Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best waterproof eyeliners

The right eyeliner delivers a dramatic touch for bold daytime or evening wear. But a quick wipe of the corner of your eye can be enough to completely ruin your perfect cat eye. If you’re concerned about your eye makeup rubbing off, choose a long-lasting waterproof eyeliner.

Power through the day without worrying whether your striking look is fading, running, flaking, or transferring with a waterproof liner. Avoid touch-ups with a waterproof formula that has staying power even when faced with watery eyes and teary moments. Just because you decide to spend the day at the beach or the pool doesn’t mean you can’t dive in looking your best.

Our guide has everything you need to know about choosing, using, and removing waterproof eyeliner. And our matrix has our top five picks for the best waterproof eyeliners money can buy.

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Pencil or gel eyeliners are the best choice for lining your waterline. Liquid eyeliner is likely to wash right off when applied to the area, even if it’s waterproof. This is because it won’t be able to dry.

Key considerations

Types of eyeliners

There are three main types of eyeliners, each available in waterproof formulas.

  • Liquid: This type of eyeliner glides on smoothly, is long-lasting, and delivers dramatic results. It’s a bit trickier to apply than other types of eyeliner and requires a precise hand, however. Liquid formulas are also the toughest to remove and can be difficult to smudge because they dry so quickly.
  • Pencil: These liners are available as regular pencils or in retractable form. They’re the easiest type of liner to apply and are an excellent option for smoky eye looks. Standard pencils require a sharpener, so be sure to keep one on hand. Retractable liners don’t need sharpening but are prone to breaking if too much pressure is applied. In general, pencil liners, even waterproof versions, have less staying power than gel or liquid liners.
  • Gel: Gel liners are typically sold in pots and are applied with an eyeliner brush. It requires a bit of expertise to apply gel liner, but the right brush makes all the difference. Gel liner also tends to dry out quickly. That said, gel eyeliner can give the same intensity as liquid liner but is much more forgiving if you make a mistake.

Don’t forget to remove your eye makeup before you head to bed. Leaving it on may lead to irritation and in severe cases may cause an eye infection.


Makeup style

What kind of look are you aiming for? Do you want to create the perfect cat eye? Do you prefer a more natural makeup style? Your liner choice may also vary depending on whether you want to create a daytime or nighttime look.

Liquid liner is the perfect choice for sharp winged eyeliner. Pencil liners are your best bet for smoldering smoky eyes or for simply defining your lashes. A gel liner is ideal for graphic liner looks since you have a lot of control over the product.



Waterproof liquid eyeliners come with different applicator tips. A brush tip has bristles and is more flexible, while a felt tip is a solid tip like a marker. Both are ideal for drawing precise lines, and the type you prefer usually comes down to personal preference.

Some liquid liners have an angled tip, which is useful for nailing the winged line, while others are literal stamps, allowing you to stamp a shape or line on your lash line for effortless application. These are less versatile than brush or felt tips, though.

With gel liquid liners that come in pots, you will need an eyeliner brush, either an angled brush or a precision eye brush.


Not all eyeliners are explicitly described as waterproof in their names. Check packaging or product descriptions to verify that you’re buying a waterproof formula. The best way to find out about a particular eyeliner’s waterproof prowess is to read through user reviews. Certain waterproof eyeliners are easier to smudge than others, and some are tougher to wash off after a long day.

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Don’t share your waterproof eyeliner. That’s a good way to get an eye infection.

Color selection

Black is the most popular eyeliner color. It’s also the most dramatic. If you prefer something a little more subdued, there are plenty of options from charcoal to chocolate brown. There are also brands that offer an array of fun, bright colors. If opting for non-classic color choices, think about your eye color and skin tone. Purple-toned eyeliners, for example, pair well with green or hazel eyes. Liquid liners tend to feature the fewest color options compared to other types of liners.


Prices for waterproof eyeliners depend mainly on the brand in question. Pricing varies from drugstore selections for under $10 to high-end eyeliners that cost up to $40.

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Expert Tip
Applying eyeliner brings attention to the eyes. Experiment with different liner colors, liner shapes, and the thickness of the line to change up your style.


  • If you choose a pencil liner, make sure to keep it sharpened. Using a non-sharpened pencil will leave you with dull lines.
  • Don’t be afraid to practice applying liquid liner. These liners are trickier to use, but they deliver bold results that can’t be beat. It’s easy to make mistakes with a liquid liner, so it may be best to practice with a non-waterproof formula so you can easily erase accidental smudges and flicks.
  • You can pull your eyelid taut to prevent your eyeliner from catching on loose skin. Be gentle, though, because you don’t want to hurt your eyes or irritate the sensitive skin around them.
  • Messed up your line? All is not lost! Use a cotton swab to wipe away your error. If the liner has already dried, dip a cotton swab in makeup remover and gently swipe away or perfect your messy line.
  • Apply a primer designed specifically for eye makeup to help your waterproof liner stay on even longer.
  • Lining your top and bottom lash lines? Connect the lines at the outer corner for a flattering look.
  • Invest in a good-quality eye makeup remover to wipe away your waterproof eyeliner. It should be gentle on your eyes and dissolve makeup without the need for harsh rubbing.
  • If you find it hard to apply eyeliner because you have trouble keeping your hand steady, try drawing the line with eyeshadow, which is very forgiving, and then topping it with waterproof eyeliner.
  • Start with a thin line and thicken if desired. It’s easier to add onto a thin line than it is to remove bulk from a thick line.
  • Go slow when attempting to even out your lines so that you don’t end up with heavy goth-like liner – unless that’s what you’re going for!
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Pair waterproof eyeliner with waterproof mascara for 24/7 glam. If waterproof eye makeup feels a bit too heavy for your liking – or you just hate removing it – consider water-resistant formulas.


Q. I’m still having trouble drawing a winged line. It’s messy and uneven. How can I perfect this look?
Practice makes perfect! Check out YouTube for a myriad of excellent eyeliner application tutorials. A useful trick is to use tape or a business card as a guide to help you create a straight line. Be sure to angle the wing toward the end of your eyebrow for results that will flatter your eye shape.

Q. Which type of eyeliner is easiest to apply for beginners?
Pencil eyeliners are the easiest to apply, but they don’t deliver the same bold look as liquid and gel liners do. They’re also more likely to smudge. A bit of practice is all it takes to master application with any type of liner, though.

Q. Is eyeliner safe to use?
Absolutely. Just be careful with sharpened pencil tips around your eyes. Otherwise, enjoy the vast array of looks you can achieve with the right eyeliner. Do avoid eyeliners with harsh ingredients like parabens and phthalates, though, and choose liners that are ophthalmologist-tested. This type of testing is done to ensure a product is safe to use around your eyes.

Q. How does waterproof eyeliner stay put?
Waterproof eye makeup features ingredients that repel water. These ingredients include natural or synthetic substances like wax or dimethicone copolyol. These emollient ingredients often result in thicker formulas compared to non-waterproof products.

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