The 20 Best Waterline Eyeliners of 2023

Our top pick is the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

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Best Waterline Eyeliners

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Whether you didn't get enough sleep last night or are simply looking to bring some more attention to your eyes, lining the waterline can be a pretty magical technique. It’s essentially the key to looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and making your eyes totally pop. 

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Top marks go to Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, which boasts super-smooth application for precise lines that don't budge. For a more wallet-friendly pick, try Essence Makeup's Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil—its strong colors will make your eyes pop.

Swiping liner across the thin upper and lower inner rims of the eyes can have several effects, from making your eyes look bigger to faking thicker, fuller lashes. “Waterline eyeliner can be a very effective way to help brighten and open up the eyes when you use a flesh-toned liner, or you can bring out your eye color by using a complementary color (such as purple for hazel eyes),” says NYC-based makeup artist Kelli J. Bartlett, “You can also add depth and thickness to the lash line by tightlining with a dark brown or black liner or make the eyes POP by smoking out the waterline liner for a sultry look.” 

However, this area of the eye is notoriously sensitive and fussy (plus, it’s naturally wet) and should be treated differently than the rest of your lids. It requires liners that are formulated specifically for this area. There are a few key factors to keep in mind when shopping for the perfect one.

Keep reading for some deliciously creamy and long-lasting waterline eyeliners built for defining your eyes.

Best Overall

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

4.4
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

Ulta

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Creamy formula

  • Glides on smooth

What We Don't Like
  • Needs to be sharpened

Not all eyeliners are fit for the waterline, but you can trust this one—it even says it in the name! Featuring a creamier formula than the brand’s OG cult-favorite 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, this one is formulated specifically to line the inner rim of the waterline (and wherever else you desire) without skipping or dragging. Available in a classic black shade, it glides on super smooth and leaves behind a demi-matte finish that seriously doesn’t budge. “I love this pencil,” says Bartlett. “The trick is to warm it up on the back of a sanitized hand first to get it going before application.”

Price at time of publish: $23

Type: Pencil | Shades: 38 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget

Essence Makeup Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil

Essence Makeup Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil

Ulta

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Great color payoff

  • Glides on smooth

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it breaks easily

A silky, waterproof eyeliner with a high color payoff and lasting wear for under five bucks?! While that might sound too good to be true, it’s all possible with Essence’s Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil, a pencil liner that’s built for the waterline and won’t smudge or fade. It glides on smooth and velvety and comes in four universally flattering shades that make the eyes pop: black, brown, dark gray, and nude.

Price at time of publish: $4

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

Best Splurge

Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner

4.5
Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner

Chanel

What We Like
  • Creamy formula

  • Includes a sharpener

  • Glides on smooth

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

A little on the pricier side, Bhatty counts this retractable liner from Chanel as her favorite luxe pick. “It’s so creamy and easy and has lasting power,” she says. Available in 17 shades—mostly neutral blacks and browns with a few jewel-toned options—this skinny-tipped liner is essential for the liner enthusiast. The formula is enriched with silicone for a smooth, even application and includes a detachable sharpener for the perfect swipe every time. Looking to go beyond the waterline? “It’s also great for smudging!” she adds.

Price at time of publish: $45

Type: Pencil | Shades: 14 | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Slim Eye Pencil

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Slim Eye Pencil

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Comes in various finishes

  • Slim pencil

What We Don't Like
  • Glittery shades may irritate eyes

For the price, this bestselling eyeliner from NYX can’t be beaten. As the name suggests, this slim pencil is ideal for getting into those thin, tight spaces like the waterline, and its long-wear formula won’t smudge or bleed throughout the day. It comes in 31 creamy shades that range from neutrals to brights in both matte and shimmery finishes, so you can create whatever look your heart desires. Bartlett is a big fan of using this pencil in the waterline and beyond: “The charcoal and black/brown colors are my go-to for creating a soft smoke without being too dramatic.”

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Pencil | Shades: 31 | Size: 0.04 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Waterproof

Haus Labs Eye-Dentify Gel Eye Pencil

Haus Labs Eye-Dentify Gel Eye Pencil

Amazon

What We Like
  • Waterproof

  • Great color payoff

  • Glides on smooth

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

As Bhatty mentions above, the key to finding the perfect waterline eyeliner is looking for a long-lasting and water-resistant formula—and this waterproof pencil from Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories is one of her favorites. Available in 20 matte, metallic, and shimmery shades, this gel formula applies creamy with vibrant pigment payoff. Her shade of choice? “Punk,” a matte jet black that won’t budge. “It’s very black with staying power—and it glides!”

Price at time of publish: $18

Type: Pencil | Shades: 20 | Size: 0.04 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Kajal

Kulfi Underlined Kajal Eyeliner

kulfi-underlined-kajal-liner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Waterproof

  • Soothing formula

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it smudges easily

When it comes to a kajal liner, you’ll want something bold and pigmented with some serious staying power. Bhatty’s newly-launched favorite is the Underlined Kajal Eyeliner from Kulfi. “It’s an inky jet black and doesn’t move,” she says. “It’s beautiful in the waterline and is a kit essential for me now!” Not only is it long-wearing, smudge-proof, and waterproof, but its soothing formula is infused with aloe vera extract and a vitamin E complex for added moisture and soothing benefits. And while it’s great for a bold waterline look, it’s also great for creating a smoldering smokey eye.

Price at time of publish: $20

Type: Pencil | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.012 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Runner-Up, Best Kajal

UOMA Beauty Black Magic Coming 2 America Kajal Eyeliner

UOMA Beauty Black Magic Coming 2 America Kajal Eyeliner

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Creamy formula

  • Multi-use product

What We Don't Like
  • Not as many shades as other options

Inspired by the traditional ancient African eyeliner formula, this tiro kohl pencil from UOMA Beauty glides on soft and smooth with high pigment payoff. Designed to be used in the waterline, along the lash line, winged, or smudged, the multi-use kajal formula is great for creating a multitude of looks. Plus, it boasts some pretty impressive staying power that won't crease or fade all day long. In addition to a classic jet black, it’s also available in a vibrant purple shade that’ll make brown and green eyes absolutely pop.

Price at time of publish: $18

Type: Pencil | Shades: 2 | Free of: Parabens, talc | Size: 0.018 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Pencil

Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil

4.2
Pat McGrath Labs Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil

Pat McGrath

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Glides on smooth

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Makeup legend Pat McGrath can do no wrong in our eyes (see what we did there?), and her Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil proves it. This pigment-packed pencil glides on with the ease of a gel, and while it’s perfect for creating all the smudgy and smoky looks you can dream of, its waterproof formula will stay put in any finicky waterline all day long. It comes in six shades total: a matte black, brown, and mid-tone taupe, a shimmery bronze and blue, and a natural finish espresso brown.

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Pencil | Shades: 6 | Free of: Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban | Size: 0.42 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Pigment Payoff

Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner

Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great color payoff

  • Comes in various finishes

  • Water-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it breaks easily

When it comes to rich, eye-popping color, leave it to Rihanna to truly deliver. Fenty Beauty’s Flypencil boasts a hyper-pigmented formula that’s available in a rainbow array of shades in matte, glimmery, and metallic finishes. It’s also long-wearing and water-resistant, allowing you to create a multitude of head-turning looks that stay put all day long.

Even though it’s not specifically designed for the waterline, users rave that its smooth and creamy texture makes it a great product for comfortably lining this area of the eye sans tugging. We just wouldn’t suggest using any of the glitter shades in your waterline to avoid any potential irritation.

Price at time of publish: $23

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

Best Cake Liner

Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eye Liner

Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eye Liner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Made for tightlining

  • Dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested

  • Great color payoff

What We Don't Like
  • Will need a brush to apply

While the idea of applying a non-pencil liner to your waterline may seem strange, this cake eyeliner is made for making those eyes of yours totally pop. Formulated for tightlining, this compacted powder turns into a paste when applied with a wet brush, allowing you to line the roots of your upper lashes with ease. It comes in four universally flattering shades—deep gunmetal with subtle sparkle, vibrant indigo, a soft charcoal gray, and a mahogany brown—and its dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested and won’t irritate those of us who wear contacts. 

Not sure how to apply it? “The best brush for this formula is a straight edge, tightly woven brush head like the MAC 212 Flat Definer,” advises Bartlett. “It allows you to wiggle the formula in between your lashes with ease.”

Price at time of publish: $25

Type: Cake/powder | Shades: 3 | Size: 0.05 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Color Range

Glossier No. 1 Pencil

Glossier No. 1 Pencil

Glossier

What We Like
  • Rich color saturation 

  • Glides on smooth

  • Longwear

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best for precision lines

There’s something delightfully satisfying about the smooth glide of this creamy pencil. It’s soft enough that you can create deliberate lines and blend where you want to, but not so soft that it creates a smudge-y mess. It’s the perfect texture for tracing your inner waterline without tugging or poking around your sensitive eye area.

The pencil is available in ten colors, including a range of usual suspects like a rich black, dark denim blue, and deep eggplant, along with a selection of vibrant hues like powdery lavender, rustic orange, and dandelion yellow, which add an unsuspecting shot of color that make eyes pop. While the formula sets quickly and stays put for a good 12 hours, it gifts you a good 30 seconds to blend and build up your look as desired, making it a very friendly pencil to work with. 

Price at time of publish: $16

Type: Pencil | Shades: 10 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multi-Tasker

Shiseido Kajal InkArtist Shadow, Liner, Brow

Shiseido Kajal Ink Artist

Sephora

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Glides on smooth

  • Multi-use product

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note color can apply patchy

Ideal for travel or anybody looking to simplify their routine, this multi-tasking retractable wonder from Shiseido is here to make your life easier. Not only can you line your waterline with this waterproof, 12-hour wear formula that glides on buttery smooth, but you can also use this four-in-two kajal to line your lids, fill in your browsand act as an eyeshadow. It doesn’t hurt that it comes in 10 stunning shades, including a vibrant crimson and teal, and is safe for even the most sensitive eyes.

Price at time of publish: $25

Type: Pencil | Shades: 10 | Free of: Parabens, sulfates, phthalates | Size: 0.02 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Eye-Opening Neutral

Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener

Thrive Causemetics Brilliant Eye Brightener

Thrive

What We Like
  • Creates an eye-opening effect

  • Soothing formula

  • Retractable pencil

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note color payoff could be better

Fact: Lining your waterline with a lighter nude shade can instantly make you look more awake (a game-changer for all of those early A.M. Zoom calls), and this cream-to-powder waterproof liner from Thrive Causemetics is perfect for creating this brightening, eye-opening effect. It comes in seven subtly shimmery neutrals that flatter all skin tones, from pearly pink to glimmery mauve-taupe, and is enriched with a number of soothing and hydrating plant oils like macadamia seed and jojoba. While this retractable liner can be applied to the waterline with ease, you can also use it to highlight the inner and outer corners of your eyes and your brow bone to fake a full eight hours of sleep.

Price at time of publish: $25

Type: Pencil | Shades: 13 | Free of: Parabens, phthalates, sulfates, synthetic fragrance | Size: 0.049 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Clean Formula

Kjaer Weiss Eye Pencil

Kjaer Weiss Eye Pencil

Kjaer Weiss

What We Like
  • Creamy formula

  • Glides on smooth

  • Soothing formula

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it smudges easily

When it comes to a liner with a trusted clean formula, Bartlett is a big fan of this simple pencil from Kjaer Weiss. Its creamy formula includes organic coconut oil for a smooth texture that glides on seamlessly—no skipping here! It’s also long-lasting and stays put once it’s set. It comes in five shades total, including a brightening nude and a deep purple and navy in addition to classic black and brown.

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Pencil | Shades: 5 | Free of: Fragrance | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Metallic

EM Cosmetics Silver Lining Gel Eyeliner

EM Cosmetics Silver Lining Gel Eyeliner

EM Cosmetics

What We Like
  • Gorgeous silver metallic color

  • Longwear gel formula 

  • Doubles as shadow

What We Don't Like
  • Dries very fast

It feels insulting to pigeonhole this stunning silver metallic liner into a solitary eyeliner category when it’s so much more than that. The creamy gel tip is certainly precise enough for tracing fine lines—including those along the waterline—however, the gel softens as you line and blends beautifully, allowing for more versatility to cover lids like a cream shadow base. It dries fast, which is ideal for long-lasting looks but also requires you to work quickly if you are looking to blend or cover a larger area. The color is stunning, leaning more sparkling pearlescence than heavy metal metallic, and no matter how you line or shade, the color adds an elegant twinkle that makes eyes look instantly brighter.

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Gel | Shades: 1 | Free of: Parabens | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Black

IT Cosmetics Superhero No Tug Sharpenable Gel Eyeliner

IT Cosmetics Superhero No Tug Sharpenable Gel Eyeliner

IT Cosmetics

What We Like
  • High pigment shades

  • Smooth glide

  • Waterproof formula

What We Don't Like
  • Can be tough to remove

True to its name, this creamy gel liner won’t tug as you trace, and the sharpenable tip allows you to achieve the precision point necessary for fine lines wherever you want them. The soft tip glides on smooth, making it ideal for lining the waterline without poking or irritating your eyes. The pigments are rich, making for crisp definition when you line, and color that will stay put for hours until you decide it’s time to wash those lines away. 

Price at time of publish: $24

Type: Gel | Shades: 8 | Free of: Parabens | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Retractable

e.l.f. Cosmetics No Budge Retractable Eyeliner

E.l.f. Cosmetics No Budge Retractable Eyeliner

Ulta

What We Like
  • The wallet-friendly price tag 

  • Good for smoky eye

  • Retractable tip 

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best for precision lines

A retractable eyeliner is enticing for many reasons, and this $5 iteration is as good as any of its higher-priced alternatives. It’s available in three classic shades— black, charcoal, and coffee—which deliver intense color payoff in a single swipe, so you don’t have to keep lining and layering to build up to a dark, defined hue. The formula is rich and blendable, giving flexibility to strategically smudge out to create a smoky eye look when the feeling strikes, but once it sets, it will stay put for hours. The tip is soft, so it won’t poke or tug as you line, and the formula has impressive staying power that will help prevent your defined eyes from turning raccoon eyes by end of the day.  

Price at time of publish: $5

Type: Pencil | Shades: 3 | Free of: Parabens, sulfates, phthalates | Size: 0.006 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Vegan

ILIA Clean Line Gel Eyeliner

ILIA Clean Gel Eyeliner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Precise tip

  • More expensive 

  • Recyclable packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in two colors 

This immaculate formula marries the convenience and control of a pencil liner with the long wear hold of a gel liner, making it a go-to for everyday definition and special occasion dramatic looks too. The water-resistant formula is smoother than most and holds up impressively well against sweat and tears, so lines remain crisp and eyes defined all day long. The precise tip hugs right up against the lash line for a smooth application as you line and glides equally as nicely along the water line without disappearing at first blink. This liner may be pricier than others on this list but rest assured, the meticulous formula and defined, long wear results will validate and justify the extra spend. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Gel | Shades: 2 | Free of: Sulfates, parabens, phthalates, formaldehydes | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Longwear

Stila Stay All Day Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner

Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner

Ulta

What We Like
  • Smooth, no-tug application

  • Extensive color range

  • All day wear 

What We Don't Like
  • Color dries fast

One swipe of this rich, waterproof formula is enough to recognize it’s a standout. While many waterproof formulas have the tradeoff of a stiffer tip, this soft—but not too soft—gel tip glides on buttery smooth, especially along the waterline. The impressive 12-shade lineup features both matte and shimmer finishes in a range of flattering shades that are versatile for everyday and dramatic days. The retractable tip makes it a no-fuss liner that won’t require sharpening and twists up to reveal a crisp fine tip whenever you need it. The color goes on subtler than you might expect, but with that, offers flexibility to control the boldness of your look. Plus, since it lines and layers so beautifully, you can easily build up the color to match your desired look.  

Price at time of publish: $22

Type: Pencil | Shades: 12 | Size: 0.01 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Glide

Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Eyeliner Pencil

4.8
Charlotte Tilbury Rock 'n' Kohl Eyeliner Pencil

Sephora

What We Like
  • Silky, smooth formula

  • Rich color pay-off

  • Waterproof 

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Leave it to celebrity makeup artist, Charlotte Tilbury, to present us with an eyeliner that gets us one step closer to mastering her signature smoky eye. One pass of this creamy kohl tip liner deposits deep, saturated color around the eyes, with a 30-second window post-lining so you can do any blending or smudging before it sets to a budge-proof line. The pigments are sprinkled with crushed pearl powder that not only hydrates the delicate eye area but also reflects an extra twinkle in the eye. The formula is silky and smooth, making it easy to blend and smudge like a pro, and stays put once it’s set, so all that smoldering gorgeousness remains from day to night, looking as crisp and defined as the minute you applied it. 

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Pencil | Shades: 8 | Free of: Parabens and preservatives | Size: 0.04 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

Overall, Urban Decay’s 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil takes the cake as the very best. It glides on creamy and smooth, and its demi-matte, waterproof pigment won’t budge once it sets. Plus, it’s formulated specifically for the waterline. We’re also pretty big fans of NYX's Slim Eye Pencil for its creamy formula and bold color options, especially when we’re not looking to break the bank. Looking to treat yourself to something more luxe? You can’t go wrong with Pat McGrath Lab’s Permagel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil, a pigment-packed waterproof pencil that’s perfect for lining the inner rims and creating a smoldering smokey eye.

What to Look For in a Waterline Eyeliner 

A Water-Resistant Formula Is Key

When it comes to lining the inner rims of eyes, celebrity makeup artist Kirin Bhatty suggests looking for formulas that are water-resistant or waterproof to avoid smudging or, worse, a raccoon eyes situation. Even if you’re not planning for a gym session or a dip in the pool, your eyes still naturally water (you are applying it to your waterline, after all!), so something water-resistant will have way more lasting power (just have a good removal formula on deck that's easy on the skin but tough on your makeup for the end of the night!).

Look For Specific Keywords

If the liner has the word “waterline” somewhere in its name or description, chances are you’re good to go, but Bartlett suggests looking out for a few other keywords, too. “A good rule is to only purchase liners that state they are ‘formulated’ or ‘approved' for use on the waterline,” she says. “Words like ‘kohl’ and ‘kajal’ often tip you that this is a creamy formula and good for the waterline.” 

The Creamier, The Better

The waterline is sensitive, therefore, you shouldn’t reach for any old eyeliner pencil—especially one that involves a bit of rubbing—when lining this area of the eye. Both Bhatty and Bartlett recommend using liners that are soft, creamy, and glide on with ease. In addition to kohl and kajal liners, Bhatty looks for liners that have a “smooth glide formula,” and Bartlett recommends finding a formula that isn’t dry and won’t flake. If you’re not able to physically test out the product before purchasing, be sure to thoroughly read through customer reviews to confirm its texture and feel. 

Avoid Mica-Heavy or Glittery Products

While we all love a little bit of shimmer and glimmer, Bartlett points out that some glittery products can scratch or damage the eye when applied to the waterline, which is very close to your actual eyeballs. “Look for mica-free formulas or ones that use very fine mica particles and no glitter,” she says. 

FAQ
  • Is it safe to put eyeliner on my waterline?

    Yes, if you’re using the right formula. Look for an eyeliner with a soft formula to prevent any pulling, tugging, or scratching at the sensitive area.

  • Does eyeliner expire?

    Depending on the formula, eyeliners can have a life span that varies anywhere from three months to over a year. Make sure to sharpen your pencils regularly so that a fresh layer of product is making contact with your waterline, and if your eyeliner develops a weird film or changes in consistency, replace it with a new one.

  • Can you use liquid eyeliner on your waterline?

    Because liquid eyeliner is, well, liquid, it’s likely too slippery to apply to your waterline and could run into your eyes, so it’s not recommended.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Lindsay Colameo is a seasoned freelance beauty writer and editor with over a decade of experience contributing to leading print and digital publications, including InStyle, Byrdie, Real Simple, and more.

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