Of all of the makeup products in the world, eyeliner may take the cake for versatility—there are just so many ways to use it. The best eyeliners can make your eyes pop from a mile away with a single swipe across the lids. If playful, bold shapes are your forte, liquid liners are your best friend. Or maybe you like a subtle smokey look, in which case pencil liners are there for you. And if you love to experiment with fun shades, there are even colored eyeliners out there. But allow me to let you in on another magic use for eyeliner: waterlining.
Waterlining is a makeup technique in which you apply eyeliner to the wet, fleshy part of your lower inner eyelids. It can change the look of your entire face, says pro makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran. “Using a white or neutral liner in the waterline can make you look more awake and take away any look of redness in the eyes,” she says. “On the other hand, using brighter colors that are complementary to your skin tone can emphasize your eyes and make your complexion a bit brighter.” Additionally, you can line your upper inner eyelid, AKA tightlining, to make your lashes appear more lush and full.
If you’re hoping to achieve bigger-looking eyes and fuller lashes, look no further than the best waterline eyeliners. But bear in mind that eyeliner in the waterline can cause dryness for some. "It occludes the openings of the meibomian glands,” says board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo. “This prevents the oils from being released into the tear film. This will cause the patients' eyes to be dry.”
We at Marie Claire have compiled this list of the very best eyeliners for the waterline—all of which are long-wearing, waterproof, highly pigmented, and, most importantly, have silky smooth textures to prevent irritation in the sensitive area. Read on for expert shopping tips from beauty pros Jaikaran and Ehlie Luna, and to shop our favorites.
What to Look For in Waterline Eyeliners
You can’t just be throwing any eyeliner in your waterline willy-nilly. The waterline is an especially sensitive area, so any tugging or skipping may cause irritation and damage. If you’re looking for an eyeliner specifically to use in your waterline, pro makeup artist Ehlie Luna says silicone-based and waterproof eyeliner formulas are your best bet. “To spot them you might see words like cyclopentasiloxane or trimethylsiloxysilicate listed in the ingredients.” But she gave another pro tip: “You don't have to memorize these words but notice ingredient names with ‘-sil’ buried in them among the first five ingredients. Often they will mention 'waterproof' on the package somewhere.”
Another quality to look out for? Texture. “The best liner for the waterline is a pencil liner that has a creamy payoff yet is long-lasting,” says Jaikaran. A creamy-textured pencil (like Maybelline’s TattooStudio pencil, below) won’t tug or skip across your waterline, meaning there will be less chance for irritation. Luna also notes that kohl and kajal formulas are often used in the waterline because they are especially creamy.
The Best Eyeliners for the Waterline
- Best Overall Waterline Eyeliner: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil
- Best Budget Waterline Eyeliner: Maybelline TattooStudio Gel Pencil Eyeliner
- Best Splurgeworthy Waterline Eyeliner: Victoria Beckham Beauty Satin Kajal Eyeliner
- Best Vegan Waterline Eyeliner: Pixi Eye Define Waterline
- Best Colored Waterline Eyeliner: Kulfi Underlined Kajal Clean Waterproof Long-Wear Eyeliner
Best Overall Waterline Eyeliner
There's a reason Urban Decay dubs its 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Pencil as the "#1 Eyeliner in the U.S." Its smudge-proof, ultra-creamy, high-impact formula has won numerous awards including Glamour's 2022 and 2021 Reader's Choice awards, and is pretty much a universal favorite in the beauty world (it's another one of Jaikaran's favorite waterline eyeliners). If you're one to experiment with color, there's a whopping 38 different shades and finishes to choose from, including a bright white to make you look awake in an instant.
Pros: Long-wearing; Waterproof; Glides easily; Offered in over 30 shades; Vegan; Blendable.
Cons: Over $20; Difficult to sharpen.
Customer review: "I wear contacts and my eyes water quite a bit. This is the only eyeliner I have ever purchased that lasts all day(seriously) and I don’t have to reapply it. Great for tight lining too." — Sephora
Best Budget Waterline Eyeliner
We're a big fan of Maybelline's TattooStudio Gel Pencil Eyeliner here at MC, but Jaleesa Jaikaran counts herself a fan, too. She says this drugstore pick is "nice because while it blends easily for a smokey eye or smokey lash line look, it does not budge." In other words, if you need a blendable liner that stays put, this is a good option. This one is specifically resistant to sebum, the oily substance your eyelids produce to protect the surface of your eye, meaning this liner works especially well in the waterline.
Pros: Long-wearing; Waterproof; Sebum-resistant; Blendable; Offered in over 10 shades; Highly pigmented.
Cons: Dries fast; Difficult to sharpen.
Customer review: "I've been using this eyeliner for about 10 years now... Has been the best thing I've ever used for lower lash line and waterline… I've worn it for over 12 hours without it smudging! It's even stayed during concerts and long work shifts. 10/10." — Ulta
Best Kohl Waterline Eyeliner
This Neutrogena pick comes to you pro-approved by Jaikaran. It hits on her three criteria for the best waterline eyeliners: long-wearing, waterproof, and non-irritating. In fact, this kohl eyeliner is formulated with vitamin E for an ultra-smooth, tug-free glide. Once applied, you can blend out the highly-pigmented color for a sexy smoky eye. Or if you prefer a precise line, wait 30 seconds after applying for the liner to set, resulting in a smudge-free look.
Pros: Glides easily; Long-wearing; Waterproof; Under $10.
Cons: Tip is a bit thick.
Customer review: "BEST waterline liner EVER!!! It doesn't run down OR collect in the corners of my eyes (a major issue for me due to my incredibly oily skin.) It even still looks good in the morning if I happen to leave it on overnight!!" — Amazon
Best Pencil Waterline Eyeliner
Pro makeup artist Ehlie Luna says all of her favorite waterline eyeliners are "long-wearing, pigmented, and best of all they don't irritate my eyes," and this MAC pick is one of her three favorites. We love that this eyeliner is ophthalmologist-tested and specifically states it's safe for the waterline and contact lens wearers. It is a mechanical pencil-style liner, meaning you won't need a sharpener, and it delivers rich color. Once it dries down, the liner won't budge for up to eight hours.
Pros: Ophthalmologist-tested; Long-wearing; Waterproof; Smudge-proof.
Cons: Over $20.
Customer review: "Omg Im amazed at the application of this eyeliner. It's easy to apply and on the first swipe on waterline the payoff is on point. Most eyeliner's I've used it takes at least 2 minutes to get my waterline as black as I wanted. Also it's waterproof and long wearing. I can go swimming with this on..." — MAC
Best Luxury Waterline Eyeliner
“I’ve worn eyeliner every day since I was 16 years old. No lie. Black, blue, gray, pencil, liquid, gel, or felt-tip—if it’s eyeliner I’ve tried them all, and generally speaking, I like most on the market. However, I’m not into smudging or ones that make you look like a raccoon by noon. That's why Kevyn Aucoin’s precision eye definer is my go-to. It glides on easily, lasts long, and very rarely do I need touch-ups. The brown is also great for less-dramatic eyeliner looks.” — Deena Campbell, Beauty Director
Pros: Glides easily; Smudge-proof; Waterproof; Self-sharpening.
Cons: Over $20.
Customer review: "I love this eyeliner for my waterline and top lashline for my humid work environment. I work long shifts with no time for touchups and in my case I find it to be virtually sweat and tear proof.(nothing is 100% perfect but this performs exceedingly well). It is one of the best liners I have found for being budge proof in difficult circumstances!" — Nordstrom.
Best Colored Waterline Eyeliner
As Luna said, kajal eyeliners work great in the waterline because of their creaminess, and this one from Kulfi fits that bill. This pick won an Allure 2022 Best of Beauty Award thanks to its long-wearing formula and unique shade range (I'm obsessed with Purply Pataka, a shimmery berry shade). Plus, it's formulated with aloe vera extract, safflower seed oil, and vitamin E for extra soothing and moisturizing power. Did I mention it's a completely vegan and clean formula?
Pros: Long-wearing; Waterproof; Vegan; Highly-pigmented; Contains soothing ingredients.
Cons: May smudge after a while.
Customer review: "I love this eyeliner !…it glide easily on my eyelids and it’s waterproof and tear proof I use it on my under waterlines and upper waterlines it last through out the whole day! I will repurchase again in the near future." — Sephora
Best Splurgeworthy Waterline Eyeliner
"First and foremost: This eyeliner is ophthalmologist and dermatologist tested to be safe for waterline use—we love that. But that's just the tip of the why-I-love-this-eyeliner iceberg. The crayon is non-irritating (I have the world's most sensitive eyes for the record) and glides flawlessly on my waterline. Personally, I like to apply this in little dashes—it really amps up the pigment payoff. It's also worth calling out that this is a waterproof formula, so even when it's uber-close to my tear duct I don't experience any dripping or smudging." — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested; Waterproof; Long-wearing; Blendable.
Cons: Over $20.
Customer review: "So smooth and silky. This is my favorite liner. It goes on easily, sharpens beautifully, and is perfect for the water line." — Victoria Beckham Beauty
Best Vegan Waterline Eyeliner
When it comes to your eyes, you really don't want to mess around with parabens and harmful ingredients—we only get one set of eyes! So when you're coming at your eye with makeup, especially in the extra-sensitive waterline, it's never a bad idea to look for clean, doctor-approved products, like this eyeliner from Pixi. Not only is it formulated with clean ingredients and is ophthalmologist-tested, but it's specifically approved for the waterline and delivers a deep, dark color payoff.
Pros: Vegan; Ophthalmologist-tested; Highly-pigmented; Waterproof.
Cons: Only offered in one shade; Tip is prone to breaking off.
Customer review: "This baby works on waterline and tightline and doesn't MOVE... It's stays on so well it's a challenge to get it off! Only took away the 5th star because I'd love other colors than just black." — Target
Best Cake Waterline Eyeliner
It may be intimidating to use a non-pencil liner in your waterline, but trust me when I say this old-school cake liner is worth trying out. Think of it as a more pigmented, drier eyeshadow. The little compact is specifically formulated to use when tightlining as it delivers a subtle "oomph" to thicken the look of lashes. Simply use a wet, flat brush to turn this cake liner into a paste, then use short strokes to work into the upper lash line. Reviewers especially love how versatile this can be.
Pros: Ophthalmologist-tested; Safe for contact lens wearers; Smudge-proof; Highly pigmented.
Cons: Requires a brush; May transfer with oily lids; Over $20.
Customer review: "Great product! I've used it for years. I can create an even line deep into my lash line for a natural appearance. AND it last until I take it off in the evening without flaking or fading." — Laura Mercier
Meet the Experts
Growing up in Trinidad, Jaleesa moved to New York City to pursue her dream of makeup. She started assisting industry greats like Kabuki, Pat McGrath, and Diane Kendal on sets and fashion weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris. Jaleesa began to develop her eye for color and strengthened her focus on the perfection of skin tones of all shades, which has led to her work being published in publications including Elle, Glamour, Teen Vogue, Essence, L’Officiel, Vogue Italia and Refinery29. As a content creator, Jaleesa strives to make content that teaches, inspires, and makes makeup achievable, and is known for her insider tips and signature skin. Jaleesa also runs The Life Of a Makeup Artist podcast, and regularly posts to her Tiktok account. In 2022, she was named one of LinkedIn's Top Voice in Fashion & Beauty.
Ehlie Luna is a pro makeup artist whose experience goes from key makeup artist for the New York City Ballet to freelance commercial work in 2020 allowing her to move deeper into content creation. Her work has been featured in music videos and has graced the red carpet and catwalks of New York Fashion Week. She’s also worked with brands such as Daily Paper, Mac Cosmetics, Pattern Beauty, Beautyblender, r.e.m. beauty, UOMA Beauty, Macy’s, and more. Luna shares her expert tips and injects her unique personality into the beauty space through her TikTok page @EhlieLuna.
Dr. Diane Hilal-Campo is a Board Certified General Ophthalmologist who is highly skilled in both medical and surgical eyecare. Dr. Hilal-Campo has been practicing in Oakland, New Jersey for more than 23 years. She is a graduate of Columbia University, and was in the first class that accepted women at Columbia College in 1987. Dr. Hilal-Campo then went on to receive her medical degree from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She completed her internship in internal medicine at Columbia and then went on to complete her residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Hilal-Campo is an active member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an active member of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons. She is also a founding member of a group for female Ophthalmologists in New Jersey. After spending decades treating female patients struggling with dry eye and other painful conditions caused by makeup and beauty treatments, she developed her own brand of eye-friendly formulas, twenty/twenty beauty.
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Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor 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.