The best liquid eyeliner you can buy

The best liquid eyeliner you can buy

best liquid eyeliner

  • Liquid eyeliner can rank high on the list of "scary beauty products," mostly because of how finicky it can be and how easily it can smudge or run down your face.
  • The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner is positively foolproof, which is why it's our top pick in the liquid liner category.

There's a joke that tends to circulate among those who are more than a little beauty-obsessed - the later we are to leave our apartments, the more complicated of a liquid eyeliner look we decide to wear.

It's funn, but sad, because liquid eyeliner can really be a pain in the butt, which is the major reason why most makeup novices shy away from it.

But not all liquid eyeliners are as scary as they're made out to be. In fact, liquid eyeliners have advanced by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Gone are the days of flimsy paintbrush-like applicators and runny pigments. Now, the majority of liners come with marker-like tips, making it much easier to create clean, crisp lines. The formulations are much sturdier, which means no runny black tears À la Lauren Conrad on "The Hills."

All that said, there are a few tricks you want to keep in mind when it comes to working with liquids. The most important? Don't try to make one, clean line in one swipe - it's pretty much impossible. Instead, apply your line in short strokes, and go slowly. This is a marathon - not a sprint.


Another tip? If you're creating a cat-eye with liquid eyeliner, apply to each eye in tandem, not one at a time. So draw the flick on each eye to make sure they're even, and then fill in each line over the lid. That way, it's easier to fix if things get messed up.

But all of these tips are totally worthless if you don't have the right liner in your makeup bag. So which one reigns supreme? Read on for our top picks in every category. But remember these two things - practice makes perfect, and don't attempt liquid liner if you're in a rush.

Here are the best liquid eyeliners you can buy:

Updated 6/25/19 by Jada Wong: Updated copy, formatting, links, and prices.

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The best liquid eyeliner overall

The best liquid eyeliner overall
With its waterproof formula and sturdy applicator, Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner lives up to its name.

Ask any beauty pro what makes an amazing liquid liner, and you'll likely hear the same qualifications pop up time and time again. It has to dry quickly and stay put. It has to have a sturdy, yet flexible applicator. And it has to fit comfortably in your hand so that you're able to work it as easily as you would a pencil.

If you then asked those same beauty pros which liner checked the most of those boxes, you'd likely hear Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner more than once. That's because it stacks up in basically every category that a liquid liner should hit. It's like the Target of liquid liners — it's got everything you need.

The marker-like applicator is stiff enough to offer you maximum control but flexible enough to deliver a swoop of pigment with just the slightest bit of pressure. This stuff sets in seconds too, which means it won't budge if you decide to curl your lashes ahead of your mascara application. And that strong hold stays all day — just like its name suggests.

A hold so strong doesn't come without its setbacks though. Its quick dry time means that you have to work quickly to clean up any wobbly lines. Wait too long, and you'll have to pull out your Bioderma to fix any mucked up spots. Once the end of the day rolls around, expect to use some heavy-duty eye makeup remover to wipe this sucker off — coconut oil is clutch for breaking down tough liner like this.

But Stila's holding power is what makes it a winner. This liner has an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars over at Sephora with more than 10,000 reviews. If the reviews are any indication, people who buy Stila never have to look for another liquid liner again. So consider your own search over — this one's a clear winner.

Pros: Waterproof, easy to apply, dries down quickly, comes in eight shades

Cons: Can be difficult to remove at the end of the day, might dry too quickly to fix mistakes

Buy Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner for $22

The best liquid eyeliner for newbies

The best liquid eyeliner for newbies
Lancôme Grandiôse Bendable Liquid Liner's innovative applicator bends to fit the contour of your eye, making your perfect cat-eye easier to achieve than ever.

There's a big issue with all eyeliners — not just liquid ones. They're a little awkward to apply. Since our eyes are curved and liners tend to come in straight tubes, it can feel a bit like you're auditioning for the circus every time you try to apply. It takes a lot of practice to get the angle just right, and that can be daunting for those who are just dipping their toes in the liquid liner pool.

Enter Lancôme Grandiôse Liquid Liner.

This two-in-one applicator can be used both straight or at a 35-degree angle. That tiny little bend allows you to keep your wrist straight as you apply — something that's much easier for those just starting their liquid liner journey.

But the bend isn't just good for newbies. It's amazing for those who are looking for their liner to come as close to their lash line as possible as the bend allows for precise application, which is something that even the most skilled eyeliner lovers sometimes still struggle with.

Don't believe us? Stephanie Saltzman over at Fashionista gave this bendable liner a glowing review. "My usually kind of wobbly line was a lot more uniform and hugged my lash line a little more tightly," she writes. She was also sold on the formula, which she describes as lasting for a "solid 13 hours." That's nothing to turn your nose up at.

The only downside to this bendable wonder? The price point. While beginners will love its bendy brush, they may be turned off by its higher price tag. But if it gives you more confidence to pick up the liner and actually use it, that's worth the investment.

Pros: Bendable brush makes it perfect for beginners or those looking for a more precise line, comes in two shades

Cons: Expensive for an eyeliner

Buy Lancôme Grandiôse Bendable Liquid Liner for $32

The best liquid eyeliner for pros

The best liquid eyeliner for pros
If you've already mastered the perfect cat-eye flick and are looking to up your game in a major way, then Charlotte Tilbury The Feline Flick is the tube you want to reach for.

One of the downfalls of the standard liquid liner that a lot of new beauty devotees gravitate to? The tip tends to be short and stiff.

While this is a godsend for those with shaky hands (the more controlled applicator means you'll have an easier time drawing with it), it can be a little limiting for those looking to get a little more artistic with their liner looks. In these cases, it's helpful to reach for a liner like Charlotte Tilbury's The Feline Flick, which has a longer, more tapered tip.

Charlotte's cult-favorite liner was created with a special calligraphy brush. It's slightly more flexible than other liner tips so experienced users will have a bit more control over the lines they create. It also means that the lines created are slightly smoother and thinner. The tip was also created specifically for cat-eyes, making a feline flick that much easier to achieve.

But it's not just the tip that makes this liner a winner. Charlotte Tilbury's The Feline Flick features an ergonomic rubber handle so it sits comfortably between your fingers, which means more control for you. That makes the transition from newbie-friendly liner to something a bit more advanced that much easier.

The only issue we have with Charlotte's liner is how quickly it dries. Now, that may seem like a positive, but this formula almost dries too quickly. That means the margin for error is super small, and big mistakes take makeup remover to rectify.

All that said, this is the liner to reach for if your go-to look is a cat-eye. Charlotte has the look down to a science, and the Feline Flick will help you get it too.

Pros: Perfect for eyeliner pros who adore a cat-eye

Cons: Dries quickly, so mistakes are hard to clean up

Buy Charlotte Tilbury The Feline Flick for $30

The best innovative liquid eyeliner

The best innovative liquid eyeliner
The Surratt Beauty's Auto-Graphique Eyeliner brush is inspired by Japanese calligraphy brushes, so you're getting an impeccably crafted tool instead of a regular beauty product.

When you buy a beauty product, you expect it to only last for a certain amount of time before you toss it in favor of something new. And we know it's not a good idea to hang on to liners and lipsticks no matter how much we love it. So even if we find a tool we totally love, our affair with it is short lived.

But Surratt Beauty is attempting to change our relationship with the Auto-Graphique Eyeliner.

The brush is specially crafted to outlast the ink cartridge inside. So that means you're investing in the brush, and not just the formula inside. And damn, the brush is good. It's inspired by Japanese calligraphy brushes and delivers precise, long-lasting looks. This is an especially attractive detail for those who typically reach for gel pots and need a dense liner brush.

But that's not to say the formula itself isn't good either.

In fact, Surratt's liquid liner formula is top-notch. Unlike other liquid liners, it's buildable without dragging or clumping, so you can create more amped up looks. And when you've run out of ink? Just pop in another cartridge for $18. It's cheaper than going out for a new eyeliner, so while the initial price of this tube is kind of steep, you'll wind up saving money in the long run with the refills.

Pros: Brush is well-made, delivers incredibly precise lines

Cons: Some people view the replacement cartridges as wasteful

Buy Surratt Beauty Auto-Graphique Eyeliner for $42

The best drugstore liquid eyeliner

The best drugstore liquid eyeliner
The Milani Eye Tech Liquid Eye Liner is just like a luxury liner but at a fraction of the cost.

There are certain markers of a luxury liquid eyeliner. An ergonomic handle? Check. A tapered, felt applicator? Check. Pigment that doesn't flake or feather? Check. But for those who don't want to put up big bucks, these features can seem elusive.

That is, of course, until you meet the Milani Eye Tech Liquid Eye Liner.

This little tube checks off most of the boxes of a luxury liner, but at a much more wallet-friendly price point. Like the Charlotte Tilbury liner, this one has an ergonomic rubber handle that sits comfortably in your hand, allowing for greater ease-of-use for even the greenest of liner users.

Its tip hits the sweet spot between tapered and sturdy, while its formula is incredibly waterproof, according to users.

On Amazon, Milani's Eye Tech Liquid Eye Liner holds a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. One reviewer writes that this stuff doesn't budge and that she doesn't need a primer to achieve her daily cat-eye look. For a drugstore liner, that's a pretty amazing feat.

The only issue? Some users have complained that this formula can be irritating on sensitive eyes, so try a patch test before you fully commit. But if you're just dipping your toes in the liquid liner world, this wallet-friendly buy is a perfect place to start.

Pros: Has all the features of a luxury liquid liner at a fraction of the cost, cruelty-free, comes in two shades

Cons: May be irritating on sensitive eyes

Buy Milani Eye Tech Liquid Eye Liner for $4.79 (originally $6.95)

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