Because nothing makes eyes pop like a flick of the black stuff…
Words by Lucy Abbersteen and Natalie Lukaitis
When you think of beauty icons through the ages, they all have one thing in common: they all mastered the art of applying their best liquid eyeliner.
Modern muses like Rosie H-W and Alexa Chung can also attest to the enduring pull of perfectly placed, feline-esque liner. Done properly, a little winged liner makes eyes appear larger and more lifted, while lashes look thicker and darker.
When it comes to actually applying it, there are two types of women in this world. The first can apply liquid eyeliner like a ninja. Her hand is as steady as a board in the back of a taxi. She can flick her wand with precision, without a mirror. She is flawless.
Then there’s the other type. She can barely hold an eyeliner pen without getting ink in her hair, brows, or all over her face. Actually, it goes anywhere but her eyes. Sadly, this is the camp the majority of us (Team Marie Claire members included) fall into.
Regardless of whether you possess a natural proficiency in liquid liner application, it is something that can be worn by everyone. If your eyes are hooded, you’ll need to keep the colour quite close to your lashes and make sure you look dead-ahead into a mirror when plotting the end of your wing.
Meanwhile very rounded-up eyes benefit from a more rigid, bolder, wing and as for almond eyes, well, you hit the genetic jackpot. Any liner looks good on you.
Read on as we chart the best liquid eyeliner that’ll help you channel your inner Bridget Bardot or Audrey Hepburn. Trust us when we say it’s your one-way ticket to easy glamour…
How to apply liquid eyeliner
Your eyeliner should hug the lash line to truly make your eyes pop, so try to apply it as close as possible to the root of your eyelashes – slow and steady is key. You may find it helpful to stretch your eyelid a little taut in order to reach your lash line, but be sure not to pull your lid too tight.
But there’s one rule that applies to everyone. No matter your eye shape and regardless of what type of product you’re using; you absolutely must tight-line your upper waterline. No, it’s not comfortable and, yes, you will look like an idiot trying to fill in your waterline without blinking. But it’s totally essential if you’re to avoid that unsightly strip of exposed flesh.
Barry M Liquid Eye Liner, £4.79, Boots
It might come as a surprise to hear that a good liquid liner that keeps its waterproof promise doesn’t have to break the bank. Coming in at just under a fiver, Barry M’s waterproof formula is easy to apply, compact, and comes in a proper ‘Super Gloss’ black. Designer make-up enthusiasts will also love Marc Jacobs’ aptly named waterproof Magic Marc’er.
Clinique Pretty Easy Liner, £19.50, Fabled
Beginner eyeliner applicators The clue’s in the name; this is one of the (pretty) easiest to apply pen liners out there. Its super thin nib makes light work of drawing a thin, elegant line along the bottom of your lid and creating a seamless cat eye flick. For a bolder and thicker line, drag more of the felt tip along your lid by holding the pen on its side.
Kat Von D ‘Tattoo Liner’ Liquid Eyeliner, £16, Debenhams
Considering its relatively recent launch date, Kat Von D’s Tattoo liner has an impressive cult following. Like its namesake, this pen liner has great staying power and a completely opaque, solid black finish – i.e. exactly what liner-holics want from their best liquid eyeliner.
Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero Smudge Liquid Eyeliner, £23, Fabled
The promise of Double Wear is one that pays off every time and Estée Lauder’s Zero-Smudge liner is no different when it comes to long-wearing. Five minutes on the Central Line is enough to ruin anyone’s liner, but this will stay put through thick and thin (cat eyes).
Bobbi Brown Long Wear Liquid Eyeliner, £24.50, Fabled
Bobbi Brown is a brand well known (and trusted by many) for its long-wear make-up products – liner, cream eyeshadow, foundation, they’ve all earned their place in the beauty hall of fame. The new Long Wear liquid liner has an ultra fine tip, and the long-handled applciator makes drawing along your lash line much easier. It’s limited edition though, so you’ll need to snap it up quick.
The Body Shop Liquid Eyeliner, £9, The Body Shop
Generally speaking, there are two types of sensitive skin: touch sensitive, which reacts badly to being over-poked or prodded, and sensitive in that it reacts badly to harsh ingredients, usually because of allergies. The former doesn’t cause too much of a problem when gently applying liquid eyeliner to your eyes. But unfortunately, if you fall into the latter category, there’s always an element of trial and error, as nobody knows your skin better than you.
That said, there’s one liquid liner that is mentioned time and time again by sensitive-eyed beauty reviewers (the Mumsnet community included), and that’s The Body Shop’s. Weepy-eyed women of the web cite this as the best liquid eyeliner for sensitive eyes because it’s non-irritating and doesn’t sting, with a dark matte black finish. If you suffer with sensitive eyes it’s definitely worth a go.
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner, £14.50, Fabled
We’re sure we don’t need to tell you that oily eyelids are a royal pain in the derrière. There’s nothing worse than labouring over a smokey eye or perfectly blended shimmer wash only for it to slide off your lids and go all over the place a couple of hours later. The right eyeshadow primer can help (few rival Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, £17 at Fabled), as do waterproof formulas, like Stila’s Stay All Day liner.
Scroll through our round up below of more of the best liquid eyeliner formulas for every budget.
Rimmel’s Exaggerate Liquid Eyeliner is one of the best budget liners on the market. The felt tip-style pen means application is easy and, once dry, has real staying power. We love the pen and ink style packaging, which mean you can easily control the amount of product you want on the tip. Build slowly from the inner corner to the outside of the eye and flick up towards the end of the eyebrow for the perfect feline flick. Exaggerate Liquid Eyeliner still draws over even the most highly pigmented eyeshadows for a dramatic look.
If you aren’t one for subtlety and like high drama, this is the liquid eyeliner for you. You won’t be able to draw a thin line with the L’Oréal Paris Super Liner Blackbuster Intense, but you will find a super-slick, heavy flick easy to create. The nib is super soft and won’t drag your eyelid, even though the colour is bold and dark and the liquid heavy and quick drying. Thanks to the firm applicator, you can get really close to the lashes, without worrying about getting the product in your eyes – a must for getting a flawless finish with no gaps.
Technically this is a gel liner, but it has the precision of a liquid eyeliner thanks to its pen tip, which promises a perfect flick, every time. While not totally foolproof – if you slip, you are still going to make a mistake – application is smooth, as the pen is easy to hold and the gel formula glides on effortlessly. Benefit mean it when they say this eyeliner won’t ‘smudge, budge or dry out’ – even in water, your new-look 60s flick won’t disappear.
Rather than building colour, this eyeliner is applied in one go, guiding the pen applicator across the eyelid from corner to corner. Great news for when you are short on time and need to create your favourite look in seconds.
The soft foam tip on the Lancôme Artliner 24HR genly bends to an angle for foolproof precision every time. The soft tip is also kind to eyes and allows you to get seriously close to the lash line, without making sensitive eyes sore.
We love the strong black pigment of Noir, which gives great definition, with or without an eye-widening flick. Play around with thickness, pressing lighter or harder to achieve different looks. So simple, we can even use this when time is short in the morning.
Channel the ultimate D&G woman with the Intense Liquid Eyeliner. In a range of shades, from Earthy Brown to Bronze, you can create a look to suit your mood. Embody the brand’s glamorous Italian woman in Black Intense or bring out your inner rock chick with Baroque Silver. The ultra thin nib also makes light work of a subtle feathery line that can be built as you go – and believe us when we say this has real staying power. A one-stop product to recreate the Dolce Vita look at home.