Best Eyeliners From Drugstores and Department Stores

There are so many eyeliner options these days. Pencil liners are great for smudging (think smoky eye) but tend to have poor staying power and need to be set with a eyeshadow, liquid liners stay on forever but require expert, steady application, and gel liners provide a perfect balance of ease-of-use (pencils) with staying power (liquid liners). These, however, require a separate brush to apply.

Eyeliner can be messy to apply. Instead of removing the liner when you mess up, I recommend using a Q-tip soaked in micellar water (buy this cleansing water from Amazon) to clean up smudges.

Here are my favorite liners from pricey department store brands to some drugstore faves.

Most Beloved Eyeliner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Stila Eyeliner.

If you are going to buy a liquid eyeliner just buy this one. This is an bestselling eyeliner. What I like is that it stays put — through rain, sweat, and tears. Beloved by many and comes in 15 shades, from your basic browns and blacks, to pink, teal, emerald and even white.

Another Great Gel Liner: Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel Eyeliner

Bobbi Brown gel eyeliners are popular on and are an InStyle magazine "Best Beauty Buy."

Although pricier than a liquid liner you might get at a drugstore, the product in this little pot lasts forever — as does the line it makes on your lid. Gel liners go on more smoothly and stay on longer than pencil liners but are less harsh than the lines created by liquid liners. The only downfall is you need an eyeliner brush. I like MAC and Sephora brands, but Bobbi Brown makes a favorite, too. Buy it from Amazon.

A Great Gel Liner: MAC Fluidline Gel

The makeup artist's secret (Angelina Jolie's makeup artist Matin uses this to get her famous cat eye), this matte gel is applied with an eyeliner brush and stays on longer than pencils while providing a line that's not as harsh as a liquid liner. Line the upper lids and dot in between lashes for the perfect cat eye.

This also happens to be the most-reviewed eyeliner on Makeupalley. Of the 1,520 reviews at the time of this writing, more than 85 percent of reviewers would buy it again. That speaks volumes about the quality of this product.

Best Drugstore Gel Liner: Maybelline's Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner

Perhaps the best drugstore eyeliner out there, Maybelline's gel eyeliner is easier to apply than liquid liners and stays put longer than pencil liners. Comes in four shades: Black, brown, gray and plum. I love this because it comes with a brush and it's affordable! A huge hit with beauty bloggers.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner. Amazon

If you're into a cat eye or just incredibly precise lines, the cult favorite "Tattoo Liner" from Kat Von D is an excellent bet. It glides on easily and is waterproof, making it last until you apply eye makeup remover.

A Great Drugstore Buy: L'Oreal Paris Lineur Intense Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner

L'Oreal Lineur Intense eyeliner.

Perhaps one of the best, most precise drugstore liquid liners available. Works best if you prime the lid first with an eyeshadow primer and fix the line with a bit of eyeshadow.

Best Shadow Eyeliner: MAC Eye Kohl Smolder Eye Liner

One of the benefits of shadow eyeliners is you can smudge the line. If you don't like a harsh line, a pencil liner is a good bet and MAC's Kohl pencils are a great buy. Keep the line from melting onto your lid by dotting eyeshadow over the line once it's in place. This pencil also works great smudged underneath the bottom lashes. Use your finger or a Q-tip to smudge.

The only issue with Kohl pencils are they don't last as long as liquids and gels. For lasting power, apply the Kohl pencil at the lash line and then apply a liquid liner over it. It will stay all day and the liquid liner is easier to apply with the kohl liner mapping it out first.

Best Eye Pencil for a Smoky Eye: MAC Powerpoint Eye Pencil

Perfect for smudging. This eye pencil goes on soft, is easy to smudge but won't budge because it actually dries after a few seconds of contact.

Best Powder-Form Eyeliner: Laura Mercier Black Ebony

One of my favorite ways to use eyeliner is to dip my eyeliner brush in water, then dip it in a dark power eyeshadow. It leaves a softer line than a liquid eyeliner, but won't smudge like a pencil liner. Laura Mercier's "black ebony" works in exactly this way, which is why it's such a popular eye liner for makeup artists and the reviewers on

Best Cheapie Eyeliner: Ulta's Automatic Eyeliner

These eyeliners from Ulta are beloved. And cheap. They come in crazy colors as well. I love the metallic gold, pictured here and I really love the teal. You don't have to sharpen this liner (that's why it's "automatic") and it supposedly stays on forever. You need makeup remover to get it off your lids.

Great "Pot" Eyeliner: Stila Smudge Pot Eyeliners

People love these eyeliners because they come in fun colors (bronze is the most popular color and looks great with brown eyes) and have a bit of shimmer to them, which is sexy but doesn't look so great on wrinkled, aging lids.

Great Liquid Liner: Lancome Artliner

Perfect for drawing in thin, barely-there lines on upper lashes. Goes on smooth, clean and precise and won't budge. Because liquid liners require a steady hand, they can be a pain for newbie users or non-professionals, however Artliner works well because if you smudge, simply put a Q-tip in some water and swipe over lid to remove. Some users report it's not a great liner if you like to layer shadows over the line (for a smoky eye, for example). The liner apparently "peels" away when shadow is layered over it. But it's perfect for that thin line so many love.

Great for Beginners: Benefit They're Real! Push-Up Liner

They're Real Push Up Liner. Amazon

If you're new to eyeliner and have yet to master liquid liners but want the look, Benefit's They're Real is a great bet.