The 12 Best Black Eyeliners Ever

The backbone of your favorite makeup looks.

black eyeliner
(Image credit: Edward Berthelot)

Have you done a makeup audit lately? If you can't remember the last time it happened, now's probably the time. We've been known to hoard, too, but there's a chance some of your makeup is dry, almost empty, or just plain expired. But when we do clean house, there's one makeup product we always end up needing a restock for: a solid black eyeliner. It's the backbone of most of our favorite looks, and we run through them like crazy. In fact, it's the one product that tends to *disappear* from the Marie Claire beauty closet most often.

It should come as no surprise that black eyeliners are a staple among the pros, too. “Black eyeliner is a classic,” says pro makeup artist Lauren O’Leary. She explains that you can use a black eyeliner pencil to create an easy smokey eye or a liquid liner for an extra crisp cateye. Need further proof of the magic of a good black eyeliner? “It instantly brings out the eyes, and can create the illusion of thicker fuller eyelashes if applied precisely at the lash line,” O’Leary adds. 

With all that said, we can be a little picky when it comes to finding a formula that really gets the job done. After testing so many, we know a good liner when we see one: it's got to be inky, pigmented, and last as long as the rest of our look does. There are a ton of options, and all of them are best suited for specific purposes. So, in an effort to streamline your audit, we’ve got the lowdown on how to choose the best liner for you and curated this list of the best of the best. Read on for your perfect fit.

What to Look For

A quick glance down the aisles of Sephora will show you that there is an insane amount of black eyeliner on the market. We'd wager that just about every makeup brand offers one. So how do you land on the perfect one for you? 

You'll first want to decide which eyeliner formula is best for your needs. For example, O'Leary prefers to use a black pencil liner because they are typically easier to control. "You can use a light touch and apply a pencil directly to skin or you can use a little angled brush and smudge or soften out the line with the brush," she says. But if crisp clean lines are your goal, opt for a water-resistant gel liner. "I can get a very crisp line that way, and it's easy to create a winged liner look and stays on all day," O'Leary says. As for liquid formulas, O'Leary explains that they are great for "on the go or creating a quick liner look," but she warns they take more skill and precision. 

Additionally, O'Leary recommends looking for a liner with rich pigment and a creamy texture so it's easier to apply. "I look for one that also dries down fast and doesn't transfer easily, so look for waterproof or water-resistant, especially if you have smaller eyes and are concerned with it transferring," she adds. 

The Best Black Eyeliners

Meet the Expert

Headshot of Lauren O'Leary, pro makeup artist
Lauren O'Leary

Lauren is a New York City/Minneapolis based makeup artist, men's groomer, and beauty expert. She grew up in Minnesota but had her heart set on living in New York City since she was very young. As a lifelong artist, she was always on top of the latest beauty trends. Lauren specializes in beauty, editorial, celebrity, commercial/print, film & TV work. A few of her clients include Guess, Maybelline, Saks Fifth Ave, Samsung, Conde Nast, and celebrities Niki Taylor, Kaia Gerber, Joey Fatone, Shaq, Charlotte Mckinney, Hannah Brown, James Van der Beek, and more.

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 also tackled shopping content as Marie Claire's Editorial Fellow prior to her role as Associate Commerce Editor.

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.