Finding the “best” of any beauty product will forever be a mission of endless variables and subjectivities. What works well on someone’s oily skin may not fare so well on another’s dry and sensitive skin. For every person who loves a highly pigmented product, there’s one who prefers a more subdued option. Liquid eyeliners, alas, are no exception.
So to determine what we could accurately call the best product in this category, we enlisted the help of several Underscored staffers with a range of skin types, skin tones, eyelid shapes, skill levels and preferences. A consensus was not always easy. We realize the world is full of many different beautiful faces with different beautiful features; those with deeper skin tones may prefer a more pigmented liner that stands out more, and people with oilier eyelids may be more discerning when it comes to liners that’ll stay put all day, for instance. Plus, some may be in the market for liner to create more dramatic or artful looks, while others are seeking a good option for subtle everyday looks. But there were some clear standouts — liners whose precision, staying power and value were unmatched by the others in our testing pool.
After a month of spending time with a dozen liners (and plenty of wings so sharp they could kill — and a handful that could merely injure), we settled on three that we could all easily, ahem, define as the best:
Best everyday liquid eyeliner
We found the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
Best liquid eyeliner for a dramatic look
The Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner is named as such because it’s double-sided: on one, a felt-tip liner that dries to a semi-matte finish, and on the other, a gel pencil eyeliner ideal for your bottom lash line, for creating a smoky look or even for drawing an outline for your wing. It’s the perfect liner for anyone who prefers a bold, dramatic look that’ll stay in place the whole day.
Best affordable liquid eyeliner
With a paintbrush-like tip, NYX Epic Ink Liner glides on smooth as butter and retains its pigment throughout the day; in fact, it was the most impressive of all liners in the application and precision categories. While it lacked in the sweat- and waterproof department, you won’t find a better liner at this price point.
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN
The Stila Stay All Day excels at many things that all of our testers agreed on: It applies smoothly and precisely, its firm felt marker-like tip allowing us to create a perfectly sharp wing with minimal effort. While firm enough to apply with accuracy, though, it does not snag or pull on the eyelid, and its staying power is top-notch — one of the most long wearing of the liners we tested. After naps, workouts and even rubbing our eyes, the Stila liner barely budged. No panda eyes to see here, folks — keep it moving.
What’s more, it didn’t irritate sensitive skin after a full day of wear — not even, in two cases, when someone accidentally fell asleep still wearing it (which, to be clear, we do not recommend!). We also appreciate how you can hear the product when you shake the pen, so you’re generally aware of how much liquid is left. All three of our picks are pens rather than two-piece liners, so it’s recommended to store the product horizontally.
Because the pigmentation of the Stila liner is a tad lighter than our runner-up, the Tarteist Double Take, it’s the kind of eyeliner that works for both subtle and dramatic looks alike, depending on whether you choose to build the color with an additional coat. To that end, it’s also available in a “microtipped” version for ultra-fine lines or more artful designs, or for more easily filling in the space between your lashes along the waterline for a fuller-lash effect. If you find yourself as in love with the Stila Stay All Day Liner as we are, and you’re an everyday-eyeliner wearer, you might want to consider using them in tandem.
This liner is available in a staggering 12 shades (though not all seem to be in stock at the moment, at least seven are, via the buying links above), if playing around with blues, greens, grays and browns is your thing. All shades are vegan, and the brand is cruelty-free.
Ultimately, the Stila Stay All Day liner was one of only two liners (the second being our budget pick, the NYX Epic Ink Liner) that 100% of our testers agreed they would happily purchase with their own money — and was one of the best waterproof eyeliners we tested. It’s a crowd-pleaser that ticks all the boxes, and for that reason, we’re confident naming it the best liquid eyeliner of 2020.
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN
The Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner brings the drama — and much more. This liner actually scored a fraction higher than our overall winner, the Stila Stay All Day, garnering some bonus points for its value as a neat two-in-one liner. That value, of course, is only valid if someone uses a pencil liner, which perhaps might not be the case for a person in the market for a new liquid liner.
That said, at one end of this pen is the liquid felt tip that we judged in our assessments, which dries to a bold semi-matte finish, and the other is a self-sharpening gel pencil. In addition to using the pencil for tightlining or using on your bottom lid, it can also work to create a rough outline for your wing before filling it in with the liquid, which may be a benefit for cat-eye newbies.
For the purpose of this review, however, we did not judge the quality of the pencil liner, but focused solely on the liquid. And when it comes to this liquid liner, it’s among the most highly pigmented in the game. We generally considered this feature a plus, but again: back to our earlier point about how judging beauty products can be quite a subjective exercise. If you’re a person who prefers a more subdued look as opposed to a saturated, dramatic wing, the Stila Stay All Day liner may be the better choice. (Or, if you’re like us, you might want to invest in one of each, because options are always fun.)
The Tarteist Double Take equaled our winner when it came to staying power, barely budging even on our testers of the oily-eyelid variety. It resisted transferring and smudged only slightly after an intense workout. The Tarteist fell just a tad short in the smoothness category — if you have sensitive eyelids, you might find that with too much pressure, the stiff tip can feel like it’s dragging across your lid, so we would recommend it with the caveat that less pressure is more.
Also, can we take a quick moment to mention that the weighty pen just feels so…fancy? While we didn’t take packaging design into consideration based on mere aesthetics, we did appreciate it. The product is vegan and cruelty-free, and is available in matte black and brown, a fun metallic-finish black and a mini version of the matte black.
Ultimately, we adored the Tarteist for its ease of use, its ability to easily create a thick line with a defined wing and its resistance to moisture. If you love a bold eye and/or you’re looking for a liner with an ultra saturated pigment, we think this is the best option on the market for you.
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN
The feeling of gliding the NYX Epic Ink Liner across our lids can best be described, in a word, as glorious. Unlike the slightly firmer tips of the Stila Stay All Day and Tarteist Double Take liners, the tip of the Epic Ink Liner is more like a flexible paintbrush that lends itself to buttery-smooth, nearly foolproof application — it was extremely easy to apply, making it the best liquid eyeliner for beginners. Because of this, and because you have some time before it sets to fix snafus easily with a wet cotton swab, it’s also a great option for beginners who haven’t quite perfected their wing skills yet.
Though it falls somewhere in the midrange in the pigment department, if a more buildable color is what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the NYX liner. Thanks to its ultra smooth application, we found that adding a coat or two for a bolder look was less likely to mess up any perfect line we nailed on the first try. It’s been said by many across the internet to be strikingly similar to the KVD Tattoo Liner (a product, we’ll note, that we did not include in our testing pool, based on prior long-term experience using it; while it is incredibly smooth and precise, we think you can find liners with much better staying power at half its price) — and we agree.
We were impressed by how well it stood up after long walks on hot and humid days, particularly for a lower-end product. If you have oily lids or find yourself wearing this liner during a high-impact workout, you’ll likely have to touch it up at some point during the day — but that’s par for the course for a drugstore brand, and we believe this one delivers the most value for its paltry price tag.
Based on our experience with this liner, we can confirm what many customer reviews mention as another plus, which is that this pen lasts quite a long time (though you should probably toss it after its recommended six-month shelf life). The NYX Epic Ink Liner is both vegan and cruelty-free, and it’s available in black and brown.
If you’re looking for an eyeliner under $10, we’re certain you won’t find an option more impressive overall than the NYX Epic Ink Linker.
We scoured the internet and drew from our firsthand experience to find the top liquid liners on the market, ranging from drugstore makeup products to higher-end beauty store options, to include in our testing pool. Our testers were diverse with regard to skin type, skin tone, eyelid shape, eyeliner prowess and makeup preferences. Ultimately, we considered smooth and precise application as well as staying power to be the primary measures of a good eyeliner.
We weighted equally and heavily how smooth and defined their application was as well as how they lasted through hot and humid summer days (wearing them during workouts, while cutting onions and on rainy days) — criteria we considered to be the primary measures of a good eyeliner. We paid mind to how easily they flaked or transformed our aesthetic into raccoon-esque.
We also took value into consideration, meaning that we did not include in our testing pool any liquid liners priced over $32. While there are several “luxury” liquid eyeliners that boast rave reviews — and some that we’ve had personal experience with — we find the idea of
We spent a month testing 12 top-rated liquid eyeliners: These 3 are worth the money
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