A Global Artistry Director Told Me Her Best Tricks for A+ Eyeliner

Whether your goal is to achieve a sharp and sleek cat eye or an adventurous art deco design, using eyeliner pencils is one of the easiest ways to upgrade your makeup game. I don't claim to be a seasoned professional or makeup extraordinaire, but as a beauty editor, I've for sure seen my share of eye makeup looks that can only be achieved with the help of an eyeliner pencil and the steady hand of a person who knows how to get the most out of their eye makeup. Though I bounce between gel, cream, liquid, and glitter formulas, it's the eyeliner pencil I reach for the most for one simple reason: It's one of the most versatile tools in a professional makeup artist's kit and a beginner's bag.

Here's the thing—an eyeliner pencil may not be the first tool you think of when planning out your makeup (or, if you're anything like me, just going in with new products and hoping for the best) but makes the biggest difference in your finished look. Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to use them from one of the industry's most celebrated experts and 10 eyeliner pencils you should consider giving a try.

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(Image credit: @maryljean)

The Perfect Eyeliner Pencil

I reached out to Sarah Tanno, the global artistry director of Haus Labs, for the scoop on everything you need know about eyeliner pencils. As expected, she not only spilled her product preferences but also gave us some helpful guidance on how to go about selecting the right products. "I like eyeliners that have a liquid-like texture that don't dry too fast, but when it does dry, won't smudge or move out of place when set," says Tanno. "The formula is very important when it comes to finding a long-wearing, non-irritating eyeliner." Her go-to pick is Haus Labs' Optic Intensity Eco Eyeliner ($22).

Its formula is clean, vegan, and cruelty-free in addition to being waterproof and safe to use on sensitive eyes. "I love that there’s a brush on one end so you can really create the perfect line with precision," she says of the product. It's available in matte and shimmer finishes across 13 shades, and Tanno shared her favorites: Black Onyx Matte because it produces bold pigment while being gentle on the waterline, White Onyx Matte to brighten the eyes when applied to the waterline, and Deep Coco Matte because, "not only is it a gorgeous rich brown for the eyes, [but] it also makes a great lip liner!" Discovering a multipurpose product makes it that much better.

Tanno's Top Pick

When it comes to using your new eyeliner pencil, Tanno recommends paying special attention to readying the product (i.e., sharpening it if possible) before softly and swiftly dragging it across the base of the lash line. "If you are going to blend out, I suggest doing one eye at a time since the dry-down time is about 15 seconds," Tanno recommends. Like any process, practice makes perfect. Your first attempt to apply eyeliner may not have the best results, but it definitely gives you hints as to how much pressure to apply, the best way to hold the pencil, and how best to work with its formula.

Feeling ready to give it a try? You'll need to find your ideal eyeliner pencil first. Scroll on to check out the nine other products I've been switching in and out of my makeup routine depending on what I'm in the market for when I embark on one of my many shopping trips. Everything's here—from the best product to use on the more sensitive areas of the eyes to one that will stand the test of time.

Best Overall: Chantecaille Luster Glide Silk Infused Eyeliner

Best Waterproof: Lancôme Le Stylo Waterpoof Long Lasting Eyeliner

Best Drugstore Option: E.l.f. Satin Eyeliner Pencil

Best for Beginners: Natasha Denona Macro Tech Eye Crayon Pigment Pencil Eyeliner

Longest-Lasting: Persona Cosmetics 24 HR Waterproof Eyeliner

Best White: Nyx Professional Makeup Epic Wear Liner Stick

Best Brown: Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil Longwear Eyeliner

Best for Waterline: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Clinique Cream Shaper for Eyes Eyeliner Pencil

Maya Thomas
Assistant Beauty Editor
Maya Thomas is Who What Wear's assistant beauty editor based just outside of Seattle, Washington. Her strong love for all things beauty and fashion stems from a strong childhood interest in the fine arts. During a gap year spent in Paris studying the history of French fashion, she shifted her focus to English literature and journalism as a student at Loyola Marymount University with the goal of one day pursuing a career in fashion. After graduating in May 2021, Maya began freelancing for Parade.com as a contributing commerce writer while also building a following on her lifestyle blog, Itsmayalala.com. When she's not writing, Maya spends her free time catching up on reading, perusing art galleries, and enjoying a night out at the ballet every now and then.