The Best Liquid Eye Shadows, According To Makeup Artists

Liquid eye shadows are among the trendiest makeup formulas right now, with new versions dropping from a variety of brands seemingly every week. Devotees favor them for their ease of use, blendability and intense color payoff. But there are a few key tricks to finding the right formula and applying it like a pro. 

“When it comes to these formulas, a little goes a long way,” says makeup artist Beau Nelson. “The best way is to use a synthetic brush, apply thin layers and use the brush to buff edges for a clean transition.” Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes agrees, nothing that fingers are fine in a pinch, but “the oils in your fingers can often break up the oils in the product.” One major benefit of using a liquid shadow is that it doesn’t require the use of a primer: They “basically act as primers with color. They work well amazingly on their own, or even as a base for powder shadows,” explains Hughes. 

Liquid eye shadows are also the unsung heroes of the makeup bag because of their versatility. Both makeup artists we consulted agree that the multi-tasking capabilities of these formulas are particularly impressive. “Metallic, pale and medium shades can look best as highlights. They can also act as blush — just mix a tiny bit of foundation to extend the product’s dry-down time,” says Nelson.

Now that you know how to apply them like a pro, here are the best expert-recommended liquid eye shadows to add to your collection. Read on to see (and shop) them all.

Danessa Myricks Beauty 24-Hour Cream ColorFix

Channel your inner artist with Danessa Myricks Beauty ColorFix 24-Hour Cream Color Matte. This ultra-long-wearing cream color can be safely used on lips, eyes, face, and body. ColorFix’s unique silicone-polymer base can be mixed to create custom colors and finishes.

Buy on Beautylish $25

Glossier Skywash

Powder-finish formula (that doesn’t feel powdery) smooths on with a doe foot applicator. Silky, blendable color melts into skin, creating a pretty, diffused effect that lasts. A little bit adds some depth to the eye area; add more for a refined, modern wash of color. Comes in seven shades inspired by dreamy Southwest landscapes.

Buy on their website $22

Stila Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows

Illuminate your eyes with Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow by Stila Cosmetics. This lightweight and water-infused formula provides long-lasting coverage, without ever flaking. Boosted with mica, this highly-pigmented formula reflects the light around you, revealing a glowing appearance. 

Buy at Dermstore $24

MILK Makeup Eye Pigment

Swipe ‘em all over your lids for a bold shadow look, or use an angled brush to create a long-wear liner.

Buy on their website $24

Covergirl Exhibitionist Liquid Glitter Shadow

These super sparkly liquid eyeshadows are the best way to amplify your eyes. With its smooth, lightweight feel and quick dry-down, you’ll achieve shimmery color in a flash.

Buy on their website

Chanel Ombre Premiere Laque

One swipe delivers lustrous, buildable colour that can be smudged out easily with fingertips for a soft-focus effect.

Buy on their website $36

Glossier Lidstar

Creates a sheer veil of color that locks onto lids without creasing (so no need for primer). Ultrafine pigments are enveloped in a buttery base for a silky, blendable formula that swipes on easily. Comes in six shimmery, long-wearing shades.

Buy on their website $22

ELF Liquid Glitter Shadow

This gel-based formula is long-lasting, quick-drying and 100% eye-catching! Formulated for comfortable wear and minimal fall out, this opaque liquid eyeshadow delivers high-impact, multi-dimensional glitters and pearls in a quick-drying gel base.

Buy at ULTA $5

KOSAS 10-Second Liquid Eyeshadow

A clean liquid eyeshadow that goes on like watercolor — soothes skin, won’t crease, dries in seconds.

Buy on their website $37

Armani Beauty Eye Tint Liquid Eyeshadow

A long-lasting, crease-proof liquid eyeshadow in multiple finishes with up to 16 hours of buildable color with a lightweight feel.

Buy at Saks Fifth Avenue $40

Wander Beauty Exquisite Eye Liquid Shadow

A highly pigmented liquid eyeshadow that transforms from liquid to powder to deliver vibrant color payoff that lasts all day.

Buy at Look Fantastic $22

Smith & Cult Glitterbaby Metallic-Shift Eye Shadow

Next level liquid glitter eyeshadow. Smith & Cult’s Glitterbaby Metallic-Shift Eyeshadow features black micronized pigments that transform to a deeper metallic as you blend. Build color intensity and depth. Wear as a sparkling metallic or smudge for a smoky look.

Buy at ULTA $24

FASHIONISTA article

Everything You Need to Know About the Pigments in Your Clean Makeup Products

The key is to get traditional color payoff, without traditional formulations.

It’s become quite clear in recent years that more and more consumers want the option of purchasing makeup products that have been formulated without potentially harmful ingredients — and retailers are listening up.

Sephora, for example offers a green seal for products that are made without over 50 controversial ingredients, while Credo Beauty only sells brands, both skincare and cosmetic, that deem themselves as clean. But long before these makeup products can reach shelves, it’s up to founders to figure out how to give consumers vibrant color payoff, all without the use of ingredients like carbon black or petroleum found in many traditional formulas.

“Color cosmetics are arguably the hardest products we create for this very reason,” Lindsay Dahl, senior vice president of social mission at Beautycounter shares with InStyle.”We are constantly working with our team to try different colorants, source new raw materials, all the while considering safety and sourcing issues that may arise.”

Yet, both Beautycounter and Róen Beauty have nailed how to make makeup products that are clean, and offer the color payoff consumers crave by using ingredients like mica and zinc stearate, which are both considered to be low risk when it comes to toxicity, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Here, an interview with Dahl and Beautycounter chief artistic officer Christy Coleman, as well as Róen Beauty CEO Tiffany Thurston Scott to answer all your questions about sourcing clean pigments.

Why Is It Important for Brands to Source Clean Pigments?

“The higher the pigment, the higher chance there is for heavy metal contamination, so it’s really important to go beyond just the Never List [Beautycounter’s list of over 1,800 potentially harmful ingredients that they do not use],” says Dahl. “We believe screening makeup for heavy metals is a practice that every beauty brand should be doing, but is not widely practiced, even among the ‘clean’ beauty industry. We screen each colorant for 23 health and environmental endpoints, in addition to testing raw materials and finished goods for heavy metals.”

As for Scott, it’s personal.

When she was in her early 20s, she shares that she became “obsessed” with understanding where her food came from in order to know exactly what she was putting into her body. This is why it became so important for her to source clean ingredients for her line.

“It was a natural transition for me to focus not only on what I was putting in my body but what I was putting on my body,” she says. “This led me to look into ingredients in my cosmetic and skincare products which was an eye-opener as to the toxic chemicals that are so prevalent.”

Is It Difficult to Find Clean Pigments That Offer Traditional Color Payoff?

Leaders from both brands admit that it was a challenge. However, after working with the right chemists, they were able to find ingredients that offered the best of both worlds.

“All of our products spend at least a year in development, which is why we have a small curated selection of products,” Scott says of Róen. “It’s important to me that we don’t launch anything that I’m not completely proud of and know is clean and high performing.”

Are There Certain Colors That Are Harder to Source Than Others?

According to Coleman, blues, greens, some rich browns, as well as certain glitters can pose a challenge.

“[They] have historically been harder to formulate safely given the high levels of heavy metals,” she explains. “In terms of mica, which gives a shimmery effect, particle size plays an important role. I have found it challenging sourcing a finer particle size which gives more of a subtle sheen, as opposed to larger particle sizes that produce a more glitter effect.”

Does Going Clean Come at a Steep Cost?

The long and short answer is yes, however, Scott believes that a clean bill of health is always worth the investment.

“[Health and glamour] can coexist and complement each other,” she says. “I think that as the clean beauty industry grows and evolves, the ingredients will become increasingly more economical as the demand continues to heighten.”

Dahl also notes that it’s not just about the money.

“We have audited 100% of our mica supply chain — a safe ingredient commonly used in makeup — that has human rights and labor concerns, like child labor,” she shares. “Taking on this important sourcing work comes at a cost, but we care about making sure people are protected all along our supply chain.”

The brand also uses some of their products to give back to areas that have been affected by labor exploitation. For example, ten percent of each purchase from the Golden Hour All-In-One Palette goes towards communities impacted by mica mining in India.

How Can You Ensure Ingredients Are Sourced Ethically?

It truly comes down to founders doing their homework, says Scott, who makes sure that the labs and suppliers she works with prioritize protecting the environment. But she’s transparent about the fact she, and the industry as a whole, can still do a better job.

“Our suppliers adhere to strict ethical guidelines in terms of sourcing materials to how the products are manufactured,” she explains. “For instance, our labs are part of the Responsible Mica Initiative that ensures our mica ethically sourced. We can always improve in this area and will always strive to continually improve wherever we can.”

INSTYLE article

The 13 Best Eyeliners for Every Look and Budget

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.

But before I 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, I 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. 

Buy at Sephora $22

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.

Buy on Amazon $11

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. 

Buy at Nordstrom $36

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. 

Buy at Sephora $26

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.

Buy at Sephora $26

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. 

Buy on Amazon $22

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.

Buy at Nordstrom $28

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.

Buy at Sephora $22

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. 

Buy on Amazon $7

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.  

Buy at Sephora $20

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. 

Buy at Sephora $21

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.  

Buy at Nordstrom $32

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.  

Buy at Sephora $27

INSTYLE article

The $5 Eyeshadow That Totally Upgrades Your Work-From-Home Face

If you love glitter and sleeping in (who doesn’t), you’ve come to the right place. This liquid eyeshadow is the one-swipe stop for brightening your “rolled from bed to desk” eyes. 

As someone who constantly experiments with makeup, I was excited to try E.l.f. Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow to add sparkle to my face — little did I know it would soon become a staple of my quarantine morning routine. Despite the uptick in tie-dying and hair dying trends, quarantine hadn’t felt like the time to try out pink eyeliner or teal mascara. However, spending most of the day looking at my reflection on Zoom calls made me appreciate even the smallest effort. In an attempt to mix things up beyond changing which room I used as my office, I started using a swipe of this glitter shadow in silver and a light layer of mascara to freshen up my face, and I immediately became hooked. 

Vegan and cruelty-free, this accessible shadow comes in metallic neutrals and playful colors to liven up your WFH regimen. The tube has a lip-gloss style applicator that easily swipes the product onto your lids in one fell swoop. Best practice is to swipe from the inner corner outwards then let it dry. If you try to touch up before it dries, you may inadvertently remove some of the glitter as it’s still wet and malleable. The glitter stays on for a day’s work and comes right off with one swipe of your makeup remover when its job is done. 

This shadow hasn’t gone unnoticed by Amazon shoppers, landing itself in the top 50 best-sellers for eyeshadow. If your daily routine is in need of an affordable upgrade, then keep scrolling to shop this quarantine-brightening product

INSTYLE article

She Looks Good In Purple

Products:
NYX Professional Makeup Cosmic Metals palette & glitter liner 
Anastasia Beverly Hills brow definer
Maybelline New York lip lacquer. 

(Disclaimer: I do have Vaishnavi’s consent to post her images on designated websites including Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, and use in my digital portfolio.)