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There is no reason to put yourself in the red zone over an expensive eyeliner. Believe it or not, many makeup artists have found their favorite liners in the drugstore beauty aisle. But let’s face it: Whether you’re going for a sharp wing, grunge look, or trendy graphic lines, the options are overwhelming.
When choosing a drugstore eyeliner, it's important to consider how precise you want your lines to be, if you want to smudge or smoke out your liner, and whether or not you need a waterproof formula. What's more, eyeliners come in all sorts of colorways that can blend in with your eye makeup look or make a stand-out statement.
To find the best drugstore eyeliners for your needs, read on.
Best Overall: NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner
Looking for an overall stellar eyeliner that won’t have you cashing in a large portion of your paycheck? If the answer is yes, then this one from NYX Professional Makeup is the perfect one for you. Featuring a slim, smooth brush tip, it disperses the pigment onto your lids with ease—basically, there’s no tugging, dragging, or skipping. Due to the nature of the applicator, you can control the thickness of the line, so it’s super versatile depending on whether you want a fine, more natural look or if you’re feeling something a bit more bold.
It’s also waterproof so it will stay in place all day. The lacquer-like finish it leaves on the lids is ultra-flattering. When applying, draw a few small dots across your upper lash line, then connect them. For a wider line, simply press down going inwards to outwards.
Best Waterproof: Rimmel London Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer
Rain, sweat, tears—there are times in life when you need your look to stay put no matter what slippery situation comes your way. That’s why we suggest going for this waterproof option for the person that likes to be prepared at all times.
Not to worry, this one hangs tight no matter the wave. Whether you’re watching a tearjerker Netflix movie or heading to a pool party, you can always count on this long-lasting color to be locked in until you’re ready to take it off. Just grab yourself a good makeup remover...you’ll need it.
See more top picks of the best waterproof eyeliners that actually stay put.
Best Gel: Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner
If you need a drugstore eyeliner with intense pigment and staying power, try a gel formula like this Maybelline one. Gel eyeliners might look intimidating (maybe it has something to do with using a separate brush to apply), but in reality, they’re super easy to use and often recommended for eyeliner beginners. The surprisingly creamy consistency (it’s not actually gel-like at all) paints lids with a smooth and even trace, not leaving a skid or skip on lines. Just a dip of this jet-black ink is all you need.
The gel pot comes with a thin pointed brush that we love because a) it makes the long-wearing formula glide on like butter, and b) there’s no need to shell out cash on another item. Even better, it’s super gentle and won’t irritate even the most sensitive eyes.
Check out our guide to the best gel eyeliners available today.
Best Pencil: CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner
A good 'ol pencil eyeliner is without a doubt a makeup bag essential. Yeah, sure, you can use it to rim your waterlines, but it also plays a key role in crafting a smokey eye and making your lashes look fuller.
With a pencil’s many uses, it’s important that it delivers on a few points. One, it must be creamy enough to smudge. Two, blending is important, but it also has to be powerful enough to stay put. Three, rich pigment is a must. This “perfect blend” truly lives up to its name and offers all of the above.
Interested in reading more reviews? We found the best eyeliner pencils that won't smudge, crack, or crease.
Best Liquid: Revlon ColorStay Exactify Liquid Liner
We love that Revlon's densely-pigmented liquid liner doesn’t smudge or fade, but what really sold us is its fun and functional wheel-like applicator. The unique tip grabs the perfect amount of product and rolls on your lids for precise, dramatic lines. In under a minute, you’ll achieve a notice-me look that will hang tight until it's time to remove your makeup for the day.
Take a look at our roundup of the best drugstore liquid eyeliners that won't budge.
Best for Beginners: Milani Eye Tech Perfection Liquid Eyeliner
Drawing the perfect line can be daunting, especially if you don't do it on the regular. Enter this unique, water gun-like applicator that fits into the contours of your palm. Now you can put away your protractor (and that awkward clawish grip) and count on this ergonomic tool for fool-proof application. One swipe and you’re done. Plus, the rich black paint glides right on and really stays put from day-to-night. So say “see ya” to shaky-hand. This drugstore eyeliner pick is a no-brainer for beauty newbies.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Almay Intense I-Color Eyeliner
No matter if you’re a contact lens-wearer or just have eyes that get irritated easily, finding an eyeliner that doesn’t make them water sounds too good to be true. We’re here to tell you it isn’t thanks to this non-irritating gem from Almay. Made to complement and bring out your natural eye color, the creamy formula glides easily across your lids and waterline without skipping or tugging. Additionally, it won’t flake or fade thanks to its budge-proof formula that lasts from the time you line your eyes in the morning until you take it off at the end of the day.
What makes it perfect for those with sensitive eyes is the fact that the formula is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and dermatologist-, ophthalmologist-, and allergy-tested. The satin formula is flattering for all eye shapes and colors, too.
Best Felt Tip: L’Oreal Infallible Super Slim Liquid Eyeliner
This felt tip eyeliner has built a strong cult following and with good reason—the combination of its precise felt tip, true black ink, and versatility has proved itself to be simply unbeatable when it comes to drugstore eyeliners.
There’s no need to go digging through your makeup bag for several products. This one trusty liner can take your look from subtle to bold all on its own. Depending on the pressure you apply, you can create anything from a super fine line to a dramatic wing thanks to its flexible felt tip. And unlike other liners that dull down or fray, this one stays intact so no product goes wasted.
Best for Tightlining: Wet n Wild MegaSlim Skinny Tip Eyeliner
Tightlining—when you apply eyeliner to the spaces between your lashes—can make your eyes seriously pop, but it is also totally tricky to master. Sigh. Luckily, this liner from Wet n Wild features a tip thin enough to make the tightlining game feel seamless. The micro point allows you to get all up in the little spaces, making your lashes look voluminous and eyes appear wider. Now you can achieve fluttery fullness whether you’re a pro or beginner.
Read more reviews and browse our picks of the best eyeliners for the waterline.
Best for Hooded Eyes: L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail Eyeliner
We know what you’re probably thinking: Hooded eyes and eyeliner don’t always see eye to eye. While hooded eyes are seriously sultry, and of course, gorgeous, more often than not your eyeliner smudges, flakes off, or disappears as the day goes on. We thought so too until we discovered this budget-friendly option from L’Oreal.
This mechanical pencil dispenses a rich, creamy color that doesn’t flake or fade throughout the day. With a tested 16-hour wear time, you don’t have to worry about the formula coming off during your morning meeting or before your post-work dinner date. It also has a built-in smudger allowing you to create a variety of looks, ranging from a feline flick to a smudgy smoky look to a subtly defined line.
Best White: Prestige Eyeliner Pencil in White
We could go on and on about the uses of a white liner, but let’s pause for a minute to discuss how it’s the ultimate quick fix to one of the worst, life-sucking feelings—hangovers. If you’ve ever had to go to work the morning after a late-night, you can understand that barely-there, bloodshot look. So, next time you’re stumbling into the office, fake awake by lining your waterlines with a trace of white.
On the artistry side, a white liner helps amp up other colors. Let’s say you want to take on the daring green liner trend. Before applying your emerald, rim your eyes with white. Creating a blank canvas will make any color you layer on top seriously pop. This white liner from Prestige is an Amazon Choice thanks to its blendable formula. One reviewer raved about its ability to wear for long periods of time, too.
Take a look at our picks of the best white eyeliners to give your eyes a little something extra.