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Eyeliner is a makeup bag mainstay for plenty of reasons. For most women, it’s one of the go-to items in their arsenal since it can create a ton of versatile looks, from classic liner to a sleek cat eye to a sultry smokey eye, just to name a few. Just a few swipes of eyeliner can give you a whole new look in mere minutes. Their small size makes them easy to stash in your purse, car—practically everywhere. And that’s why we all need more than one. Luckily, options abound, from gel to kajal to liquid eyeliners, not to mention the finishes, like satin, matte, or shimmer. To help you sort through all the choices, we narrowed it down to the top eyeliner pencils out there.
Best Overall: Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil
True to its name, Pat McGrath’s Labs Permagel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil glides on like a dream, thanks to its infusion of silicone, making it easy to play with. You can keep the line super precise, or smudge it out before it dries for a smokey eye look. The highly pigmented color is bold and beautiful, creating dramatic definition. It comes in three matte shades and two shimmer finishes, and each color gives off high fashion vibes.
Best Budget: Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Liner
Rimmel’s creamy kajal liner belies its price tag. Packed with pigment, you can build the color for as much drama as you’d like, and blend away as you please. The waterproof formula truly doesn’t budge and will stand up to sweat and humidity, even on the steamiest summer days.
Best Drugstore Option: Maybelline New York Eyestudio Master Gel Pencil
We’re guessing the ultra fine tip is what earned Maybelline New York’s Eyestudio Master Precise Skinny Gel Pencil its name. The 1.8 mm micro tip can be used to draw a cat eye, and even allows you to get super close to the lash line—a tough feat—and it stays exactly where you applied it. The pencil automatically twists up, so you never have to worry about having a sharpener on hand, and it lasts for a whopping 24 hours of wear.
Best Waterproof: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Waterproof Liner
If you want to put Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Waterproof Liner to the test, you could wear it to hot yoga—or a tearjerker of a movie—and it still wouldn’t budge! Yet, the award-winning eyeliner is so gentle that you could even use it on the waterline for tightlining. It’s made with the smallest amount of waxes and oils possible to keep the color pure and precise. The dense color is opaque and the versatile pencil lets you create a wide array of looks.
Best Smudgeproof: Clinique Quickliner
The smoothness of Clinique’s Quickliner allows it to hug the eyes for easy definition. The all-in-one pencil is twist up, so you never have deal with sharpening, and it has a sponge applicator on one end so you can smudge away and create different liner styles. The transfer-resistant formula lasts all day and won’t budge.
Best for Waterline: Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil
You know Urban Decay’s pencil means business when it has “waterline” in its name. This version is essentially their super popular 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil that has been given a makeover to be used on your waterline. Designed to be used for the inner rim by staying in place, it immediately sets as soon as you apply it so that it won’t rub off on your eyes. The super creamy, demi-matte eye pencil truly won’t move. Since it smooths right on, it’s easy to apply to the super sensitive area. It comes in the necessary classic shades, including black, navy, brown and nude.
Best Shade Range: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner
If you want options, the Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner comes in a whopping 33 shades, ranging from shimmer to matte to satin to glitter finishes. No matter what look you have in mind, you can create it with one of these, since it comes in practically every color you can think of. And the pencil itself is impressive too, thanks to the lightweight formula that feels like silk while applying and wearing it. The pigment really delivers, and it promises 12-hour waterproof wear.
Best Gel: Em Cosmetics Matte Gel Pencil
Em Cosmetics was founded by OG beauty influencer Michelle Phan, and the girl knows makeup. That’s evident in her award-winning Matte Gel Pencil, which features some of the best pigment out there. Though it has the stay put powers of a gel, it goes on like a liquid eyeliner and has the look of a kohl liner. The waterproof formula is designed to last all day, yet the formula is gentle enough to be used for the waterline. Another bonus: The pencil is vegan and cruelty-free.
Our writers spent 3 hours researching the most popular eyeliner pencils on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 30 different eyeliner pencils overall, screened options from 25 different brands and manufacturers, read over 40 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 20 of the eyeliner pencils themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.