March 19, 2014

The Best Drugstore Eyeliner and the Worst

the best drugstore eyeliner

Is there such a thing as the best drugstore eyeliner? I know I’ve had my issues with drugstore eyeliners! Some too dry, some too dense, some with absolutely no pigment.


Some folks say that eyeliner isn’t a splurge item but I’ve always felt it is worth indulging in a good eyeliner or several for that matter in a variety of shades.

However, below you’ll find two of the very BEST drugstore eyeliner pencils that I absolutely adore, Muse Approved, and urge you to indulge in. They are inexpensive, super pigmented, and have a fantastic formula!

I’ve been known to tell people that L’Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil is as pigmented as Urban Decay Perversion if not even more so. This is the blackest, black eyeliner pencil I own. It has a glossy look with a highly pigmented color pay off for creating dramatically lined looks. On top of that it has a super creamy, easy to apply, no tug formula that applies easily, blends out to a smoky finish should you like, and wears on my drier eyes all day without smudging or flaking! And of course, the best part is the you can get for around $8 bucks at the drugstore, that always helps right? But it is one of the best drugstore eyeliner pencils I’ve tried so DO give it a whirl.

L'Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner 3

L'Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner Swatches

If pencils aren’t your thang no worries the L’Oreal Infallible Gel Lacquer Liner serve you well. This pot gel eyeliner is as good if not better than Bobbi Brown’s legendary gel eyeliner or MAC Fluidline even. This is a super intensely black eyeliner that comes with its own eyeliner brush (and it’s a pretty good brush too by the very way!)! The formula has a glossy finish with a creamy texture that’s skip free, pigmented, and long wearing on my drier eyes. And of course, the fact that it’ll set you back $8.49 doesn’t hurt either which is one reason it is one of the best drugstore eyeliner gel pots I’ve tried.

L’Oreal Infallible Gel Lacquer Liner 20

L’Oreal Infallible Gel Lacquer Liner 18

Wet n Wild Coloricon Eyeliner Pencils
aren’t exactly a favorite of mine! Too dry and too dense! The price is right but even oily eyes likely won’t love this drier textured pencil that tugs rather harshly on eyes during application. It def falls into the thumbs down arena for me.

Wet n Wild ColorIcon Eyeliner Pencil 3

Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner has quite a few raves but I dislike it. I think it got a good deal of hype because it was kind of one of the first pot gel eyeliners to hit drugstores. Personally I’ve always felt the formula was weak. I need to go over my liner several times when using this as it applies streaky as hell! Plus it dries down and proceeds to flake. No like.

Maybelline Studio Gel Eyeliner
Don’t take my word for it because I’m not a fan of liquid eyeliner anyway but Maybelline Eye Studio Master Duo 2-in-1 Glossy Liquid Liner was a big miss! Watery, separated, and a formula that just sucked these liquid eyeliners were probably the worst liquid liner I’ve had the displeasure of using!

Maybelline Eye Studio Master Duo 2-in-1 Glossy Liquid Liner Swatches

What are some of your top drugstore eyeliner picks?

How about some of the worst offenders?

Do share!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Alison M

    Unfortunately none of them. I have very oily skin and lids and every drug store liner out there just fades or smudges or smears away and I’ve tried them all. A good primer like UD’s primer potion will extend the wear and improve the performance slightly but not worth saving a few dollars on the liner. Of every line I’ve tried Lo’real has been the worst. The so called infallible liner smeared all over my face in under 10 minutes. It was a mess. This girl is sticking to the UD liners since they last and last and last.

    • Sylvia

      Same here, I find that the L’oreal eyeliners are the worst because of my oily eyelids. I even find that UD smears a little, my favorite is the Marc Jacobs, expensive but is not going anywhere. If not Smashbox gel liner is my pick.

  • CatG

    My favorite drugstore eyeliners are the one’s by Pixi… but the Jordana ones are pretty good too!!

    • April

      Pixi eyeliners are so awesome but they are really close to UD in price so I can’t justify getting any of them since I already have their colors in UD colors. :/

    • Isabella Muse

      I actually have that one too Rianne but haven’t tried it! Have to give it a whirl!

  • Let

    I have the L’Oreal Infallible Gel Liner and I love it! I’m more than halfway done with the one in Slate. Thinking about getting the navy one soon.

    I also have their Infalible Silkissme Pencil, but haven’t tried it. Hope it’s just as good as their gel liners.

  • Erica

    Do you find that L’Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil is good in the waterline?

    • Isabella Muse

      good wear on waterline for me, I have drier eyes and it wears quite strongly 🙂

  • kamikity

    My favorite is actually milani liquid’eye eyeliner pencil for smudging and colorstay eyeliner (the one you don’t have to sharpen) for precision. I am also not a gel liner fan. I find liquid liner are only as good until the tip starts to fray

  • Nancy

    I’m currently using Rimmel waterproof gel liner in black,and gotta say I love it,this is my third pot of it! After I ran out of Mac’s I decided to look for a drugstore one. The Rimmel is my favorite so far,it comes with a brush in the cap. I’m still lookinf for a great liquid one too. I may try Maybelline Stilletto liner next :)heard good things about this one.

  • TropicalChrome

    I see my favorite has already been mentioned: Milani Liquid Eye. When they changed the name from “Liquif’eye” to “Liquid Eye”, the older ones showed up at Dollar Tree, so I have several years’ worth tucked away which I bought at $1.00 each :).

    I find they work as well as Urban Decay on me, and I never need to sharpen them. I hate sharpening makeup pencils – it’s always a mess and I see all that wasted product and sigh.

  • Ruth

    WnW liquid liner burns like the fires of hell on my lids! Covergirl liquid liner dried up after 2 weeks and Rimmel scandal pencil eyeliner smeared after about an hour. Physicians Formula makes a great metallic black liquid liner that lasts for ages on the lid and doesn’t dry out.

  • rhinovodka

    I love the Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips Trio Pencils only(warm nude is the best)-really long lasting and pretty colors. I also like the Physician’s Formula Eyebooster 2-in-1 Eyeliner. I really like self-sharpening pencils the bests, not much for regular pencils or gel liners.

  • Sara

    I’m a huge fan of the Ulta brand of eyeliners. They have good pigmentation, and in particular their updated pencil liners have a great color selection and they’re really creamy! Plus Ulta has so many sales on their makeup brand that with a $3.50 off $10 coupon, you can get 3 or 4 of them for under $10 sometimes!

    I also tried the Pixel brand that just came to Ulta recently. They have a very nice selection of liquid felt pen liners in a lot of fun colors. I picked up the emerald and wine purple colors and they’re great! I’m waiting for another BOGO 50% off sale on Pixel to grab 2 more!

    • Isabella Muse

      I’ve been meaning to try Pixel! I purchased a few things but never tested out but not the liners unfortunately!

  • Christine Joy Luikuo

    I have a Wet ‘n Wild eyeliner (not sure if it’s the same as you’ve mentioned) and I agree with tugging. It was hard to apply to the point you’ll start to feel pain while applying it. And because it was hard, it would also result to lack of pigment. As for a favorite, I don’t think I already have because I only have a NYX eyeliner aside from the aforementioned one.

    • Isabella Muse

      ugh truly dense liners should be all burned and tossed out in the trash!

      • amy

        I only use the WnW pencils for my brows, and since no other brand makes black brow products, these are by default, HG for that purpose.

      • Christine Joy Luikuo

        Remember your gel liner/pencil liner tip, Miss Muse? I think the Wet ‘n Wild eyeliner pencil can be used for that purpose. Instead of throwing it away or wasting a beautiful eyeliner pencil, then use a rubbish one for the application. Right?

  • Quinctia

    For liquid: Nyx’s Aqua Glam liners have a nice little brush like UD’s, and wear just as well for me. Though they’re all a bit sparkly, and I don’t think the shades overlap, so that just an additional liquid liner addiction to add to the UD one! Milani’s is also nice in terms of wear and formula, but I’m not a big fan of the foamy cone applicators so much, personally.

    For gel: I always liked the Physicians Formula trios. I can’t remember if I’ve seen them lately, but they’re a great way to get three shades for a decent price. I personally think of gel liner as “easy mode” for liquid, but every time I use gel liner, I do fall in love with how smooth it is.

    For pencils: I don’t get along with a lot of eye pencils. UD really needs to quietly discontinue Zero because it’s not that black and it won’t stay on my eyes. It turned me off from their whole line of pencils. So, with that in mind, it’s hard to blame bad pencils on cost. There are some good ones at the drugstore. Milani’s Liquid Eye (formerly Liquif’eye) that are in the same tubes as UD. Physicians Formula twist-up trio liners are pretty good. Rimmel’s got a good UD clone pencil line, and Nyx has got one, too. Pixi’s about my favorite pencil liner, but they’re not what I’d call drugstore priced.

  • Michal

    Thank you for the great post!
    My absolute favourite drugstore eyeliner pencil is made by Prestige Cosmetics. Prestige offers a few different formulas. The one I keep buying over and over is the Waterproof Eyeliner in Charcoal Brown. It is smooth, creamy, glides on effortlessly, very pigmented, and stays on the entire day.
    Still have not had luck finding a drugstore gel liner that I like. I will definitely give that L’Oreal Infallible one a try.

    • Monica

      Yes to Prestige! Their Total Intensity eyeliner in Blackest Black is amazing!! Best drugstore liner ever!!! Super creamy & stays on forever!

  • Karen

    Definitely Milani Liquid Eye. I have a huge collection of Urban Decay and several of the Milani. The Milani are JUST as good.

  • Amisha

    I use “revlon colourstay onestroke defining eyeliner blackest black” and I LOVE it. Got that from India and I am not able to find that one here in US. I am actually looking for some good replacement which I can get in US easily. I think I will try both your suggestion L’Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil and Urban Decay Perversion, I hope I love it.

    PS: this is my first comment on your website and I always wanted to comment because after following you, I have bought couple of things based on your recommendation and I liked all of them.

  • April

    I have the L’Oreal pencil in brown and it smudges like madness on me. Goes on so smooth and silky but man, it makes a cut crease on me when I really didn’t want it to.

    I really liked the colored Wet N Wild Fergie gel eyeliner pots but they were so dried up after about a month it was a complete waste.

    The Maybelline gel pots sucked so bad. I had the same thoughts as you. It streaked. It moved. I had to apply so many times and then set the darn stuff with eyeshadow to get it to last. It also dried up quick too. Grrrrr….

    Rimmel Scandeleyes works out great for me but I only have it in the cornflower blue color, none others.

    I have to be insanely careful with eyeliners period because I have really super sensitive eyes and if any touches my waterline there is an excellent chance of an immediate burning at best and swelling at worst. The cheaper ones seem to migrate the worst and hurt the worst for me.

  • DonnaJ

    My favorite is the Milani LiquidEye too. I do have a few of the Wet n Wild Color Icons in weird colors that I couldn’t find anywhere else. For sure they are nowhere near as smooth and comfortable as the Milani ones, but they worked okay for my purposes. I can throw them out now since I’ve got colorful Urban Decay pencils and other drugstore brands have been coming out with interesting colors especially in LE collections.

    The absolute worst pencils are NYC, yes, even harder, no pigmentation, and more painful to use than any brand I’ve ever come across! They went right into the trash.

    I do like the Maybelline gel liners though, but I also like the L’Oreal ones and Physicians Formula.

    No liquid liners for me, I just can’t get the hang of them. I mean I do have some, including some wonderful Stila ones, but I just can’t get a nice even cat eye going. One flick will be higher, or angled different, etc. Bleh!

  • Mandy

    I have to disagree with you about the Maybelline gel liner, Muse. I do love that one…it’s always worked well for me. I also really like the Hard Candy stroke of genius liquid eyeliner.

    • Isabella Muse

      hey Mandy! as long as it works for you chica that’s all that matters 🙂 I haven’t tried the stroke of genius I don’t think…….hmmm gotta go shopping in my stash 😀

  • Jo

    Bourjois Intuitive Liner! It’s like that Clarin’s? 3 dot liner? I like that there isn’t much give and I can get the tip close to my lashes. I had Maybelline Master Precise but I find the end of the felt tip dries up easily which I hate in liquid eyeliners.
    Then pencils- Bourjois Kohl and Contour in Ultra Black. UD 24/7 liners are a bit too creamy on my eyes. This is harder, but still relatively soft and lasts on my eyes!I also like Gosh’s Velvet Touch eyeliners for different colours and Sephora’s Contour Eye Crayon. I also like Sephora’s black chunky eye stick sharpened to a point and used on the waterline, because it stays on me 😀

  • Cindy Ramirez

    I used to swear by the Revlon Colorstay liquid eye pen, that was my HG for a while! Then I made the switch to the Kat Von D Tattoo liner. Lawdy is that the best eyeliner I’ve ever used ;]

  • reen

    hi muse
    try “annabelle” eyeliners (its Canadian) its amazing, and costs between $4-$6.

  • Michelle

    I’ve been wearing Almay’s original twist up eye liner (the one in the white tube) for YEARS. It’s super pigmented and it lasts all day on my slightly oily lids. Almay is an often forgotten about drug store brand, but I love a good handful of their products!

  • Jen

    Wish I checked here first! The maybelline master smoky is too thick; the master precise smudged all over my face. Pixi is great, for double the price.

  • Christine

    Hey Muse, I just bought the L’oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil because of your recommendation! Application is SO easy. But I have a monolid (so the eyeliner disappears when I look straight ahead) with somewhat oily lids. I used eyelid primer first, applied the pencil, smudged it with the awesome included smudger tip, applied another layer and set it with eyeshadow. It still smudges a little bit so do you have any tips for making it last longer on my lids?

    • Isabella Muse

      oh man 🙁 sorry to hear it! have you tried powdering your eye prior!?

  • Lin

    Right now I’m loving the Physicians Formula 2 in 1 Lash Boosting pen style eyeliner. I don’t think it boosts lashes at all, but it’s a great formula for an eyeliner. Nicely pigmented and I love the pen style application! It’s almost too black for me so I like to go over it (after it dries) with a Revlon Colorstay liner in black/brown. It softens it down into a very flattering almost black on me. This combo lasts all day never lets me down! I try other things, but I just keep coming back to this one

  • Amma

    Favorite drugstore eyeliner:
    (I have oily eyelids so those don’t work for me)

    Pencil: Milani and Rimmel. (These are as good, if not even better than Urban Decay, which I own as well. Best for waterline and smudge/smokey looks)

    Gel: Wet & Wild. (Honestly, these work just as well as Anastasia Brows. This can be used on eyelids, waterline and brows. Bonus: waterproof. I use both black and brown.)

    Liquid: Hands down Milani. (The one in a black and gold tube with a brush. Others from the line are meh. This is as good as the professional line of MAC which can only be ordered online. It’s lasting power and pigmentation is better than all other liquid eyeliners including urban decay, stila, MAC, Kat Von D. and more. It’s the holy grail of waterproof eyeliner, it can last 2 days and even through humidity and hot 2 hour showers. Yes, it’s THAT good. Great for cat eyes/winged looks and more. )

  • Rosemary

    I love the L’oreal Infallible Gel liner! I’m very picky with my eyeliner, only really wear urban decay and this L’oreal pot of gold. I have it in the brown color, I think it’s called espresso, but now I must invest in a black one. And I agree the brush is terrific!