The 12 Best Gel Eyeliners, According to Beauty Experts

Pigmented liners that glide on with ease.

Isabelle Mathers (R) seen backstage wearing gel eyeliner at the Philipp Plein fashion show on February 22, 2020 in Milan, Italy.
(Image credit: Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images)

Let’s be real: Eyeliner might just be the hardest makeup product. If your hand has ever trembled while holding an eyeliner pencil or if you’ve ruined a sharp line with a twitch, then you know what I mean. But don’t let that deter you from the MVP beauty product. The best eyeliners can define your eye shape and make your eyes pop. Meanwhile, liquid eyeliners are amazing at graphic shapes and creating sharp lines. But if you’re a tad intimidated by liquid formulas, might we suggest gel eyeliner, which can do all of the above? 

The benefits of gel eyeliners are nearly endless. They feel smooth and silky on the lid and glide on seamlessly, making just about any liner look a breeze. I’m personally a huge fan of gel liners’ magical staying powers—they legitimately last all damn day. Another huge draw? Their versatility. You can let the product dry down into any shape you want or you can smudge it out into a sultry smokey eye. And whether you prefer to use a brush or retractable pencil, you’ve got options with gel liner. 

If you’re still not convinced, try one of the best gel eyeliners for yourself. We pored over customer reviews, tried some liners ourselves, and consulted celebrity makeup artist Ashlee Glazer to bring you this list of the best of the best. These liners have top-notch pigmentation, silky smooth texture, and long-wear formulas.

What to Look For in a Gel Eyeliner

So, you’ve decided to try your hand at gel eyeliner. Before you go rushing off to the makeup aisle, there are some key things to consider before making your purchase. First, you’ll want to decide on the type of applicator. Gel eyeliners typically come in either a pot (in which case you’ll need a brush), a pencil, or a retractable pencil. It’s really up to your preference and skill level, but we’d recommend having a steady hand if you want to go the pot-and-brush route. 

After landing on an applicator, you’ll want to consider texture and color says, Glazer. “I look for the smoothest glide and the richest pigment,” she says, so look for keywords like “creamy,” “smooth,” and “pigmented” in the product’s description. To ensure your liner stays put, you’ll also want to look for long-wear formulas, or you may even want to consider a waterproof pick. Just make sure you have a great makeup remover on hand.

The Best Gel Eyeliners

When to Use Gel Eyeliner

Unlike liquid eyeliner, gel eyeliner is very forgiving, so it’s a great pick for beginners. “If you have trouble holding the pencil, shaky hands, bad eyesight, or textured lids, the gel is really the easiest liner to apply for all ages,” says Glazer. Gel liners are also typically formulated to be long-wearing and waterproof, which Glazer says is “super helpful in any category.” 

Glazer herself explains she “almost always” uses a gel formula. “I like to layer my liners when working on a client for their wedding or red carpet,” she says. For example, if she’s doing a smokey eye look, she will use a gel liner as a base and use a fluffy brush to smoke out the liner, getting a rich pigment on the eye first before going in with other products. “Think of it as a really great eye shadow primer,” Glazer adds. “Just be sure to blend immediately so it doesn’t lock in.” Additionally, the pro explains that gel liner can be used on top of pencil liner in the waterline and lashline to ensure there is absolutely no smudging.

Meet the Expert

Portrait of Ashlee glazer makeup artist
Ashlee Glazer

Ashlee has been a lover of beauty for as long as she can remember, working in every corner of the industry from the counter to the red carpet. Her clientele includes brides and celebrities including Christy Turlington, Rachel Zoe, Nikki and Brie Bella, and Georgina Chapman. Ashlee has made several TV appearances lending her expertise to shows such as TODAY, The Wendy Williams Show, Nick Cannon, and The Rachael Ray Show. 

Brooke Knappenberger
Associate Commerce Editor

Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she specializes in crafting shopping stories—from sales content to buying guides that span every vertical on the site. She also oversees holiday coverage with an emphasis on gifting guides as well as Power Pick, our monthly column on the items that power the lives of MC’s editors. 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.