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Eyeliner is hard enough without oily lids coming along to ruin your handiwork. It’s downright rude. You put in all the effort and nail your set of wings only to find them halfway up your eyelid three hours later. But instead of giving up, you need to find yourself an eyeliner suited for oily lids. Something long-wearing and transfer-proof, no matter how shiny things might get.
Fortunately, team Byrdie has ample experience in the realm of oily eyelids, so we’ve put our brains together and pulled some of the best eyeliners out there for every eye makeup look, no shine, grease, or transfer necessary. When looking for an eyeliner for oily lids, you'll want to select one that aligns with the look you like, whether that's a sharp point or a soft blend. Waterproof liners will offer the best chance of staying on all day without smudging. And of course, you'll want to take all the key steps to prep your lids in ways that minimize oil.
Keep reading to shop the best eyeliners for oily lids.
Best Overall: Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner
"This is the eyeliner to end all eyeliners for three simple reasons. First, the brush tip—it's flexible but not too flexible, and it makes tracing a precise flick or thick cat-eye a breeze. Second, the formula is inky black and rarely requires retracing. And finally, the longevity: I've worn this eyeliner through rain and sleet, and I've even fallen asleep with it on (oops), and it does not budge. As someone with naturally oily lids, these three things have secured it in my heart as my holy grail liner." —Faith Xue, Editorial Director
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner
With almost 25,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, you can rely on this liquid liner to outlast sweat, shine, high humidity, even tears (although I hope not). The waterproof formula is distributed through an ultra-fine, flexible felt tip, so crafting a precise, clean wing is relatively easy. It dries down quickly and has a semi-gloss finish, making it great for everyday as well as glamorous makeup looks. As for the wear? It’s bulletproof.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Unstoppable Mechanical Eyeliner Pencil in Onyx
If you prefer a soft crayon liner that can be used on the upper and lower lids as well as the waterline, look no further than this offering from Maybelline. It’s creamy and rich, so it glides over the skin easily but sets after a few minutes, so you get a smudgy but long-lasting result that won’t move around. It’s also self-sharpening and costs about the same as a large coffee. What’s not to love?
Best Long-Lasting: Sephora Collection Long Lasting Eyeliner High Precision Brush
"I stumbled upon this liner one day when I had a Sephora gift card but didn't want to blow it all on one pricey product. Considering it was so affordable, I figured I'd give it a shot. To this day, it's still one of the best liquid liners I've ever used. It doesn't even flick off after you try to wipe it away with your finger after you've made an (inevitable) mistake. I love it." —Lindsey Metrus, Senior Editor
Best Luxury Option: Dior DiorShow On Stage Liner
Co-developed by Dior Makeup creative and image director Peter Philips, this liner is a real treat to use thanks to the super-soft brush-pen tip. It moves easily and never seems to dry out mid-stroke—a pet peeve of mine when it comes to liquid liners. The super-precise tip is also great for those not super confident when it comes to winged liner, myself included.
Best Pencil: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
What’s great about this liner from Urban Decay is that you can choose either a matte, satin, or metallic finish depending on your preference. Funnily enough, it contains a bunch of hydrating ingredients like vitamin E and jojoba, but in my experience, this doesn’t translate to transfer or greasiness. Instead, it glides over the delicate skin on the eyes and stays put all day. It works a treat on the waterline, too.
Best Crayon: Stila Stay All Day Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner
I live in a humid city and have combination skin, so I find most eyeliner pencils move or transfer after a few hours of wear, but this buy from Stila is an exception. Yes, it’s creamy and emollient and lends itself incredibly well to a soft, blended liner look, but it seems to grab the skin and set after a few minutes, withstanding all that my day can throw at it.
Best Colored Option: UZ Eye Opening Liner
The last time I was visiting New York, one of my makeup artist friends told me I had to visit the UZ concept store and pick up some colored liners. And what a recommendation it was! I bought purple, pink, and navy, and I love them all. They’re super easy to apply, the color payoff is great, and most importantly, they lasted through 16-hour workdays in the middle of Fashion Week.
Best for Liner Art: Sephora Collection Colorful Wink-It Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner - Waterproof
I am by no means a makeup artist, but I love the idea of liner art, specifically a fine line in my crease. This liner is great for that because it has an incredibly fine felt tip that’s flexible and deposits product evenly. The waterproof formula means it’s also budge-proof, even on oily lids.
Best for Beginners: Chanel Le Liner de Chanel
Disclaimer: I struggle with winged liquid liner (operative word being struggle). But this liner from Chanel seriously helps. I think it’s the fact the tip is really, really thin, so you can build your way up to a thick line. That, and the fact that you can grab as much product as you need to get a dark, inky black result. It’s seriously long-wearing, too.
Best Kohl: MAC Cosmetics Technakohl Liner
It’s not easy to find a soft, creamy kohl pencil that fares well on oily lids, but I’d go out on a limb and say that Mac Cosmetics has nailed it. It is really malleable and soft, so you can build a nice soft, smoky line. But it seems to dry down and lock in, wearing through shine, rain, 14-hour-plus days… you name it.
Best Waterproof: Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil
"I have oily lids (not crazy oily but oily nonetheless) and small, hooded eyes. This means it's nearly impossible to find an eyeliner that doesn't end up all over my lids after the first application. But that doesn't stop me from trying. After years of testing, I've come to rely on a few key players. These I can confidently wear without feeling the need to rub my eyelids in an attempt to remove smudges all day." —Deven Hopp, Former Beauty Director
What to Look for When Buying an Eyeliner for Oily Lids
The first important thing to consider is the specific type of liner you’re after. Liquid formulas are great for clean, sharp wings, whereas crayons will give you a smoky eye look. They’re also usually quite soft, making them great for use on the lower lash line and in the waterline. Finally, a pencil will give you a subtle-to-buildable finish and can be easily blended into shadows or create a low-key wing.
For oily-lidded folk, a waterproof eyeliner formula is definitely going to give you a better chance at success. To be honest, most liners are designed to last, but if you’re having a really tough time, steer clear of soft kohl pencils and go for waterproof liners instead.
While the eyeliner product itself is definitely important, skin prep will play a big part in preventing transfer, smudging, and creasing. Makeup artist Hung Vanngo suggests you start with a clean eyelid free from all makeup and skincare products. A great tip if you need a quick refresh is to gently press a micellar water-soaked cotton pad over the lid before makeup. Blotting papers work well too.
Next, Vanngo advises you go in with a matte eyelid prepping product, like Makeup By Mario Master Eye Prep and Set. This will give you a matte canvas, and work to absorb any oil or shine throughout the day. You could also use a light veil of concealer and a dusting of translucent powder too, if you need.
Finally, keep all creamy, emollient makeup products (like a highlighter) away from the lid and keep your fingers away. You can try touching up with a tiny dusting of translucent powder throughout the day if need be.
What goes first, eyeliner or eyeshadow?
Can I wear eyeliner without eyeshadow?
You can go as minimal as you want with makeup, especially if you love a no-makeup makeup look. For oil lids, you'll want to use a prep product if you don't use shadow, such as the one recommended above.
Is it bad to put eyeliner on your waterline?
You don't want to put eyeliner on your waterline unless you choose one made specifically for that purpose, of which there are lots of great choices. Because the waterline is so close to our actual eyes, you want to use only products that are designed to be placed in that area.
Does eyeliner make you look older?
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 any eyeliners for oily lids from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.