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The Pros and Cons of Every Kind of Eyeliner

Because nothing does it all.

As someone who wears a cat eye every day, I know the struggle of a solid winged tip all too well. The time, the accuracy, the upkeep—it ain't easy. Over the years, I've tried every eyeliner in the book, whether it was the nearest at arm's reach (oh hey, beauty closet) or a product that a fellow editor swore by.

After all the trial and error, I've come to a sobering conclusion: there's not one single formula that does it all. No, I'm not saying the industry is failing us and all formulas suck. It's just that your perfect liner is dependent on the look you're aiming to achieve—whether it's smoky and subtle or inky and razor-sharp. So how do you know which one you need in your makeup arsenal? Well, we're here for you. Behold, our guide to eyeliner—in the simplest terms. Here's to no more racoon eyes. (Unless you're going for that.)

The Kohl Pencil


  • Cool smoldering lines
  • Goes on easily
  • Great for water line
  • Easy to travel with


    • Smudgy
    • Short wear time
    • Need to be sharpened

      Shop it: MAC Eye Kohl Pencil, $16; nordstrom.com.

      The Gel Pencil


      • Clean, neat finish
      • Usually waterproof
      • Great for water line
      • Easy to travel with


        • Color can be dull
        • Tugs skin on upper lash line.

          Shop it: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, $20; sephora.com.

          The Brush-Tip Liquid Liner


          • Great for thin, sharp lines
          • Matte finish
          • Removes easily


            • Requires time and precision
            • Needs time to dry
            • Can flake over time

              Shop it: L'Oreal Paris Lineur Intense Brush Tip Liquid Eyeliner, $9.49; soap.com.

              The Felt-Tip Pen


              • Easy to control
              • Quick precision.
              • Great for thick lines.


                • More prone to smudges
                • Need to be layered
                • Hard to remove

                  Shop it: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner Pencil, $20; amazon.com.

                  The Gel Pot


                  • Stays put.
                  • Texture isn't as sensitive as liquid.
                  • Good for smoky eyes.


                    • Needs a brush.
                    • Can tug on skin.
                    • Formula can dry over time.

                      Shop it: Maybelline New Yok Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner, $7.49; amazon.com.

                      The Shadow Liner


                      • Easy to apply.
                      • Great for smoky eye.


                        • Needs a brush.
                        • Requires precision.
                        • Fades faster.

                          Shop it: Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Shadow, $14; bareescentuals.com.

                          Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Eyeliner Brush, $12; bareescentuals.com.

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