Women have been using eyeliner since ancient Egyptian times, with evidence from both Egyptian art and artifacts. In modern times, the more liberated women of the 1920s popularized the product, and it’s been a staple in beauty routines ever since. While eye shadow adds color and interest to your eyes, eyeliner enhances and changes their shape and appearance, making small eyes appear larger and round eyes look more almond shaped. Eyeliner is a relatively affordable makeup item, so it’s a good idea to have several on hand to easily achieve a variety of looks.
There are several types of eyeliners on the market, and each is ideal for different applications. Regardless of what type you choose for your favorite makeup look, you will want to take into consideration price, depth of color and staying power, as well as how easy the product is to apply.
- Pencil Eyeliner – This is the type of eyeliner that most people are familiar with. Pencil eyeliner comes in various formulas, including Kohl and gel tips. Depending on the brand, these products are either sharpened with a handheld pencil sharpener or have a bottom that twists up to expose the product. Pencil eyeliner is ideal for creating smudged out looks or applying in the water line.
- Gel Eyeliner – This product looks like cream eye shadow and comes in a small pot. Gel eyeliner is applied with an angled makeup brush. With practice, this option provides an exact line, but mastering the technique can be tricky for beginners.
- Liquid Eyeliner – Packaged in a small tube like traditional mascara, liquid eyeliner has a small brush on the lid instead of a wand. Because of its fluid formula, liquid eyeliner glides on quite smoothly and gives a bit more control to beginners who want precision but don’t feel entirely confident in their application. Look for quick drying formulas as liquid eyeliner runs easier than other types.
- Felt-tip Eyeliner – These look just like a felt-tip pen and are about as easy to use. The product works like a liquid eyeliner, but the application is more controlled as it releases slowly through the soft tip. Felt-tip eyeliners come in fat or narrow brushes for either bold or precise lines.
Below you’ll find our top five choices from both drugstores and high-end brands, as well as products from a variety of formulas. We’re confident you’ll find an eyeliner for every style and budget!
Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise Skinny Gel Pencil
For both price and versatility, this is a best all-around choice. The bright pink package is a lot of fun, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this isn’t a serious contender for performance. The Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise Pencil has a super thin tip for very precise lines. The gel tip glides on easily while the waterproof formula resists running.
This eyeliner pencil is perfect for precise cat eyes, lining your water line and for smudging out. It’s tough to make an application mistake that isn’t easily fixed with the tip of Q-tip, making this a top pick for beginners. As a drugstore product, these are easy to find and will only set you back about $8.
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
This unassuming pencil liner is more than meets the eye, garnering rave reviews from beauty bloggers for its high performance and longevity. The formula is incredibly pigmented and soft and comes in a wide array of colors for creating trendy looks. When applied to the lid or water line, the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil will not move once it dries, even through sweat or tears.
For smudged out looks, there is nothing like Urban Decay pencils, and you have lots of working time before your eyeliner locks into place. These are manual pencils, and you will need a quality sharpener to get top performance. Luckily, Urban Decay sells one right along with their eyeliners, or you can pick up other quality brands from retailers like Ulta or Sephora.
The Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil sells for approximately $20, but it’s widely considered a luxury that’s well worth the investment.
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
A top choice for winged eyeliner, the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is practically bullet proof. If you deal with any allergies or tend to have watery eyes in the wind or sun, this is the perfect eyeliner for you.
With its narrow felt-tip, you can achieve the sharpest points and the most precise shapes without risking skipping or bleeding. The high pigmentation of this pen makes it perfect for any makeup artist, with a formula that is also very forgiving for inexperienced users. The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a top-rated product and can be found on Amazon or at retailers such as Ulta, Sephora and Nordstrom.
While the $22 price tag may seem steep in comparison to other options, this pen will last a long time. This pen does dry shiny, so users who want a matte look may want to layer black eye shadow over it to tone that down.
Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner
This is a top choice for professional or advanced makeup artists though the application can be fiddly for a novice. Once you get the hang of applying it, however, Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner creates a stellar cat eye in just a few strokes and is the gel of choice for many experienced users.
Though it runs around $25, the product lasts a long time so long as you keep the lid tight between uses. Bobbi Brown makes this gel liner in 14 different shades, and while they all look black in the bottle, each has a different undertone, so your wing picks up shades of blue, green, purple, or brown depending on your selection.
While it is waterproof and smudge resistant, the Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner doesn’t really have the staying power needed for water lining, so it’s best used on your eyelid only. For best results, use a quality eyeliner brush and avoid overloading it with the product.
Kat Von D Tattoo Liner
While the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner looks like it’s a felt tip pen, the end is actually a very fine brush, making it the number one choice for doing detail work. Also, it beats most other eyeliners when it comes to staying power and intensity of color.
Due to the small point on the brush, you can easily get close to your eyelashes while still having the ability to shape your wing in any configuration or shape from narrow to wide. The Kat Von D Tattoo Liner also works well under bottom lashes, and it can be smudged out for a smoky eye. The formula stands up to both oily skin and sweat and will cost you around $20 at any retailer that carries Kat Von D products, including Sephora.
It’s safe to say that eyeliner is the one product that makes the biggest difference in creating impactful eye looks. Whether you want to change up your look daily or have a tried and true method of application, this list of top rated eyeliners offers something for everyone.