The Very Best Eyeliners According To A Goth With High Standards

I've tried pencils, liquids, cakes and creams and I'm here to tell you which ones have managed to impress me.
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Madeira Darling
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I've tried pencils, liquids, cakes and creams and I'm here to tell you which ones have managed to impress me.

OK, so as a gothy type person, I’m a big fan of eyeliner. I’ve been surrounding my eyeballs with black goo for about 10 years now, and I've tried ’em all -- pencils, liquids, cakes, creams and gels. If there’s a type of eyeliner I haven’t tried yet, well then I’m going to get my hands on it and try it. I've used stuff from the fanciest designer brands to stuff from the clearance bin at the drug store.

So you could say I know a thing or two about eyeliner (especially black). This means I’m qualified (sort of) to tell you all about the best of the best when it comes to eyeliner. Researching this article I bought a fuck ton of new eyeliner, made multiple research trips to Sephora and enlisted my oily lidded husband to test the staying power. I'm giving you some seriously quality recommendations here.

This is my hand at Sephora.  Do you see how much I love you guys/eyeliner?

This is my hand at Sephora.  Do you see how much I love you guys/eyeliner?

Liquid Liners:

For when you want your eyeliner to last like habrobracon wasps after a nuclear war (those little waspy fuckers can survive 180,000 rads, which is way more than a cockroach, so stop treating roaches like they know shit about surviving nukes). Your very best option is my beloved Stila Stay All Day pen. It lasts forever, smudges never, is easy to apply, goes on vivid and crisp and gorgeous and dries super fast, minimizing the risk of blinking-induced smearing. A slightly cheaper option if you can find it is the Kiss Me Heroine eyeliner which is just as indelible, black and fabulous and about four bucks cheaper, which is fantastic.

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner: One line was smudged immeaditely after application, one 20 seconds after, and one not at all, this stuff is good.

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner: One line was smudged immeaditely after application, one 20 seconds after, and one not at all, this stuff is good.

However, if you’re on a tight budget Maybelline’s Ultra Liner is the way to go. It’s five or six bucks a go, and is also highly pigmented and incredibly indelible -- however it’s harder to apply, takes a little longer to dry and is actually a little too long-lasting. I once made the mistake of using it on a crossdressing sub and nearly missed my next session two hours later because we were still trying to get it off him. On the other hand, if you've been considering getting your eyeliner tattooed on, save yourself a few bucks and needles being stuck in your eyelid and get this stuff instead. Though if you want something a little easier to get off, L'Oreal's Super Slim liquid liner pen ain't bad for the price.

L'Oreal Liquid Liner Pen, same methodology as above, and no you're not getting a photo of the Maybeline liner because I don't want to be "Madeira eyeliner hands" for the rest of my life.

L'Oreal Liquid Liner Pen, same methodology as above, and no you're not getting a photo of the Maybeline liner because I don't want to be "Madeira eyeliner hands" for the rest of my life.

The trick to getting tricky liquid liner off is soaking your face in oil and then using a foaming cleanser. Personally, I think sweet almond oil is awesome for this particular situation, but Maybelline is still a dick-and-a-half to remove.

Cream Liners:

Here’s what’s great about cream eyeliners -- they’re the chameleons of the eyeliner world. They can be as crisp and clean as liquid, or as smokey and smudgy as a pencil. Like a really customer service oriented hooker they’ll be whatever you want them to be, baby.

I've tried the Bobbi Brown cream liner and it’s popular for a reason, don’t get me wrong, and I was devoted to Mac Fluidline for years, but frankly neither can hold a candle to Tarte’s Amazonian Clay formula. That stuff is BLACK, and lasts forever and looks GORGEOUS. I like using it on my lower lashline where liquid liner likes to make a mess when I blink and it stays on without smudging, smearing, caking or misbehaving. It comes in a pretty package with a really fabulous brush and I cannot get enough of it.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Liner, one line smudged after application, other line smudged after a minute.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Liner, one line smudged after application, other line smudged after a minute.

For the more budget conscious, I really love L’Oreal’s Infallible Lacquer Liner. It’s smudgeable for a good long time, but once it’s set, it’s set, meaning no worries about smearing, smudging, or ending up looking like you belong in a Norwegian black metal band without meaning to and if you want to look like you’re in a Norwegian black metal band, this liner will stay in place without smearing no matter how sweaty, bloody or organ meat-y you get get. Frankly, it stands up well to the Tarte formula at less than half the price. Personally, I like using it as a cream base for black eyeshadow.

L'Oreal Infallible Lacquer Liner one liner smudged immediately after application, one 20 seconds after, one not smudged (it does set to a non-smudgable finish, but has a longer drying time than some cream liners)

L'Oreal Infallible Lacquer Liner one liner smudged immediately after application, one 20 seconds after, one not smudged (it does set to a non-smudgable finish, but has a longer drying time than some cream liners)

Cake Liners:

No, sadly cake eyeliner is not an actual cake you can use as eyeliner (however now that I've suggested it, I’m hoping technology will soon catch up with consumer demand for a cake you can eat and wear as eyeliner), but it is nearly as good. Cake eyeliner isn't seen a whole helluva lot these days and that’s a shame, because it is great. You spritz them down with a little water before use and then swirl your brush around to create a highly pigmented paste. They’re easier to keep sanitary than liquid liners (just spritz with a little alcohol and allow to dry completely), are as versatile as creams, and contain no liquid meaning the TSA can’t make a fuss about them. As an added bonus, they’re the least likely of all forms of eyeliner to contain irritating ingredients, making them perfect for those with sensitive skin and eyes. 

Make Super Matte Cake Eyeliner Duo in Salt/Coal is an awesome product. The black is super black, the white is super white and it’s honestly incredibly easy to apply. Use a little liner brush (or if you’re shaky, an angle brush). It goes on smooth and stays on vivid, black and gorgeous and perfect for travel.

Make Super Matte Cake Eyeliner, one line smudged immeaditely after application, one after 30 seconds and one not smudged.  This stuff does not budge.

Make Super Matte Cake Eyeliner, one line smudged immeaditely after application, one after 30 seconds and one not smudged.  This stuff does not budge.

If you want a cheaper (but still awesome) cake liner, Graftobian makes a great one. I don't own it at the moment, but I've used it in the past, and can assure you that it's a rich vivid black, easy to apply, and a single cake will last for YEARS.

Pencil Liners:

Pencils are generally not my go-to form of eyeliner, they’re just not my usual style, but that doesn’t mean a great pencil isn’t a great thing. In high school I was devoted to MAC kohl pencils, and after popping by the MAC counter to see if they lived up to memories, I can assure you that if you want the smudgy, smokey, sexy Theda Bara look, MAC knows what’s up.

However if you aren't looking for a super soft kohl pencil (which, let’s face it, need to be set with shadow or you’re going to eventually make you look like you've started moonlighting as a boxer for extra cash), there is pretty much one liner pencil that kicks every other liner pencil’s ass, and that’s Urban Decay 24/7 liner. It’s highly pigmented, comes in almost any color you could ask for and stays on true to its name. I like to use it for my lower lash line, and it’s the product my husband steals for his makeup bag most often so that has to mean something.

Urban Decay 24/7 Liner one smudged after 30 seconds, the other not smudged.  Do you see how pigmented that stuff is?  Most "black" pencil liners are closer to charcoal, but this shit is BLACK.

Urban Decay 24/7 Liner one smudged after 30 seconds, the other not smudged.  Do you see how pigmented that stuff is?  Most "black" pencil liners are closer to charcoal, but this shit is BLACK.

But if you're looking for something cheaper, NYX Slide on Liner Pencil gives UD's offering a run for its money while costing significantly less. It has a longer drying time than UD, but offers color that is just as rich and lasting (according to what a bitch it was to get off my hand).

NYX Slide On Liner one smudged after 30 seconds, one not smudged.  Once it's dry it's nearly as indellible as UD, but it does take longer to dry, so there you go.

NYX Slide On Liner one smudged after 30 seconds, one not smudged.  Once it's dry it's nearly as indellible as UD, but it does take longer to dry, so there you go.

And with that I've listed all of the very best eyeliners I've found so far (but the hunt for eyeliner perfection continues).

Also recommended: Benefit They're Real Liner Pen (despite what people say about it), Makeup Forever Aqualiner, and Smashbox's Limitless Liner Pen

What eyeliners do you love?