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There are some makeup products you don't have to mull over too much, but eyeliner isn't one of them. After all, it’s near impossible to pull off a bad eyeliner. They can be too dry, too faint, run out too quickly, tattoo too permanently, transfer too easily, or simply be so imprecise that you can essentially kiss any fleeky cat-eye look goodbye.
Then there’s the impossibility of navigating life with just one eyeliner. You simply cannot serve ‘60s-dream-girl without a white. Carbon black is a waterline necessity. There’s no lash tight-lining without a great pen, and no cat-eye without a water-resistant black liquid. Attempting no makeup-makeup requires the optimum shade of brown—and don’t get us started on what a good gel liner brings to the table.
Of course, finding the best product to fulfill every eyeliner need can be an arduous (and expensive) process, so we rounded up the best of the best eyeliners to save you and your wallet the trial and error.
Best Overall: Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon
Finally, a liner so versatile it can deliver something for everyone. Somewhere between a pencil, gel, and Egyptian kohl, this product is “extreme-wear” for a reason. It’s waterproof, glides on up with ease, and smudges into a crease-defining shadow as you see fit. With a built-in sharpener to keep it fresh, the Highliner Gel Crayon is one of Team Byrdie's favorite day-to-night eyeliners. We're partial to Blacquer 42, but you can choose from a handful of shades.
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner
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.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Eye Studio Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner
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.
Best Liquid: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
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.
Best Pencil: Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil
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.
Best Gel: Melt Cosmetics Ultra Matte Gel Eyeliner
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.
Best Long-Wear: Glossier Pro Tip Brush Point Liquid Eyeliner
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.
Best Black: Chanel Le Crayon Yeux Precision Eye Definer in Noir
This is a bit pricey for an eyeliner, but it's worth it when your eyes are rimmed in the sootiest black out there. It's truly one of the best black eyeliners we've tried. The wax blend prevents it from tugging on your eyelid, and it’s the perfect choice to darken a waterline. Chanel recommends smudging the product out with the sponge applicator on the other side to achieve the apres-party eyes of a Parisian.
Best Brown: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
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 36—yes 36—different colors, but the vibrancy of the browns is frequently praised by reviewers, especially given the pencil’s capacity to smudge and then settle.
Best White: Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner
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.
Best for Oily Lids: Eyeko Black Magic Vegan Liquid Eyeliner
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.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner Pencil
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.
Best for Wings: Charlotte Tilbury Feline Flick Volume 2 Liquid Eyeliner
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.
Best for Waterline: Elizabeth Arden High Drama Eyeliner
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.
Best Luxury: Christian Louboutin Luminous Ink Liner
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.