I’ve had a few requests to discuss long-wearing eyeliner, or rather, how to do eyeliner that doesn’t smudge. Unlike advanced makeup tricks, like putting on false eyelashes or doing your own nail art, applying a bit of eyeliner—and having it stay where we put it—is something many of us want to be able to do, at least some days. So! Let’s figure out how to do that.
First things first, though—if your liner always ends up fading, or migrating onto your lids and creasing, or smudges like crazy below your lower lids, there are things to help it “set” a bit better. But the main technique to master is picking up your wallet and keys and getting your ass to the store, because you probably need to buy a new eyeliner! Take comfort in knowing that if you’ve got major issues with a liner, it’s not you; it’s the liner. Just like lovers, there are a lot of bad ones.
When you’re shopping for liner, you’re looking for the right balance of “slip.” Slip is the smoothness and glide of the product. Liners with great slip are easy to apply and blend, but may sacrifice durability. On the flip side, some liners labelled waterproof or long-wearing might last all day, but if their application feels like you’re sawing at your eyelid with a Crayola, that’s a less-than-desirable experience.
(Let’s take a moment to note that this here post is specific to eyeliner pencils. There are myriad liner formulations out there, including cake, liquid, pen, and gel, and we can talk about all of them later, but when it comes to the basics, most of us are gonna choose pencil.)
Because I have ridiculously sensitive eyeballs, I need a super-smooth liner. But I also like to line the waterline (this is the tender and juicy inner rim of the top and/or bottom lid.) It’s hard to find a liner that’s soft enough to apply here, but will still stick to the area. EW IT’S A MUCUS MEMBRANE YOU GUYS but once you’ve started lining it, just try to stop. So, when Auntie Jenni recommends a liner, you know it’s gonna stay put. I’ve tried about a billion, so here are some of my favourite brands for every budget.
At the drugstore:
It’s no fuckin’ secret that I’m a big fan of the drugstore. Many makeup products here can be just as good or better than the snazzola department-store stuff. But when it comes to liner, I’ve found only a few cheapos that meet my high standards.
This is a good basic liner that wears well. I haven’t used it in a while, since I’ve since found the liner of my dreams, but you could do worse. Not a ton of colours, but it does the job.
Covergirl Liquiline Blast
This product promises “the intensity of a liquid in a pencil” which is a load of utter horseshit, but it is a good, well-pigmented product that has the added bonus of a smudger do-dad on the end. It also has a pretty good colour selection. It requires sharpening, and some people have a hard time sharpening them, which always surprises me. Are they trying to hack away at it with an old Buck knife or something? If it does go a bit crumbly on you, put it in the freezer for a few minutes before sharpening it.
Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner
A word of warning—don’t even bother with the other liners that this brand makes. You want the pencil in the link. Yep, that one.
At department stores/Sephora, etc:
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil
If you’ve been looking for the liners required to complete your Rainbow Brite costume, look no further. These are fantastic pencils, with excellent wear and fantastic slip. They glide on like a dream and are smudgeable for about twenty seconds, then set and will not budge. They have a huge following, and despite their relatively high price point, it’s easy to see why. They also have awesome names: my faves include Bourbon, Rock Star, 1999, and Zero.
Makeup Forever Aqua Eyes
Another great choice for those who love colour, although they come in plenty of “normal” tones too. The one thing I’ve noticed about these is that some colours don’t seem to apply/wear as well as others, and I think they dry out more quickly than the Urban Decay ones. But your experience might be different, so give them a try. And never leave your lids off!
Stila Smudge Sticks
It’s really hard for me to talk about this liner without GETTING A BIT SHOUTY. This is my Holy Grail of eyeliners, the liner I would have made myself if I had a chemistry degree and a makeup company. Named after their beloved “Smudge Pots”, these are a relatively new product, and I’m praying that Stila never discontinues them. The word “smudge” is totally misleading here, since these babies set within moments of application. They’re twist-up and don’t need sharpening, which is a bonus in my book. Don't twist up more than a millimeter at a time though, because they’re soft enough to break off. And when a product ounce for ounce costs more than ACTUAL GOLD, you don’t want to waste a single crumb. The colours have a subtle, metallic shimmer that’s just lovely. They stick to the waterline like nobody’s business. Worth every penny. Just think of all the money you’ll save never buying a shitty eye pencil ever again!
Coming very soon: A freaking VIDEO how to put on your pretty new eyeliner and keep it there! Plus: Um, how do I get this shit OFF now?