“Oil-free” is a common designation for skincare products—but for eyeliner, not so much. Yet slowly but surely, that phrase is starting to turn up on the packaging of eye pencils, liquid liner pens, and gel liner pots more frequently. But unlike skincare products, eyeliners aren’t formulated to be oil-free to avoid clogging your pores: It’s to make them some of the most heavy-duty makeup products on the market. “Oil-free eyeliner is incredibly durable and stays on longer than formulas with oil without shifting, bunching, or moving as the day wears on,” explains Natalia Thomas, celebrity makeup artist in New York City. “Those of us who prefer a more precise and durable look should reach for an oil-free formula.”
Our best overall pick is the Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil, which has a buttery texture to glide on and blends in beautifully, letting you get ultra-close to the lash line. For a more affordable pick, consider the Almay Top of the Line Eyeliner Pencil, an excellent choice that you can find in the drugstore.
Oil-free eyeliner is perfect if you tend to have oily or sweaty lids, live in a humid climate, or just demand high performance from your eyeliner. Your lid shape and lashes can also play a role: “It is best for hooded eyes because it does not transfer once it dries down,” says Thomas, and “it is perfect for those of us who wear lash extensions because the formula won’t compromise the glue, causing lash extension fallout.” This applies to both extensions and more temporary faux lashes—oil breaks down the adhesive.
We conducted hours of research on the best oil-free eyeliners on the market, evaluating each formula on ingredients, shades available, and format. After consulting with a celebrity makeup artist, and considering dozens of top-rated brands, we landed on the following best in show.
Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil
Soft formula, so must be sharpened frequently
While this formula comes in multiple hues (and most liner testers will use black as their benchmark), it’s actually the two brown shades that have us sold on it. An exceptional brown liner can be hard to find, but celeb makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic offers two, including our beloved “The Perfect Brown”—which is truly just that. We also like how it comes with a brush on the other end. While sponge tips can be quite effective, we find that this brush effectively blends the liner up and out without removing much pigment for a truly smoky eye.
Price at time of publish: $24
Format: Pencil | Shades: Black, dark brown, soft brown, plum, blue | Free of: Gluten | Size: 1.1 g | Cruelty-Free: No
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Waterproof Pencil Eyeliner
Doesn’t budge, even on the waterline
Challenging to sharpen
This creamy pencil glides on like silk, depositing intense pigment that seriously doesn’t move all day (and often into the next), even on the waterline. Fans of this formula say it’s one of the best they’ve ever used and beats out their old pencils, even those from prestige brands. However, the pencil itself resists sharpeners, so keep that in mind when adding this to your cart.
Price at time of publish: $8
Format: Pencil | Shades: Black, black shimmer, brown, plum, cobalt blue | Free of: N/A | Size: 0.042 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Clean Option
Mineral Fusion Liquid Eyeliner
Bold matte finish
Application can be patchy
This clean formula was one of the most durable liners we tested. After sketching the shades on the back of our hand, it survived multiple hand washings, a shower, and even stood up to a good scrubbing from a cleansing wipe. The felt tip applicator is the ideal level of firmness—not too stiff, not too soft—for creating everything from fine, precise lines to bold cat eyes.
Price at time of publish: $13
Format: Liquid | Shades: Black, Brown | Free of: Gluten, parabens, SLS, phthalates, talc, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances | Size: 0.10 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Automatic Pencil
Revitalash Defining Liner
Very smooth application
Can be blended out before setting
Pencil houses a sponge tip and sharpener
Limited color options
While most automatic pencils come with a built-in sharpener, this is the first we’ve ever seen with a hidden sponge tip, too, which negates the need for an additional brush (making it perfect for on-the-go application). The formula glides on beautifully due to silicone emollients and vitamin E, so it won’t tug on the delicate skin around the eye.
Price at time of publish: $28
Format: Automatic pencil | Shades: Black, slate | Free of: Parabens, phthalates, fragrance, gluten | Size: .01 oz | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Powder Liner
MOB Beauty Cake Liner
Refillable and recyclable
Contains skincare ingredients
Compact sold separately from pan
If you’re someone who likes to tightline, this formula is for you. MOB Beauty’s Cake Liner was designed to be used with a wet brush for maximum pigment payoff; simply swipe your brush and stamp it into your lash line to create a fuller, denser look. If you want to create a subtler line, use a drier brush — it won’t pick up as much color. Thomas points out that cake liners are not only easy to use, but last a long time — unlike liquids or gels, powder won’t dry out.
Price at time of publish: $19
Format: Pressed powder | Shades: Black, brown, navy | Free of: Talc | Size: 0.06 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Artists
Danessa Myricks Beauty Waterproof Cushion Color
Wide range of colors can sell out quickly
This unique liquid formula is suspended in a cushion, which helps prevent the product from drying out (fans say it lasts forever). While you can use the potent jar of pigment for lining your eyes, it also makes for excellent face and body paint due to the variety of shade options and waterproof formula. We especially like using it for bold, graphic eye looks.
Price at time of publish: $26
Type: Kohl pencil | Shades: 5 | Free of: Oil, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.01 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Black Pencil
Pat McGrath PermaGel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil
Comes with sharpener
Can smudge and crease
This buttery pencil comes in a handful of shades, but it’s most celebrated for its deeply pigmented black hue. Fans of the formula say it’s the darkest and truest black pencil they’ve ever tried, making it a must for those who love an intense liner look. While it’s admittedly on the pricey side, the fact that it comes with a sharpener does help soften the blow. Thomas likes this one for its blendability.
Price at time of publish: $29
Format: Pencil | Shades: Black, dark brown, taupe, shimmery chocolate, shimmery indigo | Free of: N/A | Size: 1.2 g | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Shade Range
Dior DiorShow On Stage Liner
Broad spectrum of color options
Variety of finishes
Lasts 24 hours
Can dry out quickly
Thomas recommends this formula for its durability (24 hours!) and its array of beautiful colors—and for an oil-free liner, this is the most expansive range of shades we found. From light shimmery pink to matte green, you can create some serious makeup masterpieces with these hues.
Price at time of publish: $32
Format: Liquid | Shades: Matte white, matte black, satin black, matte denim, satin indigo, matte emerald, pearly green, matte khaki, matte brown, satin brown, matte burgundy, satin rust, satin pink, matte pink, pearly bronze | Size: .01 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Gel Formula
Melt Cosmetics Gel Eyeliner
Has a precise tip
Won't smudge or run
Brush could be improved
All of the liners on this list are safe for falsies, but this liquid eyeliner was made with the preservation of lash extensions in mind. It has a unique extended tip for precision application over lashes and unique eye shapes. It can even be applied over magnetic lashes.
Price at time of publish: $22
Type: Liquid | Shades: 1 | Free of: Oil, parabens, alcohol | Size: 0.01 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Range of Finishes
Lancôme Drama Longwear Liqui-Pencil Eyeliner
Lasts 24 hours
Range of finishes
Challenging to sharpen
If you like variety when it comes to your eyeliner finishes, give this high-intensity formula a try. You get to choose from sparkle, shimmer, or matte—we’re fond of combining both the matte black and glittering black for a show-stopping eye. However, while the pigment itself is fantastic, the pencil can leave something to be desired; the plasticky outer coating puts up a fight when you go to sharpen.
Price at time of publish: $23
Format: Pencil | Shades: Matte black, matte brown, matte green, glitter black, glitter khaki, glitter denim, metallic plum, metallic navy | Free of: Parabens, sulfates SLS & SLES | Size: 0.42 oz | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Drugstore Pick
Almay Top of the Line Eyeliner Pencil
Accessible/easy to find
Soft crayon breaks easily
This automatic liner has long been a mainstay of those with sensitive eyes on a budget. The long-lasting and water-resistant formula is ophthalmologist tested and infused with vitamin E for comfortable wear. The pencil includes a hidden sharpener so you can keep the tip precise (great for getting close to the lash line!) and the available shades flatter all eye colors.
Price at time of publish: $7
Format: Automatic pencil | Shades: Black, black brown, black raisin, bronze | Free of: Fragrance | Size: 0.01 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Whether you’re a fan of hers or not, you have to admit that Kim Kardashian has stunned in some seriously smokey eyes over the years. That’s why we trusted her go-to guru Mario Dedivanovic to create a workhorse of a liner formula—and we were right. The buttery texture of Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil glides on and blends in beautifully, letting you get ultra-close to the lash line for a denser-looking fringe or buff out with the brush for a smoldering look. Once it sets, it lasts, even on the waterline. If you’re on a budget, though, we’re fans of both L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Waterproof Pencil Eyeliner and Almay Top of the Line Eyeliner Pencil, both of which are excellent, affordable, and accessible.
Meet the Expert
Natalia Thomas is a celebrity makeup artist in New York City.
What to Look For in an Oil-Free Eyeliner
The type of eyeliner you use will often come down to personal preference; when it comes to oil-free formulas, your options run the gamut. “[Most] gel formulas, which come in both pencils and pots, are oil-free, as are most liquid eyeliner pens,” says Thomas. However, you may also want to consider your needs when applying. Are you pairing your eyeliner with false lashes? Liquids and gel pots are easier to use with lashes, because they can help the band of a lash strip seamlessly disappear into your own lash line without disrupting adhesive. If you don’t have the steadiest hand, it’s always a good idea to start with a pencil.
“The appeal of an oil-free eyeliner is that it dries down and is longer wearing,” explains Thomas. “Generally, they are formulated to not budge or shift.” If that describes your liner needs, look for a longwear and/or waterproof claim on the product’s packaging. These types of formulas are designed to resist sweating, smudging, oily lids, humidity, and fading throughout the day.
If you have sensitive eyes, not all oil-free eyeliner formulas will be for you—hardworking products that are a challenge to remove may be too irritating on your delicate lids. Sound like you? Seek out a product that’s been ophthalmologist tested and declared hypoallergenic, which will be less likely to cause sensitivity.
Why should I use oil-free eyeliner with false lashes or lash extensions?
Oil is known for breaking down glue, which is why so many of us use an oil-based eye makeup remover to help remove stubborn false lashes. Even though oil is used in small amounts in eyeliner formulas, the tiniest bit could cause the adhesive on your false lash strip or individual extensions to deteriorate. If you’re wearing lash strips to a major event, you risk them falling off prematurely—and if you have pricey lash extensions, you’ll basically be throwing money down the drain.
How do you apply oil-free eyeliner?
You’ll apply an oil-free eyeliner the way you’d apply any other liner—use a sharpened traditional or automatic pencil to sketch a line close to your lashes, or apply to the waterline for a more intense look, smudging as desired. Use the tip of a liquid liner brush to paint your line on, and dip a precise brush (we like an angled eyeliner brush) into a pot of gel, cream, or liquid liner to create your ideal look.
How do you remove oil-free eyeliner?
How you take off your oil-free eyeliner will depend on how stubborn the formula is. Thomas recommends using micellar water on a cotton round or gauze, then following up with a moistened cotton swab. “This will help to really get into the root of the lash and remove all traces of liner,” she says. If your eyeliner still won’t come off, try using a rich cleansing balm or oil-based makeup remover, concentrating your application at the lash line and letting it sit for a few minutes before gently wiping it away, repeating as needed.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Emily Orofino has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry. You can find her work on sites such as POPSUGAR, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, InStyle, Editorialist, and RealSelf. She has also lent her expertise to marketing departments and product development teams of some of the industry’s most prestigious and well-recognized brands.