I Tried Tons of Brown Eyeliners to Bring You the Best 10

Of all the makeup products out there, brown eyeliner has got to be the most underrated. It’s simple, easy to use, suits everyone, and can really pull a look together, adding subtle definition when you don’t have time (or the desire) for a bold eye look.

For years, it’s been a staple in my routine. I subscribe to the no-makeup makeup look, so my everyday makeup is very natural and includes only a skin tint, a few dabs of cream blush, and a clear brow gel. Adding black eyeliner into the mix can sometimes look too harsh, so I’ll opt for brown eyeliner over black if I want to add a little definition to my eye area. I find it helps to enhance my eyes without it looking super obvious that I’m wearing eye makeup.


(Image credit: @THATGRACEGIRL)

I’m not the only one who’s a fan. Google searches for ‘brown eyeliner’ have steadily increased over the past year, no doubt because the effect feeds into the ‘clean girl’ look made popular by beauty content creators on TikTok and Instagram. Brown eyeliner has also long been a secret weapon for professional makeup artists. "I love using brown liner for a really low-key sculpted look, creating shadows that define the eyes really subtly,” says celebrity makeup artist Emily Clarkson. "I also love building it up to a really beautiful smoky eye, then layering shadows on top so it’s really long-lasting. It’s definitely one of the most versatile products out there.”

1. How do you apply brown eyeliner?

Much like black, brown eyeliner can be applied in several different ways. I love using a brown pencil or crayon for tight-lining my eyes. I angle the pencil upwards and apply it right into my lash line, which helps to add subtle definition and creates the illusion of fuller lashes without it looking like I have any eyeliner on. If you’ve previously found black eyeliner over-powering, tight-lining with a brown liner has a totally different result which you’ll probably find more flattering.

"The great thing about brown eyeliner is that you don’t have to be too neat, and if you want a smoky, smudgy look, you can just use a pencil brush to blend,” says Clarkson. She also recommends tight lining to start with, but for a bolder look, she suggests dragging the brown liner into a wing while keeping your eyes open to add some extra shape. "If you feel like it adds too much product, instead of applying directly with the pencil, put a generous amount onto the back of your hand and use a small angled brush to apply along the lash line, building it up to your perfect amount.”

Of course, brown eyeliners also come in felt tip pen applicators, which can be used for a more traditional thick line or cat-eye wing. Although this does require a steady hand (and cotton buds to clean up any mistakes!), any error in the shape will be much less noticeable than a black eyeliner would be. Plus, the overall effect will be more subtle.

2. Who does brown eyeliner suit?


(Image credit: @piashah_)

"Brown liners bring a lot of warmth which is really flattering to the colors of our eyes,” says Clarkson. Much like wearing brown eyeshadow, brown eyeliner can enhance the color of your eyes, and even if your eyes are brown themselves, it can really bring out any flecks of gold or green in them. No matter what your skin tone, Clarkson also recommends trying brown eyeliner if you’re nervous about eyeliner application since it’s much more forgiving than black eyeliner, which needs to be applied very precisely. "Brown eyeliner is just so versatile and perfect for those who are less confident in their makeup ability,” she adds. "If you slip up, then you can literally smudge it with your fingers and add some bronzer on top, and it’ll still look great!”

3. Is brown eyeliner better than black eyeliner?

If you are experimenting with a bold eye makeup look, want a classic feline flick, or are creating a smoky eye look, then a black eyeliner will probably create more impact and will stand out more against any eyeshadow you’re wearing. However, if you’re after a more subtle, everyday look, a brown eyeliner will look much softer.

Clarkson says that she always opts for a brown over a black if her client wants a softer and more youthful look. "A black eyeliner can make the eye area look too heavy and, depending on where you place the product, can actually make your eyes appear smaller,” she adds.

4. Which is the best brown eyeliner?


(Image credit: @hoskelsa)

From Victoria Beckham’s (often sold out) Satin Kajal Eyeliner to Beauty Pie’s affordable Kohl Eyeliner, there are plenty of options to choose from, in shades ranging from light to dark brown and in everything from pencil and crayon to kohl and liquid formulas. With the help of Clarkson, I’ve tried, tested, and pulled together an edit of the best brown eyeliner options for everyone, so you’re sure to find a staple for your makeup bag.

Shop the 10 Best Brown Eyeliners:

1. Victoria Beckham Beauty Satin Kajal Eyeliner in Cocoa

2. Jones Road The Best Pencil in Brown

3. Charlotte Tilbury The Classic Eyeliner in Classic Brown

4. NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Liner in Brown

5. Beauty Pie Supercolour Kohl Eyeliner in Brown Beauty

6. MAC Cosmetics Eye Kohl in Costa Riche

7. Yves Saint Laurent Crushliner Waterproof Eye Crayon in 2

 8. Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Pencil in Perfect Brown

9. Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner in Dusk

10. Benefit Roller Liner Liquid True Matte Eyeliner in Brown

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines. While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.