An eyeliner is a gel, pen, liquid or pencil that can be applied to both the top and bottom lash lines or the eyes, and extended or blended outwards. It can be applied in many different ways to accommodate different looks: cat eyes, tight lining, smudged and blown out, smoky, editorial or even drawing images/ patterns on the eye. Using short strokes or sweeping movements, you can apply in any way you want. It can also be applied to darken the eye contours to enhance the eyelashes.
Pencils are more suited to smudged smoky looks, but cannot so easily be waterproof. However, liquids and gels can easier withstand the water and create a more dramatic eyeliner look. They are often the best at waterproofing.
The advantages of a waterproof formula are quite obvious. Waterproof is in the name. Resistance to weather, sweat, swimming and any other accidental scenario are factors drawing consumers to these waterproof products.
The Big Waterproof Eyeliner Buyer’s Guide
Searching for any new cosmetic product will always be very subjective based on your specific needs. As there is such a huge selection of products available for all purposes, there are priorities that you should identify with what you are looking for.
This is no different for when you are purchasing a new eyeliner, there are a plethora of considerations to make based on what colour, formula, finish or applicator style you would like to use. You must decide what you want from a product and how much you are willing to pay to get that. There are many available products from a multitude of different brands so it is no surprise that there will be an option that is right for everyone’s needs, whether that is something vegan, hypoallergenic or free from certain ingredients.
All of the most common pitfalls in a waterproof eyeliner product can be easily tested before or very soon after your purchase to make sure you avoid the negatives: smudging and transfer/colour bleeding, poor colour payoff and lack of pigmentation, lack of longevity, weak/poor applicator, dryness or roughness, colour bleeding, and difficulty to remove.
- Smudging and transfer can be tested in store, or immediately after purchase by applying the eyeliner to the base of the palm. It is best to allow to dry for a couple of minutes and test by wiping, rubbing and pressing onto the lines. If you can, it is best to wet your hand and wipe the line to test the waterproofing of the eyeliner. Try multiple layers to ensure that the product is as buildable as you require without smudging. If it becomes flaky or patchy, it isn’t necessarily a suitable formula, as this won’t last when applied.
- Colour payoff can be tested in-store before purchase on the back of your hand to ensure opacity. Do several long strokes adjacent to each other to make sure it is as pigmented as you require. Leave until fully dry to ensure the colour payoff remains constant once the product has dried down onto the skin. If you test over a foundation, the accuracy will be best, as it will be more true to life. Take note of how many strokes it requires to be opaque, as one swipe is best, as it will be more convenient than having to layer extensively.
- Many reviews can be found to help decide what purchase to make based on durability and longevity of the eyeliner, but testing it for yourself after purchase is the best way to know if it’s right for you. Apply first thing in the morning and wear until the evening, doing all your usual activities to get the best and most realistic experience of its longevity. Wearing it to the gym, in the rain, or in the shower will be a true test of its waterproofing. Try one that states 12 or 24 hour wear on the packaging or in the name.
- In store, test the applicator by gently pressing the tip against your hand to ensure it is sturdy enough to make the product last. Slowly drag it in curves along your hand to test whether it tugs on the skin or smoothly creates lines. If the brush starts to separate, the applicator will not apply as precisely or last as long. This ties in with the durability of the product, as you want the applicator to last until all the product itself has been used up.
- Seeing how much you can apply from a liquid or gel without again saturating the brush/applicator will indicate how dry the product is. With a pencil, rub the tester back and forth to see if the product warms up and how rough it becomes. If products pull or catch on the skin, they are too dry. If the pencil formula doesn’t warm up to a softer pencil, it is probably going to be very rough on the eyes. This is especially important for those with sensitive eyes or dry skin.
- If a formula is too liquid or doesn’t dry to the skin properly, the colour can bleed down the eyes and enhance dark circles. Testing the product before purchasing can give some indication of how the colour will move without being touched. Test it on the heel of your hand (or palm if your skin isn’t oily) to see if the warm product will bleed. Depending on how noticeable the bleeding is and the precision you are aiming for, you will be able to make an informed purchase.
- The test for difficulty to remove is easy. Apply the tester either directly to the hand or over foundation onto the hand (which is best). Use a tester cleanser, provided makeup wipe by the store, or head home to use your regular cleanser. If it is tough to remove, it will be more of a chore on the eyes. Don’t buy something you’re going to dread trying to take off at the end of a long day. Any waterproof product will be slightly harder than non-waterproof to remove. Make sure that the eyes aren’t red or sore after the product has been removed as this shows that the product was too set on the eyes and will cause irritation to the skin and eyes if use is continued. Be kind to the skin.
Results and Experiences from Consumer Testing
Results from consumer testing and lab research provide us with a selection of the best and worst products of all categories. This paired with reviews of specific products provides the best insight into the product quality of these waterproof liners.
Formulas and applicators are scrutinised based on several set qualities to determine where it is worth purchasing, and where it is better to avoid spending your money. Trialling and reviewing a wide range portrays the whole market to us.
The scientists in the Health, Beauty and Environmental Sciences Lab compiled their waterproof eyeliner results with internally controlled consumer testing. Continuous testing in the lab provided the best accompanying results to their focus groups. Their focuses were simple. They investigated whether the waterproofing claims were true, ease of application, quality of the formula and durability to create a concise review with justifications from both the lab results and focus group of the best waterproof products.
Their findings are product specific to best advise you. Sephora Collection Long-Lasting Eyeliner was found to be the best liquid formula in the lab (withstood continuous testing for 6 hours) in terms of durability.
The positivity was echoed by the focus group as it was reviewed as the best for the fact that it “stays on all day without smudging”. For pencil formulas, the lab results supported the Covergirl Liquiline Blast Eyeliner as the best product for having a durable formula resembling liquid when applied, suggesting that the best waterproof formula is liquid.
Consumer testing revealed that consumers preferred eyeliners with smaller applicators or brushes to be less clumsy and gain the best precision. Out of the 15 named products, only one was a gel formulation (Bobbi Brown) which indicates (as the highest proportion were liquid liners) that liquid formulas are more precise and are easier to last all day and match up to the waterproof claims.
Less mainstream brands such as Styli-Style and Napoleon Perdis appear in this named top 15 from the focus groups’ review due to the firmness of the applicator and durability of the formula. Staying power and ease of application were deemed the two most important factors when picking the best product.
Eyeliners of different formulas and styles were reviewed by consumers and staff of Marie Claire to determine the best product for each of their categories (such as drugstore or gel for example). The priorities for the reviews were staying power, pigmentation and transfer.
The best reviewed drugstore product was a pencil formula created by Bourjois. The Contour Clubbing waterproof eyeliner was especially praised for its price point. As most pencils can be harsh on the lid, waxy (and therefore poor at waterproofing due to patchiness and smudging), this product was praised for its soft application. Avoiding pulling or tugging on the skin was highly important to the consumers. Reviews state that it is also very true to colour. Reviews also include the Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Colour Smokey Pencil with a soft, powder formula.
When reviewing the best waterproofing ability however, NARS Longwear Liner was deemed officially “budge-proof”. Therefore, this product is recommended for application to the waterline. Stila claimed the title of best eyeliner pen in these reviews, as it was almost impossible to find something that the product couldn’t withstand. The thicker applicator was also praised in the review.
Similar to the Good Housekeeping laboratory and consumer testing, Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Liner was named; this time, it was named directly as the best gel liner formula available for waterproofing. The fact that a variety of shades are available was also noted in the reviews, as with gel formulas, it is less common to provide a shade range extending from black and brown.
Gel pencil/crayon formulas also feature in their list of the best products. Milk Makeup and Marc Jacobs both offer liners of this style, both of which are smooth applying and long lasting. Estée Lauder were noted in the reviews for their renowned Double Wear Range (The Double Wear Infinite Waterproof Liner). This product is available in 3 shades designed to accentuate most eye colours.
Here are listed what are widely considered the top 10 waterproof eyeliner products available to the consumer. New products are released all the time, but all products listed here are tried and tested and come from reputable cosmetic brands.
- Bobbi Brown
- Kat Von D
- Urban Decay
- Pat McGrath Labs
- NYX Professional Makeup
Created by American makeup artist, her namesake company Bobbi Brown Cosmetics was established in 1991 to try to fill a gap in the beauty market for simple, wearable makeup that flattered everyone. They have been creating award winning products with positive reviews ever since. They offer a highly regarded long wear gel eyeliner in 10 shades that is waterproof for up to 12 hours. Apply short strokes using their separately sold Ultra Fine brushes for a smudge-proof look. An eyeliner guide is available on their website to add extra ease. Alternatives include their Long Wear Waterproof Eyeliner which provides a pencil formula for those who may not have as much experience with application. This is available in 6 shades.
Created by tattoo artist and television personality Kat Von D, this brand offers vegan and cruelty free makeup choices. Bold colours and lasting formulas are what this newer brand are known for. As Kat herself is hardly seen without winged eyeliner, it is no surprise that there are many options for eyeliner. The award winning Tattoo Eyeliner (available in black and brown) offers 24 hour waterproof wear with a precise brush tip applicator. If these satin finish liners aren’t the desired finish, the Ink Well Long Wear Eyeliner provides a matte finish in 7 colours to create more editorial waterproof styles with a felt tip applicator. For tight-lining or smokier liner styles, try a pencil formula with the Cake Pencil Eyeliner.
As a readily available drugstore brand, Rimmel London are known to supply high quality yet reasonably priced makeup. Established in 1834, they are still drawing supermodels and celebrities to promote their popular product. Being so popular that the term Rimmel now means mascara in some Mediterranean languages, the brand is a household name. Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof Eyeliner is a retractable pencil formula available in 5 colours. With a built-in-smudger and sharpener, any desired look is achievable. For a very reasonably priced product, you get 10 hours of waterproof wear. Finishes vary from matte to metallic. Reviews rave about its suitability for hooded eyes, oily lids and general daily wear.
Cruelty-free brand Urban Decay is an American brand owned as a subsidiary by L’oréal Paris. Famous mostly for their eyeshadow palettes (the renowned Naked Collection is what brought the most attention to the brand), eye products are a key focus for the brand. Their products are available widely in their own shops and department stores. Urban Decay Razor Sharp Water-Resistant Longwear Liquid Eyeliner comes in 13 shades with various finishes. The fine tipped brush is ideal for small lines and being able to build up. The fineness allows the formation of a smooth wing and precise detailing.
This American owned cosmetics brand is available in higher end department stores and is a subsidiary of Estée Lauder. The Easy Does It Liquid Liner is available in both brown and black. Their mid-range price point gives you 24 hours of smudge-proof wear and waterproof protection. It is ophthalmologist approved and 100% allergy tested, meaning this is a safe option for those who may have sensitive eyes and/or skin. They also offer a water-resistant pencil product available in 10 colours for those who may want more variety in the looks that they can create, still with long product longevity.
Stila is a relatively new artistry-oriented cosmetic company run by the first female to win Entrepreneur of the Year. Her venture into cosmetics is an undoubtable success, with her company predominantly being renowned for their highly rated liquid eyeshadows. Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner is available from Cult Beauty in 6 varied shades. A fine precision brush tip allows detailed looks and ability to build up. This product is “snag-free” so makeup beginners may find this easier to create the desired looks; it is ideal for learning how to create the perfect winged eyeliner, if you are unfamiliar with that style of liner. A Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner is a smokier, sexier alternative available in 13 shades (mattes and shimmers) that can multitask as an eyeshadow.
Maybelline is another subsidiary of L’oréal founded in 1915 and is the world’s number one cosmetic brand. They sell affordable, easily accessible and good quality makeup products across the world in 129 countries. They have a multitude of eyeliner products available in different formulas, colours and finishes, as well as specifically offering products that are safe for sensitive eyes. Maybelline Master Precise and Hyper Precise eyeliners offer refined felt tip applicators. Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner offers a more pliable and buildable formula also boasting 24 hour waterproof wear oil-free to avoid smudging in humidity. Many waterproof options are available. For beginners, this may be how to sample different formulas and applicators without spending too much.
Called by many the world’s most influential makeup artist, Pat McGrath MBE created a high end, artist-oriented cosmetics brand. For the more experienced eyeliner appliers, Pat McGrath Labs offer the Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner. With a thin pen applicator and a highly liquid formula, this is the choice of a lot of runway makeup artists. The liquidity may not be ideal for beginners, but for those more proficient in the eyeliner arts, natural to editorial looks can be easily created. However, it only comes in black. With the higher price point, comes high quality, as this is often regarded as first on the list of the best waterproof eyeliners.
Again, a subsidiary of L’oréal appears in the top 10. This time, it is vegan and certified cruelty free for those who seek those qualities in all of their makeup products. Available in drugstores or independent stores, they offer reasonably priced colourful and flattering products.This is a brand that is popular with beauty influencers. NYX offer a liquid eyeliner in black or white to define or highlight the eyes. A tiny precision brush allows thin lines to be neatly drawn, shapes are drawn easier, and the liner is easily built up. For those more interested in colour, the Studio Liquid Liners are available even cheaper, to create bolder, brighter looks.
Created in Canada in 1984, MAC was designed for makeup artists by makeup artists. It quickly spread worldwide with its selections of textures and shades. MAC is often regarded as one of the first brands to include ethnicity when talking about makeup. Renowned for many iconic products, MAC offers many formulations of liner. The Liquidlast 24-Hour waterproof eyeliner’s claims are in the name. Flake free, transfer resistant and easily applied with a small precision brush applicator, this ophthalmologist approved formula is designed for even sensitive eyes. They also offer pencils and gels for those who aim for a different finish.
The Eyeliner Guide
Where did it originate?
Eyeliner was first used in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia where Kohl was used around the eyes. Cosmetics were used here for both aesthetic and for protection from the desert sun. It can be found everywhere in Ancient Egyptian art, and when Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered, they found that he was wearing eyeliner. Eyeliner is the most iconic makeup item used at this time and the discovery of Tutankhamun reintroduced eyeliner into the mainstream in the Western World.
Black was the most common, but copper and blue colours were also relatively widely used in higher society. In more recent history, eyeliner has been associated with Goth and punk movements, as well as editorial runway/photography makeup.
Pencil-based and wax-based pencil formulas were the first to be used after Kohl (which can be a pencil or loose powder), with the addition of gel, liquid and shimmer formulas being added more recently. It can be used to add drama to the eyes, alter the shape of the eyes, or enhance the eye colour.
There are numerous application techniques. There is no ‘wrong’ way to apply it, as it is something to be interpreted by the individual. Reviews from tutorial watchers and makeup aficionados commonly agree that the best application is to apply short strokes close to the top lash line in order to slowly build up the line. This allows you to have less risk of mistake, and an easier buildable coverage.
To do a wing, draw a line from the outer corner of the eye extending outwards and upwards towards the tail end of your eyebrow. The steepness of this line very much depends on your eye shape. Fill in the line back along the lid towards the inner corner. You can continue this line past the inner corner if you want to widen the appearance of the eye and enhance the cat-eye affect.
This is where eyeliner is applied inside the waterline of the eye. Pull the lower lid gently down with clean fingers and trace along with a pencil liner (usually the preferred formulation for this technique, but ensure the pencil is soft and warm). Take this as low as you want and smudge out as desired.
The cosmetics industry is one of the largest in the world and is rapidly growing. It leads to high sales, new brands being started all the time, and it feeds a business of influencers and artists to promote, review and create products to expand the industry even further.
- The cosmetics industry was worth 530 Billion US Dollars in 2017 with a forecasted value of 805 Billion US Dollars by the year 2023.
- For women aged 18-29, 56% wore eyeliner multiple times a week with 28% of the total sample reaching for the product every single day.
- Originally in Ancient Egypt, it was believed to have protected the wearer from the Sun God and ward off the ‘Evil Eye’.
- A recent survey revealed that 1 in 10 men in Britain wear makeup including concealer, mascara and eyeliner.
- They are produced using film formers, pigments and thickeners with pigments often being made with metal oxides to create stunning colours, as well as organic compounds.
45% of beauty related YouTube videos are tutorial based. A search for eyeliner tutorials on a search engine will bring you almost 59 million options of ways to learn to do liner.
- Eyeliners contain an average of 18 chemicals in order to create a workable formula, whilst maintaining that it is an eye safe product.
- A subculture of ‘Guyliner’ was developed around the turn of the century, mainly popularized by male musicians sporting a liner look. Now it is even more common for it to be worn by men in various styles.
Top 10 Tips For Care, Maintainance and Performance
There are many ways to attract attention to your eyes. Applying dark eyeshadow blended around the lash line creates a similar smoky affect. Mixing a black eyeshadow (or any colour you want) with petroleum jelly creates a shiny eyeliner (which will not be as long lasting and will be in no way waterproof), or apply a lipstick with a thin brush and you can create wings. Check whether or not products claim to be eye safe and be extra cautious if you have sensitive skin.
And bear in mind that pink and red lip colours stain far easier than others. An eyeshadow can be patted precisely over the line you have created (or a translucent pressed powder) to set it in place and be sure to use setting spray. This line should last. Instead, you can create a winged eyeshadow shape, blending the shadows upwards and outwards towards the tail of the eyebrow.
How do you remove waterproof eyeliner?
Using cotton wool soaked with micellar water or cleanser (a waterproof makeup centered product works best), gently wipe around the eye area, being careful not to pull on the skin. Use as many balls of wool as you need until the wool comes away clean from the eye. Follow by washing the face with lukewarm water. Makeup wipes are available with descriptions that they can remove waterproof makeup.
When does eyeliner expire?
Each product will vary, and the expiry date will be printed onto the packaging. Normally, an eyeliner will last 6 months before it needs replacing.
What ingredient makes eyeliner waterproof?
The entire formula is usually different. Using a wax or gum base and a thickening agent allows the product to be waterproof.
Who is waterproof eyeliner best for?
Anyone with oilier eyelids or watery eyes could benefit from everyday use of a waterproof product. It is designed to withstand hot weather, the gym or even swimming. It is best for anyone who wants maximum durability in their makeup.
What is the best eyeliner colour for my eye colour?
Can I get oil-free waterproof eyeliner?
Yes. For those with eyelash extensions (or sensitivities to oil-based products), numerous brands offer oil-free formulas which are also best for humid weather according to reviews.
Do I apply eyeliner or mascara first?
Applying the eyeliner first allows you to create the best shape, but tight-lining can be done after mascara to fill any gaps and deepen the lashes.
Why does my eyeliner not stay on my waterline?
Chances are, the formula chosen isn’t waterproof. Try using a waxier pencil or product with a waterproof claim to avoid the colour wearing off.
If I have sensitive eyes, can I use waterproof eyeliner?
Not all eyeliners will react with your eyes in the same way. Some brands associate their eyeliners with being suited to sensitive eyes. Try Maybelline or Physicians Formula as a starting point.
Is waterproof eyeliner bad for my eyes?
If you have sensitive eyes, ensure you are using an appropriate formula for sensitivity. Provided you are removing it properly at the end of the day, it shouldn’t harm your eyes at all. Read reviews to ensure products are safe for sensitive eyes.