Purchasing an eyeliner can feel like a gamble. You walk into your nearest Sephora, money in hand, on a mission to find a formula that doesn’t pull, tug, skip or drag. After perusing the shelves, you’ll settle on one in hopes that it won’t smudge before lunch.
The truth is, you never really know if you’ll get a return on your investment until you take it home and try it for yourself. By then, it could be too late. To make the entire experience feel less risky, experts who know a thing or two about eyeliners weigh in. Ahead, shop the 10 best eyeliners, from pencils to liquids, according to professional makeup artists. They’ll make you feel like you won the jackpot every time.
BEST GEL LINER – AMC Eyeliner Gel
“When I’m creating a bold eye, Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel is my go-to eyeliner, as it’s available in a variety of rich high-pigmented shades,” says makeup artist Millie Morales (also a Garnier celebrity hairstylist). “The creamy formula glides on with ease, but most importantly, it boasts long-lasting wear.”
BEST SMUDGE-PROOF LIQUID – Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
“When it comes to precision, I like to use a marker-like tip, as it gives me the freedom and flexibility to create an elegant wing or a thick dramatic look,” says Morales. “Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner dries fast, won’t smudge and only comes off when you take it off!”
BEST BRIGHT FORMULA – 24/7 Eye Pencil
If you’re looking to try a colored eyeliner, look no further than Urban Decay’s 24/7 Eye Pencils. Makeup artist Steve Kassajikian says, “these shades are bright, pigmented, creamy, easy to blend, and glide on like a gel.” As if that’s not enough to get you on board, Kassajikian adds, “they set in 60 seconds and don’t budge throughout the day. Plus, they’re specifically made for wet surfaces like the waterline.”
BEST FOR CAT EYES – Flash Cat Eye Liquid Eyeliner
Celebrity makeup artist Claudia Betancur, a L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador, is a fan of the brand’s new Flash Cat Eye Liquid Eyeliner because it “has the perfect tip to create a precise wing, and glides on super smooth. The cap has a wing stencil attached to help create the perfect cat eye,” she says.
BEST WATERPROOF – 1.5 MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner
“This micro-fine gel pencil has next level staying power,” says makeup artist and artistic director of Glamsquad, Kelli J. Bartlett. “I originally tested the Hourglass 1.5 MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner on my hand, and it lasted through a workout and a shower, so you know it means business. I love to use it on the inner rim of the upper lash line to create a lush look as it holds up to watery eyes.”
BEST LONG-LASTING PENCIL – BADgal BANG! 24 Hour Eyeliner Pencil
Celebrity makeup artist Lisa Potter-Dixon says this liner “is a hard worker. It works wonders on the waterline and stays put due to its waterproof formula.” She adds, “it also works beautifully as a lash liner, plus the blending tool on the end means you can even use it to create a simple smokey eye.”
BEST PRECISION – Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner
Makeup artist and co-founder of Shespoke Makeup, Rebecca Perkins, says it doesn’t get better than Pat McGrath Labs’ liquid liner. She says, “the pen tip is so fine, you can do super subtle details. Mother does not mess around, and her products always do what they say.”
BEST TRUE BLACK – Infallible 16HR Never-Fail Eyeliner
Finding a true black formula can be difficult. Luckily, Perkins assures that her pick is “tried and true.” She says, “L’Oréal’s carbon black shade comes in a gel pot (perfect for when I am doing someone else’s makeup) or the mechanical pencil (for when I’m doing my own makeup).” Finally, she adds, “it’s not fancy, but it works every time.”
BEST DRUGSTORE – Matte Liquid Liner
Dell Ashley, YSL Beauté Director of Makeup Artistry, knows a thing or two about luxury beauty, but there’s one drugstore favorite he keeps in his kit. He says the NYX Matte Liquid Liner is “a great budget-friendly eyeliner because it offers rich color and has a nice, long wear.” And at $8 a pop, you can keep your makeup bag stocked with it too.
BEST VERSATILE FORMULA – TattooStudio Sharpenable Gel Pencil in Brown
Vincent Oquendo, the artist behind Hollywood’s most beautiful faces (Lily Collins, Gabrielle Union, Nina Dobrev), recommends you pick up this other drugstore option. “I use it to create my shape before I perfect it with a black liner and for subtle definition in the waterline when I’m creating a sultry look,” he says. “The combination of black and brown liners create a more natural makeup look when smudged at the lash line.”