Best liquid eyeliner 2022: Brushes and pens for an effortless cat eye

Qin Xie
23 Sep 2022

A dramatic wing or delicate flick is easy to perfect when you’re using the best liquid eyeliner

It’s hard to beat liquid eyeliner when it comes to creating a fine line with a sharp and defined edge. But depending on the applicator and the formula, the results can be dramatically different.

Traditionally, liquid eyeliners come in a pot with an applicator attached to a lid, much like a nail varnish bottle. When you take out the applicator, either brush or felt tip, you always have to wipe it on the edge of the bottle to remove the excess. For that extra bit of effort, you get a super smooth application and ink that will last you ages.

But liquid eyeliner pens are becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason. Often equipped with ultra-thin felt tip nibs, they deposit just the right amount of colour each time with minimal fuss. And as there’s no pot to contend with, there’s no need to worry about spillage. Eyeliner pens don’t always last as long, though - and they can be prone to drying out.

So how do you find the best liquid eyeliner for you? Read on to find out.

Best liquid eyeliners: At a glance

How to choose the best liquid eyeliner for you

We turned to industry experts Melissa Austin and Denise Rabor to find out what to look for when choosing a liquid eyeliner.

What should you look for when buying liquid eyeliners?

“When looking for a liquid eyeliner, it’s all about finding the correct applicator,” says Melissa Austin, editor at Beauty Answers. “To get an accurate thin line, you want to be looking out for liquid eyeliners that have the skinniest tip. A perfect applicator will tend to be cone shaped with a precise tip at the end.”

Melissa also recommends looking out for a highly pigmented formula that dries quickly.

“A quick drying formula is a must when putting a makeup product near your eyes,” she says. “Any formula that feels very wet will tend to take longer to dry and result in transferring eyeliner to your eyelids. Waterproof eyeliners are some of the best to choose if you want a long-lasting cat eye that doesn’t transfer.”

READ NEXT: Best waterproof mascara

What kind of eyeliner tip should you go for?

“For beginners, I would recommend a felt tip liquid eyeliner as you have the most control,” says Denise Rabor, makeup artist and founder of Wow Beauty. “A felt tip is naturally easier to apply, especially if you're new to eyeliner, but it's equally great for anyone who wants precision and speed.”

For best results, don’t start from the pointed nib. Instead, Rabor suggests you “start by swiping the liner from the inner part of your eye outwards as close to the lash line as possible, so that the entire felt tip is parallel to your lash line”.

Liquid eyeliners that use bristle brushes will need more control to create the same level of accuracy – so make sure you have steady hands – but the results can look great.

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How often should you replace your liquid eyeliners?

Check the label on your product, but generally, it’s every six months, even if you haven’t finished the product. This will ensure the product is working at its best and help to maintain hygiene.

The best liquid eyeliners you can buy in 2022

1. Milani Stay Put Matte Liquid Eyeliner: Best longwear liner

Price: £12 | Buy now from Beauty Base

LA-based beauty brand Milani has long been known in the US for making high-end cosmetics available at affordable prices. Its Stay Put Matte Liquid Eyeliner is a longwear product that comes in a pot and brush format and is designed to stay smudge-proof for up to 17 hours. While not waterproof, it is water resistant, meaning you’ll need an oil-based cleanser to wipe it off.

We tested the liner in Safari Matte, a dark green shade that veers toward black. We loved how easy it was to apply – the felt tip applicator made sure we picked up the right amount of product each time, so the line was sharp and precise. And after a whole day of wearing it, the heavily pigmented liner still looked fresh.

Key details - Size: 2.5ml; Style: pot and brush; Applicator: felt tip; Waterproof: no; Vegan: yes; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 4

Buy now from Beauty Base

2. Doll Beauty Push Poppin’ Liner: Best for intense colour

Price: £11 | Buy now from Beauty Bay

Founded by makeup artists Danielle Gregory and Samantha Allen, Chester-based Doll Beauty launched with a range of hugely popular fake eyelashes before quickly expanding into cosmetics and even beauty parlours. As you might expect, its beauty products are designed to help you look super glamorous.

The Push Poppin’ Liner is a pen-format liner with an applicator that’s a cross between a brush and a felt tip – it means it’s firmer than your average brush but gives more flexibility than a felt tip. With its fast-drying, highly pigmented formula, this liner delivered laser-sharp results that lasted all day without budging a millimetre.

Key details - Size: 1.5ml; Style: pen; Applicator: brush; Waterproof: yes; Vegan: yes; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 2

Buy now from Beauty Bay

3. Maybelline Hyper Precise All-Day Liner: Best liquid liner pen

Price: £5 | Buy now from Amazon

A high-street favourite, Maybelline’s Hyper Precise All-Day Liner delivers smudge-proof results for up to 12 hours at a purse-friendly price point. Thanks to its pen format, featuring a moulded finger rest, we found this one of the easiest liquid liners to use. The extra fine (0.4mm) flexible tip also enables you to create subtle or dramatic flicks with ease.

We tried the matte version, which creates a highly pigmented matte black finish. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly on the skin, and becomes impossible to budge once in place. And unlike other liquid eyeliner pens we’ve tried, the ink never dried on the nib during use, so there were no gaps to backfill. The only downside is that the nib is quite long, so it’s harder to create a more demure look.

Key details - Size: 1ml; Style: pen; Applicator: felt tip; Waterproof: yes; Vegan: no; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 3

4. e.l.f. H2O Proof Eyeliner Pen: Best waterproof liquid liner

Price: £6 | Buy now from Boots

Budget-friendly beauty brand e.l.f. makes exclusively vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics that care for your skin too. Case in point, its H2O-Proof Eyeliner Pen contains Vitamin E, which helps to nourish your lash line. The pen features a thin felt tip nib that makes delivering its highly pigmented formula an absolute delight.

It’s only available in black, and we found it was great for creating subtle or dramatic looks. The colour stayed darker for longer compared to other options we tried, and there was zero smudging once it dried. However, it takes a little longer to dry, so patience is needed.

Key details - Size: 2.5ml; Style: pen; Applicator: felt tip; Waterproof: yes; Vegan: yes; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 1

Buy now from Boots

5. Dr. Hauschka Liquid Eyeliner: Best for contact lens wearers

Price: £17 | Buy now from Amazon

High-end beauty and skincare brand Dr. Hauschka is all about looking after your body as you beautify it. Its liquid eyeliner contains nourishing ingredients such as jojoba oil and beeswax, which help to do precisely that.

The intense colour – we tried black – is delivered in a pot and brush format. The ultra-thin brush makes it easy to create fine lines, which is great if you like subtle eye makeup. However, it has quite a long applicator wand, meaning those with smaller hands might find it harder to rest their fingers against their face when applying the product. Once on, we found it stayed put throughout the day, but be careful of rubbing your eyes as it’s far from smudge-proof.

Key details - Size: 4ml; Style: pot and brush; Applicator: brush; Waterproof: no; Vegan: no; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 2
hades: 4

6. LA Colors Liquid Eyeliner: Best budget line

Price: £1.29 | Buy now from Beauty Base

US-brand LA Colors makes some of the most affordable beauty products around. They can be pretty decent in quality, but you do sometimes have to make sacrifices.

For example, its budget-friendly liquid eyeliner comes in an impressive 7ml pot and brush format – far larger than most other brands on the market. However, the formula inside is not as heavily pigmented as some of the other liners we’ve tried, so you need to go over the line a couple of times to get a deeper shade. The brush quality isn’t as fine as some of the alternatives out there either, so you won’t be able to achieve as fine a line.

That said, we were very impressed with its staying power – despite not being waterproof, we found the colour remarkably smudge-proof. And it’s hard to beat the price point.

Key details - Size: 7ml; Style: pot and brush; Applicator: brush; Waterproof: no; Vegan: no; Cruelty-free: yes; Shades: 4

Buy now from Beauty Base

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