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Eyeshadow Without Eyeliner? Yes, It’s Totally a Thing!

Whether you’re a beginner trying to learn the rules or a longtime makeup lover who’s always worn liner with every look, you might be wondering if it’s okay to wear eyeshadow without eyeliner.

If that’s the case, I’m glad you’re here. Let me get right down to it:

It’s perfectly fine to wear eyeshadow without eyeliner. In fact, it’s trending right now.

Just look at the 2020/2021 runway makeup as shown by Vogue and Glowsly. You’ll see very few looks with eyeliner, even smoky black and brown eyes. Those that do showcase liner often do so in an exaggerated, graphic way.

But I bet you want to see suggestions of exactly how you can rock the no-liner look. I hear you. In this post, I’ll share some examples of eyeshadow looks that lack liner—and suggest some times when you might not want to skip it.

Pastel Shadow With No Liner

Pastels work great without liner. In fact, since they’re so light and playful, the drama of liner can feel almost out of place.

Try doing a wash of peach that matches your blush for a monochromatic look, and leave the liner behind for a bloomy fresh, no-effort approach.

Or go mod with pastel blue and over-the-top mascara, like this. Adding liner will only distract from the beauty of these two simple elements together.

And if you check out Glamor’s article on recent makeup trends, you’ll see a few pastel-wearing ladies in beautiful no-liner looks.

Here’s an example of pastel eyeshadow without eyeliner for when you’re in a key lime pie kinda mood:

pastel aqua and yellow blend on my eyes
No eyeliner necessary. These shades, Ice Worm and Sunbathe, are from the Menagerie Cosmetics Pastel Pup palette.

Glossy Shadow With No Liner

Ah, the fussy and ephemeral but striking glossy eye. Many shapes you make with eyeliner wouldn’t even hold up under gloss application, and with glossy eyes being so dramatic, eyeliner might be overdoing it.

Queen of the glossy lid Danessa Myricks not only avoids eyeliner in most of her looks but she also often leaves mascara behind as well. Her makeup application is so high impact she doesn’t even need these two stalwarts. Scroll through her Instagram page to see how she turns her models into beaming works of art.

As long as you’re on Instagram, watch how hollifer adds gloss to complex, artistic looks, avoiding a traditional eyeliner application every time.

Glossy lids can break up powders underneath, so be careful what you use as your eyeshadow here. Try a stay-put cream, like Maybelline’s Color Tattoo or MAC’s Paint Pots.

And here’s your glossy lid with no liner. I used TRON from the Kaleidos Electro-Turquoise palette to add some inner corner and outer corner pop.

Glossy eyelid with mascara and pops of sparkly turquoise on inner and outer corner
Gloss courtesy of Revlon’s The Gloss in Crystal Clear, the rare non-plumping gloss in my collection. (You do not want to put a plumping gloss on your poor eyelids!)

Glitter Shadow With No Liner

Whether it’s a light hint of sparkle or full-on glitter mania on your lids, no need for eyeliner! Just ask the talented glitter-sporter Monica, or mjones5018, whose Instagram page is teaming with unexpected, sparkle-filled looks with not a conventional liquid-painted black wing in sight. You’ll only catch her with some colored liner in her lower waterline, which you could take or leave in your own application.

My only advice? Just make sure to carry the glitter all the way to the lash line, or it’ll look like you meant to add liner and forgot.

Here’s a more basic sparkled-out, linerless eye:

A picture of my eyes with a turquois shadow and colorful, silvery glitter on the lid.
I used Forcefield from the Kaleidos Electro-Turquoise palette all over and topped the lid with e.l.f.’s Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow in Disco Queen. The inner corner is Colourpop’s Flexitarian highlighter.

But When Do You Need Liner?


When it comes to makeup, you don’t need to do anything.

But there are a few instances that you may feel better with eyeliner than without it. Let me share those with you.

Smokey Looks on Certain Eye Shapes

Runway models with linerless smokey eyes look gorgeous. And folks with monolids can easily pull off a dark shadow look without liner or even mascara. (Check out number 5 in the Allure article on monolids.)

But as a person with deep-set eyes, I always feel like a smoky eye needs liner in order for me to not look like a walking, talking skull. A sharp zap of black liner—especially one that isn’t quite matte because I want the light reflection—is just what the doctor ordered to bring things forward and unskull myself.

If you find that your eyes look to be sinking back into your face when you wear certain eyeshadow looks without liner, feel free to fall back on the old felt tippper.

Red or Pink Shadow Looks That Make You Look a Bit Sick

Honestly, it’s rare that I don’t think pink or red are fabulous colors without liner, but I personally have had some dicey moments with, say, Venetian Red and Love Letter from ABH’s Modern Renaissance palette. I find that without liner, these babies can me look as though I’ve been crying nonstop for the last three days.

I don’t know what it is about black liner, but just a bit of it washes all those nonexistent tears away and simply makes me look glamorous.

But Do What You Want to Do!

Falsies-driven, wing-heavy “Instagram makeup” is drifting into our rearview. Light, minimalistic, dewy looks are what’s showing up on runways and cutting edge makeup artists’ clients. With that minimalism comes a freedom to do what you want, including wearing eyeshadow without eyeliner.

The thing about makeup is that there are no rules that can’t be broken once you understand them. If you’ve ever heard and followed a rule that shadow requires liner, feel free to toss that and experiment with what comes from your newfound freedom. It might take a bit to get used to seeing yourself without liner, but give it a chance. You’ll find some go-tos that you love, I promise.