IM Subscribe / register IM Subscribe

11 best eyeliners

Give your eyes some extra definition with these life-proof liners

YSL Beauty

Eyeliners come in various guises, from gel and pencil to liquid and marker pen style. And they all suit a different type of make-up look. 

Liquid and marker pen liners are great for graphic winged liner, retro 1940s, or a cat-eyed 1960s look. Pencil should be used for a smoky, morning-after-the-night-before vibe, while the gel liners are perfect for mature or sensitive skin as they glide on without dragging. 

We’ve avoided the products that flake, smudge or disappear by lunchtime, and considered how easy is it to achieve a lined eye, as well as how simple it is to remove at the end of the night.

1. Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil in Legend: £15.50, Urban Decay

We wear black liner on the water line below our upper lashes and above our lower lashes. Very few pencils last the distance here. They need to be seriously waterproof to work on the water line, but this pencil delivers. It's also free from mineral oil, paraffin and preservatives. If we were only allowed one pencil in our make-up bag for the rest of time, this would be it, without a shadow of a doubt. The only down side? It does take a bit of elbow grease to remove it, plenty of cotton pads and a decent, creamy make-up remover. Alternatively, you can leave some of it on for a slept-in, smoky look the morning after (which we find works on the school run!) Available in five other shades.

Buy now

2. Delilah Long Wear Retractable Pencil Eyeliner Contour in Coal: £20, Space.NK

Super fine-tipped, with a sharp retractable nib, this pencil delivers an ultra-delicate line in a really pretty, soft, charcoal black. You can use it on the waterline, or above lashes for a stronger look. It smudges quite easily for a soft smoky eye, and if you don't like double or triple cleansing to remove your make-up at the end of the night, this one's for you as it sweeps away easily with a gentle, creamy cleanser. But the best bit? Remove the end and there's a secret sponge blender – remove another section of the end and there's a built-in sharpener.

Buy now

3. Trish McEvoy Intense Gel Eye Liner in Black: £22, Liberty London

Gel liners suit softer, more mature skin and sensitive eyes, as they glide on without any dragging or pressure required. This long-lasting liner (inside or outside the lash line) has a superb smudging sponge on one end – ideal for blending a smoky eye. But be sure to blend fast because as soon as it's dry, it won't budge at all. Also included is a very good sharpener. The classic Black is rich and intense, but it's also available in a more unusual dark purple Deep Aubergine, midnight blue Arabian Nights and a softer Charcoal shade.

Buy now

4. YSL Couture Eye Marker Rock & Rough Finish in Noir Scandale: £23.50, John Lewis

With a rigid brush, but a slanted, cut-away nib, you can use the point of this marker for a fine line, or you can turn it round and use the flat edge for a wider line. Intensely black, it dries to a modern matte finish and considering it stayed put all day and night, it was relatively easy to remove at night with just a creamy cleanser on cotton wool.

Buy now

5. Marc Jacobs Magic Marc'er Precision Pen Eyeliner in Blacquer: £23, John Lewis

This long, thin, flexible nib is the perfect choice for the novice, as winged eyeliner can be done in one swoosh, either finely with just the end of the nib, or more thickly with the side of the nib. Ultra-black, this was one of the hardest wet liners to remove and has some serious staying power. Perfect for hot, humid summer nights.

Buy now

6. The Estee Edit by Estee Lauder The Blackest Liner: £17, Selfridges

This is a one-size-suits-all, tapered nib that dries to a slightly sheeny, ultra-dark black. It's the perfect thickness marker for a consistent, same-width line, however you hold the pen. It’s great for beginners looking to achieve graphic lined eyes, and it’s easy to remove, despite not smudging or budging all day.

Buy now

7. Clinique High Impact Custom Black Kajal in 01 Blackened Black: £16, Clinique

This isn't the blackest of blacks we tested, but if you're aiming for a smoky eye, you can smudge it down to a really pretty, soft charcoal black that looks beautiful on all eye shades. You need to work fast and blend within about 30 seconds, as it dries and then doesn't move at all. It has a relatively thick tip, so defined, statement eyeliner is trickier to achieve with this pencil. It's suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens-wearers and comes in a blue, brown and green as well. A word of warning: this pencil does not retract – so don't turn it until you need to. (We've now got a rather unwieldy inch of eye liner pencil that we have to use with caution).

Buy now

8. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Waterproof Liner in Blackout: £24, Bobbi Brown

We do like a twist-up make-up pencil as they never go blunt – that means no desperate searches for a sharpener mid-makeup. This latest release from Bobbi Brown is designed with summer in mind, with a staying power that can cope with long, hot humid days. In a whopping eight shades from Deep Sea, Rich Plum and Hazy Brown to Blackout, try this if you like to switch up your eyeliner colours.

Buy now

9. Fairy Drops Cat Liner: £12.50, Asos

This one allows precision lining, thanks to its ultra-fine, delicate nib for getting right into the lash line and creating a precise flick. It's not the blackest of blacks – more of a rich charcoal – but it is smudge-resistant and waterproof. You can use it to create the flick shape and size you want and then colour in with a darker, more intense black liner.

Buy now

10. Max Factor Masterpiece High Precision Liquid Liner in Black: £7.99, Superdrug

This distinctively shaped brush gives the option of a wide or fine line, with just a twist of the pen. And the firm, non-flexible nib also makes it easier to control for a smooth, straight line. It’s an inexpensive high-street option, which performs and delivers at the same standard as many of the prestige, high-end brands. The rich, jewel-green Forest shade looks beautiful with all eye colours and is a striking alternative to black.

Buy now

11. Jillian Dempsey Waterproof Khol Eyeliner in Jet Black: £16, Jillian Dempsey

This is a good soft pencil with superb staying power and a firm blending sponge to get the colour right into the lash line and then blended into a smoky eye. Surprisingly waterproof for a pencil, this even stayed put in the shower.

Buy now

The Verdict: Eyeliners

Delilah delivers a soft, natural, smoky eye and has a secret built-in sharpener. The YSL and Marc Jacobs markers are perfect for a strong, graphic, cat-eye, winged liner, while Trish McEvoy is one of the longest lasting gel liners we've seen. But for comfortable, on the waterline, statement-making eyes, Urban Decay 24/7 wins hands down for glide-on application, longevity and intense blackness.

Follow IndyBest on Twitter and Pinterest

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Article bookmarked

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Minds section, under my profile