From a smudged halo to a razor-sharp feline flick, a swipe of eyeliner adds the perfect flash of drama. But where once the selection was limited to scratchy pencils or lackluster liquid wands, recent formulation developments have changed the game, offering true black pigments, smooth and creamy formulas, and a staying power that was once thought impossible. Finding the best one for you? Well, that’s a pretty personal affair. Here’s how to navigate the decision.
For a smoky eye shortcut: NARS Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner
If blending multiple eyeshadows feels too labor-intensive, seek solace in the efficiency of a gel crayon. The nib of this one is incredibly soft, so it won’t drag the eyelid’s delicate skin as you scribble it along the upper lash line, and it melts down to a soft smoky eye with a gentle pat of the ring finger. Move fast, though; after a few minutes, the waxes set in place, preventing the smoke from traveling beyond the eyelid throughout the day.
For sharp flicks: Pat McGrath Labs Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner
For the inexperienced, mastering a flawless feline flick on the first go can be tricky, but this liquid eyeliner pen will instill you with confidence. The felt tip is perfectly pointed, carving out a sharp and precise wing in a single swipe, and the inky waterproof formula is packed with dense, pitch-black pigments, ensuring a suitably dramatic finish. Better still, it dries so quickly that flicks don’t have time to blur or bleed.
For tired eyes: Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl Liquid Eye Pencil
Eyes are often the first place to reveal a restless night’s sleep, but when used to implement professional technique ‘tightlining’, this beige gel liner can help. Tuck the nib under the upper lashes and trace along their base before replicating on the lower water line. Ringing the eyes with this off-white color creates something of an optical illusion, making eyes look brighter and wider than even the most industrious concealer can achieve.
For false lashes: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
The high-gloss finish of this gel liner is glamorous, yes, but more practically, it is ideal for disguising false lashes. The malleable gel texture molds around the strip that holds the lashes together and the smooth gel pigments make it easy to create a line thick enough to disguise the joint. Use a small, flat, slanted makeup brush for ultra-precise application.
For hooded eyelids: Hourglass 1.5MM Mechanical Gel Eyeliner
As anyone with hooded eyelids can attest, liner that transfers onto the skin above the eye crease with every blink can be pretty frustrating. In this case, the extremely tiny and sharp nib of this eyeliner is a game changer. It allows you to draw a particularly thin, neat line tight to the base of the lashes, mitigating the risk of any transfer. Apply with eyes open but looking downwards and wait for 30 seconds before looking up to allow it time to set.
For a color statement: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Matte Gel Eye Crayon
Black eyeliner deserves a spot in every makeup bag, but some occasions call for a flash of color. The denim-blue shade of this crayon makes the whites of the eyes appear brighter and the pigments are so punchy that it appears vibrant on all skin tones. Sweep along the lower lash line, scribble into the base of the upper lashes or try sketching an arc 1cm above the lashes for a runway-inspired floating liner look.
Discover the best eyeliner for your eye shape, too.
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