As someone who came of age at the height of the Myspace Y2K era, I know a thing or two about eyeliner. While the eye-defining product has always been a part of my makeup lineup since high school, how I wear it has evolved along with my personal style. Smudgy tightlines, sharp wings, and clean, tiny cat flicks have all been looks I’ve cycled through over the past 20 years. Like lipstick or mascara, black eyeliner is one of those select few products that are impactful on its own. It can define the eyes and make them pop in a few swipes. All you need is a steady hand – and the right liner.
For purposely messy lines reminiscent of the singer of your favorite early aughts Emo band, a gel pencil is your best bet. When channeling retro glamour, a liquid pen is ideal for creating a classic cat eye. But along with understanding what type of liner you need for your desired look, it’s also vital to choose a formula that’s pigmented, goes on even and smooth, and won’t fade or smudge while you’re wearing it. After a ton of trial and error, I’ve found the options that never let me down. So while post-pandemic life has rendered me too busy (and frankly lazy) to apply liner in the morning, these are the ones I still turn to when the mood strikes.
Ahead, the best black eyeliners I’ve tried (and loved) throughout my decades-long affair with the makeup product.
This article was originally published on