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We'll let you in on a little makeup secret, one you may want to try after a particularly long night. Instead of reaching for your typical black or brown liner the next morning, swipe your waterline with white—yes, white—eyeliner instead to fake a wide-awake look.
“You can put white eyeliner on the waterline to help make your eyes appear bigger,” says makeup artist Delina Medhin. She also recommends using a nude liner for deeper skin tones or a more everyday look on fairer skin tones, “It’s all about the color payoff," she says. "Use something that matches the natural color of your waterline or just slightly brighter.”
Keep scrolling for our picks of the best white eyeliners.
Best Overall: Marc Jacobs Beauty Fineliner Ultra-Skinny Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner
This self-sharpening gel eyeliner has everything that you’d want in a liner that you’re predominantly using on your waterline or for tightlining above the lash. The ultra-skinny tip is “unbreakable” and glides effortlessly for perfect application. The gel formula is also waterproof for long-lasting color, and it even comes in beige if you’re looking to create a softer look.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline New York Tattoo Studio Waterproof Eyeliner in Polished White
The waterline hero! Bring on the long nights and waterworks because this sharpen-able gel eyeliner isn’t going anywhere. One smooth stroke delivers waterproof, pigment-rich color that lasts for 36 hours. No smudging, no fading, and at less than 10 bucks—this eyeliner is a no-brainer.
Best Highlighting: Lustro Precision Colour Pencil
This champagne, satin-pearl pencil creates a soft highlight that looks great on all skin tones. It’s designed for application wherever highlight is desired—inner corners of eyes, lash line, cupid's bow, or elsewhere. Medhin cites this beautiful pencil as one of her favorites; “It's a bit more nude, so it works better on my skin tone. Because my eyes aren't a pure white color this is a lot more forgiving,” she says.
Best Traditional Pencil: Dior Diorshow Khol Pencil Waterproof With Sharpener
Highly pigmented? Check. Precise application? Absolutely. Waterproof? All-day long. The creamy formula glides along the waterline while other liners may tug and pull—which is key for the delicate eye area. It also has a smudger at the end for easy blending, and also comes in Beige Kohl for those looking for a more nude tone.
Best Liquid: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in White
Liquid eyeliners are particularly tricky along the waterline, but this precise waterproof formula makes it possible. Reviewers say that it can last through tears, wet weather, accidental smudging—you name it. It stays put and though the thin applicator gets praise for creating sleek lines, it can also be used for bolder, more dramatic looks.
Best Nude: Charlotte Tilbury Rock N Kohl Liquid Eye Pencil in Eye Cheat
This universally flattering nude hue looks great on practically everyone and creates the illusion of wider, fuller eyes. It’s water-resistant for up to 14 hours and contains crushed pearl powder to stimulate collagen production.
Best for Waterline: Tarte Fake Awake Eyeliner
Sure, a full night’s sleep would be great, but when that’s not possible, there’s Fake Awake to the rescue. It was made specifically with the waterline in mind. The brightening highlighter shade is enriched with aloe and antioxidants for a tug-free glide while the self-sharpening pencil provides a precise application. Bonus, this vegan formula is ophthalmologist-tested to be safe for those who wear contact lenses.
Delina recommends, “Apply your white eyeliner at the waterline and stop right where the whites of the eyes and for a more natural-looking application. If you bring it all the way to the corner of the eye it tends to look more dramatic!”
Best Waterproof: Too Faced Killer Line 36 Hour Waterproof Gel Eyeliner
For those that like to be in control, this waterproof gel eyeliner glides on smooth with super-precise lines so you can avoid mishaps and surprises. The transfer-resistant formula is perfect for the waterline to deliver that wide-awake look.
Best Gel: Milk Makeup Long Wear Gel Eyeliner in Matte Sand
Highly pigmented and waterproof, you can count on this eyeliner to glide on easily and last all day long. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and avocado oil to smooth the look of skin and can be used for so much more than just your waterline. It comes with a shaper and a smoother to create a smokey effect.
Best Shimmery: J. Cat Beauty The Big Eye Pencil in Marshmallow
This jumbo eyeliner serves two purposes. Sweep it along the lash line or waterline to define eyes or use it all over your lid to create eye-enhancing shadow looks that can be blended out with your fingertips. The rich white color also has a slight shimmer to it to add long-lasting flare to your look.
Best Metallic: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Yeyo
There’s so much to love about this versatile eye pencil. The cruelty-free, waterproof formula comes in matte, satin, metallic, and glitter finishes, plus it includes vitamin E, jojoba oil, and cottonseed oil for ultra-creamy color that lasts all day long. The metallic white is great for taking your look up a notch. Use it on your waterline or blend and smudge it before it dries to long-lasting color that won’t budge.
Best Glitter: Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Bad Bride
If you don’t mind turning a head or two, this unique glitter pencil is for you. The bright white shade has a silver glitter finish and the formula is super creamy so that you can have enough playtime before it dries and settles into place. The lightweight, smudge-resistant pencil is self-sharpening and easily twists up so you can spend less time sharpening and more time creating looks. Not into glitter? The ”Chromewrecker” light grey matte shade is a good alternative.
Best Long-Lasting: NARS High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner in Rue Bonaparte
This pencil is the real deal. The neutral Rue Bonaparte shade is perfect to brighten along the waterline, but it’s also richly hued enough to create dramatic winged looks. The long-wearing, gel-like formula stays put exactly where you want it for up to 12 hours while resisting sweat, water, humidity, and transferring.
Best Multipurpose: Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil in All Around White
Eyes, lips, and brows can all benefit from this multipurpose artist pencil. It’s available in 39 richly pigmented matte shades that glide on smoothly and blend seamlessly. Use it on your waterline for that wide-eyed look we all crave or get creative with eye contours. It also comes in Boundless Bisque for a more neutral look.
At the top of our list is Marc Jacobs Beauty Fineliner Ultra-Skinny Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner. The slender applicator is perfect for enhancing the waterline for a bright-eyed look. Tarte Fake Awake Eyeliner is the ultimate nude shade for a more natural waterline, and if you’re looking to spice things up with a glitter shade, we recommend Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Bad Bride.
What to Look For When Purchasing White Eyeliner
Makeup artist Delina Medhin recommends using an eyeliner that matches the natural color of your waterline, or just slightly brighter. For fair skin tones, this might mean staying true to snow-white liners while darker skin tones may prefer a nude or neutral shade. Nudes can also look great on fair skin for a more natural look. However, no matter your skin tone, the whiter the eyeliner, the bigger the pop. So choose wisely.
Are you looking for something that can withstand water and tears? Or are you more comfortable with a creamier formula that will last just long enough to get through the day? Whatever you prefer, most products clearly detail the level of water resistance and staying power so you can make the best decision for your needs.
All eyeliners are not created equally. Be on the lookout for clean products made without harmful chemicals, and give priority to cruelty-free products. If you have sensitive skin or eyes, be sure that your eyeliner is also ophthalmologist-tested to be safe for contacts and dermatologist-tested to be non-irritating.
Gel eyeliners, liquids, and cream formulas all serve different purposes. Liquids can be great for precise lines but can often be too tricky for the waterline while cream and kohl formulas blend softly for a natural look. Gel eyeliners tend to work better for smudging and creating smokey eyes. It takes a bit of experimentation to understand the difference between the types, but for newbies, we recommend gel for easy application.
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Byrdie contributor Kindra Moné has been creating fashion and beauty content since 2013. Whether contributing to some of the top women’s lifestyle magazines or working in-house with global brands, Kindra has collaborated with some of the most knowledgeable beauty professionals in the industry. When she isn’t writing or trying out Instagram recipes, she’s giving wellness tips and sharing fashion news on The StylingSOUL Podcast.