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Who doesn’t want bigger, brighter eyes? The secret to getting them is lining the waterline. In case you are wondering, the waterline is the thin, wet strip just under your lashes where the edge of your eyelid meets your eyeball. And yes, it’s as sensitive as it sounds. But the payoff makes it worth it for many to take the risk. Lining the waterline can take your smoky eye up a few notches. When you do it with a light-colored pencil, it can help you look more awake. And tightlining, which is when you line just the upper waterline, makes eyelashes look much thicker.
But here’s the bad news: since it’s such a delicate area of the eye, not any old eyeliner will do. It’s important to avoid a pencil that requires rubbing, tugging, or drawing a line over and over again to get it just right. Instead, use a fine one that will glide right on seamlessly. You also want a formula that’s not going to smudge or flake, since you want to avoid scratching your eyes at all costs. These are the best eyeliners for the waterline, since they bring on high pigment, won’t budge, and apply seamlessly.
Best Overall: Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil
This one even has “waterline” in its name, so you know it’s the real deal. Urban Decay already stole our hearts—and lids—with their 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, and this is basically the amped-up version designed for your waterline. The super creamy, demi-matte eye pencil stays in place as soon as its set so that it won’t rub off on your eyes. Seriously, this thing doesn’t budge. It glides right on, making it easy to apply to this super-sensitive area. It’s available in classic black, as well as navy, brown and nude.
Best Budget: Essence Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil
For three bucks, this pencil packs a punch. True to its name, it really lasts—we’re talking from day into night. The waterproof formula gives it its smudge-proof staying power. The packed-in pigment means it has an impressive color payoff, and the smooth texture goes right onto lids. It comes in six shades, including unexpected hues like Black Midnight Sky, a deep blue, Rockin’ Taupe, and Nightime in the Jungle, a rich brown.
Best Splurge: NARS Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner
When lining your inner rim, you want a pencil that’s as fluid possible, since the quicker and smoother the job, the less irritation to the area. The worst thing is a pencil that makes you draw on that line over and over again until you get the color you want, or one that skips and drags. Enter NARS Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner. Made to last for 12 hours without caking or smearing, it looks fresh all day—and night. Plus, the pencil itself is no fuss: it has a retractable applicator and built-in sharpener. It comes in six shades, each named after the most famous streets in the world, including Via Appia, a copper brown, and Rue Saint-Honor, a deep royal blue.
Best Drugstore Option: Milani Stay Put Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil
This waterproof gel pencil is on the soft side, making it easier to apply and blend, though it sets quickly and won’t budge all day. The creamy texture is great for creating a smudged, smoky eye vibe that’s ideal for after dark. It comes in five shades, including Keep on Sapphire, a fun, flattering electric blue that will really make peepers pop.
Best Smudgeproof: Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner
It doesn’t get any better than this formula: it’s infused with vitamins C and E to hydrate and work their antioxidant magic to delay the signs of aging. The eyeliner is packed with volatile silicones and modern wax oil combinations to make it comfortable for all-day wear. And the waterproof formula means you really will get all-day wear out of it. The extra moisture it brings is especially helpful to the waterline area. Since it’s a mechanical pencil, that means there is no sharpening needed. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it comes in a whopping 14 shades, ranging from an array of blacks to unexpected hues like amethyst, olive, and jade, giving you a great excuse to play with your makeup and experiment.
Best longwear: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Eye Pencil
After racking up awards for its staying power, Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Eye Pencil has earned its title. The rich formula has an extra-pointy tip to make getting into that tight waterline much easier. A gel liner, it glides right on and stays there for 12 hours. Since it’s super pigmented, the color is intense and high def.
Best Pencil: Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil
If you’re looking for intensity, you’ve found it with the incredibly pigmented Pat McGrath Permagel Ultra Eye Pencil. It goes on so smoothly and precisely that it’s practically foolproof, and it is beloved by beauty mavens for staying put. The soft pencil is enriched with silicone to help it glide right on, leaving a velvety look. Just like the rest of Pat McGrath’s line, the shades are editorially-minded, with three shades with a matte finish and two with a shimmer finish.
Best Kajal: Shiseido Kajal InkArtist Shadow, Liner, Brow
The ultimate multitasker, this kajal pencil can be used in four ways: as an eyeliner, kajal, eyeshadow, and brow filler. Essentially, it’s a one-stop shop for your eyes. As if that isn’t enough, the formula will win you over: it’s tear-proof, which is crucial for the inner rim, as well as smudge-proof, crease-proof, and waterproof. Packed with pigment, the color delivers a punch and goes on seamlessly. It has a graduated point and a built-in smudger to help you create a stunning smoky eye that lasts for 12 hours and feels weightless the entire time. A detachable sharpener literally keeps the pencil on point. It is available in eight shades, ranging from black to teal to pink to hunter green.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular eyeliners for the waterline on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 20 different eyeliners overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 5 of the eyeliners themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.