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10 best eyeliners that are foolproof and won’t budge

Whether you prefer smokey drama or razor-sharp wings, you’ll find your desert island formula here

Sabine Wiesel
Wednesday 11 May 2022 10:21 BST
The beauty staple draws attention to the eyes like no other make-up item
The beauty staple draws attention to the eyes like no other make-up item (iStock/The Independent )

We can’t really say eyeliner is making a comeback, as it never went away in the first place, but if there’s a make-up item that’s having a major 2022 beauty moment it’s the humble eyeliner.

From the catwalks to social media, graphic liner is showing up in the form of retro feline flicks to next-generation negative space experimentation. And colour is being embraced too, whether its bold neon pops of colour or ethereal metallics.

Eyeliner draws attention to the eyes like no other make-up item, but the key to mastering how to line and define lies in picking the right formula for your desired look and style.

Beginners should start with easier to control pencils, whether traditional or mechanical twists. Meanwhile kohl and kajal formulas can be smudged out to create softer, lived-in lines or smokey effects and these now come in versatile gel textures that give plenty of playtime to buff and smear, as well as draw on sharper lines too. This leads us to liquid liners that give you the most graphic precision, from bold wafer thin sharp lines to winged out feline flicks.

Whatever your style, the key to mastering how to apply eyeliner is to practice, practice, practice. The trick is to start with a pencil that’s more forgiving to an unsteady hand if you’re not a regular user. Trust us, if you always make sure your elbow is rested on a flat surface and you use small strokes with your pencil until you get to grips with a smooth line, then you can’t go wrong.

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Once you’re comfortable with a pencil, you can move on to a trickier to use liquid formula. A top MUA trick is to use a pencil to draw an outline first, then you can trace the design on top with a liquid liner and you’ll soon be moving on to fluid liquid line drawing next.

How we tested

If we were playing desert island beauty and our tester could only take one item away with her for good, it would be a toss-up between mascara or eyeliner. There’s not a formula we haven’t tried, whether it be kohl, gel or liquid. Sporting a lash-defining line most days, we’ve picked the winners in this line-up of easy to apply glide-on formulas that are budge-proof once set in place. Draw a line under poorly performing eyeliners, and make the switch to one of these best on the beauty shelves...

The best eyeliners for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Victoria Beckham Beauty satin kajal liner: £22,
  • Best for colour – Anastasia Beverly Hills norvina chroma stix: £13,
  • Best waterproof eyeliner – Chanel stylo yeux waterproof: £24,
  • Best gel formula – KVD Beauty tattoo pencil liners: £19,
  • Best for thin lines – Benefit they’re real xtreme precision liner: £18.25,
  • Best highstreet formula – L’Oreal Paris infaillible grip automatic eye liner: £5.99,
  • Best shadow and liner in one – Bobbi Brown long-wear cream shadow sticks: £25,
  • Best for winged eyeliner – Gucci stylo definition l’obscur eyeliner: £31,
  • Best Kohl formula – Jillian Dempsey khol eyeliner: £18.50,
  • Best softer brown shade – By Terry crayon blackstar eye pencil: £22,

Victoria Beckham beauty satin kajal liner

Victoria Beckham beauty satin kajal liner.jpg

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10 

This next-generation eyeliner does it all, from bold sharp graphic lines to softer smoky effects, is still hard to beat. Swipe on the soft and creamy formula that gives you plenty of playtime to buff or smudge your desired look into reality before its waterproof staying power sets it in place.

Turn to the classic black or cocoa shades for rich, elegant and heavily pigmented everyday shades that make tightlining (applied in your top waterline) safe and effortless for a fuller lash effect, and in the lower waterline for a full rimmed Nineties look. But the new eye-catching olive or sea grey, as well as the bronze, are perfect for smokey looks when the occasion calls for a little metallic glamour.

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Anastasia Beverly Hills norvina chroma stix

 Anastasia Beverly Hills norvina chroma stix.jpg

Best: For colour

Rating: 8.5/10

From pastels to electrics, take your pick from 16 shades of vibrant and classic colours in this eyeliner collection. The twist-up, vegan pencil is a top choice for beginners or those that struggle to achieve a smooth and steady line. The creamy formula glides smoothly over the lash line for a thin sharp matte line using a sharpened edge (with the hidden sharpener at the end of the pencil) or a thicker line when used at an angle. You’ll also find this waterproof, as tested out at our local swimming pool, so safe to use come rain or shine all summer long.

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Chanel stylo yeux waterproof

Chanel stylo yeux waterproof indybest.jpg

Best: Waterproof eyeliner

Rating: 9/10

For a highly pigmented colour that stays fresh all day long, reach for this retractable waterproof pencil. The silky formula slides on effortlessly, making easy work of application, and adds an eye-opening, chic and elegant line to a makeup routine, no matter which of the rich and earthy shades you choose. You can’t do better for staying power either, whether it’s being tested through the humidity of a UK heatwave or as part of your poolside glamour routine; this won’t smear, smudge or budge.

  1. £24 from
Prices may vary
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KVD Beauty tattoo pencil liners

KVD Beauty tattoo pencil liners indybest.jpg

Best: Gel formula

Rating: 8.5/10

Matching the high-performance of the vegan brand’s iconic tattoo liquid liner, but in an easier-to-use versatile pencil, this is our favourite new gel formula. If it’s a long-lasting, intense drama to the lid or waterline you’re after, make this your go-to. With 10 deep shapes to choose from, the formula is so ultra-smooth that it makes light work whether you want to line, tightline or smoke out. It’s also waterproof, which we tried and tested and can vouch for, as it didn’t smear or smudge after an hour in the local swimming pool. We predict a new bestseller for KVD Beauty.

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Benefit they’re real xtreme precision liner

Benefit they’re real xtreme precision liner

Best: For thin lines

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for a liquid eyeliner to get creative with, this tapered pen is your new must-have. With a 0.1mm tip it draws razor-sharp thin lines with ease, as well as thicker flicks for wings and cat eyes – just angle and apply a little pressure to the flexible nib, which is made up of 325 bristles. You’ll find it gives you enough playtime to layer your design before it dries, leaving a satin finish that comes in a highly-pigmented inky black or brown. And once set there’s zero chance of transfer – this waterproof formula is going nowhere.

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L’Oreal Paris infaillible grip automatic eye liner

L’Oreal Paris infaillible grip automatic eye liner indybest.jpg

Best: Highstreet formula

Rating: 8/10

While we can’t say we’ve tested the claim that this stays on for 36 hours – we beauty editors don’t make the cardinal beauty sin of sleeping with our make-up on – we can tell you this is the most long-lasting and user-friendly formula we’ve found for under £10. There are only four shades to pick from, which is a little limited, but that does include an emerald green and electric blue which are great for experimenting with colour. We love to keep our lids bare, and then line both the upper and lower lash lines for some colour confidence that makes the eyes pop, but there’s a classic brown or black for a more natural look too.

  1. £5 from
Prices may vary
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Bobbi Brown long-wear cream shadow sticks

Bobbi Brown long-wear cream shadow sticks

Best: Shadow and liner in one

Rating: 9/10

More than just an eyeshadow, this best selling, multi-tasking must-have can be used to prime, line and define, and it’s just had a formulation upgrade – making it even better than before. With 10 new shades to choose, from taking the colour range up to an impressive 29 matte and shimmery shades, there’s so much choice for getting creative with. Swipe a metallic shade into the upper and lower lash lines to cheat a smokey effect or add definition with an earthy matte. We love these for brush-less, quick and easy make-up application that stays put until take off.

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Gucci stylo definition l’obscur eyeliner

Gucci stylo definition l’obscur eyeliner.jpg

Best: For winged eyeliner

Rating: 9/10

If it’s Bridget Bardot approved wings you’re after, this felt-tipped eyeliner is for you. Promising one-stroke results, our experienced hands did find this quick and easy to draw on fluid, bold, chic lines that the beauty icon would be proud of. For a graphic effect, use it on its own without any eyeshadow or a neutral base, as the intense black satin finish deserves to stand out and fly solo. We were impressed with its quick-drying, long-lasting finish, and it’s another fit-for-summer waterproof formulation. This one is best for regular eyeliner users.

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Jillian Dempsey khol eyeliner

Jillian Dempsey Kôhl Eyeliner in Black Sapphire indybest.jpg

Best: Kohl formula

Rating: 8/10

From softer lived-in lines to sultry smokey eyes, if you’re looking for an eyeliner to blend or smudge with ease, you need to turn to the malleability of this kohl formula. Jillian Dempsey is a US make-up artist to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and has a make-up collection to match her talent and this A-list offering is only the start.

Packed with natural plant-derived oils, like jojoba and marula, plus shea butter, it’s no wonder this pencil slides along the lash line so effortlessly and is as easy to blend out thanks to the built-in smudger tip. Pick from richly pigmented black, brown or burgundy shades to create your desired look.

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By Terry crayon blackstar eye pencil

By Terry crayon blackstar eye pencil indybest.jpg

Best: Softer brown shade

Rating: 8/10

You can draw on precise sharp lines as well as smoke out this pencil with ease if you like to mix up your make-up looks. Pick from four earthy shades that won’t tug or pull, instead gliding onto the skin leaving behind a line of intense colour payoff. It gives you enough time to smudge with fingertips or a brush before dry down, leaving behind a waterproof finish too. We were particularly smitten with “brown stellar” for a softer look, that works well on blondes or the fair-skinned who normally look washed-out in black.

  1. £22 from
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Eyeliners

Our best buy goes, once again, to the Victoria Beckham beauty satin kajal liner, as although there have been many new launches, this still ticks all the boxes for ease of use, staying power and versatility. Plus, the new shades have added to the appeal. But if it’s a liquid liner you’re after, the Benefit they’re real xtreme precision liner gets our vote.

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From waterproof to vegan-friendly formulas, complete your look with the best mascaras

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