Log onto Instagram today and you’ll see that beauty gurus and makeup vloggers are all about eyeliner, specifically dramatic cat eyes and wings. If you think eyeliner is a new invention, think again. The history of eyeliner can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where it was used not only for cosmetic reasons, but to protect the eyes from the harsh rays of the desert sun. There are many products in any makeup artist’s toolkit that are relatively new inventions – like highlighters and concealers – but eyeliner is one of the oldest makeup products known to man.
Today, we associate eyeliner less with sun protection and more with finishing any great eye makeup look. Eyeliner and mascara are usually considered to be the finishing touches to the eyes. While eyeliner was once available primarily in pan and stick form, today’s eyeliners take myriad forms, from gels to felt-tipped pens to liquids. You should choose your formula based on a few different factors, namely personal preference and what look you’re trying to achieve. Those who want a Taylor Swift-esque cat eye would be better off with a gel or liquid, while those who just want to subtly darken the upper lash line are better served by a pencil.
Of course, even within all the different formulas of eyeliner, there are differences in quality and consistency. We’ve all erroneously purchased that eyeliner pencil that tugs at our lids, or that liquid formula that smudges and melts. To help you avoid buying the wrong type of eyeliner, here are the five eyeliners that every makeup lover should have in their toolkit. They include gels, pencils and liquids to ensure that you have a diversified selection that will allow you to achieve any look you want.
1. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
What It Is: This is an eyeliner pencil that acts like a gel when it comes to boldness of color, creamy consistency and wearability. One of the most important qualities of any eyeliner pencil is that it doesn’t tug at the eyelid and this eyeliner lives up to the “glide-on” name. It’s smooth, but it totally stays in place until you wash it off.
Why It’s Great: Aside from its amazing formula, the color selection is amazing. Not only are bold purples, blues and greens available, but there’s multiple different shades of brown and different finishes of black.
Price and Availability: These pencils are a bit pricey at $20. However, they have a long lifespan if you use a quality sharpener that won’t excessively shave away the product. The Glide-On Eye Pencil is available at most premium makeup stores like Ulta and Sephora, in addition to the Urban Decay online store.
2. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
What It Is: A gel eyeliner in a pot, meant to be applied with a brush. This versatile product allows users to create a wide array of looks, depending on the brush and technique they use to apply. Unlike other gel eyeliners, this product doesn’t dry out, provided that you always close the lid tightly.
Why It’s Great: Gel eyeliners have become a staple of just about every makeup line. However, Bobbi Brown was the one who really popularized this formula and her gel eyeliner is still considered one of the very best. While several colors are available, it’s the original Black Ink shade that started it all. This product has become a must-have for fashionistas and makeup gurus.
Price and Availability: The price is pretty steep at $26, but since it won’t dry out, you’ll be able to get your money’s worth. You can find it at Bobbi Brown counters in department stores or at Sephora.
3. Maybelline Line Stiletto Ultimate Precision Liquid Eyeliner
What It Is: Liquid eyeliner can be tricky. When applied poorly, it’s a total makeup faux pas. When applied well, however, it’s utterly gorgeous and show-stopping. This liquid eyeliner from Maybelline features a great formula and a fine, high quality applicator that helps you to apply the product precisely.
Why It’s Great: When liquids are too runny, they smudge easily. When they’re too thick, it’s hard to create the exact look you want. This liquid liner is exactly in-between. Between that and its great applicator, it’s relatively simple to apply, even for those who tend to struggle with liquid eyeliners.
Price and Availability: You’ve got to love it when a beauty item acts like a department store product but is readily available at drugstores for a fair price. This eyeliner is available at any drugstore or Ulta and is typically priced around $6 depending on sales and promotions.
4. ColourPop Swerve Gel Liner
What It Is: ColourPop is an indie brand that is quickly climbing the ranks in the makeup industry. This ingenious product is essentially a gel formula, much like the Bobbi Brown liner, in a stick form. It’s perfect for those who don’t necessarily want a sharp line or wing, but rather want to just darken their upper or lower lash line to add some drama.
Why It’s Great: It’s ultra creamy and easy to work with. Plus, the black is rich, deep and gorgeous. It’s a phenomenal finishing touch for anyone who’s going for a smudged, smoldering dark smoky eye.
Price and Availability: There’s good news and bad news. Since it’s an indie brand, it’s difficult to find outside of ColourPop’s website, although at the time of publication it’s currently available on Amazon and eBay. However, while you might have to hunt for it, you won’t have to bat a lash at the price: it’s only $5.
5. Wet ‘n Wild Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil
What It Is: Sometimes there’s no improving on a classic. This drugstore staple was just about every future fashionista’s first foray into eyeliner when she was a pre-teen. This eyeliner is available in a wide color selection. The nude and white hues are particularly great for lining the lower lash and waterline to create that wide awake, doe-eyed look.
Why It’s Great: It’s a classic for a reason. While it’s not as creamy as the ColourPop or Urban Decay options, it doesn’t tug or pull on the lid during application. More importantly, it lasts, with great pigmentation and color payoff. If you’re looking for a basic eyeliner pencil for a simple look, you simply can’t go wrong with the Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil.
Price and Availability: For only 99 cents, you’re definitely not going to go broke collecting these eyeliners. They’re available at just about any drugstore or big box store.
With these eyeliners in your toolkit, there’s truly no look that you can’t do. Whether you want to create a dramatic, Instagram-worthy wing or simply darken your lash line for a little subtle drama, this list has you covered. Plus, all of these products offer easy application, great color payoff and most importantly, long wearability that won’t smudge or fade.