13 Eyeliners Editors and Makeup Artists Never Shut Up About

There's one quintessential thing that most—not all, but most—of our forever-favorite eye makeup looks have in common: eyeliner. Whether it's a whimsical stroke (or three) of a bold color, a perfectly angled cat eye, or just an extra hit of smoky definition à la a creamy gel or kohl pencil, eyeliner is our go-to secret ingredient for saucing up any aesthetic. 

That said, editors and makeup artists have truly tried them all, from pencil to liquid to gel to pot liner. We've narrowed down a list of the best to eliminate the guesswork. If you're an eyeliner enthusiast, consider adding one of these formulas (or all of them) to your arsenal. Keep scrolling, for advice and tips from a celebrity makeup artist, along with the best options in each category.

What to Look for in an Eyeliner

Best Eyeliners



Although there are a variety of eyeliners out there, most people stick to pencil or liquid. Celebrity makeup artist J Guerra shares his thoughts on the two. "Pencil eyeliners are versatile, simple to use, and more forgiving than liquid eyeliners," he says. "Cleaning up any mistakes is much less drama. Pencils are also less of a commitment, as they tend to have a less permanent wear time. This makes them a great option for changing looks throughout the day, on a photo shoot, or going from a day to night look in real life."

There are other benefits to pencil eyeliner, Guerra says. "The soft, malleable, kohl texture [of a pencil liner] is excellent for creating a more blended, smudged, or worn-in eyeliner effect," he says. "Just be sure to choose one that is long-wearing or waterproof so that it sets and lasts all day after smudging it into place. Pencil liners are also better options for sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers. The formulas of liquid liners may irritate sensitive eyes. The liquid texture can slip into or past the waterline during application and end up on contact lenses. Be careful to read pencil liner descriptions, as not all are approved for waterline use! Some formulas may irritate the eyes, particularly if the pencils include sparkles or shimmer. Some dyes may also be harmful to the waterline. Use the sharpened point of the pencil for precise and defined lines, or try using the side for a thicker line and smudgy finish." 

Guerra also has a few other notes on liquid liners. "Liquid eyeliner is long-lasting, delivers more definition, and creates a bolder, sharper line," he says. It's best suited for creating precise and defined lines, making it an excellent choice for sleek or more modernized dramatic eye looks. They offer greater control and accuracy, making it easier to create sharp lines, intricate designs, and precise detailing. Liquid eyeliners are often highly pigmented formulas that provide a more intense color payoff [compared] to the softness of pencils. The color payoff of these hues and bolder, more vibrant lines serve as a statement all on their own."

"Liquid eyeliner is better suited for oily eyelids since the wearability is stronger and won't break down as easily as pencils," Guerra says. "It's also more suitable for hooded eye shapes since most liquid liners are transfer-resistant after they dry down and set. Remember to allow liquid eyeliner sufficient time to dry before blinking or opening your eyes fully (definitely don't sneeze!) to prevent transfer or smudging. Liquid liners do require a bit more practice and patience than pencils! Most liquid liners are not meant to be used in the waterline, so if that's part of the look, be sure to opt for a pencil liner in that area instead."

Best Overall Eyeliner: Valentino Twin Liner Gel and Liquid Eyeliner

Pros: A pencil and liquid eyeliner in one. The semi-matte formula offers high-impact color and 16 hours of wear time.

Cons: Expensive

This Valentino eyeliner is one of Guerra's top choices because it includes both a pencil side and a liquid side, so you can practice doing a variety of looks. The highly pigmented formula also offers incredible color payoff and up to 16 hours of wear.

Customer Review: "Best liquid liner I've ever used! So smooth and clean. I'm in love!"

Best Drugstore Eyeliner: Maybelline TattooStudio Smokey Gel Pencil Eyeliner

Pros: Budget-friendly, provides a matte finish, unique powder-in-gel formula, designed with a precision tip applicator.

Cons: It doesn't last very long.

Maybelline's unique powder-in-gel formula is a drugstore favorite of Guerra's. It's also designed with a precision tip applicator to help you achieve the tightest line.

Customer Review: "Super smooth application and lasts all day!"

Best Waterproof: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner

Pros: Waterproof, glides easily, and dries quickly.

Cons: The tip could be sharper.

Guerra and Who What Wear associate beauty editor Kaitlyn McLintock swear by this waterproof liner from Stila.

"Call me basic, but I love this iconic eyeliner. It's inky, jet-black, and actually stays put all day long." — McLintock

Customer Review: "Fantastic eyeliner that came highly recommended and for a good reason: it lasts over 12 hours on me without any smudging or transfer, regardless of how hot or humid my surroundings are (must be applied to completely dry skin, otherwise it will transfer) and yet somehow still easy to remove at the end of the night with nothing other than just a cotton pad and micellar water. [It] goes on slightly shiny but dries down quickly to a semi-matte [while] still giving me enough time to easily wipe off any occasional mishap. The flexible felt tip applicator dispenses exactly the amount of product needed in a controlled manner and is versatile enough to create a thin line or a thicker one if you wish to build up without the risk of flaking."

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner

Pros: Clean formula is safe for sensitive eyes, fragrance-free, gel-like formula blends and applies easily.

Cons: Can break easily if you're not careful.

Ilia offers this clean formula that's gentle on sensitive eyes. It's free of any fragrance and potential irritants, plus the gel-like formula glides along the waterline and can create a cat eye with ease.

Customer Review: "I've bought and recommended this eyeliner to all my sensitive eye people and clean beauty junkies like me! It's a rich black that glides on effortlessly—even in the waterline."

Best Pot Eyeliner: Chanel Calligraphie de Chanel Longwear Intense Cream Eyeliner

Pros: Long-lasting, creates a super-vinyl finish, highly pigmented, waterproof.

Cons: Expensive.

Guerra loves this creamy formula from Chanel. It's long-lasting, waterproof, creates an intense vinyl finish, and is highly pigmented. It's great for a more dramatic look that you want to stand out.

Best Liquid Eyeliners

Best Liquid Eyelliners



Pros: Provides up to 24 hours of wear and has a felt precision tip to create a smooth and seamless look.

Cons: Wears off a bit quicker without a primer.

Guerra always recommends this Lancôme liquid liner because it has a felt precision tip, provides up to 24 hours of wear, and provides a smooth, seamless look. The felt tip is also sharp enough to be great for beginners.

Customer Review: "I usually only use pencil liner, but this eyeliner has changed my mind! It's so easy to use (being a pen), and the tip is really sharp, so I get the perfect application every time. It also stays on all day long, even through the summer heat. A must-have—I definitely recommend it!"

Pros: Dual-ended liquid liner allows you to create a variety of looks with a highly pigmented shade of black.

Cons: Expensive.

Guerra also loves this Tom Ford liquid eyeliner because it has a fine calligraphy tip on one end and a brush on the other for a range of sleek to dramatic effects.

Customer Review: "My holy grail—been using for a few years now. I try other liners but always come back to this one. One can last me a really long time (justifying the price), and it lasts really well on my oily lids and is contact friendly, which is an issue I've had with some liners. I haven't had a problem with it running, bleeding, or anything. And I receive quite a few compliments on it and have recommended it to friends who ask what liner I am using."

Best Pencil Eyeliners

Best Pencil Eyeliners



Pros: Fuses the precision of a gel and the ease of a pencil for smooth application, is waterproof, and comes in a variety of shades and finishes.

Cons: It doesn't stay as well as other options.

Guerra loves this Pat McGrath pencil liner because it fuses the precision of a gel with the ease of a pencil for smoother application.

Customer Review: "Finally, a suitable replacement for my beloved Marc Jacobs Truffled Fineliner, which was discontinued. This is a beautiful and creamy brown saturated enough to use with any of my shadows."

Pros: Waterproof, delivers intense and long-lasting color, and comes in a variety of shades and finishes.

Cons: Tends to smudge a bit.

"I have trouble with eyeliners transferring due to my hooded eyes. This is one of the only formulas that works along my waterline and doesn't end up smeared all over my eyes." — McLintock

Customer Review: "Love this eyeliner. I have had difficulty finding an eyeliner that does not melt off. I found this one and love it. It stays put. I generally dab a powder on top of it to set it. That's my preference when applying eyeliner [as] it stays where you place it. I have black and repurchased Vice."

Best Gel Eyeliners

Best Gel Eyeliners



Pros: Budget-friendly, highly pigmented, waterproof cream-to-gel formula delivers up to 18 hours of wear.

Cons: Tends to break easily.

"For $7, you can't beat the color payoff of these cream-gel liners. All you need is one swipe for bold, pigmented color."

Customer Review: "Clean ingredients. [Goes on] smooth and creamy when you apply to your eyes."

Pros: Waterproof, gel-like formula, contains vitamin E and argan oil to soothe and moisturize, and comes in a variety of shades and finishes.

Cons: May not be as great for those with an oily eye area.

No one knows drama better than Lady Gaga, so there's no way I could leave her highly-rated gel eyeliner off this list. The sky is the limit for your color options, and just one swipe leaves behind a creamy, albeit bulletproof finish with tons of eye-catching saturation. 

Customer Review: "Best eyeliner on the market! I love the color, and [it] glides on effortlessly!"

Best for Beginners

Best Eyeliners for Beginners



Pros: Waterproof gel formula, 1.5MM mechanical pencil offers extra precision for beginners

Cons: Tends to smudge a bit.

"This has an extra small tip for easy, slow, and buildable application." — Guerra

Customer Review: "This is one of my consistent purchases! I love that this is very creamy and not like other waterproof eyeliners that take so much scrubbing to get off."

Pros: Includes a precision brush tip, plant oils, and waxes to add extra glide to the formula, and is safe for contact lens wearers.

Cons: Expensive.

"This creamy pencil formula conveniently includes an angled brush on the end to practice winged liner." — Guerra

Customer Review: "I bought this pencil in the black jade color, and I love everything about it. It goes on so smoothly and does not smudge. It comes with a sharpener, too! The color is a wonderful dark green and not garish at all. The brush on the end is really useful too. All around [the] best pencil!"

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.