How to sharpen eyeliner without a sharpener

Eyeliner being sharpened with a makeup pencil
  Reading time 9 minutes

When it comes to eye makeup, a sharp eyeliner is a non-negotiable for achieving that perfect wing or precise line. But what do you do when a traditional sharpener is nowhere to be found, or when your eyeliner pencils are of a material that does not fare well with sharpening tools, such as plastic eyeliners? Fear not, because there are several good ways to get a fine point on your favorite eye definer without using a standard sharpener.

First and foremost, if you’re dealing with regular pencils, the wood often responds well to alternative sharpening methods. However, gel eyeliners or plastic eyeliners might need a more delicate touch. These alternatives could also extend the life of your eyeliner, which is especially helpful if you don’t have a backup handy.

Using Household Items

Household ItemMethod
LighterHold the tip of the eyeliner close to the flame for a few seconds, then let it cool before using.
Warm WaterDip the eyeliner pencil into warm water for a few minutes to soften the tip.
FreezerPlace the eyeliner in the freezer for a few minutes to harden it, then use a tissue to gently sharpen.
KnifeCarefully use a sharp knife to shave off the dull tip of the eyeliner.
SandpaperGently rub the tip of the eyeliner against a fine-grit sandpaper until it sharpens.
Close-up of eyeliner pencil being sharpened with a blade

The Spoon Technique

  1. How to use a spoon edge Hold the eyeliner pencil firmly in one hand and the spoon in the other. Place the edge of the spoon handle at an angle against the eyeliner tip. Carefully scrape the sides of the eyeliner by moving the spoon against it while rotating the pencil. Continue until a satisfactory point is achieved.
  2. Precautions and tips Ensure the spoon is clean to avoid eye infections. Use gentle motions to avoid breaking the tip of the eyeliner. This method is mostly suitable for wooden pencils; plastic eyeliners might not respond well to the spoon’s edge.

The Knife Method

  1. Choosing the right knife Select a knife that is comfortable to hold and isn’t too sharp to handle safely.
  2. Step-by-step knife sharpening Lay the eyeliner pencil flat on a sturdy surface. Holding the knife at a slight angle, carefully shave off the wood or exterior to reveal more of the product. Tip: Position your fingers away from the direction you’re cutting to avoid injuries.

Improvisation with Makeup Tools

The Clean Mascara Wand Trick

  1. Preparing the wand Wash the wand thoroughly with soap and water, ensuring all residual mascara is removed. Dry the wand completely before using it on your eyeliner.
  2. Technique for sharpening Gently rub the pencil tip against the bristles in a twisting motion. The bristles will help to form a point on the eyeliner without removing too much product. Note: This method works best for softer pencil liners, like gel eyeliners, and might not be as effective for plastic eyeliners.

Eyebrow Tweezer Technique

  1. Using tweezers as a sharpener Open the tweezers and hold them in a steady grip. Place the eyeliner between the tweezer’s points and twist carefully to sharpen the pencil.
  2. Safety and precision Always twist the eyeliner instead of the tweezers to maintain control. Be cautious not to press too hard, and avoid using any tweezers with extremely sharp edges.
 Makeup artist using a sharpener to sharpen eyeliner pencil

Alternative Sharpening Techniques

Using Sandpaper

  1. Selecting the correct grit Choose a sandpaper with fine grit to ensure a smoother sharpen.
  2. Sandpaper sharpening steps Wrap a small piece of sandpaper around your finger to create a flat surface. Gently rotate the eyeliner against the sandpaper until the desired sharpness is achieved. Caution: To avoid over-sharpening, check the point frequently as you work.

The Nail File Solution

  1. Choosing a suitable nail file A metal or glass file tends to be more precise than an emery board. Ensure the file is clean to prevent any contamination.
  2. How to use a nail file for sharpening Hold the nail file firmly, and run the tip of the eyeliner along the file’s edge in a twisting motion. Rotate the eyeliner pencil after a few strokes to maintain an even point. Reminder: Use gentle pressure to avoid snapping the tip off.

Maintaining the Point on Your Eyeliner

Storage Tips

  1. Keeping the point After sharpening, wrap the tip of your eyeliner pencil with tissue before storing. This will help maintain its shape and protect it from breaking. It’s also advisable to store your eyeliners horizontally. This ensures that the tip doesn’t bear any unnecessary pressure, which could make it blunt.
  2. Avoiding breakage When using your eyeliner, support the tip by holding the pencil closer to the point. This will provide more control and reduces the likelihood of breakage. Avoid dropping your eyeliners, as the impact could damage the tip or even the internal product, leading to breakage upon application.

When to Replace Your Eyeliner

  1. Recognizing the signs Noticeable dryness or a change in texture may suggest that your eyeliner is reaching the end of its product life and might not perform as well. If you’ve sharpened the pencil down to a stub and it becomes difficult to hold, it might be more economical and efficient to replace it than continue using it.
  2. Hygiene and eye health Monitor any changes in eye conditions; if you experience more frequent irritations, it might be due to the old eye makeup. Sharing makeup, especially eyeliners, increases the risk of cross-contamination. Keep your eyeliners for personal use only to maintain optimal eye health.
Woman's hand sharpening eyeliner with a cosmetic tool


Sharpening an eyeliner without a sharpener can seem like a daunting task at first, but with the methods detailed above and a steady hand, the process is quite feasible. From household items like spoons and dull knives to makeup tools like mascara wands and tweezers, there are several ways to keep your eyeliner pencils sharp and ready for action. Remember that while improvisation is key, so is safety—use gentle motions and be mindful of hygiene to protect your eyes. Maintaining the sharpness of your eyeliner not only enhances its performance but also ensures the precision of your eye makeup. Always be aware of the condition of your eyeliner and replace it when necessary to keep your eyes healthy and your makeup flawless.


  • Can I sharpen a plastic eyeliner with the same methods used for wooden eyeliners? Using household items to sharpen plastic eyeliners might not always be effective and could damage the product. However, gentle methods like using a nail file or clean mascara wand could work, provided you use gentle strokes and check the results frequently.
  • How often should I replace my eyeliner to ensure the best performance and hygiene? Eye hygiene experts typically recommend replacing your eyeliners every 3-6 months. However, if you notice changes in texture, performance, or if irritation occurs, it’s best to replace the product immediately.
  • What should I do if my eyeliner tip keeps breaking while sharpening? First, ensure you’re using the correct technique and not applying too much pressure. You might also need to change your sharpening tool or method—switching to a utensil with a more delicate edge or one that requires less force may help.
  • Are there any special considerations when sharpening gel eyeliners? Gel eyeliners tend to be softer and may require freezing for a short time before sharpening to firm up the product, making it less likely to break. Use a light touch and consider using a clean mascara wand or a nail file for the best results.
  • Can I sharpen my eyeliner in advance, or should I sharpen it each time I use it? For the best application, it’s preferable to sharpen your eyeliner before each use. This ensures the tip is fresh and precise for every makeup session. However, if you must sharpen in advance, be sure to store it carefully to maintain the point.