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The Best Eyeliner Brand According to Stacey Bendet, Queen of the Black Smokey Eye

The Alice + Olivia chief executive officer and creative director uses an eyeliner, gel pot and pencil to achieve the look — her signature for decades.

“I call Inglot the ride or die eyeliner,” said Stacey Bendet. The Alice + Olivia chief executive officer and creative director has on her signature beauty look, a dewy face and jet black smokey eye.

She’s been perfecting the routine since her teenage years, and for the last five years, Inglot — the Polish cosmetics company — has been her go-to. She uses the brand’s black eyeliner, black gel pot and black pencil.

“It’s the best eyeliner and the best black for the lid that you can literally have on all day,” she went on. “I’ll outline with the Inglot pencil but then fill it in with the pot. Once you use the pot, that black is not moving. And same thing with underneath. I’ll do a little bit of the liquid or the pot underneath and then fill in with the pencil. The pencil is excellent.”

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She should know; she has practically tried it all at this point. (Powder shadow to smoke the eye out is a big no-no, she said, “it drops no matter what.”) As her choice of products changed, so did the shape of the look, and it’s had variations through the years.

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Stacey Bendet
Stacey Bendet Weston Wells/WWD

“First, it was just mascara and the black underneath, and then I started doing the line on top, and then it turned into black sparkle,” she said of her teen years. “I used to sit there and just play, for hours, with makeup….It was always something that made me feel a little mysterious, and it was a little glamorous.”

It was all her own, though she remembers being inspired by ’90s “It” girls Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow: “I thought they just had the chicest, most elegant style. They were elegant but also had this edge.”

At one point, she opted for a winged cat-eye shape, but these days, she describes the form as round and doll-like.

“Sometimes, I’ll do it lighter with a soft sparkle over it,” Bendet continued. Her favorite glitter to layer on the black has been a white shade by MAC Cosmetics. “It’s evil if it explodes in your bag, but it’s great to dab.”

It creates a softer look, one she developed for video calls during the pandemic.

“I found that through Zooms, it almost looks like your eyes are closed when it’s so dark,” she explained. “It’s almost a half version of it that has a little bit of a pale sparkle lid. It just felt more open.”

She calls it “the medium,” while her original, edgier look is “the big.”

The routine typically takes 20 minutes, starting with a MAC primer, followed by MAC’s ultra-light face and body foundation — which is sometimes mixed with either a Kevyn Aucoin or Charlotte Tilbury foundation — and set with a facial spray. Bendet then adds a YSL Beauty lip stain on her cheeks as blush, while keeping her lips bare.

“I feel like COVID-19 killed lipstick,” she said. “Like, I really rarely do my red lip ever anymore, because all you end up doing is ending up with lipstick all over your face when you put a mask on.”

The focus is on the eyes, and before she begins layering and shading (with pencil), she applies Peter Thomas Roth under eye gels.

Stacey Bendet
Stacey Bendet Weston Wells/WWD

“While you’re doing your makeup, you put those on, and it cools, and then it also protects that area, so it doesn’t get dark,” Bendet said. When the eye look is complete, she adds strip lashes and concealer. “I think I have a lifetime supply of Kevyn Aucoin’s number six, because it’s the best thing under your eyes, and I’m like that can’t ever leave my existence.”

When it’s time to remove it all, she swears by Pond’s “Cold Cream.”

“It’s old school,” she added. “It’s the best. It’s gone in one swipe.”

For the lashes though, which are harder to take off, she rubs a Tata Harper face oil. “I love their oils.”

She has a love for skin care, lighting up while explaining her favorite products, which currently include Furtuna Skincare, SK-II for masks and U Beauty’s “Resurfacing Compound” (“you have to be willing to peel a little bit”).

She wore much less makeup during the pandemic, she said, focusing on skin (and sunscreen) while living on the beach in Malibu for over a year. Her days began barefaced while practicing morning yoga.

“I’m, like, hair in a bun, no makeup at all,” she said.

When she did doll up — for a Zoom or evening out — the look stayed the same in California, jet black eyes and all. However, her hair went through a transformation, going from black to blonde.

“I was like, ‘Is this my Malibu life crisis?’” she joked, now back in New York. “The black hair just felt so harsh in that world. It didn’t feel right.”

Her natural hair color is a “brownish blonde,” she continued: “When I was in Malibu, I couldn’t get my roots dyed, and it just started growing out and then I was like, you know, ‘I’m going to just dye it.’ It just felt kind of fresh and different, but I’ll probably go back to dark at some point.”

Beauty, like fashion, has been a tool for self-expression, she said.

“It’s funny, when I have no makeup on, people will be like, ‘I like you with no makeup.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s nice,’ you know. But for me, when I have my dark eye and have my ’70s hair, whether it’s blonde or black, that’s when I feel like me.”