The 15 Best Eyeliners of 2022

Our best overall pick is Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil

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Best Eyeliners

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Bad eyeliner is the worst. It can be too dry, too faint, run out too quickly, transfer too easily, or simply be so imprecise that you can essentially kiss any chic cat-eye look goodbye. On the other hand, a good eyeliner can deliver show-stopping results with one fell swipe. A good eyeliner is the key to precise waterlines and lash tight definition, so you want one that's easy to use for flawless application. Opt for pigment that comes out smooth and stays put all day or night. NYX Professional Makeup Artist, Alex Cervantes tells Byrdie there are three major types of eyeliner: liquid, pencil, and gel. Each type of eyeliner can help you create a different look.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil, a versatile smudge and set liner that's creamy and easy to blend. We also love how the texture stays put once applied. For a more affordable pick, consider Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise All Day Ink, a waterproof formula with a precision tip that's super easy to apply.

"Eyeliner can add definition to your lash line, accentuate your eye shape, and make your color pop," explains Cervantes. "Have fun and play." When it comes to selecting a specific type of formula, Cervantes explains liquid liner is "great for long-wear and precise application." She loves pencil formulas for multi-use. "Jumbo Eye Pencil, for example, can be used as a base, eyeshadow or liner," she says. "Gel is my go-to for bold colors and graphic designs."

We conducted hours of research on the best eyeliners, evaluating each formula on type, ease of application, shade range, and ingredient list. We even tried out a couple formulas—our product testers using eyeliners for weeks at a time and noting their results. After considering dozens of brands and consulting with a makeup artist, we compiled these insights to land on the best in show.

Ahead, find the best eyeliners to create bold, statement eyes.

Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil

4.1
Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil

Sephora

What We Like
  • Gel/pencil hybrid

  • Pearlescent and matte finishes

  • Easy to blend

What We Don't Like
  • Some users might not like the silicone-enriched formula

This multi-purpose gel-pencil hybrid can create a ton of different looks—a precise winged eye, a smoky eye, a messy eye—just to name a few. We love how easily the silicone-enriched formula smudges and then stays put, making application a breeze. Many reviewers note this product is comparable to the Marc Jacobs eye pencil which was discontinued, and we couldn't agree more. The pigment is both saturated and shimmery, depending on how much you apply. We also love how it glides on smoothly for precision.

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Gel/Pencil | Shades: 6 | Free of: Animal byproducts | Size: 0.42 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: NYX Epic Ink Liner

4.5
nyx-epic-ink-liner

Target

What We Like
  • Precise tip

  • Long-lasting

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Can smudge after a while

Find your tightest line without breaking the bank with this NYX Professional Makeup classic. Lauded for its precision (the pointed tip delivers varying levels of thickness depending on how you press down on the lid), you achieve the flick that best suits your eye shape.

Price at time of publish: $10

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Free of: Animal byproducts | Size: 0.03 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"I was amazed at how easy it was to apply NYX's Epic Ink Liner without much error. Thanks to its flexible precision tip, it glided over my trembling lash line with ease, and not even my unsteady hand could make it veer too far from the curve of my lid." — Donecia Pea, Product Tester

Best Drugstore: Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise All Day Ink Pen Liquid Eyeliner

Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Affordable

  • Precise tip

What We Don't Like
  • Color payoff could be better

One of the thinnest, firmest felt tips on the market, this pen is worth experimenting with. Not only is it handily available in cobalt and chestnut, but is also as smudge-resistant and waterproof as the best of ‘em. You may have to be a little vigilant to achieve the color intensity of your dreams, but at this affordable price, you really have nothing to lose.

Price at time of publish: $9

Type: Liquid | Shades: 3 | Free of: Fragrance | Size: 0.034 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Liquid: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

5
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Great color payoff

  • Precise tip

What We Don't Like
  • Dries quickly when applying

This is the eyeliner formulated to address all your eyeliner hang-ups: feathering, skipping, bleeding, running, there’ll be none of that here, folks. Lubricated enough that it won’t pull at your eyelid upon application, you can simply glide your eyeliner on to your optimal thickness for all-day wear. And for you eyeliner rookies, let this product be your training wheels.

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Liquid | Shades: 8 | Size: 0.016 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

What Our Testers Say

“With a high pigment deposit in just one application along with no smudging or smearing, this eyeliner will last through anything.” — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best Pencil: Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil

5
Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Wide shade range

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to sharpen

It should serve as a testament to the power of the Liqui-Pencil that most of its core colors are out of stock. This is the eyeliner that could take you from your desk to the dance floor and into the next morning, boasting 24-hour wear and extremely intense color. If you’re a fan of Lancôme’s famous Hypnôse Drama Mascara, know that this eyeliner pencil is in that very same league.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 8 | Free of: Fragrance, parabens | Size: 0.42 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Gel: Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner

5
Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Creamy texture

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't dry fast

We know we’re not going to shock you with this one, it’s been on the radar of makeup fiends for a long time and for good reason. It stays perpetually moist, and its heavy pigmentation means it won’t metallicize when layered over lashings of eyeshadow.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Gel pot | Shades: 6 | Free of: Parabens, gluten | Size: 0.88 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Long-Wear: Glossier Pro Tip Brush Point Liquid Eyeliner

Glossier Pro Tip Liquid Eyeliner

Courtesy of Glossier

What We Like
  • Precise tip

  • Long-lasting

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Pen can dry out quickly

For those who rely heavily on favorable reviews to sway their makeup decisions, you’ve come to the right place. This viral product doesn’t even reference its power to survive hours on end in the name, but it should. Through tears, sweat, rain, and summer swims, this product will not budge.

Price at time of publish: $18

Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.01 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Brown: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

4.4
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Wide shade range

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to sharpen

An industry and fan favorite, this eyeliner is beloved for its smooth texture and the kind of staying power that makes it the kind of all-rounder to outshine any product on the market. It also comes in 38—yes 38—different colors, but the vibrancy of the browns is frequently praised by reviewers, especially given the pencil’s capacity to smudge and then settle.

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 38 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.04 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best White: Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner

Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Can use in waterline

  • Long-lasting

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel stiff and dry

Ah, a white eyeliner. So effective to brighten and widen the eye, so quick to bleed or flake onto eyelashes. Then, along came Rihanna. Available with a glitter or matte finish, the creamy Fenty Flypencil has impressive longevity and smoothes so easily from waterline to skin it could easily double as a highly-pigmented eyeliner.

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 20 | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Lids: Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner

eyeko black magic liquid eyeliner

Amazon

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Promotes lash growth

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Ink is thin; may bleed

Sometimes your perfectly lined eyelid lasts a mere several hours before it gives up and transfers to the brow bone. The culprit is often oily or hooded eyes, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on liquid eyeliner altogether. You can live several lives in this eyeliner and it will still look like it was applied only moments earlier. Magic.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens, phthalates, sulfates | Size: 0.013 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner Pencil

Neutrogena Nourishing Eye Liner

Neutrogena

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Long-lasting

  • Gentle formula

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel stiff and dry

You shouldn’t have to shell out a small fortune for an eyeliner that won’t irritate your eyes. This eyeliner is not only rich in color and smudge-proof, but it’s also hypoallergenic. With olive oil and shea butter as its core ingredients, watch it glide on smoothly and last all day.

Price at time of publish: $11

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 4 | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Wings: Charlotte Tilbury Feline Flick Volume 2 Liquid Eyeliner

Charlotte Tilbury The Feline Flick Quick Fine Line Eyeliner Pen

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Precise tip

  • Long-lasting

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Pen can dry out quickly

The queen of resurrecting old Hollywood glamour, Charlotte Tilbury was always going to master a pen that delivers the perfect cat-eye, every time. Whether you favor a pin-up-esque, temple stretching stroke, or merely tight-line your way to a baby flick, you can achieve a bold and precise line in an instant. Let’s just say if Cleopatra lived in the 21st century, she’d use the Feline Flick Eyeliner Pen.

Price at time of publish: $32

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Size: 0.03 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Waterline: Elizabeth Arden High Drama Eyeliner

Elizabeth Arden High Drama Eyeliner

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Built-in sponge applicator

  • Waterproof

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to sharpen

Don’t be fooled by the name, this Elizabeth Arden classic can deliver the subtlest of looks just as well as it does a full stage-makeup fantasy. With a built-in mini sponge for smudging, the product is both ophthalmologically and dermatologically tested for those prone to irritation, and offers 16 hours of waterproof wear, so bring on the waterworks.

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Gel pencil | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.42 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Luxury: Christian Louboutin Luminous Ink Liner

Luminous Ink Liner KOHL 0.135 oz/ 4 mL
What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Display-worthy packaging

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Ingredients not disclosed online

Spending over $50 dollars on a liquid eyeliner may seem absurd, but this is not just a makeup product, it’s an experience. And it’s not just pretty packaging (though, seriously, this should hold a place of pride on your vanity), the Luminous Ink Liner is also highly pigmented to easily run over any powder. It has a glossy finish and guarantees smudge-free wear. Trust us, this is a splurge you won’t regret.

Price at time of publish: $75

Type: Liquid | Shades: 2 | Size: 0.13 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Tightlining: Essence Makeup Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil

Essence Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Lasts all day without smudging

  • Very pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note that it can be difficult to sharpen

The act of tightlining, or lining your upper waterline, can be difficult for many reasons— it's a much smaller area to work with, it's sensitive, and it can be difficult to apply eyeliner due to to your eyes watering. However, this $4 liner from Essence is a great option if you want to make your eyes pop— without all of the mess. It's waterproof and will stay put all day without budging, and it has a smooth formula for easy application. We also love that it comes in four different shades to accentuate your waterline.

Type: Pencil | Shades: 4 | Free of: Fragrance, parabens, alcohol, oil, preservatives| Size: 0.05 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $4

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil, which is pigmented, creamy, and easy to blend. For a more affordable pick, consider Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise All Day Ink, a waterproof formula with a precision tip that's super easy to apply.

Meet the Expert

Alex Cervantes is a professional makeup artist for NYX Cosmetics.

What to Look For in Eyeliner

Formula

When looking for an eyeliner, first decide which type of formula you prefer. There are gels, solid pencils and crayons, and liquids. Each formula has its unique benefits and potential drawbacks. You’ll also want to consider whether a waterproof formula would suit you best, for instance, if you have oily lids, live in a humid climate, or are wearing your liner in the gym. 

Some formulas, once applied, provide a bold, dark line, while others are more subtle and can be blended out or used to define your crease as well. Lastly, if you prefer a liner without specific ingredients, such as parabens, phthalates, animal by-products, or sulfates, look for a brand that leaves these out of their formula.

Longevity

Eyeliner is notorious for smudging and wiping off. Consider your skin type, environment, and needs when looking for an eyeliner. If you need your makeup to last all day, you should look for a product that can stand up to smudging. Waterproof formulas may last the longest but are sometimes difficult to remove. To help with the longevity of pencil formulas, Cervantes suggests setting pencil application with the same shade eyeshadow.

Application

With the different types of formulas, there are unique application choices as well. Gel eyeliners come in easy-to-apply pencils and crayons or pots that require a brush. Liquid liners come in pots with a built-in brush or in a brush-tip pen format. Solid pencils and crayons that can be sharpened to your preference are also available. "Pencil liners are usually creamier and tend to be easier to work with. I like to call it my 'mistake proof,' liner because pencil formulas are easier to clean up and good for any beginner or expert," explains Cervantes.

Different brands will have finer or thicker tips and applicators within those categories. Look for eyeliners that appeal to your preferred application method and look. If you like a thick line, crayons and some liquid liners will provide that. Other liquids, gels, and pencils have thinner tips for fine lining.

FAQ
  • What kind of eyeliner should beginners use?

    Solid pencils are often the most beginner-friendly choice when it comes to eyeliner. They are forgivable and easy to control. They can be applied as-is or slightly smudged for a more natural line. If you want to try a liquid as a beginner, look for one that provides a fine, precision tip.


    Cervantes recommends beginners try a simple hack to apply eyeliner precisely. "I like to turn use the side of any liner instead of going straight with the point and use like a paint brush. It will result in smoother and more even application," she says.


  • Is eyeliner pencil or liquid better?

    Eyeliner pencils and liquids are both excellent choices, and each provides a unique look. Liquids are more richly pigmented and can create a more solid, defined line. Pencils provide a more natural look that you can blend out. Combine the two for a bold look.

  • What is the purpose of eyeliner?

    The purpose of eyeliner is to draw attention to your eyes. Eyeliner lines your lashes, creating the appearance of thicker, darker lashes. It also helps your eyes stand out and can intensify the color of your eyes. Some styles of applying eyeliner can widen and broaden your eyes or create a more open-eye look.

Why Trust Byrdie

Beatrice Hazelburst has been a Byrdie contributor since 2020, where she covers all things beauty. She's also written for V, NYLON, and Paper, as well as The New York Times. For this story, she consulted an NYX Cosmetics makeup artist and considered dozens of different formulas of eyeliners before landing on these top picks.

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