When it comes to eyeliner mastery, I've put in the work. While everyone else was busy swatching foundations on their teen complexions, I was looking in my local market for the perfect kohl eyeliner to rim my lids with. An inky eyeliner was the first makeup product I ever used, and I had no idea what I was doing with it. Nevertheless, I went all out with an Amy Winehouse–inspired feline flick that became my go-to look. Nearly 15 years later, I still wear eyeliner whenever I'm in makeup.
A super-sharp feline flick and false lashes make up my signature look, and I'll never stray. I know you want the secret to creating the perfect flick. Honestly, I have to tell you that it's all in the practice, but using the right product is essential. Eyeliners are not made equally, my friends, as there are a lot of variables going on to ensure a precise look. I would say this is my area of expertise, and it's a mini mission of mine to get you feeling comfortable about applying eyeliner too.
So I took it upon myself to trial all of the eyeliners on the market—from kohl to liquid and everything in between. Sure, a lot of them look the same in a picture, but the difference in longevity, pigment and usability was a big surprise. Some of them gave me a flick that nearly made me weep in gratitude, while others made me question my 15 years of dedicated service to the eyeliner cause. Without further ado, here are my findings.
This liner knows how to give good flick, but unfortunately, I have a caveat: This is not an entry-level eyeliner. If you've not dabbled in this world before, this will incite some fear when you try to apply it. The applicator is long, as is the brush, so it requires a really steady hand to create a precise finish. If you know your way around a liquid liner or just paid enough attention in art class, you'll find this a dream. I adored the finish of this, and it stayed put during some unfortunate train humidity.
Joyful—absolutely joyful. I wanted to roll my eyes at the product name, but I was left more than satisfied with this pen's inky goodness (wink). The brush glides on incredibly well, as I can't deal with the feeling of an eyeliner dragging on my lids. The nib gave me a super-sharp and -fine line that didn't smudge as the day went on.
I lied to you (just a little). I'm a self-defined eyeliner expert, but I didn't mention that I've never worn coloured eyeliner before (mainly because it's not on brand for me, but here we are, and I'm so into it). This deep blue is intense, and you'll need an angled brush to apply it, but it's very easy to use. Gel liners can look daunting, but the more defined your brush is, the more precise the finish. If you're not into colour, you need to stock up on this divine formula in the shade Jet. I think I'm in love.
You can hack the entire system with this eyeliner. The nifty wing applicator is basically the equivalent of no-tears shampoo. It will save you a lifetime of stress and make sure that both of your eyes actually look the same. The second time I tried it out, I used it without the applicator, and it's still really easy to use. The formula is smooth and long-lasting, and for under £10, you can't beat it.
Felt-tip pen liners are here to save us all. When I'm looking for a new eyeliner, I'll always look to ones that have a brush that's quite sturdy so that I can draw my line easily. This eyeliner gave me a razor-sharp flick, but the downside was that it dragged over the lids a bit, which made it tricky to fill in. However, going slow and waiting for the pigment to come out made the application easier.
There's a scene in Sex and the City 2 in which Carrie buys some kohl eyeliner, and it fires her up to go and see her ex-boyfriend Aidan (who she subsequently kisses). My personal thoughts on this aside, this creamy pencil from Surratt made me feel unstoppable. It's just dripping in sex appeal, and the soft formula is great for blending into a smoky eye. I didn't think I'd be tempted away from liquids, but this is making me reconsider.
Embarrassing story coming up here. I was so excited by this eyeliner that I applied it, removed it, and then applied it again. I'm that girl. I honestly couldn't believe it was that good, so I had to make sure that it wasn't a fluke. The shape of the pen felt really great in my hand, as it had plenty of grip to keep my hand sturdy. The brush is a true showstopper and can create pretty much create any eyeliner shape you desire. I'm stocking up as we speak.
I've been wearing this eyeliner for the last four years, and since we've met, I've never looked elsewhere. I've come across many a tempting eyeliner since then, but I've remained faithful. This liner has my back. It creates the flick that I get asked about nearly every day. I've fallen asleep wearing it, put it through some crazy temperatures and can confirm that it never shifts. Be still my beating heart and all that.
Before I started using eyeliner pens, I was a big fan of the pot-and-brush combo. It requires more skill, but I've found using an angled brush to be unbeatable when it comes to a line that's as defined as a knife-edge. This chic cream liner comes with its own brush to save you from buying another one. It's not as pigmented as some of the others I tried, but it still has staying power, and a little goes a very long way. Once I went over the line again, it gave me an intense colour payoff. Plus, the brush ensured a precise cat-eye wing.
I've never even attempted to create a flick or any version of a defined line with a pencil eyeliner, because what's the point? Pencils break, crumble and are never sharp enough. I guess I'll eat my words. This stuff must be made of stardust, as it's made its way into my impenetrable eyeliner collection. It's perfect for shaping as well as smudging. Also, the range of colours it's available in is wonderful.
After being knee-deep in a sea of eyeliners with similar black packaging, this was such a treat. It proved to be much more than aesthetics, though, as the packaging is an ergonomic dream. If my eyeliner doesn't have a good grip, it can go home. The formula housed inside is just as pleasing. Fenty's eyeliner has a shiny finish that stays looking like it's been freshly applied for the entire day. I've been reaching for this one for a while.
I'm a fan of all manner of multipurpose beauty products. It feels like such a treat to get two products to work with instead of one. However, I've often found myself pretty disappointed by one of the two. This was not the case here as both the liquid liner and pencil had the same insane pigment and longevity. Not many two-in-one products end up with a peanut-butter-and-jam, made-for-each-other quality, but this eyeliner certainly does.
In my youth, I always wanted to be an "I'm with the band" kind of girl with a tea dress, messy hair and smudged black eyeliner that served as a visual clue to my carefree, on-the-road lifestyle. Clearly that didn't happen, but the contents of this almost coal-like eyeliner sure made me feel like it did. We're talking next-level softness here, as it gave me all the comfort of a pillowy-soft cream eyeliner but with the longevity of a liquid.
I can't stand when I'm applying my liner and my hand gets in the way of me seeing what I'm doing. There are a lot of hands and interruptions to get the job done. The very clever people at Shiseido understood this. The arched pen somehow made it much easier to see what I was doing and helped me create the kind of cat eye my inner femme fatale has been crying out for. Genius.
Eyeliner application is a two-step process: There's the flick to navigate as well as drawing the line. Unfortunately, many eyeliners excel at one and not the other. When I saw the incredible point on this one, I was convinced that it would only be able to handle a crisp line. Much to my surprise, it worked its magic over the lid too, as it was such a joy to fill in and connect to the flick. Consider me impressed.
On first glance, this eyeliner looks a little tricksy to use. The nib is super fine, and it doesn't come in a handy pen. But after a couple of days of practice, I was entirely sold. The pigment is pretty legendary and it rivals the ones that are triple the price. Don't let the packaging put you off. This drugstore buy is one of my new go-tos.
I always feel that pencils come in second place whenever there's a liquid eyeliner around. But consider me impressed. The charcoal-like pencil looks just like my top liquid picks, and while I chose to opt out of a flick, you can definitely do one with this pencil.
I've discovered that I can get on board with blue eyeliner after years of strictly wearing black, so why not invite green to the party? This shade is quite subtle on my skin tone but really came to life when I went out in the sun. I also smudged it in to create more of an eye shadow vibe, and it worked. This is a great multitasker because it's so flexible.
I came, I saw and I conquered the eyeliner battlefield. I even left with some new ones to add to my product rotation. Now, that's a big feat. I'm a Sagittarius—we like what we like, and when we find something we like, we keep it around. That said, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to find anything to compete with my beloved Kat Von D.
It's still in my top picks, but it's now joined by It Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty. A special mention also goes to Surratt, which has become my go-to for when I need to look and feel like an absolute goddess. I tried the rollerball/mini pizza cutter–style eyeliners too, and trust me—they're more style over substance. They're a nightmare to fill in, even if they do give you a good flick.
So if you're really struggling, you're still better off with the ones here and upping your practice hours instead. If you commit to wearing eyeliner every day for a week, you'll be a pro by the end. I promise.
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.