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Tired of fidgeting with liquid liner but can’t quite get the look you want with a pencil? Enter gel liner.
The less needy foolproof cousin of high-maintenance liquid liner glides on quicker than a pencil, but with a host of daring colors and cleanly drawn lines that rival the liquid ones.
Gel liners use silicon-based compounds to create pigmented color (including a super black) that’s easy to apply and won’t slide off easily. Plus, gel liners make it easier for liner to glide on and last long without fading or creasing throughout the day. More importantly, the simple-to-use brushes and self-sharpening pencils make the winged eye look a snap. No YouTube tutorials required. Don’t believe us? Here are eight gel eyeliners to try:
Best Overall: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
Urban Decay’s hybrid gel-pencil liner has been a staple in makeup bags for years. Pros love the ingredients including Vitamin E, Jojoba oil and Cottonseed oil, which make it easy for pigment to glide-on and last all day. It’s soft enough to smudge before settling in and comes in a host of bright colors.
Spending a night on the town? Try new sparkly shades including Overdrive, Love Drug and Black Market for a more dramatic effect in five minutes flat. Or line your entire lash line with a lighter shade before adding a darker liner to the upper lid.
Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Gel Eyeliner & Smudger Betty
Even with a gel liner, there’s no need to commit to the winged look. NYX’s gel liner can be smudged for the perfect smoky eye or applied neatly for a more polished line. Pair it with your favorite eyeliner brush for a make-up routine that’s complete in seconds.
For an extra pop, use the white “Emma” shade at the inner corners of your eyelid. Or switch to a dark brown for a more natural look during the day.
Most Innovative: Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Gel Eyeliner Pen
It’s not all about your lash line—sometimes it’s about lifting up the lashes themselves. Benefit’s gel liner has an angled tip that can deposit color almost on top of your lash line and brighten the eyes.
Twisting the pen will squeeze gel onto the eyeliner tip. Then swipe in any direction you like. The creamy eye pencil stays on for 24-hours making mascara truly optional.
Best Drugstore: L'Oreal Paris Infallible Lacquer Eyeliner 24H
With an angled brush and pot, L’Oreal’s waterproof gel liner lasts forever—and it doesn’t fade after a long workday. The shiny finish and an easy-to-draw line make getting the perfect winged eye a three-second ordeal.
Tip: Apply the eyeliner to one side of the brush for easy swiping and rest your elbow against the bathroom counter for a steady hand. Be sure to properly wash the brush to get rid of gunky eyeliner between applications.
Best Waterproof: IT Cosmetics No-Tug Waterproof Gel Eyeliner
Whether you’re on a boat or wearing eyeliner while watching your favorite drama, IT Cosmetics’ version is sure to hold up. The easily gliding liner comes in nearly a dozen shades and gets raves across the internet.
Need another reason to try it out? The liner uses peptides and collagen to help smooth out lid lines and creases without tugging at your eyelid. Skip the winged look and use the first few minutes after applying to smudge for a smokey eye.
Best for Waterline: Smashbox Always On Gel Eye Liner
The folks behind Smashbox have made their gel eyeliner a makeup artist favorite—and for good reason. The pigmented liner glides easily —and stays put—when applied to the waterline. When applying along your lash lines, use shorter strokes to deposit full amounts of color. Mix it up by pairing bolder colors such as green and gold under your favorite eye shadow before an evening out.
Best Color Pencil: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner
With a thin self-sharpening tip and 12 hours of waterproof wear, the gel eyeliner from the fashion house lives up to the hype with long-lasting results.
Tired of black? With shades such as Violet Femme, Orange Crush and Glam Jam you can swap out classic black for a more colorful lid that’s anything but boring. Set your liner with eye shadow or a dusting of translucent powder to keep the look from smudging throughout the day.
Easiest to Apply: Tonymoly Gel Eyeliner
This K-beauty brand’s gel liner is a top seller in Korea—and for good reason. The brush-and-pot combo creates some of the easiest wingtips without spending hours at the mirror. The blacker-than-black gel glides on easily without smearing even the oiliest skin.
Use the liner alone for a no-makeup morning or pair with a bold lip for a night on the town. Tonymoly’s brush bristles create the desired slant on the first try and the gel-filled pot lasts forever. Try the pearl black shade for a night out. At a bargain, this is a hands-down favorite.
Best for Night: Glossier Play Colorslide
There’s hype and then there’s Glossier. The master of must-have makeup (and pink bubble wrap pouches) just launched its Play brand aimed at nighttime looks. The rainbow colored pencils glide on easily and smudge only when needed. Be like the Insta models and swipe on a few different shades for a striking look or stick to Glossier’s classic Brack (the perfect brown black combo to tote in your bag). The fast-drying gel formula dries quickly, which makes it perfect for layering liners.
Our writers spent 10 hours researching the most popular gel eyeliners on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 30 different eyeliners overall, screened options from 40 different brands and manufacturers, read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 20 of the eyeliners themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.