The search for the “ideal” cosmetics will never end because there are so many factors to consider and personal preferences to assess. Some people have oily skin and may not have good results with dry or sensitive skin products. If one person adores a highly pigmented item, another could like a more muted one. Unfortunately, liquid eyeliners aren’t an exception.
Therefore, we enlisted the expertise of several beauty experts with varying skin types, skin intonations, eyelid configurations, skill levels, and preferences to establish what we could confidently label as the top product in this area. Reaching an agreement was sometimes tricky. We know that there is a wide variety of gorgeous faces and features in the world. Some people like a more vibrant liner that sticks out more, while others may be pickier about liners that will stay there all day due to oily eyelids.
Also, some people may be looking for a liner to help them achieve a more dramatic or artistic appearance. In contrast, others want a reliable choice for their understated everyday makeup. However, there were definite winners; liners stood head and shoulders above the rest regarding accuracy, durability, and overall value.
Our testing methodology
To uncover the best liquid liners available on the market, we looked online and relied on our own first-hand experience. These liquid liners ranged from makeup items sold in drugstores to options sold in high-end beauty stores, and we included them in our trial phase. We represented a wide range of skin tones, eye shapes, eyeliner skills, and cosmetics preferences among our testers. We decided that the essential criteria for a good eyeliner were smooth, accurate application, and long-lasting wear.
We found the eyeliner’s smooth and defined application and its durability over hot and humid summer days (wearing it during exercises, when cutting onions, and on rainy days) to be the most critical factors in our evaluation. We took notice when they flaked or altered our style to look raccoon-like.
Because we were also thinking about cost, we excluded liquid liners that retailed for more than $32 from our sample collection. While we acknowledge that there are “luxury” liquid eyeliners that have received positive ratings (and that we have tried), we do not believe it is necessary to spend more than the price of the most costly liner we tested. (To sum up, is it ever reasonable to spend $59 on eyeliner? Not in our opinion).
We also considered whether the product is cruelty-free (we’re not evil, after all), if it has any unique characteristics that increase its worth, and if it comes in a variety of colors. Tests were conducted using just black liners for consistency.
We spent a month getting to know a dozen different liners before settling on the top three:
Our panel of experts unanimously agreed that the Stila Stay All Day shines in many ways: It goes on quickly and accurately, and the felt-like tip is stiff enough to draw a sharp wing shape with hardly any effort. However, it is firm enough for precise application without snagging or pulling the eyelid. Its longevity is exceptional; it is one of the most durable wearing liners we tried. The Stila liner stayed on through multiple naps, exercises, and even some vigorous scratching of the eyes.
Plus, it didn’t cause any skin irritation even after a full day of use; in two cases, the wearers even fell asleep with it (something, to be honest, we do not advise). We particularly like how the pen makes a noise when shaken, letting you know roughly how much product is left. Since none of our top options is a two-piece liner and all three are pens instead, you should lay them flat to keep them from drying out.
Since the Stila liner’s pigmentation is just a hair less intense than our runner-up, Tarteist Double Take, you can use it to create a subtle or dramatic eye look by applying an additional coat. To that purpose, it comes in a “micro tipped” kind that allows you to draw extremely thin lines, create intricate designs, or effortlessly fill the lash gap around the waterline for a more voluminous appearance. If you’re an everyday user of eyeliner and love the Stila Stay All Day Liner as much as we do, you might want to try using them together.
If you like experimenting with a wide range of blues, greens, grays, and browns, you’ll be happy to know that this liner comes in a whopping 12 shades. The entire color range is cruelty-free and suitable for vegans.
We found the Stila Stay All Day liner to be one of the best waterproof eyeliners we tried; in fact, it was one of just two liners (the other being our budget option, the NYX Epic Ink Liner) that all of our testers said they would happily buy with their own money. Because it satisfies everyone’s needs, we have no doubts about declaring it 2022’s top liquid eyeliner.
The runner-up: Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner
The dramatic effects are only the beginning of what the Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner can do. Thanks to its value as a convenient two-in-one liner, this product scored slightly higher than our top pick, the Stila Stay All Day. Of course, the benefit only applies to pencil liner users; someone looking for a new liquid liner could not fall into that category.
This pen has a liquid felt tip that we evaluated and found to have a bold semi-matte dry time at one end and a self-sharpening gel pencil at the other. Beginners to the cat eye may benefit from using the pencil to draw a basic shape of the wing before filling it in with the liquid and using it for tight-lining or on the lower lid.
However, we didn’t evaluate the pencil liner but instead concentrated on the liquid for our evaluation. In addition, this liquid liner has some of the highest pigmentation levels available. Even though we found this aspect generally positive, we must reiterate that evaluating cosmetics is a highly subjective endeavor. It’s possible that the Stila Stay All Day liner is the better option for you if you prefer a muted appearance rather than a saturated, dramatic wing. (Or you could do what we did and buy a little bit of each, since having choices is fantastic.)
The Tarteist Double Take was just as long-lasting as our winner, with even our oiliest-lidded testers failing to remove it. It barely smeared after a strenuous workout and resisted transfer. The Tarteist was not quite up to par when it came to smoothness. If you have sensitive eyelids, you may find that applying too much pressure causes the stiff tip to feel like it is dragging across your lid. Despite this, we would still suggest it, but with the disclaimer that less force is more effective.
Let’s pause to appreciate how luxuriously substantial the pen feels in your hand. Though we didn’t choose purely on how pretty the packaging was, we valued creativity in this area. The product is cruelty-free and suitable for vegans. It comes in several other colors (including a small edition of the matte black).
The Tarteist won our hearts because of its practicality, the simplicity with which you can draw a thick line with a distinct wing, and its resilience to dampness. We recommend this product if you’re a fan of dramatic eye makeup and want the most pigmented liner available.
The budget king: NYX Epic Ink Liner
Our experience with the NYX Epic Ink Liner as we glided it across our lids was, in a word, heavenly. If you’re looking for the best liquid eyeliner for beginners, look no further than the Epic Ink Liner. Its tip is like a flexible paintbrush, making for a buttery-smooth, nearly foolproof application. It outperformed the Stila Stay All Day and Tarteist Double Take liners in terms of ease of use. This makes it an excellent alternative for beginners who haven’t yet mastered their wing abilities, and you have an opportunity before it hardens to readily correct snafus with a damp cotton swab.
It has about average pigment, but if you’re looking for something that can be built up in intensity, the NYX liner is a good option. This product’s silky application made it easy to build up the color without worrying about ruining carefully drawn lines. We agree with the widespread internet consensus that it is remarkably similar to the KVD Tattoo Liner (which, to be clear, we did not include in our testing pool because of our extensive history with the product; although it is exceptionally smooth and accurate, we believe you can obtain liners with far more superior lasting power at 1/2 its price).
We were delighted with how well it held up after long hikes in hot and humid weather for a cheaper product. You may need to reapply this liner during the day if you possess oily lids or if you wear it while doing a high-impact exercise, but that’s expected from a drugstore brand. This one provides the most value for the low price.
Having used this liner ourselves, we can attest to the longevity of its ink; a feature cited favorably by numerous other reviewers. The NYX Epic Ink Liner comes in black and brown, and it is both vegan and cruelty-free.
We guarantee you won’t find a more outstanding all-around eyeliner than the NYX Epic Ink Linker for less than $10.
The liquid eyeliner alternatives
Even though this liner’s more extended applicator tip may make it simpler for some users to draw a thin, even line, we didn’t end up fond of it. The application was painful, and the sharp point made it difficult to trace a smooth line across our lids. Although it had good pigmentation initially, we found that it faded significantly throughout the day and smeared off promptly with moisture; additionally, one of our reviewers who had hooded eyes saw virtually immediate transfer after application.
This liner is top-notch in every way: from the ease with which it applies to the sleek, precise line it draws. Unfortunately, it was quickly removed by sweat and water and didn’t last long on our oily eyelids; by the time we finished our workouts, our “wings” were little more than a smear. Compared to the alternatives we tried, it also scored lower since it lacked the pigmentation that helped it stand out.
We were blown away by the quality of this drugstore liner, especially the new waterproof formulation, which is a vast improvement over the old one. The pigment is excellent, drying to a true black matte. The product also scored highly for its ease of use and resistance to moisture, particularly impressive for an eyeliner of this price.
Compared to the other products we tested, its applicator wasn’t the sharpest (and we’d prefer a pen design to the two-piece pot and applicator used here). Still, suppose you’re searching for a dark matte line that won’t require reapplication. In that case, this is an excellent option at a reasonable price.
Wearing this liner will make you feel like a million bucks. The style is sophisticated and captivating, and it moves with incredible ease. When the effectiveness didn’t entirely convince us of its bendable applicator, we did enjoy its unique grip, which made it easier to handle while applying. We also liked that the top clicks into place when closed.
With its long-wearing, heavy-pigment formula, Lancôme liner rarely needs to be reapplied even after a full day of use. In addition, we were able to create a clean line thanks to the skinny, ultra-precise brush; while it may be a little too thin to get the perfect wing on the first try, we’d recommend this product to those who wear false eyelashes because it’s great for drawing a precise line just above waterline to make your lashes appear fuller.
However, we felt that the two-piece design was not worth the high price tag since it sometimes caused the liner to become gloopy while removing the applicator from the pot.
Like our budget champion, the NYX Epic Ink Liner, this one also has a flexible brush that makes the application feel more like painting than scraping across the eye. It also goes on easily and smoothly in a precise line. The lack of pigment in this liner was a significant drawback because it required multiple passes to achieve a dark enough line.
Due to its low pigmentation and reasonable drying time, this product may be ideal for novices still learning to create the perfect cat eye. However, folks with darker skin tones shouldn’t count on it for a dramatic wing effect.
This liner’s easy application won us over (as did the cute cat-shaped cap). Still, its lack of waterproofing and slow setting time left something to be desired. The only time it failed to hold up was when it was soaked through by rain, despite being able to withstand high temperatures and humidity. And because it dried slowly, whatever corrections we made were smudged.
While we gave this liner a perfect score for its easy application and intense color payoff, we found that it was not as water-resistant as some of the other liners we tried. To add insult to injury, it was also one of the least accurate applicators we tried. Suppose those aren’t dealbreakers for you, though. In that case, this affordable liner is a great pick, especially if you have delicate eyelids and could use the extra gentle application provided by the brush.
The Revlon liner was the only product in our testing group to receive an excellent rating regarding pigmentation; it has its virtues as a drugstore liner. If you’re steady, you can get a clean line thanks to the applicator’s shape, which prevents the liner from collecting at the tip.
However, we all felt that it flaked off far too easily with moisture, flaking almost instantly at times, and we noticed that its application was rough; the tip is firm, which helps to its capacity to produce a perfect line, but it drags a bit and might irritate sensitive eyelids.
Nexym's editorial team handpicks all of the products and services it recommends, regardless of external influences. Affiliate links appear in some of our stories. We may receive an affiliate commission if you purchase something through one of these links, which helps us stay independent and support our great team.