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Finding the perfect eyeliner is the kind of undertaking that can take years of trial and error. There are hundreds of options in the beauty aisle and even more online, but how do you know which one is best without swiping it on? Not to mention the wad of cash spent experimenting with different formulas. In short, the search is exhausting. And that’s why we’re here to help. We’ve tried, tested, and swiped on countless eyeliners and have landed on 13 tried-and-true picks that we are sure will exceed your expectations.
But before we dive into the products themselves, let’s talk about what makes a good eyeliner. For starters, it needs a rich pigment. No one has time to stand in the mirror swiping on layer after layer of eyeliner — all that ends with is red, watery eyes and an exhausted arm. Next, the application needs to glide on with ease. You don’t want a liner that involves tugging on your skin or skipping along the lash line. And finally, you need a formula that stays put all day long. There’s nothing cute about sporting raccoon eyes come lunchtime.
As for the formula, the choice is up to you. There’s pencil, gel, liquid, and marker options. If you’re an eyeliner newbie, we recommend sticking with a pencil or marker applicator, which are more foolproof. But those with experience or a love for a dramatic cat-eye can grab a liquid of gel formula for optimal results.
Here are the 13 best eyeliners for every look and budget
Best Rated: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
This eyeliner has won over the hearts of thousands of reviewers. It’s garnered over 10,000 five-star reviews on Sephora and users can’t stop raving about the smooth application, rich pigment, and smudge-free formula. Not to mention, there’s over 30 shades to choose from with matte, metallic, and satin finishes.
Best Affordable: Maybelline Curvitude Liner
If you find it hard to handle eyeliner, you’ll love this curved-tip option. It’s a pen applicator with a bendable, angled tip that allows the liner to be flexible at whatever angle you need. No more awkward arm positions to draw your perfect line.
Best Splurge: Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Designer Eyeliner
For days when bold liner is a must, reach for this luxury option from Giorgio Armani. It’s a water-based formula that has a glossy finish like a liquid liner and it stays locked in place all day long (no lie). If you’re a liner newbie, we do recommend experimenting with this liner first because it dries quickly, which is a good thing, but it leaves little room for mistakes and redos. All in all, this splurge-worthy liner is a must-have, even if you only save it for special occasions.
Best Non-Toxic: Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner
It’s vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and many more toxic ingredients. But don’t let that make you think it doesn’t apply well, too. This gel liner glides on smoothly and doesn’t wear off mid-day. It’s also versatile if you want to blend it or smudge it around for more of a sultry, smokey look.
Best Pencil: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon
In our honest opinion, there’s no better soft-pigment option than this liner. If you prefer a pencil liner but you don’t like the sharp, pointy edge digging into your lash line, you have to try this eye crayon. It works the same as an eyeliner, but the formula is creamy and glides on like butter. And since the color is highly pigmented, swiping on one line does the trick. Plus, if you find yourself head over heels for this formula, you’ll love the 36 different colors it's available in, too.
Best Liquid: Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Fine-Point Eye Pen
If you’ve ever tried to master the barely there liner look, you know the struggle. That’s why we love this fine-point pen that makes drawing on practically any look a breeze. The fine tip is also flexible so you can flick out the ends and even draw graphic lines, if that’s your style. As for the pigment, it’s really black and dries semi-matte.
Best Gel: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
Gel eyeliner can be a wee bit intimidating, but the result is gorgeous. For starters, the color goes on bold, like, super bold. And the color dries in place relatively quickly, so you have to apply with speed and precision. But once you overcome that hurdle, the end product is truly unique. This award-winning formula stays put for up to eight hours and is water- and sweat-proof.
Best Waterproof: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Whether you’re taking a dip in the pool or plan on sweating (or crying), you need an eyeliner that promises to stay put for hours. This liquid liner stays on all day and night and no drop of water will cause it to fade, crack, or run. It’s truly magic.
Best Color: NYX Vivid Brights Eyeliner
Sure, black and brown liners are classic, but there’s something fun and youthful about applying poppy colors to your lids. These vibrant hues can be worn alone or atop your everyday black liner. Even if they aren’t the traditional pick for your 9 to 5, you’ll still have fun playing with them over the weekend.
Best White: KVD Vegan Beauty Cake Pencil Eyeliner in White Out
White eyeliner: You either love it or hate it, but truth be told, it can make a huge difference. Often suggested for smaller eyes, adding white liner can make your eyes pop and help you appear more awake, even if you only slept for three hours last night. This one doesn’t look chalky or flake throughout the day, and it glides easily so you don’t have any gaps or bumps in your liner look.
Best Glitter: Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner
Calling all the glitter obsessed! This sparkly eyeliner is so festive and perfect for adding glitz to otherwise neutral looks or amping up your eye look for a special occasion or holiday. There are over 15 shades to choose from and each are chock-full of glitter and sparkles. Consider it confetti for your lids.
Best for Cat Eyes: Lancôme GRANDIÔSE Bendable Liquid Eyeliner
Any tool or product that makes it easy to master a perfect cat eye is easily worth hundreds, if you ask us. This bendable eyeliner has a 35-degree bendable wand that is super thin and allows you to hug tight to the lash line without curving or skipping. This liquid liner is a fan-favorite and has a creamy, black finish that won’t smear.
Best for Waterline: Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Eye Cheat
While you can apply just about any pencil liner to your waterline, this nude liner is our go-to pick. You won’t be able to see a pigmented line when you apply, but adding this neutral tone to your waterline makes your eyes appear bigger and brighter. And the best part is, no one will know your pro-level trick for making your eyes pop.