’ll have a very intense case of panda eye while from other perspectives it’ll be perfectly fine. If you apply too little, your liner might not be noticeable under your skin. It’s up to you to develop your own style.

Personally, I only draw one relatively thin line (unless I’m trying to cover up a mistake) but I used to cover my entire inner eyelid with the stuff like this:

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Here’s the next super-mega-ultra important tip:

Do not, under any circumstances, relax your face/eyelid right after application if you’re using liquid eyeliner! Your crease will fall back down, and it WILL smear onto the inside of the top one. Your drying face will be substantially worse than your applying one, solely because it’s harder not to smear it than it is to apply it. If you get tired, you can manhandle your lid to keep it open. Here’s some embarrassing photos of me trying to show you how to keep your line solid:

Ha ha ha. I know. This is probably hilarious for you. Not so much for me, but hey-I’m just trying to help.

Anyways, the rest is fairly easy. I do the rest of my eyeliner the way anyone else-monolid or no monolid-would.

An occasional”flaw” to brush aside is that sometimes, your eyelid will fall over your wing and make the connection between the line and the wing a little disjointed. Don’t fret. Your face is too sore from applying/drying to frown, anyways.

Another thing you need to be aware of before you run off, feeling ready to fight euro-centric beauty ideals, is that your eyeliner is going to change depending on the angle you look at it or your expression. Especially when you smile (which isn’t to say you shouldn’t smile!). Naturally, if you look from under it’s more visible while it’s harder or near impossible to see from higher perspectives.

The plus side is that your eyelid droops down to create a perfect line over your eye, so you barely have to worry about making the line above your eye perfect.

P.S. Extra selfie tip to capitalize on all that eyeliner, if you don’t already have your own selfie angles: put the camera slightly under you, so that you can see under your lid like so:

But absolutely don’t feel constrained to this pose. While this is definitely my go-to pose for good self-esteem about my eyeliner/eyelids, I also don’t do this every single time.

This is about what you’re comfortable about. Everybody’s eyelid is different, and yours might not even work with the advice I’ve offered here. I want you to love your monolids and work with them, not in spite of them. Don’t let media put you into one stark white box. Explore. Discover. Decolonize. You know who you are. Stop pretending.

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Caressa Wong

Caressa Wong

Caressa Wong is a radical, nonbinary Chinese-American who dabbles in video, art, and writing. If they're not lost in video games or off getting sucked into some new project, then you can find them fighting Asian fetishists and reading post-colonial & inter-sectional meditations.

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