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Eyeliner has certainly come a long way since it was first used in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as early as 10,000 BC. (Fun fact: Back then, it wasn’t just for cosmetic purposes, but used to protect eyes from the sun, too.) Flash forward to 2019, and there’s no shortage of different liner formulas out there.
Whether your preferred look is a crisp cat eye or a sultry smokey eye, there’s a liner out there best for your desired look. But sill, smudging is often an unavoidable issue. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror after a long day or night, only to find that they look like a raccoon? No, thank you. That’s where waterproof eyeliners come up big.
The major difference? Most contain more waxes and polymers, ingredients that give the formulas more grip, so that they can better adhere to skin. Sure, they require a little more elbow grease—and makeup remover—when it comes time to take them off, but when you need to ensure extra staying power, a waterproof formula can’t be beat. Whether it’s a hot and humid summer day, you’re watching The Notebook on repeat, or you’re heading to a sweaty spin class, you can feel confident that our picks for top waterproof eyeliners aren’t going anywhere.
Best Overall: Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner
Pro makeup artists are big fans of this brand—and this liner—for good reason. It strikes the perfect balance between being creamy enough to glide on seamlessly (without tugging on the delicate skin on your eyes) and still delivering crisp, clean lines. All 20 shades are richly pigmented, so you get complete color payoff with every stroke. It also lasts a long time, even if you use it regularly.
Best Budget Buy: E.L.F. Cosmetics Waterproof Eyeliner Pen
For less than the price of your morning latte, this wallet-friendly option is still just as good as many of its (much) more expensive counterparts. The fine, felt-tip applicator coupled with the rich black color makes it the ideal choice for creating cat eyes, winged tips, and other graphic liner looks. A helpful piece of advice: Once you’re done using it, store it pointing downward; this will help ensure the tip stays saturated with the pigment and doesn’t dry out.
Best Gel: Tarte Clay Pot Waterproof Liner
Multi-tasking for the win: This formula pulls double-duty, working equally as well as an eyeliner as it does an eyeshadow. Apply the cream-to-gel with an angled eyeliner brush to create perfectly crisp and sharp lines. Or, buff it onto your lid with a shadow brush; it’s easily buildable and blendable if you want to use the opaque color all over. While the shade range isn’t super extensive (five matte hues plus two shimmery ones), the colors offered are universally-flattering and versatile, especially given that they can work as both liner and shadow.
The waterproof, smudge-proof power comes from Amazonian clay, while mineral pigments soothe skin and make for even, long-wearing color. Also nice: It’s free of parabens and phthalates, and uses vitamin E as a preservative instead, which has the added benefit of antioxidant protection.
Best Liquid: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner
Long day ahead? Reach for this liquid liner, the brand’s best-selling waterproof liquid liner, and an Ulta fan favorite. Reviewers rave that it lasts well on oily lids, watery eyes, and even stays put through a red-eye flight. The fine felt tip is perfect for precise application, but, unlike many other liquid liners, can also be used to create thicker, more dramatic shapes. It glides on smoothly, and also has the distinction of coming in 11 different colors—including a deep blue, vibrant green, and crisp white, to name a few—rare for a liquid formula.
Best Pencil: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil
This eyeliner holds a cult-like status among beauty editors and beauty junkies alike. While technically a pencil, the texture is extra soft and creamy, more akin to a gel. Credit a whopping 50 percent moisturizing ingredients, all blended into the waterproof base. This creamy consistency gives it something many other waterproof formulas don’t have—a little play time before it totally dries and sets. Once you swipe it on, you have about 30 seconds to play with it, whether that means you want to clean up any mistakes, smudge it out for a softer look, or layer it with another color. After those 30 seconds are up, though, expect totally locked-in liner that isn’t going anywhere (until you want it to). And with a whopping array of 37 shades, including matte, shimmer, and metallic finishes, there’s something to fill every color preference.
Best Drugstore: Rimmel London Scandaleyes Kohl Kajal Waterproof Eyeliner
With an intense color pay-off, this is tops for creating more dramatic liner looks (you know, when you want to channel your inner Cleopatra). Ultra-smooth and cushiony, it’s still smudge-, sweat-, and heat-proof. It’s also been dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested, so you don’t have to worry about irritating your skin or eyes, even if they’re sensitive or you wear contacts. Available in five neutral hues, try using the nude shade to line your inner water line; it’s a favorite trick among makeup artists for instantly brightening your entire eye area and making you look wide awake.
Best for Easy Application: Kat Von D Tattoo Liner
This may look like any standard liquid liner, but take a closer look at the tip. Instead of the traditional felt-tip applicator, this features an innovative brush tip. Super fine and flexible, it makes for seamless application, no matter what kind of look you’re trying to create (just make sure to give the pen a good shake before applying.). The fade-resistant, waterproof color stays put, and the formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and not tested on animals.