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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, we polled the industry’s most in-demand makeup artists, and they all came back with glowing reviews for the drugstore liners they count on to stay put through red carpets, photoshoots, and more.
Read on for the best drugstore eyeliners.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris 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 Budget: 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.
Best for Beginners: Milani Cosmetics 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.
Best for Cat-Eye: Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner
“For the ultimate cat eye, this is my go-to every time," says makeup artist Desirae Cherman. "It’s a super-rich black that has the most precise fine point for getting the shape exactly how you want.”
Best for Hooded Eyes: L'Oréal Paris 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 for Smokey Eye: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Smoldering Liner
“These are great for a smudgy rock-and-roll feeling or to layer under your shadow for an easy smoky eye," says celebrity makeup artist Adam Breuchaud. "Draw directly on using as a pencil and smudge with your finger for a darker messier smoke or apply with a liner or cream shadow brush for a more subtle, precise look. Both brown and black are a must-have.”
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.
Best Gel: Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Eye Liner
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 great for sensitive eyes,
Best Liquid: Almay Liquid Eyeliner
“This eyeliner is great because it has a super-smooth, inky formula to create the perfect cat eye that won’t ever smudge or bleed," says New York-based makeup artist Tinna Empera. "I love this product for the red carpet because I know the liner will be flawless all day and night.”
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.
Runner-Up, Best Pencil: Maybelline New York Master Precise Skinny Gel Eyeliner
“I love Master Precise Skinny Pencil eyeliner," says makeup artist Erin Ayanian Monroe. "The formulation is like silk with a ton of pigment and stays put as long as you want it to.”
“I’m super impressed with this liner, and I would say that it definitely gives the department store versions a real run for their money," says makeup artist Andre Sarmiento. "It’s so fine that you can create a cat-eye with it, and it layers really beautifully. It doesn’t move around when you’re trying to really deposit the product. For smoky eyes, I think it’s all about getting that lash line completely saturated in color, and this liner lets me reach all the little areas in between lashes that can be almost impossible to get with other pencils.”
Best for Mature Eyes: Black Opal COLORSPLURGE Precision Eye Definer
As the delicate skin around your eyes mature, the last thing you want is a pencil that tugs and pulls — but this eye definer glides smoothly. It's formulated with soothing aloe vera and chamomile extracts, making it safe for sensitive eyes and easy to apply. It's also soft enough to smudge out for smokey looks.
Best Waterproof: Rimmel 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.
Best Shimmer: Iman Cosmetics Perfect Eye Pencil
There's nothing wrong with a classic black or brown eyeliner, but reach for this slightly shimmering pencil when you want something a little extra. The creamy formula glides on smoothly without streaking or smearing. The slight shimmer will liven up your makeup look, whether you're getting ready for a Monday full of meetings, or a holiday party.
Best Self-Sharpening: Maybelline New York Unstoppable Mechanical Eyeliner Pencil
“It’s super long-lasting, smudge-proof, and waterproof," says makeup artist Kindra Mann. "I like that it’s in self-sharpening packaging, so it’s always the perfect point.”
Best White: Prestige Cosmetics Classic Eyeliner
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.
With so many drugstore eyeliners available, it can be quite difficult to navigate what’s truly worth your time (and money!). With its ability to create super-fine lines and dramatic wings, precise fine tip, and true black ink, our overall favorite is L’Oreal’s Infallible Super Slim Long-Lasting Liquid Eyeliner. If you’re looking for the best drugstore eyeliner for beginners, try Milani Cosmetics Eye Tech Perfection Liquid Eyeliner for its unique, water-gun-like applicator and fool-proof application. For the best drugstore pencil eyeliner, try COVERGIRL’s Perfect Blend Eyeliner or Maybelline New York’s Master Precise Skinny Gel Eyeliner.
When hopping onto a Zoom call, apply the liner to the top of the upper lash line and the upper inner lash line to achieve a fuller no makeup, makeup look explains Lori Taylor Davis, the Global Pro-Lead Artist for Smashbox Cosmetics.
What to Look For in a Gel Eyeliner
Gel liner formula
If you’re a newbie, opt for a gel formula. Taylor Davis recommends gel formulas because they glide on easily, stay in place, and are soft to apply.
Slim-line propel/repel type
You want your eyeshadow formula to last which is why selecting this type of drugstore eyeliner is key. “These types tend to be long-wearing or waterproof/water resistant so they are the best choice for a long-staying product,” explains Taylor Davis.
Feel free to have fun with drugstore eyeliners. Taylor Davis says they are the best kind of liners to test trend colors or have fun because of their affordability.
How we test drugstore eyeliner:
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
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 drugstore eyeliners from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses 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.