I can still remember the first time I ever applied liquid eyeliner. I had finally convinced my mom to let me experiment with the stuff, and I was so pumped about it I didn't even care that it looked like I'd applied it during an earthquake. Now, years later, and after lots of trial and error, it's become my holy grail, everyday makeup staple. (I can basically draw a cat eye in my sleep at this point.)
Many years of experience have taught me that you don't have to shell out a lot of money to snag yourself a bomb liquid eyeliner option. There are excellent formulas and some innovative technology ready and waiting for you at your local drugstore. Having a plethora of budget-friendly finds is nice but also makes it that much more tedious to locate the gems. Lucky for you, I've been doing just that for the last decade or so.
Here, you'll find 12 drugstore liquid eyeliners that won't budge, are easy to apply, and dispense highly pigmented ink evenly. And because they're affordable, you don't have to feel guilty about adding one, or all, of them to your shopping cart.
This is one of the first liquid eyeliner formulas I ever tried, and it is truly one of the best. The slightly bendable tip makes it super easy to use. One swipe and you've got a perfectly lined eye. Another thing to note is that even on days when my eye area is oily, I never notice any smudging. This stuff really stays put.
If you like a thicker, stiffer brush applicator, then this is a great option. This Almay formula dries down to a super-matte, charcoal-like black that adds a little edge to any makeup look. I like to layer two coats to make sure I get an even line.
This eyeliner pen is what I reach for when I need a fast, foolproof, sharp-looking cat eye. The formula dries down to a smooth shine that looks fierce and dramatic.
If you're as much of a cat-eye perfectionist as I am, you'll love this option from L'Oréal. It comes with an angled stencil that helps you create a precise wing every single time. Liquid-eyeliner enthusiasts know what a game changer that is!
Photo:Courtney Higgs for Who What Wear
This Covergirl option is better for more experienced liquid-eyeliner users. The ultra-thin, flexible brush offers tons of versatility in terms of application but can be a little unforgiving of shaky hands. The payoff is a razor-sharp, intense black line that'll stay in place until you wash off your makeup.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this magic marker of an eyeliner is a dream come true for lazy people who still want their cat eye to pop. The thick felt tip makes it basically impossible to mess up a freehand bold line.
I'll admit that stamp liner is pretty gimmicky, but it gets the job done. If you're a perfectionist about your wings, this option will give you the most satisfying, uniform look imaginable. It takes some practice to get the placement on your unique face just right, but after that, it's a breeze.
Ths angled design is helpful if, like me, you've been conditioned to pull your delicate eyelids taut while applying eyeliner. This one by Maybelline makes it so much easier not to do that, because not only is the pen itself slanted, but also the flex tip is curved so it can reach your lid and get the lash line at the same time.
This liner ticks all the boxes: It's aggressively black, the thin tip makes for precise application, it's super opaque, and it's waterproof. Seriously, if you cry while wearing this (although I hope you're all smiles most of the time!), it won't budge.
I don't know if I've been influenced by Euphoria or what, but I've been very into bold, colorful eyeliner lately. This one by Nyx is highly pigmented, and the precision felt tip is perfect for a dramatic line.
Photo:Courtney Higgs for Who What Wear
This formula doesn't have the staying power of some other options on this list, but it can definitely last through a chill day in the office. It's also packed with peptides to promote lash growth, which is a plus. I didn't use this one long enough to test that theory, but I love the idea of longer lashes with zero effort.
I'd try just about any liquid eyeliner that only cost a few cents per wear, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one actually works well. It's waterproof, can stand up against slippery eye makeup, and it comes in a few different colors. It's an all-around win.
More Liquid Eyeliners We Love
Perfected by Pat McGrath.
To create the perfect wing.
This pen also comes in brown.
If you're looking for a waterproof formula.
Dual-ended tips with a fine point and brush end.