Black eyeliner will always be a makeup staple, but I’m here to make a case for its more subtle counterpart: brown eyeliner. For me, it's simply the best eyeliner there is and my love for the shade goes all the way back to when I was a beauty newbie. As a preteen trying out eyeliner for the first time, my mom was quick to call me out for having "raccoon eyes," so I promptly switched sides to brown and never looked back. I’ve found that a rich chocolate shade adds just the right amount of “oomph” to my eyes without looking too harsh like black eyeliner tends to do. So if you’re like me and want to avoid too intense a liner look, the best brown eyeliners are going to be your new bestie.
But don’t just take it from me—even the pros love to use brown liners from time to time. Pro makeup artist Isabel Y Rosado tells Marie Claire that she tends to reach for a brown liner when she’s going after a softer eye look. “I'll also gravitate to a brown if I have a client that isn't used to liner but wants to try it out,” she adds. “I will typically suggest a brown option as it mimics a shadow but will still define without feeling stark.” Meanwhile, pro makeup artist Dani Parkes reaches for brown shades when she’s working on clients with blue, green, and especially brown eyes. She explains that brown eyeliner “will make the color pop more and almost change the way we see their eye color.”
If you still need convincing on the magical color, consider this list of the best brown eyeliners on the market right now. From deep chocolate, cocoa, and cinnamon, these beautiful shades will add subtle sexiness to your makeup look. Whether you enjoy the versatility of pencil eyeliners or like the intensity of liquid liners, we’ve got options for you. Keep scrolling to learn from the pros on how to choose a brown liner, then shop our expert-approved favorites.
What to Look For in Brown Eyeliner
When on the hunt for your new favorite brown eyeliner, pigmentation is key, says Parkes. “I generally look at the pigmentation to see how well the liner will show up on the person's eye,” she says. If you’re wanting a more subtle effect, pencil liners can be smudged or smoked out into a softer look. Meanwhile, liquid liners typically have high-impact pigmentation, which is great for those wanting a more intense look.
Parkes also likes to consider texture when choosing an eyeliner. Some liners (like gel formulas) have a creamier texture than others and can glide more seamlessly across the lid. Parkes particularly prefers to use gel liners as they have “easy movement” and can easily be removed.
The Best Brown Eyeliners
- Best Brown Eyeliner Overall: Victoria Beckham Beauty Satin Kajal Eyeliner in Cocoa
- Best Budget Brown Eyeliner: Maybelline Unstoppable Eyeliner in Cinnebar (opens in new tab)
- Best Splurgeworthy Brown Eyeliner: Lancôme Drama Liqui-Pencil Eyeliner (opens in new tab)
- Best Pencil Brown Eyeliner: Makeup by Mario Master Pigment Pro Eyeliner Pencil in Perfect Brown (opens in new tab)
- Best Liquid Brown Eyeliner: Revlon Colorstay Liquid Eyeliner in Black/Brown (opens in new tab)
- Best Gel Brown Eyeliner: Hourglass Voyeur Waterproof Gel Eyeliner in Cave (opens in new tab)
- Best Vegan Brown Eyeliner: Milk Makeup Infinity Long Lasting Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil in Limitless (opens in new tab)
Best Pro-Approved Brown Eyeliner
"A personal favorite is MAC Costa Riche," says Dani Parkes. "I use this eyeliner to draw out a base on most of my clients eyelids. It’s the perfect brown with a red-ish undertone.” Another use for this kohl pencil? Waterlining. Since this liner is ophthalmologist-tested and approved for contact lens wearers, it's the perfect eyeliner for your waterline. It also works just as well in the upper lashline to make your lashes appear more lush and full.
Pros: Ophthalmologist-tested; Pro-approved; Glides on smoothly; Longwearing; Highly pigmented.
Cons: Reviewers say this may smudge over time; Over $20.
Best 2-in-1 Brown Eyeliner
In the beauty world, Stila's Stay All Day liquid eyeliner (opens in new tab) is a cult favorite because of its longlasting abilities. The sucker does. not. budge. Well, I'm happy to report the same rings true with its dual-ended liner. One side features the perfect everyday shade of chocolate brown, while the other side is a pretty burnt amber color. When I'm feeling a little extra, I like to layer the two colors using thin lines. Both shades last the entire day without smudging, bleeding, or fading.
Pros: Comes with two colors; Longwearing; Waterproof; Easy to apply; Editor-approved.
Cons: Tips are prone to drying; Over $20.
Best Budget Brown Eyeliner
We love a budget-friendly beauty product that actually delivers impressive results. Maybelline's Unstoppable eyeliner can definitely give expensive liners a run for their money. This waterproof pencil has a mechanical, self-sharpening design so you always have a sharp point, a big draw for any liner look you're going for. The shade Cinnabar features hints of soft auburn, which will especially make green and brown eyes pop. The reviews don't lie on this one, either—over 15,000 Amazon shoppers gave it a 5-star rating.
Pros: Under $10; Waterproof; Ophthalmologist-tested; Twist-up, self-sharpening design.
Cons: May smudge over time and with oily eyelids.
Best Gel Brown Eyeliner
"If you want an eyeliner with a creamy formula that lasts all day but is still blendable, check this one from out from Hourglass. The tip stays pointed for a while as you use it, making it great for winged eyeliner looks. The vegan, cruelty-free, and paraben-free formula is so easy to use but it lasts all day—even when you use it in the waterline. This is one of the eyeliners I turn to when I go out at night because it's an all-purpose winner. The shade Cave is great if you want a true brown that doesn't look black. Plus, it's easy to remove, despite the fact that it's waterproof." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Waterproof; Editor-approved; Long-lasting; Formula is vegan; Formula is cruelty-free; Formula is paraben-free.
Cons: Costs over $20.
Best Vegan Brown Eyeliner
The teeny tiny tip on this twist-up pencil makes sharp, ultra-precise lines a breeze to draw, plus the built-in sharpener means you'll never have to deal with a dull tip again. If that messy sexy look is more your vibe, there's a built-in smudge sponge, too. This formula is infused with avocado oil, ceramides, and aloe vera extract to not only provide an extra smooth application, but to also help soothe the lashline. We love a multi-functioning beauty product, but even more so when it's vegan.
Pro: Twist-up design; Comes with built-in sharpener and smudge brush; Waterproof; Longwearing; Vegan formula.
Con: Over $20; Reviewers note this may smudge with oily eyelids.
Best Pencil Brown Eyeliner
Mario Dedivanovic, aka Kim Kardashian's makeup artist, was not messing around when he created this eyeliner pencil. Its velvety-smooth gel formula glides effortlessly across the lids while delivering high-impact color. The aptly named "perfect brown" shade is a true, cool-toned brown that will suit just about anyone. Pro makeup artist Isabel Y Rosado counts herself a fan of this pencil and says, "It glides on perfectly and sets silky." She adds, "I love it for tightlining, winged liner, smokey smudge lines for a doe eye look or detail work."
Pros: Pro-approved; Longwearing; Highly pigmented; Comes with smudge brush; Comes with sharpener; Easy to blend.
Cons: Over $20; Difficult to sharpen.
Best Longwearing Brown Eyeliner
You may know KVD Beauty's Tattoo Liner for its longlasting, inky black pigment, but Dani Parkes prefers it in the rich chocolate brown shade, Mad Max Brown. "It is a softer option as opposed to using the black one," she says. "I find it looks better on most people's faces as it looks really great with most eye colors." With its ultra-precise brush tip you can create any type of line you want, just switch up how much pressure you use when applying.
Pros: Longwearing; Waterproof; Highly pigmented; Vegan formula; Easy to apply
Cons: Tip dries out over time; Over $20
Best Drugstore Brown Eyeliner
"This is one of my favorite brown eyeliner from the drugstore. I have green eyes so black eyeliners can look a bit harsh on me. It's a warm-toned almost-black-brown shade with no shimmer, but it looks so much lighter on my eye. It's highly-pigmented, blends beautifully, works great for a touch of definition on the outer corner, and lasts all day especially after being set with a bit of powder. It's definitely a creamier pencil so I wouldn't recommend it for the waterline, but it's easy to remove and is great for either a smokey eye or a daytime look." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Editor-approved; Highly-pigmented; Lasts all day; Creamy texture.
Cons: Not great for the waterline.
Best Variety Brown Eyeliner
Sephora's in-house collection takes the cake for their extensive shade range. There's a dark matte brown for when you want a more intense look, and for when you want to spice things up, the line also has a shimmering copper bronze shade. For everyday glam, there's this dark brown shade that has subtle bronze shimmers to make your eyes pop. With a creamy, non-tugging formula that's waterproof and smudge-proof, one application will last all day.
Pros: Waterproof; Comes with built-in sharpener and smudge sponge; Longwearing; Offered in multiple shades of brown
Cons: Reviewers note the glittery shades are hard to apply
Best Overall Brown Eyeliner
This extra creamy pencil can be used in a variety of ways—from smudging in your lashline to drawing sharp lines, to name a few. Plus, its dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested so it's safe to use in your waterline. Infused with Vitamin E, panthenol, and chamomile extract, this eyeliner works overtime to moisturize and soothe your eyelids. MC's Beauty Editor Samantha Holender is a fan of this pick, and says, "I like to apply this in little dashes—it really amps up the pigment payoff."
Pros: Editor-approved; Ophthalmologist and dermatologist tested; Waterproof; Longwearing; Glides on smoothly; Highly-pigmented; Comes with smudge sponge
Cons: Over $20
Best Splurgeworthy Brown Eyeliner
If liquid liners seem too intimidating for you, this pick from Lancôme marries the rich pigment of a liquid formula with the ease of a pencil into what they dubbed a "Liqui-Pencil." The "French Chocolate" shade is a high-impact dark brown color that dries down into a matte finish. Although you can blend and smudge this liner to your will, once its set, your liner look is good to go for up to 24 hours of wear (if you dare to wear your makeup that long).
Pros: Highly pigmented; Longwearing; Waterproof; Ophthalmologist tested; Glides on smoothly
Cons: Over $20
Best Liquid Brown Eyeliner
I will probably never shut up about this Revlon pick and quite frankly, I don't want to until everyone I know has tried it. It's just that good. Ever since I got the "ok" from my mom to wear makeup in middle school, I've been wearing this eyeliner, specifically in the black-brown shade because my mom thought black was too intense. It's everything I could ever want in an eyeliner—it's longlasting, fadeproof, smudge-proof, super pigmented, and easy to apply. Hence why I wear it every single day, or at least days I wear makeup. Seriously, don't pass this drugstore gem up!
Pros: Editor-approved; Longwearing; Smudge-proof; Highly-pigmented; Under $10
Cons: Formula may clump up over time
Best User-Friendly Brown Eyeliner
"I wouldn't consider myself a eyeliner pro. Winged eyeliners are hard for me to master because I have slightly hooded eyes. This MAC eyeliner is so easy to use because it glides-on and doesn't tug on the skin around my eye area. The result is a clean line every time. I use it for winged eyeliner looks or just across my lash-line or in the waterline. No matter where I put it, it doesn't budge for hours. 24 hours on the lid and 12 on the waterline to be exact! I use the shade Skip the Waitlist if I want a shimmery brown look or the shade Sick Tat Bro for a matte look. — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Long-lasting; Editor-approved; Doesn't tug on the eyelid;
Cons: You can only blend for a few minutes before it sets; Costs over $20.
Meet the Experts
Self-taught makeup artist Dani Parkes, also known as Faces by Danii, started doing makeup at the age of 8. At 18 years old she moved to New York knowing no one and started to build her network. Dani is passionate about all things makeup. Her goal is to highlight and extenuate the natural features on one's face, rather than completely changing the way they look. She creates new ideas and draws inspiration from a lot of artists based in the UK and Europe. Their effortless glam and technique is what has shaped Dani’s makeup style. She continues to grow as an artist and hopes to continue to build her network of clients. Dani has glammed up some of your favorite influencers and celebrities including Natalie Noel, Lea Michelle, Emily Lind, and Lauren Wolfe.
Isabel is a pro makeup artist born and based in New York City. She's worked with brands and publications such as Yves Saint Laurent, Hill House, Moda Operandi, Teen Vogue, Elle Mexico, Glossier, Levi's, Office Magazine, and more. Her work has graced the red carpet with the likes of Sarah Hoover, Michelle Hellman, and Mollie Acquavella. Isabel is also a member of the Latinx Creatives Collective.
Brooke Knappenberger is the Editorial Fellow at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.