I Tested $130 Worth Of Black Eyeliners — & The Cheapest Pick Won

My checklist for eyeliner often feels more exhaustive than the one I have for a partner: Will you stick with me through all my tears? Will you run when I’m having a meltdown? Do you promise you won’t go anywhere after we spend more time together? Really?

Scrupulous as it may be (especially considering how I also want my liner packed with jet-black pigment and easily applied with razor-sharp precision), I don’t believe in settling. So I decided to test out six different tubes — through thunderstorms, late nights, and more — to find the formulas that live up to all of their promises. All my experiences were fully documented with a bunch of closed-eyes selfies (which is a lot harder than you’d think!) so you can really see each product’s wear.

Click through to find out the surprising pick that beat out the rest of the competition.


The Eyeliner: Karl Lagerfield + ModelCo’s Long-Lasting Liquid Liner + Choupette Beauty Stamp, $30, available at ModelCo Cosmetics.

The Claim: The limited-edition, dual-ended eyeliner stick features a water-resistant liquid pen on one end and a cat-shaped beauty stamp on the other.


In The AM
Throwing down $30 for eyeliner might seem like a lot, but this one ticked off all my boxes: It was easy to maneuver, created a thin line just how I like it, and dried in seconds to a matte finish. But because I’m not putting that cat stamp anywhere near my face (I’m more of a dog person, what can I say?), I only pressed it onto my hand to see how it would hold up throughout the day.


In The PM
Had I told you this eyeliner survived a torrential downpour — during which I was outside for 10 straight minutes with no umbrella — without a smudge in sight, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But consider this your photographic evidence that It. Does. Not. Budge. I can’t say the same for the cat stamp, though.

The Verdict: 100% worth it for the product’s eyeliner alone, but it’s a double whammy for cat enthusiasts.


The Eyeliner: Tarte’s Tarteist Double Take Eyeliner, $24, available at Ulta Beauty.

The Claim: Another doubled-sided option, this has a quick-dry liquid liner on one end and a twist-up pencil on the other — both of which promise to last up to 12 hours.


In The AM
Everyone from Rihanna to Mandy Moore might be tightlining these days, but I haven’t employed the makeup trick since middle school… and it looked pretty scary on me back then. But, I was pleasantly surprised that this pencil didn’t glide on creamy or smudgy like the formulas I used when I was younger; it left behind a crisp black line along my lower lashes. And, the liquid liner’s pen applicator made drawing on a cat-eye a breeze.


In The PM
Even though I remembered an umbrella this time, I still put Tarte’s formula through its paces. 10 hours later in spitting rain, the liquid formula on my upper eyelids looked near identical to how it did in the morning. There was a teensy bit of smudging on the outer corners, but it was minimal — and definitely beats the Keith Richards-look of my past.

The Verdict: While I liked the liquid liner and would use it again, you’d probably have to appreciate pencil formulas as well to make the total package worth it.


The Eyeliner: It Cosmetics’ Superhero Liner, $24, available at Ulta Beauty.

The Claim: A long-lasting formula with peptides, biotin, and keratin, plus an elastic, bendable pen applicator that makes creating a cat-eye easy.


In The AM
Full disclosure: I’ve been using this liquid eyeliner for the last two months simply because its flexible, brush-hair tip makes yielding a razor-sharp line so easy that pretty much anybody could do it, and the pigment payoff is second to none.


In The PM
My eyeshadow and lip stain might have faltered in the New York City humidity, but this liner barely budged. While the black ink lost some of its punch after a full day of work, plus a 2-hour work dinner that followed, it didn’t run or smudge — and the waiter even asked what eye primer I use to keep it looking so perfect.

The Verdict: If you’re a cat-eye beginner, or looking for something quick and easy in the mornings, this tube is for you.


The Black Eyeliner: Smashbox + Vlada’s Petal Metal Liquid Eye Liner, $24, available at Sephora.

The Claim: The waterproof liquid formula is infused with rose gold pearl pigments for a satin-shimmer finish that dries in a minute.


In The AM
I like the idea of glitter eyeliner in theory, but in my everyday life, it’s too hard to part with my go-to black. That’s why I was excited to try this shimmer-packed option from Smashbox, which has a bit of both. I found the formula to be a little too watery for my taste, and the dark pigment wasn’t fully opaque on top of my eyeshadow, but I loved the subtle hint of sparkle.

While I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo at the end of the night, I can assure you my eyeliner looked almost exactly the same as it does here, because once the formula dried, it really stayed put. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on your application.

The Verdict: This is definitely a fun way to jazz up an everyday look, but I would recommend drawing it on top of another black matte eyeliner to up the opacity.


The Black Eyeliner: Maybelline’s Master Precise Ink Metallic Liquid Eyeliner, $7.99, available at Target.

The Claim: The rich, blacker-than-black pigment lasts up to 24 hours.


In The AM
The brush was easier to use than any other dip applicator that I’ve tried, and the deep, high-shine color could only be rivaled by “Vantablack.” Unlike other formulas with wet consistencies, this one dried in seconds.


In The PM
If it looks like I’m actually sleeping in this photo, I would have very much liked to be: I snapped this selfie around 12 A.M, roughly 16 hours after I first swiped on the eyeliner. But even though I was tired, the formula was still holding on — and just as black as when I first applied it.

The Verdict: This eyeliner is, hands down, my favorite discovery of this entire experiment, and will now be a permanent part of my makeup rotation. Pretty good for the cheapest pick in the bunch.


The Black Eyeliner: Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, $20, available at Sephora.

The Claim: The creamy eye pencil dries after 30 seconds and lasts all day and night.


In The AM
If you couldn’t already tell, I associate pencil liner with my angsty teenage years of Green Day concerts and an all-black wardrobe. But I’m a big believer in Urban Decay’s products, so I decided to give it a go. Like I remembered from my heavy eyeliner days of yore, this pencil laid the pigment down thick, taking my entire makeup vibe from strictly business to rock ‘n’ roll with just a few swipes. That said, the color was deep black (just how I like it), and definitely made an impact.


In The PM
The flick of eyeliner on the outer corners of my eyes wore down toward the end of the work day — but I looked damn good during that work day. The thick line made my lashes look fuller, my entire eye shape just looked more sultry, and the compliments kept rolling in.

The Verdict: If you want to add some serious drama to your standard smoky eye, go for this option. Just tuck it into your clutch if you’ll be out of the house a full 24 hours.

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