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The Best Gel Eyeliners for a Sharp Wing, Smokey Eye and Everything In Between

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Written by Jenna Cartusciello
Best Gel Eyeliners

What can the best gel eyeliners do for your makeup game? It might seem like liquid liners and kohl pencils cover all the bases; liquid creates a smooth, sharp cat eye while pencil creates either a soft daytime look or a nighttime smokey eye. However, gel eyeliners can do all that and more. The traditional thin, rounded brush with a dipping pot can lead to a host of styles, from a simple, precise wing to a smudgy wing to a smokey eye. In fact, one good gel eyeliner could replace all the other liners in your makeup kit.

But before you check out the makeup aisle, it can be helpful to know which gel eyeliners have the best application, staying power, versatility and ingredients. It also doesn’t hurt to have a good idea of which eyeliner suits you best: a pot with a brush, a sharpenable gel pencil or a mechanical pencil. To help you find the right product, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the best gel eyeliners based on reviews, product performance, longevity, ingredients and price. We also included the toxicity and irritation rating for each product according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), with a 1/10 rating being the least irritating.

The 18 Best Gel Eyeliners

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Finding the Best Gel Eyeliners

While there are many excellent gel eyeliners on the market, it’s important to note that there isn’t one holy grail product. Liners that perform incredibly well, meaning they have a smooth application and excellent staying power, tend to contain ingredients that are potentially carcinogenic or irritating. In contrast, “clean beauty” products that contain non-toxic ingredients tend to not perform as well.

Still, there are many liners that are worth adding to your makeup collection depending on your goals. To gain a better idea of which products will work best for you, it’s important to consider an eyeliner’s pigment, application method, longevity, ingredients and price.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gel Eyeliners


A gel eyeliner’s pigment determines how vibrant it will be on your eyelids and waterline. If you want to achieve a bold, dramatic look, rich colors will generally serve you better than lighter ones. However, rich pigment doesn’t always translate to longevity; softer hues can have just as long if not longer staying powers depending on the other ingredients in the formula.

Application Method

Gel eyeliners traditionally come in the form of a dipping pot and a small, precise, rounded brush. However, you will also see them as mechanical pencils and “sharpenable” pencils. Pencils are a great tool for beginners because they always release a controlled amount of product. However, they can become dry and crumbly over time. Plus, the softer the formula, the more difficult pencils are to sharpen. Dipping pots offer the most versatility but come with a learning curve.


How long do you need your gel eyeliner to last? If you plan to wear it all day long and even during a workout, a waterproof formula is the better choice. However, waterproof formulas are usually a little more irritating on the skin, and they’re harder to remove. Water-resistant and non-waterproof gel eyeliners are more forgiving when you apply them and usually contain gentler ingredients, but they may smudge during the day.


Whether you have sensitive skin or not, it’s important to know (at least on some level) the ingredients that are in your makeup. Tools like the (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Inci Decoder can help you better understand why certain ingredients are in your products and whether they pose any safety or irritation risks.

However, not every makeup product is analyzed in these databases, and some “clean,” high-quality products do not yet have an “EWG certified” rating, so it’s important not to rely on these tools alone. If you have sensitive skin, we generally recommend avoiding talc, butylated hydroxyanisole, sulfates and phthalates.

As for potential carcinogens, it’s hard to know which ingredients pose more of a risk than others because so many factors have an influence, including frequency of wear and ingredient amount. The primary ingredient we recommend watching out for is Black No. 2 (Ci 77266), a possible human carcinogen and irritant. (You may know this ingredient as carbon black.) Certain forms of Black No. 2 and small amounts of it may be low risk, so we chose to include these products in our recommendations. However, we made it clear which eyeliners contain Black No. 2 so you can make an informed decision.


Gel eyeliners vary considerably in price based on the formulation and brand. Generally, they range between $5 and $60 for a one to three-month supply. Our recommendations range between $8 and $40.

What Are the Different Types of Gel Eyeliners?


Gel eyeliners that come in a dipping pot are the most traditional form of gel eyeliners. These offer the most versatility because you can use various brushes and application techniques to achieve different looks. These formulas are also the wettest, so they are smooth to apply. However, dipping pots come with a learning curve.

Sharpenable Pencil

Sharpenable gel pencils are a great tool for beginners who want to eventually switch to a gel dipping pot. As with kohl pencils, they can help you create a soft, daytime look, but they’re even better for a smokey eye because the formula is softer and ideal for smudging. The downside: Gel pencils can be difficult to sharpen because the tip may be too soft or crumbly.

Mechanical Pencil

Mechanical gel pencils are a good alternative to sharpenable ones if you don’t want to fuss with a sharpener. These pencils contain a thin stick of liner that can create a bold line or a smudged smokey eye. However, they aren’t the best for creating a razor-sharp cat eye.


Best Overall: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Smudge Proof Gel Eyeliner


  • Lasts all day
  • Smooth, gliding application
  • Doesn’t smudge


  • Water resistance varies
  • Dries quickly; not great for beginners
  • Black color is not pure black (closer to deep brown)

What we love about the Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner: The smooth application and rich pigment give this formula a professional feel. Plus, buyers say it lasts all day without smudging, and the brush works well for a cat eye.

What could be improved: The water resistance can vary depending on your skin type. In addition, the formula dries quickly, so it isn’t the best for beginners. The toxicity rating for this product is unknown, though similar Bobbi Brown products have a rating of four out of 10.


Best Budget: Rimmel London Scandaleyes Waterproof Gel Pencil Eyeliner


  • Smooth application
  • Doesn’t run or smudge
  • Easy to sharpen without crumbling


  • Not the best on the waterline
  • Sharpener not included
  • Dries out after a while

Not ready to spend more than $10 on gel eyeliner? If so, the Rimmel London Scandaleyes Gel Pencil is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. It has a smooth application and doesn’t run or smudge all day. Plus, it’s easy to sharpen the pencil without crumbling.

However, this formula (as with most waterproof formulas) doesn’t work well on the waterline. The pencil also doesn’t include a sharpener, and the product tends to dry out after a while. The toxicity rating for this product is unknown, though similar Rimmel London products have a rating between four and eight out of 10.


Best Waterproof: Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner, Waterproof


  • Smooth application
  • Great for beginners
  • Cry and sweatproof


  • Doesn’t stay as well on oily skin
  • Not great for waterline
  • Dries out after a while

If you need your eyeliner to last as long as possible, try the Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Eyeliner. The gel formula is cry and sweat-proof. It also has a rich pigment and a smooth application, which makes it great for beginners and pros alike.

On the other hand, buyers have noticed that this eyeliner doesn’t last as long on oily skin. It also doesn’t work well on the waterline (many waterproof eyeliners don’t), and the stick dries out after a few months. This product has a toxicity rating of five out of 10.


Best Clean Ingredients: Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner


  • EWG verified
  • Smooth, gliding application
  • Lasts all day


  • Needs frequent sharpening (soft)
  • Breaks when sharpening
  • Smudges during removal

What we like about the Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner: The product is EWG verified, which means it meets strict health and safety standards. It also performs well; it glides onto the skin and lasts all day.

What could be improved: This eyeliner is quite soft, so it needs frequent sharpening if you want to use it for a cat eye. It also has the tendency to break while sharpening, and it can be messy to remove.


Best for the Waterline: Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner


  • No smudging
  • Lasts all day
  • Matte finish


  • 5/10 toxicity rating
  • Brush could be better
  • Pot can dry out over time

Struggling to find an eyeliner that will stick to your waterline? We recommend the Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner. It glides on easily, lasts all day and has a matte finish. We also like that it doesn’t smudge.

However, the brush that comes with the liner isn’t the best. The pot can also dry out over time, and the ingredient list has a toxicity rating of five out of 10.


Best for Mature Eyes: L’Oréal Infallible Grip Gel Mechanical Liner


  • Works well for smokey eye
  • Smooth application
  • Smudging tool included (other side of pencil)


  • 4/10 toxicity rating
  • May smudge
  • Amazon quality issues

If you have wrinkles and fine lines and most eyeliners skip over your eyelids, a product like the L’Oréal Infallible Grip Gel Mechanical Liner may help. It has a smooth, buttery formula that prevents skipping and crumbling. It also has a rich pigment and comes with a smudging tool, making it great for a smokey eye.

On the other hand, this product isn’t the best for a cat eye because it tends to smudge. It also has a toxicity rating of four out of 10.


Best for Sensitive Eyes: Ilia Clean Line Gel Liner


  • Great for cat eye or smokey look
  • Clean ingredients
  • Sharpener included


  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t last as long as other eyeliners

For makeup enthusiasts who find most gel eyeliners irritating on their skin, the Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner is a safe bet. It has a toxicity rating of two out of 10, which means it would likely meet the EWG’s strict verification standards. It also creates a great cat eye or a smokey eye.

While this product is water resistant, it doesn’t last as long as waterproof gel eyeliners. It’s also one of our more expensive recommendations.


Best for Oily Lids: Heroine Make by KissMe Long Stay Sharp Gel Eyeliner, Waterproof, Jet Black


  • Smudge proof
  • Lasts all day
  • Doesn’t need sharpening (thin)


  • Unknown toxicity rating
  • Dries quickly (hard to fix mistakes)
  • Not a lot of product

Do you struggle to keep eyeliner on all day because of oily skin? If so, we recommend the Heroine Make by KissMe Gel Eyeliner. This product is waterproof and smudge-proof, so it lasts all day without running or fading. We also like that it doesn’t need sharpening because the tip is so thin.

The downsides: This product does not yet have a toxicity rating. It also dries quickly which makes it hard to fix mistakes, and the tube runs out quickly.


Best for Tightlining: Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner, Jet Black


  • 3/10 toxicity rating
  • Affordable
  • Rich pigment


  • Not a lot of product
  • So thin it may break
  • Stick dries out after a few months

Tightlining (drawing eyeliner on the waterline on your top lid) is difficult enough, and trying to do it with an eyeliner that doesn’t have a smooth application or long wear time is even worse. Fortunately the Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner is up to the task. It has a rich pigment that glides onto the waterline and a thin tip for a precise line. Another bonus: This product has a low toxicity rating of three out of 10.

However, we wish the Neutrogena Intense Gel Eyeliner had more product. The liner stick is also so thin that it can break if you roll out too much, and if you don’t use it often, the stick will dry out after a few months.


Best for Hooded Eyes: Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Longwear & Waterproof Gel Eyeliner


  • Matte finish
  • 3/10 toxicity rating
  • Smooth application


  • Sharpener tends to get stuck in the cap
  • Can be crumbly
  • Pricey

While creating a perfect cat eye on a hooded eye depends a lot on your technique, a high-quality gel liner can make things easier. The Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Longwear & Waterproof Gel Eyeliner has a precise tip and a smooth application, which can help you draw a clean line on hooded eyes. We also like that it has a matte finish and a low toxicity rating of three out of 10.

The downsides? It’s easy to get the included sharpener accidentally stuck in the cap, and the liner can become crumbly after a while. This product is also one of our more expensive recommendations.


Best for Beginners: Maybelline TattooStudio Waterproof Mechanical Gel Eyeliner Pencil


  • 3/10 toxicity rating
  • Matte finish
  • Rich pigment


  • More water resistant than waterproof
  • May smudge during the day
  • May cause eye sensitivity

If you’re new to using gel eyeliner, a gel pencil is a great place to start rather than a gel pot and brush. We recommend the Maybelline TattooStudio Waterproof Mechanical Gel Eyeliner for beginners because it’s sharpenable, easy to apply and has a rich pigment. It also comes with a blurring tool.

On the other hand, the Maybelline TattooStudio Gel Eyeliner is closer to being water resistant rather than waterproof. A few customers also found that it irritated their eyes. This product has a low toxicity rating of three out of 10.


Best Matte Formula: Kokie Gel Ink Dual Ended Eyeliner, Gel and Liquid, Black


  • 2 in 1 pencil for multiple styles
  • Matte finish for both products
  • Doesn’t smudge


  • Comes off in clumps at end of the day
  • Gel wears off somewhat quickly
  • Tip of liquid eyeliner dries out while in use

What we like about the Koki Gel Ink Dual Ended Eyeliner: It’s a two-in-one pencil with both gel and liquid, so you can experiment with both mediums for an affordable price. It also has a subtle matte finish and doesn’t smudge once it’s applied.

What could be improved: This product tends to come off in clumps at the end of the day, though it’s at least easy to remove. The liquid eyeliner can also dry out while you’re using it. Note that this product does not yet have a toxicity rating, but other Kokie eyeliners have a rating of seven out of 10. This is primarily because Kokie eyeliners contain an ingredient called perfluorononyl dimethicone, which has not been well researched. The FDA believes that this ingredient is unlikely to pose a health risk.


Best Rich Pigment: Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel


  • Includes precise brush
  • Smooth application
  • Lasts all day


  • Contains Black No. 2
  • May need to set it with eyeshadow
  • Pot dries out after several months

Looking for a gel eyeliner with intense color? If so, opt for the Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel. It comes in 26 rich pigments from vibrant yellow to inky black. We also like that it has a smooth application, lasts all day and comes with a precise brush.

Unfortunately this product contains Black Number 2 (Ci 77266). A few customers also found that it didn’t stay put unless it was set with eyeshadow. Plus, the pot tends to dry out after several months.


Best Gel Liner Trio: Physicians Formula Eye Booster Gel Black Eyeliner, Set of 3


  • All 3 finishes last all day
  • Layerable
  • Precise application


  • Color may be too light
  • Eyeliners dry out after about 6 months
  • Application could be smoother

Can’t decide on what type of finish will work best for you? There’s no need to settle on just one; the Physicians Formula Eye Booster Gel Pack includes three black eyeliners in shimmer, satin and matte finishes. We love that this trio has an affordable price point and that all three products last all day.

However, each eyeliner has a toxicity rating of five out of 10. A few customers also noticed that the liners dry out after about six months (though you shouldn’t use eye makeup products for longer than three months), and that the application could be smoother.


Best for a Smokey Eye: Pat McGrath Labs PermaGel Eye Pencil


  • Matte and shimmer finishes available
  • Sharpener included
  • Smooth application


  • Toxicity rating unknown
  • May smudge depending on the color
  • Expensive

Looking for a gel eye pencil that can do both a cat eye and a bold smokey eye? If so, try the Pat McGrath PermaGel Eye Pencil. This gel-based, waterproof liner comes in both matte and shimmer finishes, and the silicone-enriched formula helps the product smudge and then dry down for all-day wear.

The downsides: This product does not yet have a toxicity rating, and it’s one of our more expensive recommendations. Certain colors are also more likely to smudge when dry than others.


Best Splurge: Valentino Gel and Liquid Liner


  • 2 in 1, and both sides are high quality
  • Great for cat eyes and smokey eyes
  • Doesn’t smudge


  • Our most expensive recommendation
  • Liquid side can get messy
  • Contains Black No. 2

If you heard about the Valentino Gel and Liquid Liner from TikTok, we’re here to tell you that it lives up to the hype. The liquid side has an intense pigment that doesn’t smudge, and the gel end glides on easily and stays put all day. Overall, this is an excellent all-around eye makeup tool.

Unfortunately, this liner contains Black No. 2 and BHT, a potential irritant. The liquid side can also get messy while applying the product.


Best Glitter Gel Eyeliner: Urban Decay Moondust Liquid Glitter Eyeliner


  • Great for party looks
  • Smooth, precise application
  • 6 colors available


  • Expensive
  • May need multiple coats to see product
  • About a 5/10 toxicity rating

If you’re looking for a pop of festive, sparkly color, the Urban Decay Moondust Liquid Glitter Eyeliner won’t disappoint. It has a flexible and precise brush that helps create a smooth, pointed line, and the product dries down quickly and stays in place for hours on end.

On the other hand, you may need to apply multiple coats to see the eyeliner, especially if you chose a lighter color. This product does not yet have a toxicity rating, though most Urban Decay products have a rating of five out of 10.


Best for Cosplay: Melt Cosmetics x Disney Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Gel Liner


  • Lasts all day
  • Smooth, creamy application
  • Great for all skin types (even oily)


  • Expensive
  • Only 1 color available
  • Unknown toxicity rating

Need a red eyeliner to compliment a killer costume? If so, we recommend the Melt Cosmetics x Disney Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Gel Liner. The smooth, creamy formula is easy to apply and lasts all day — even on oily skin types. We love how rich the pigment is, so you don’t need to apply multiple coats.

However, this product is expensive and there is only one color available. Also, it does not yet have a toxicity rating.

People Also Ask

  • Q: Is gel eyeliner better than liquid?

    A:Gel eyeliner isn’t necessarily better than liquid for a sharp cat eye, but it is more versatile. If you want a liner that can do both a cat eye and a smokey eye, opt for gel over liquid.

  • Q: Is it safe to use gel eyeliner on your waterline?

    A:We always recommend checking the product instructions to ensure that your gel eyeliner is safe to apply on the waterline. Usually it is fine to do, though waterproof formulas can be tricky to apply.

  • Q: What ingredients in gel eyeliner should I avoid if I have sensitive eyes?

    A:If you have sensitive eyes, we suggest avoiding talc, butylated hydroxyanisole, sulfates, phthalates and Black No. 2.

  • Q: How much do gel eyeliners cost?

    A:Gel eyeliners can cost anywhere between $4 and $60.

Why trust Us

At Us Weekly, we aim to inform readers to make smart purchasing decisions, saving you both time and money. Our editors are obsessed with finding products in a variety of categories from fashion and beauty, to home and fitness.

We try various products, so we can recommend our favorites, and we also summarize feedback and data from other customers. Data, like product reviews and ratings, helps us recommend the best product choices for individual price points and needs.

On top of that, we highlight unique product features for special use cases, ingredients preferences, and more. We strive to make sure you are discovering new products that can make your life easier, while keeping you up to date with the best product choices for types of items you already know and love.

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By Jenna Cartusciello

Affiliate Commerce Writer Jenna loves recommending great products to her friends and family, so helping the rest of the internet on their quest to find the best stuff makes tremendous sense! Though she mainly writes in-depth buyer’s guides these days, Jenna still enjoys crafting the occasional health article. In her spare time, she loves immersing herself in creative writing. Her favorite authors (for anyone who is willing to geek out with her) include Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Jennifer Egan.

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