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Although black liner will always remain a staple, many are now opting for brown eyeliner to help achieve a more fresh-faced look. There are an endless amount of brown shades to choose from—everything from light to dark or neutral to bold—and it’s way more approachable than black eyeliner. “Brown eyeliner is universal and less intense than black, says Mario Dedivanovic, Founder and CEO of Makeup By Mario and Celebrity Makeup Artist.
Regardless of how you use brown eyeliner—pencil, gel, or liquid—it’ll work across the board to give you added definition without being overbearing (or too intimidating for new eyeliner users). Another benefit of a brown liner is that it's versatile. So, swapping between more dramatic looks or subtle everyday looks requires little to no effort. And, if you don’t have the steadiest hand, the application is pretty user-friendly too.
To apply explains Dedivanovic, line the eye to the outer corner and get as close to the lashes as possible—but, don’t stress if it isn’t perfectly symmetrical. For a smudged look, use a brush to gently blend and soften the line, he says. “To create further definition, apply one or more layers along the lash line.”
Read on for the best brown eyeliners.
Best Overall: Dior Eyeliner Waterproof in Intense Brown
Not only does this eyeliner work incredibly for all-day wear, but its formula won’t budge under any circumstances—including water, sweat, or humidity. Available in one universally flattering hue, the foam tip helps blend or soften any look seamlessly. Warning: it gives the perfect smokey look in a snap, so be wary of compliments.
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner
Looking to create a super-sharp wing? If yes, then this NYX eyeliner is for you. Ultra-pigmented and waterproof, drawing perfect lines has never been easier (or less expensive). Regardless of how you like your eyeliner—thick, thin, or very fine—the easy-to-use slender brush tip is super flexible so you have complete control over the look you create.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Unstoppable Eyeliner in Cinnabar
Let’s be honest; Maybelline’s affordable makeup rivals some of the most expensive on the market. Therefore, it’s no surprise that this eyeliner is a true hidden gem. Its smudge-resistant, waterproof formula stays on through literally everything. Bonus: you can also use it as an eyebrow pencil.
Best Pencil: Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil in Brown
If you’re a fan of Kim Kardashian’s eyeliner looks, then this eyeliner is for you. Created by celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic (aka Kim’s makeup artist), it’s no surprise that this eyeliner is truly extraordinary. It’s highly-pigmented color, long-lasting wearability, and velvety gel-based formula are just some of the reasons why we love it. And, it comes with an attached brush for seamless blending.
“When blended on the lid with a brush, the brown liner can replace shadow to create a beautiful, quick, and easy smokey eye,” explains Dedivanovic.
Best Gel: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner in Brown
Gel eyeliner is a great alternative for those who have trouble applying liquid eyeliners, yet want a cleanly drawn, precise line. With a self-sharpening tip, epic color-payoff, and 12-hour waterproof wear, this gel eyeliner lives up to the hype. Plus, you get your choice of matte or shimmer finish.
Best Liquid: Benefit Cosmetics Roller Liner Matte Liquid Eyeliner in Brown
When you’re going to put in the effort of applying eyeliner, you might as well use the best liquid liner—this is the one. Use it once and you’ll automatically fall in love with its easy-glide precision tip and quick-dry waterproof formula. But, the reason we love it most is that it has zero flaking, fading, bleeding, or smudging regardless of how long you spend wearing it.
Best Natural: Burt’s Bees Defining Eyeliner in Hammered Bronze
Formulated without bad for you ingredients—like parabens, phthalates, SLS, and more— this ophthalmologist-tested formula is a great natural-based alternative to your regular eyeliner. The gel-like feel, simple application, and satin finish are just some of the reasons why this affordable formula is loved by many. Bonus: it’s also safe for sensitive eyes and contact wearers.
Best Shade Range: Chanel Le Crayon Yeux Precision Eye Definer
Made with three versatile different shades of brown—Brun-Teak, Coffee Bean, and Brun Cuivré—there is sure to be a suitable shade for every skin tone and eye color. Formulated with finely dispersed pigments, the extremely smooth texture is a breeze to apply. By creating a clear, precise line around the eye, this eyeliner truly makes your eyes pop. Another perk: smudging and sharpening are super easy too due to the attached sponge applicator and included two-bladed sharpener.
Best for Waterline: Pat McGrath Labs PermaGel Eyeliner Pencil
When considering an eyeliner for your waterline, you need to make sure it has precision without being too pointy and long-wearing waterproof formula to avoid smudging. This Pat McGrath eyeliner checks off all of those boxes and more. All you need is a quick-swipe and vóila—an instantly defined eye.
Best for Smokey Eyes: Juvia's Place Nubian Eyeliner Pencil in Cocoa
Not only is the deep chocolate brown shade of this pencil gorgeous and flattering on a multitude of skin tones, but the creamy, long-wear formula glides on with ease. We love how, before it sets, it can easily be smudged to create the perfect smokey eye.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Pacifica Natural Eye Pencil in Fringe
Made with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients—like jojoba oil, shea butter, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E— this formula is safe for use on most sensitive eyes. Waterproof and long-lasting, there’s no need to worry about smudging during all-day wear. Another perk: its buttery formula is a piece of cake to use so it’s perfect for new eyeliner users.
Best Splurge: Clé de Peau Intensifying Liquid Eyeliner in Brown
There is a reason this eyeliner is constantly selling out—it’s unparalleled. Built with two unique twin applicators, creating the perfect, elegant line or bold, sharp wings is truly effortless. The best part? It dries quickly and leaves a long-lasting luminous finish.
Best Long-Wearing: Fenty FlyPencil in Brown
Rihanna has done it again with this true masterpiece of an eyeliner. Creamy and water-resistant, you’ll find yourself reaching for this eyeliner every single day. And, the convenient twist-up top glides across the lids seamlessly for smudge-resistant lines every time.
Best Waterproof: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
The last thing you want is to spend time on your eyeliner only for it to disappear due to humidity or water. Enter: Stila’s eyeliner. Living up to its name, it truly stays on all day and goes on smoothly without skipping, smudging, or pulling. Plus, it’s thin marker-like tip makes drawing even the thinnest of lines simple.
Best Multi-Use: Tarte Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner
You don’t have to decide between a gel or liquid eyeliner with this dual-ended eyeliner from Tarte. It’s a waterproof formula, saturated color, and semi-matte, opaque finish are just some of the reasons why this is one of their best-selling eyeliners. Don’t be intimidated; Both formulas glide on seamlessly without ever streaking or smearing.
Known for their universally flattering hues and lower intensity, brown eyeliners are incredibly versatile for creating different looks and come in a wide range of formulas and shades (unlike black eyeliners). Though it’s a little bit of a splurge, the best brown eyeliner is Dior’s Eyeliner Waterproof in Intense Brown with Clè de Peau’s Intensifying Liquid Eyeliner in Brown coming in at a close second. If you want to spend less, try Maybelline's Unstoppable Eyeliner in Cinnabar or NYX Professional Makeup Epic Liner in Brown which are both great alternatives to their higher-end counterparts.
FYI, eyeliner can help balance the distance between your eyes. "If your eyes are close together, start applying liner at the center of the eye and draw to the outer corner," says Dedivanovic. "If you’re looking to create the illusion that your eyes are closer together, line the eyes from the inner corner to the outer corner as this helps to minimize the eye separation."
What to Look For
When looking for a brown eyeliner, the undertones of it make a huge difference. I look for eyeliners that don’t have too much red in them since that can make the eyes look tired, explains Dedivanovic.
The ability to seamlessly blend your eyeliner can go a long way in creating different looks. "Something I look for in every eyeliner is bendability," Dedivanovic explains. "I like to both blend and smudge—smudging is great for dramatic smokey eyes, whereas blending out your eyeliner can help give a more natural look."
Why Trust Us?
Byrdie contributor Rachel Dube has written for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Along with writing about beauty, she has also tested hundreds of beauty products. Although she loves a good black eyeliner, recently she has been trying her hand at brown eyeliners for a more natural everyday look.
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 brown eyeliner 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 email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.