5 of the best eyeliners to add to your makeup bag

Add a touch of subtle impact to your peepers with our pick of the best eyeliners

Included in this guide:

A selection of the best eyeliners is pictured from left to right, marc jacobs, bobbi brown and benefit
(Image credit: Marc Jacobs / Bobbi Brown / Benefit)

If there’s one product in our make-up bags that is seriously underrated it has to be eyeliner. Sure, there’s always some level of fuss made over picking the best liquid eyeliners for our repertoire, but liquid offerings can’t take all the credit for the best eyeliners on offer.

While liquid liners can help you make a statement with bold wings or feline flicks, the OG pencil kind that has been a humble staple ever since the days of Cleopatra and the like can add another dimension of impact to our eyes that is difficult to replicate with any other kind of product. And then of course there are gel liners that are kind of a hybrid of the two and are unmatched when it comes to adding a touch of defined smokiness.

On our quest for the best eyeliners, we found that the Benefit Badgal Bang! 24 Hour Eye Pencil seriously delivered the long wear and impact you would expect. But if you want to treat yourself to something more premium, we’d go for the Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner that comes in a super impressive 22 different shades—bonus points for the sleekest packaging. We’re also obsessed with the Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N’ Kohl in Eye Cheat for making our peepers look bigger and brighter—layer this on the inside of your waterline before dotting a darker pencil along the lash line for ultimate impact.

The best eyeliners: Tried and tested

Benefit BADgal BANG! 24 Hour Eye Pencil is one of the best eyeliners

(Image credit: Benefit)

1. Benefit BADgal BANG! 24 Hour Eye Pencil

The overall best eyeliner is a steadfast favorite that will win over pros and rookies alike

Colors available: Black, brown, blue, purple
Waterproof/water-resistant?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Creamy and non-irritating formula+Long-lasting and waterproof+No need for a sharpener+Built-in smudger for creating smokey eye effect+Strong pigment
Reasons to avoid
-When the pencil is blunt, the casing can be quite scratchy

When it comes to the eyes, Benefit—responsible for the cult They're Real mascara—are masters in the game. This reliable liner is the younger sister of the newer Benefit Badgal Bang! mascara that has given its iconic rival a real run for its money in the big lash stakes. . So of course, this liner was destined to take our top spot—but nepotism this is not, Badgal Bang! 24 hour pencil has done all the hard work for itself.

With a creamy formula that glides onto lids without catching, it can be blended for a smokey effect with the built-in smudger. This is a robust trailblazer that we can freely admit to stockpiling. It has a strong pigment that covers even the teariest of waterlines and doesn’t itch or irritate when you’re filling in the waterline. And after sporting this on a few wild nights over the years, we can definitely attest to its bold 24-hour claims...

Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner is one of the best eyeliners

(Image credit: Marc Jacobs)

2. Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner

The best premium eyeliner is where luxury meets fun, is easy-to-use and spans the color spectrum

Colors available: 22, including black, brown, blue, purple and pink
Waterproof/water-resistant?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Strong pigmented colors+Resilient staying power+Built-in sharpener+Fancy packaging
Reasons to avoid
-Dries very quickly so have to work fast if you want to blend it

This eyeliner makes a seriously chic statement with its sleek silver and black packaging. And it’s a treat when it comes to both application and staying power. The gel formula means that it glides on without sticking or drying up and the waterproof liner gives this some serious resilience—even when used on the waterline.

We also love the pigment of all the colors—bright and muted alike—but have to say the rich mauve of the Jazzberry shade is a particular standout for us, especially when paired with one of the best eyeshadow palettes among our collection. And its nifty built-in sharpener means we’re no longer caught off-guard when the pencil eventually goes blunt.

NYX Professional Makeup Slide on Eye Pencil is one of the best eyeliners

(Image credit: NYX)

3. NYX Professional Makeup Slide on Eye Pencil

The best budget eyeliner comes in bold shades and a strong pigment gives you bang for your buck

Colors available: 16 including, black, white, deep brown, blue and gold
Waterproof/water-resistant?: No
Reasons to buy
+Smooth and creamy formula+Striking bold colors+Strong pigment
Reasons to avoid
-Runs out quicker than others-Not recommended for use on the waterline as this can fade/smudge slightly during the day

NYX is always here to prove that a budget option doesn’t mean a compromise in quality—and this eyeliner definitely lives up to the legacy. The creamy formula glides on smoothly with a pigment that is rarely seen in such pocket-friendly offerings. With a result that is almost liquid-like in its boldness, this is one for those who really want to pack in the definition. The range of colors available is seriously impressive too, with everything from bright turquoise, deep green to vibrant gold available. 

One gripe that we do have is that it can tend to smudge or fade during the day and the actual pencil isn’t the longest-lasting, as the creaminess of the formula means that a lot is used during each application and goes hand in hand with it not holding up super well when sharpened. But at such a steal we don’t mind forking out to replace this stunner once it runs out.

is one of the best eyeliners

(Image credit: Charlotte Tilbury)

4. Charlotte Tilbury Rock 'N' Kohl

The best eyeliner for the waterline ticks all the boxes for a waterproof staple

Colours available: Nude, black, brown, blue, grey and violet
Waterproof/water-resistant?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and creamy formula+Strong and pigmented colour+Brilliant staying power
Reasons to avoid
-Needs regular sharpening

While make-up pros are well accustomed to popping a touch of white liner on the waterline to make your eyes look bigger and brighter, it can be a slightly garish look if you go a bit over the top—especially on darker skin tones. So we are obsessed with Charlotte Tilbury’s nude version (shade: Eye Cheat) that gives you the doe-eyed effect without transforming you into a beauty faux pas of the 90s.

The formula is so creamy that it needs to be sharpened every couple of times you use it, but it delivers some serious pigment—even with the lightest touch. The resilient cream basically sticks to the waterline, effortlessly staying put all the way until it’s time to tap into Calm for your nightly sleep story.

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner is one of the best eyeliners

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

5. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner

The best eyeliner gel is a multi-tasking hybrid that seamlessly creates both smokey and striking looks

Colors available: Jet black, deep black-brown, black-brown, rich brown, chocolate brown, shimmering chocolate mauve, dark blue and violet
Waterproof/water-resistant?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very forgiving formula+Long-lasting+Versatile
Reasons to avoid
-The liner brush is sold separately-Doesn’t create super defined lines

If you can’t decide between pencil or liquid liner or want something that will work as a hybrid of the two, then this innovative gel pot formula is well worth a try. A trailblazer on the eyeliner scene, this stretchy gel can be stroked on with its fine liner brush to create a fierce (albeit slightly softer than a liquid liner) line or smudged in for a smokier more dramatic effect.

The thickness of the robust formula means that it stays put all day long and it has a customizable pigment that is soft enough to build up for whatever impact you’re going for. The downside for us was that you have to buy the brush separately. So, you'll have to fork out on a decent brush to apply this well, otherwise, you could be left looking like you’re sporting a different type of black eye than you were hoping for...

A close up of a woman with a heavy blunt fringe and a neat graphic eyeliner

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Storey)

How to choose the best eyeliner for you

When it comes to choosing the best eyeliner, one of the first things to take into consideration is of course what kind of look you’re going for. Eyeliner is one make-up bag staple that encourages a touch of polyamorism, as it’s really best to have at least one of each type among your stash—pencil, liquid, and gel. If eyeliner hacks are your thing you’re after flicks and wings then opting for one of the best liquid eyeliners is your best bet, but if it’s smokiness and impact you’re looking for then you have to have a pencil eyeliner on hand. We also love gel liners, as they work somewhat like a hybrid of the two. And then, of course, there’s the need for different colors...

When it comes to picking the best pencil eyeliners, for us, it's all down to the creaminess of the formula. Not only will a creamy formula give you the smoothness you need to create diverse looks—from defined to smokey—but it causes less irritation in the eye and generally makes for a more pigmented hue.

It’s also important to pay attention to whether it comes with waterproof/water-resistant status, as this badge of honor not only makes it easier to use on the waterline but also means that it boasts a more resilient formula that is less likely to fade or leave you looking like an endangered animal at the end of a long day.

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Aleesha Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is a digital writer at woman&home and has contributed to Stylist, Women’s Health and Healthy. Specialising in beauty and lifestyle, she loves learning about the benefits of different skincare ingredients and never leaves the house without a slick of lip balm and a good slathering of SPF. She’s a collector of both niche and mainstream perfumes (Gypsy Water we’re looking at you), cannot live without an eyelash curler by her side and is always on the hunt for any new lipsticks to add to her colour-coordinated collection.