12 Black Eyeliners to Add to Your Makeup Bag, ASAP

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If the eyes are the windows to the soul, consider a thick swipe of black eyeliner the sleek satin curtains that pull the room together. Eyeliner was one of the first makeup products I started experimenting with—the dull, harsh wooden pencil I took from my mom’s makeup drawer to outline my entire eye was my entry point. My makeup skills have gotten better since then (thankfully), but a good black eyeliner is still a staple. 

The biggest problem is choosing which to use—on the surface, different varieties of black eyeliners can at the same time appear so different, yet so similar. Which is best for what? We compiled some of our favorites and spoke with makeup artist Deanna Flanagan to learn her picks.

What to Look For in a Black Eyeliner

The right brushes

“Figuring out what brush your hand works best with is key to any gel liner," says Flanagan. "For me, it is an angle brush, but some people’s hands may work better with a pointed brush." Her favorite angle brush is the Morphe M165, and for a pointed brush, she liked the e.l.f. Cosmetics Beautifully Precise Eyeliner Brush.

Your desired looks

Consider what type of looks you want to create with your eyeliner, as well as what situations you'll be wearing it. Do you need a waterproof black liner with lots of staying power? Is it important that your liner is vegan and cruelty-free? Do you prefer a liquid liner, a pencil, or gel? Whatever your preference, there's a black liner for that—just think about your needs.

Keep scrolling to read more about the best black eyeliners in our book.

Best Overall: Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner

4.5
Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Self-sharpens

  • Applies smoothly

  • Lasts all day without smudging

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Marie Claire also picked the Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner.

A classic, waterproof pencil liner from Chanel is our best overall pick for black eyeliner. The liner auto-sharpens so you always have a fresh tip, it’s super smooth to apply, and it leaves behind a rich dark black that resists smudging.

Type: Pencil | Shades: 14 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.01 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: Maybelline New York Master Precise Skinny Gel Eyeliner

4.1
Maybelline Master Precise Skinny Pencil

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Ultra-fine tip

  • Soft gel consistency

  • Pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Contains very little product

The super skinny applicator makes it easy to customize looks and draw on super precise lines. The retractable tip is always sharp, and the gel pencil consistency manages to be both soft and easy to control.

Type: Pencil | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.004 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Long-Wear: NARS High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner

Nars High Pigment Longwear Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Lasts all day

  • Creamy, metallic finish

  • Easy to smudge and blend

What We Don't Like
  • No built-in sharpener

For rich, stay on all-day liner, this Nars High Pigment Longwear Eyeliner claims to deliver for up to 12 hours. You’ll need to keep a sharpener on hand, but it’s worth it for the ability to apply color to your waterline, or a smokier liner all over.

Type: Pencil | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Pencil: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

4.4
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
What We Like
  • Wide shade range

  • Glitter finish available

  • Goes on smoothly

What We Don't Like
  • Can flake into eyes

Flanagan praises this pencil from Urban Decay for its soft workability and longwear hold. “The reason I love this pencil is that you can leave a solid crisp line, or you can smudge it,” she says. Once it’s on, it’s on, though Flanagan adds that however you apply it is how it will set, so work quickly.

Type: Pencil | Shades: 34 | Free of: Parabens, oil, sulfates | Size: 0.04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gel: Morphe Gel Liner

Morphe Gel Liner
What We Like
  • Pigmented

  • Goes on smoothly

  • Easy to customize line thickness

What We Don't Like
  • Brush is not included

Morphe’s gel eyeliner formula applies smoothly and stays on for 12 hours. “It's long-wearing, creamy, and super pigmented,” says Flanagan. You’ll need a liner brush to use it, which enables you to further customize the thickness and method of application.

Type: Gel | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.08 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Liquid: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner

Revlon Colorstay Liquid Liner
What We Like
  • Creates versatile looks

  • Long-wearing

  • Pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Contains parabens

If you prefer liquid liners, Revlon’s is our favorite choice for a formula that won’t smudge or fade. The brush tip lets you change up your strokes depending on the look you’re going for. It’s affordable, too!

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Free of: Oil, sulfates | Size: 0.08 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Waterproof: wet n wild H2O Proof Liquid Eyeliner

wet n wild h20 proof eyeliner

Courtesy of Wet n Wild  

What We Like
  • Doesn't transfer or smudge

  • Inexpensive

  • Creates versatile looks

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to apply

“This liner is literally a hidden gem and is super affordable,” said Flanagan. She even trusts the waterproof formula to hold up for brides on their wedding day! It sets immediately and stays put, even on oily lids. Flanagan prefers to use her own brush rather than the one it comes with, but the formula itself can’t be beaten.

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Applicator: KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner

Courtesy of Kat Von D

What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Long-wearing

  • Pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive per ounce

For an easy-to-use liner, try this option from KVD Beauty. “It is in a marker form with a precise brush tip to achieve the thinnest or thickest line desired,” said Flanagan. It’s long-wearing and waterproof, too. Just make sure you store it upside down so the brush never dries out.

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Free of: Oil, sulfates | Size: 0.02 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Versatile: Juvia’s Place The Saharan Gel Eyeliner

Juvia’s Place The Saharan Gel Eyeliner
What We Like
  • Rich texture

  • Includes brush

  • Applies smoothly

What We Don't Like
  • Can dry out over time

This waterproof formula in a pot is creamy and darkly pigmented and comes with a two-sided liner brush. It’s easy to apply, stays on through everything, and even comes with a brown liner, too! The packaging and liner make it one of the most versatile options on this list, so it’s good to have for whatever look you’re trying to achieve.

Type: Gel | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Cruelty-Free: Glossier Pro Tip Brush Point Liquid Eyeliner

Glossier Pro Tip Liquid Eyeliner

Courtesy of Glossier

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Has a fine tip

  • Doesn't transfer or smudge

What We Don't Like
  • Could be more pigmented

One of my favorite everyday liners is this one from Glossier. The applicator makes drawing on a cat-eye liner quick and easy, and the liquid formula leaves behind super black matte color. Plus, it’s vegan and cruelty-free.

Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens, oil, sulfates | Size: 0.01 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dark Black: Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel

Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel
What We Like
  • Pigmented

  • Ideal for beginners

  • Wide shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Can smudge

For the darkest black liner, try the Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel. “Some gel liners, once applied to the eye, can lose the intense dark pigment, and turn almost dark gray. The Inglot liner stays black, and it is super easy to work with because it is a bit stiffer than other gel liners, which gives you ample control,” said Flanagan.

Type: Gel | Shades: 26 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Waterline: Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Gel Pencil

4.2
Rimmel London ScandalEyes Waterproof Kohl Eye Liner

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Goes on smooth

  • Doesn't budge

What We Don't Like
  • Breaks when sharpening

This extremely affordable liner is perfect for use on the waterline—it’s waterproof and long-wearing, has an extremely high color payoff, and the smooth application won’t tug at the sensitive waterline.

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 5 | Free of: Parabens, oil, alcohol, sulfates | Size: 0.04 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Gel Eye Liner Pencil

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

What Our Testers Say

"I found the liner did not run or smear on me throughout the day, and I was impressed with how efficiently it stayed in the waterline." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Final Verdict

A self-sharpening black pencil-like Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner is amazing to have on-hand for most eye looks. But when you absolutely don’t want your eyeliner to move, Wet n Wild H20 Proof Liquid Eyeliner is bride-on-her-wedding-day approved. Lastly, Juvia’s Place The Saharan Gel Eyeliner is another big winner because it's super versatile—we recommend it whenever you want to experiment with trendy eye looks or put on a super sharp wing.

FAQ
  • What does black eyeliner do?

    Black eyeliner helps emphasize your eyes, and can be used to create a subtle definition, an exaggerated, winged-out shape, and just about everything in between.

  • What is the easiest black eyeliner to use?

    Pencil formulas—either in twist-up or wood stylos—are typically an easier starting point for eyeliner novices, as the shape gives the user more control. If you have trouble holding a steady hand, opt for a creamy formula that you can blend into your desired shape in case the lines come out asymmetrical.

  • Can I put black eyeliner on my waterline?

    You can, but choose your formula wisely. Because it's a very sensitive area, you'll want to opt for a soft, creamy formula that easily glides along your waterline to avoid any tugging or scratching.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Joline Buscemi is a Byrdie contributor and beauty writer for many other publications. She’s tested out hundreds of liners and has finally mastered a freehand cat-eye.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough black eyeliners from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 12 best black eyeliners ever. Marie Claire. https://www.marieclaire.com/beauty/g37328921/best-black-eyeliner

  2. Matsushita S, Morikawa K, Yamanami H. Measurement of eye size illusion caused by eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow. J Cosmet Sci. 2015;66(3):161-174.

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