Applying liquid eyeliner is hard enough, but especially so when you’re working with a fussy, hard-to-handle formula. (That’s especially true if you’re creating a cat-eye, which remains one of the hardest and most precious beauty feats that anyone can master.) We’re referring to those lackluster formulas that leave much to be desired. You know the ones—they’re either clumpy, sheer, or difficult to control, resulting in jagged shapes that require a cotton swab, makeup remover, time, and patience to fix.
While we always have a few cotton swabs and a lot of makeup remover on hand, we don’t always have a surplus of time and patience, which is why we stick to formulas that we know perform well. How are we so sure, though, that these eyeliners perform so well? Easy—the internet.
Whether it’s makeup blogs, social media, or customer reviews, we’re convinced we’ve found the best liquid eyeliner formulas.
Best Overall: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
This Stila pick is a Byrdie-editor favorite. It’s all thanks to the thin felt tip that’s easy to control, depositing just the right amount of fluid black ink—never too much and never too little. Because of this, and its all-day staying power, it’s been our go-to for creating the perfect cat eye for years.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise All Day Liquid Eyeliner Makeup
If you’re looking for a high-quality liner at a drugstore price, turn to this Maybelline gel liner. With plenty of positive reviews, you can rest assured that this formula is beloved by many. The gel is formula is made with innovative Ink technology that keeps the pigment saturated throughout the day. The waterproof and smudge-proof formula ensures that your look will stay in place without the need for touchups and reapplications.
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Runner-Up, Best Drugstore: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Liner
As far as drugstore liner goes, this Revlon one ranks somewhere near the top. Since it’s from the brand’s ColorStay line, it boasts 16-hour staying power, though for us it was more like eight-hour staying power (still impressive).
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Best for Beginners: L’Oréal Infallible Liquid Eyeliner
Liquid liner takes more precision and practice, but pencil products don’t typically give you as much saturation or definition. The perfect compromise for beginners is this easy-to-apply felt tip liquid liner from L’Oréal.
This formula is perfect for playing around with different application styles and looks without it costing you a fortune. The smudge-proof formula lasts up to 12 hours, which is perfect for everyday wear. The top-rated formula is also available in black, brown, and grey, so you can find the best shade to bring out your eyes.
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Best Satin Finish: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Flyliner Longwear Liquid Eyeliner
This hyper-saturated, water-resistant liquid eyeliner has everything that you want in a liner and then some. It has a smart triangle shape that makes it easy to hold, and it features a super-flex felt tip (a Fenty Beauty exclusive) that allows for a smooth, uninterrupted ink flow from every angle.
Best Matte: NYX Professional Makeup Matte Liquid Liner
This is one of the best-selling liquid liners, regardless of brand or price. The ultra-fine brush deposits a thin line of stark matte ink, making it perfect for classic cat-eye flicks.
Best Budget: Sephora Collection Long-Lasting 12 Hr Wear Eye Liner
Another Byrdie favorite, this Sephora Collection liner is legitimately amazing for the price. It’s ultra-pigmented and fluid (I, for one, have had this in my makeup bag for six months and it has yet to dry out or get goopy).
Best Long-Lasting: Eyeko Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner
Eyeko is a British beauty brand that makes some seriously stellar eye products (for proof, just read this review on the brand’s customizable mascara). Even though it comes from a Brit brand, this eyeliner was developed in Japan and inspired by traditional calligraphy brushes. It’s waterproof, fade-proof, and long-lasting. It even has peptides that encourage lash growth, which is kind of brilliant.
Best for Oily Lids: Kat Von D Tattoo Liner
Here’s another insanely well-loved eyeliner. It still ranks as one of Sephora’s best-selling liquid liners. It’s opaque, fade-, melt-, and crack-proof, but what we love most about it is that it’s 100% vegan and cruelty-free, just like all other Kat Von D products. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with the makeup entrepreneur, all about her commitment to ethical beauty.
Best Waterproof: Em Cosmetics Illustrative Eyeliner
Em Cosmetics is Michelle Phan’s beauty brand and brainchild (you know, the makeup blogger and entrepreneur extraordinaire?). Our editorial director, Faith Xue, swears by the brand’s felt-tip liquid liner, which was inspired by comic art pens and their bold, one-stroke color. Subsequently, this liner creates a beautifully opaque graphic line, dries down quickly, and stays put thanks to a waterproof formula. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan.
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Runner-Up, Best Waterproof: Pat McGrath Labs Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner
This heavily pigmented liquid eyeliner has a precision tip that makes it easy to apply, whether you’re an eyeliner pro or not. It gives you the flexibility to create ultra fine velvety lines or to layer up for a more dramatic look. The slick formula lasts up to 24 hours with little to no smudge, so feel free to leave it at home while you dance the night away
Best Colorful: Dior Diorshow on Stage Liquid Eyeliner
This Dior liquid liner, which joins the many other formulas the brand already boasts, is an ink pen version. What’s unique about this one is that it comes in three different finishes. There’s matte, vinyl (or glossy), and pearl, which has tiny light-reflecting bits suspended throughout. Also, if you’re bored with plain black liner, there are a whole host of fun colors to try, including bubblegum pink, kelly green, and bright turquoise.
Best Splurge: Christian Louboutin Luminous Ink Liner
This is definitely the most luxurious liquid liner on the list, but this Christian Louboutin ink has a soft and flexible texture along with a glossy finish. It has some glowing reviews which confirm that the steep price tag is certainly warranted.
Best Double-Duty: Tarte Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner
Leave it to Tarte to master the art of creating a two-in-one eyeliner. This pencil is dual-sided. One side has the brand’s traditional black pencil liner, while the other is equipped with a long-wearing waterproof liquid liner.
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Best Design: Almay Liquid Eyeliner
Have you ever used a liquid eyeliner pen, only for it to run out of pigment mid-application? Then you have to tilt it upside down, so the liquid can reach the pen tip, before trying to apply it again. That’s annoying. An easy way to get around that is to buy an eyeliner that comes in this inkpot packaging. All you have to do is dip the pen tip into the liquid for smooth (never dry or flaky) application.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen
This Clinique product was made for people who don’t like liquid eyeliner. It applies smoothly and opaque, with lots of control thanks to the thick tube. It’s also free of parabens and synthetic fragrances, making it a great pick for sensitive eyes.
Best for Precision: CoverGirl Get in Line Liquid Eyeliner
This CoverGirl pick is one of the more popular liquid eyeliners (notice the chic new packaging!). It has a super-tiny .1 mm tip, which makes it great for applying a thin and precise line. We like its quick-drying formula, which keeps rogue smudges and feathering from happening.
Shop: 15 Budge-Proof Eyeliners to Add to Your Shopping Cart ASAP
Best Luxury: Guerlain Liquid Eyeliner
Guerlain’s limited-edition liquid eyeliner is one for the books. First off, just look at that luxurious packaging. It’s heavy, chic, and practically made to sit proudly atop a vanity. Then there’s the actual formula, which is lightweight and flexible. Finally, there’s the dense, slow-moving brush, which makes it easy to create super-precise lines.
Best Longwear: Beauty Bakerie Lollipop Liquid Eyeliner
The results are in, and this smudge-proof waterproof eyeliner stays put until you want it off. The felt tip applicator serves up ink black precisions lines that are perfect for creating a cat eye, and unlike many other waterproof formulas, this one is safe for sensitive eyes.
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This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated