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The Best Pencil Eyeliners Put to the Test

May 13, 2020


Erin Schrader

Here at LIY, we’re determined to answer life’s biggest questions. You know, things like which no-show socks actually stay on? Answered here. Or which heels are the most comfortable for work? Found ’em here. We recently found ourselves asking which eyeliner is really the “best”. And you just might be here today because you found yourself asking the same question. Well it’s your lucky day, look no further. We put the top brands [both waterproof and non-waterproof] to the test to bring you the best of the best.

Let’s break it down. Erin is a non-waterproof liner girl [Claire here; hey, hi, hello]! That being said, she tested the non-waterproof options, while I stuck to the waterproof liners. If you’re a waterproof gal, you can skip ahead to my reviews further below. The process was simple, really. Each day, we tried out a different brand and snapped a photo. We took daily notes and rated them on ease of application, longevity, and smudge-level. While we each tested 8 different brands, we wanted to get straight to business. The majority of the eyeliners we tested were great, but today we’re sharing our top three: Favorite Overall, Runner-Up, and Best Drugstore Option. We also included our LEAST favorite of the bunch, so you know which one to NOT waste your money on.

The Lineup: Non-Waterproof Eyeliners

The Results: Non-Waterproof

Favorite Overall: FENTY BEAUTY by Rihanna Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner

I was so excited to try this brand as I’ve heard great things! The application was so easy and the longevity was awesome! I didn’t have any smudging and know that this is the eyeliner I’ll keep reaching for from here on out!

Runner-Up: Tarte Maneater Self-Sharpening Liner

I loved the easy application of this! It went on very well and I loved the self-sharpening pencil! It stayed on well all day with minimal smudging! I did read reviews that the tip does fall off easily after several applications so that’s something I’ll have to look out for! At this point though, like most Tarte products, this is a winner!

Best Drugstore Option: L’Oreal Infallible Never Fail Eyeliner

I was very pleasantly surprised at this eyeliner given that it is under $10! It by far exceeded the other drugstore brands! It didn’t smear or smudge with all day wear and went on great! If you’re looking to save, I’d definitely try this option!

Less Than Impressed

Not Worth Your Money [Least Favorite]: Maybelline Define-A-Line Eyeliner

Wow, wow, wow I’ve never disliked an eyeliner more. I thought I looked like Count Dracula after an hour of wearing it! It definitely transferred to my skin and smeared like crazy! Not a fan at all!


Waterproof Eyeliners

The Lineup: Waterproof Eyeliners

The Results: Waterproof

Favorite Overall: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner

This one came out of left field for me! I’m new to Marc Jacobs beauty products and was blown away by this liner. It went on the smoothest overall and lasted all day with minimal smudging. After testing all the other brands, I keep finding myself turning to this one in my makeup bag. It’s here to stay.

Runner-Up: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil

No surprise here. I love all Urban Decay products and this liner is a rockstar in the eyeliner world. While it didn’t go on as smoothly as Marc Jacobs, it lasted just as long with minimal smudging. And by “long lasting” I mean nap-proof. Good stuff, folks.

Best Drugstore Option: E.L.F. Cosmetics Waterproof Gel Eyeliner Pencil

What if I told you this liner is less than $5? If you’re looking for a good drugstore option, this is it. Although it did seem to transfer to my under-eyes a bit throughout the day, it glided on silky-smooth and hung in there throughout the day knocking my other drugstore options off the list.

Less Than Impressed

Not Worth Your Money [Least Favorite]: Tarte Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner

I had to laugh at the results of this option. While Tarte brand ranked highly for Erin’s non-waterproof picks, I can’t tell you how much I HATED this liner. This was unexpected since I typically LOVE everything Tarte has to offer. I had to push pretty hard to apply [my biggest liner peeve] which then led to smudging. The consistency is sticky, which put up a fight against my makeup remover, but still somehow seemed to transfer to my under-eyes throughout the day. One perk: it’s a twofer [two-for-one] and comes with a liquid liner on the opposite end of the pencil. As a liquid liner girl at heart, I’d give that end of the stick a thumbs up. But for the price, I’d suggest putting your pennies elsewhere.


For your Pinning pleasure…

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  1. Sarah says:

    You missed makeup forever aqua XL liner. Best ever. Doesn’t budge.

  2. Heather Mayberry says:

    My forever favorite is Milani Stay Put waterproof eyeliner. It is waterproof, but comes off easily with eye makeup remover. It doesn’t smudge, is nap proof, and sweat proof, and applies like a dream. Most definitely worth a try!

  3. Alyssa says:

    I’d love to see an extension to this post with the best (and worst) eyeliner options for the water line!

  4. Miss B says:

    I wish you would of included CoverGirl in your eyeliner comparisons. Especially CoverGirl Ink It Perfect Point Eyeliner. It’s affordable, lasts long, easy to apply and it’s self sharpening. It’s one of the best eyeliners I’ve used and so smooth!

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