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There have been a lot of conflicting opinions circulating around the Racked office about Tom Ford’s $57 Eye Defining Liquid Liner Pen. Some of my colleagues think of the dual-sided pen as a holy-grail product, totally worth its price tag, while others have called it a waste of money. As someone who doesn’t wear eyeliner on a daily basis but does like to have an opinion on everything, I felt compelled to try it out for myself.
When I picked up a sample from the brand to do so, I quickly realized I was on Team Waste of Money. It smudged so much on my oily eyelids in such a short amount of time, and more than that, I found it super difficult to get a fine line while applying, even when using the smaller-tipped end.
There’s no way I would spend three nights’ worth of dinners out on fancy designer eyeliner that makes me look worse than I did before I put it on. So I took it upon myself to find other options that work better for my mysterious club-makeup look and my wallet. (I didn’t feel that was asking too much.)
Here, you’ll find five different black liquid liners that I found to work way better on all fronts, from price point to richer pigment to staying power. Get the details on each, ranging in price from $6 to $30, below.
Nyx Matte Liquid Liner, $7: Wildly good matte liquid eyeliner for the price and convenience of where you can pick this up (Ulta! CVS! Target!). The color payoff is great and the brush gives you a lot of control, making it really easy to apply. After it dries it doesn’t move at all, so it’s especially great for anyone with hooded eyes or oily lids who has stayed away from liquid liners in the past.
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner, $22: Everyone I know that uses this liner has used it for years, and it’s not hard to tell why. It does what it says it will, plain and simple. The tip is sharp but flexible, making it really easy to achieve a good flick, and the pigment is rich. If you live anywhere that’s hot and steamy year-round — or you’re like me and your eyes water constantly — this doesn’t smudge or move for anything.
Kat Von D Ink Liner, $20: I mean, duh, right? This Kat Von D liner is a cult favorite for plenty of reasons, with one being that it makes applying the sharpest, blackest lines a breeze, even for people like me who notoriously suck at it. The pigment is so deep, the lines it creates are sharp and precise, and it comes off easily — but only when I want it to. It held up through a weekend hot boxing class and a (really) late night out dancing.
Milani Infinite Liquid Eye Liner, $6: First things first: This liner’s claim to hold up for a full 24 hours is a big old exaggeration (and why you would need that anyway, I don’t know). But this dry-matte liner really does hold for a while — it was still on my face, smudge-free, after a shower. I will note that it goes thicker than any of the other options I tried, but for the price and staying power, it’s a decent option.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Magic Marc'er Precision Pen, $30: If you love a designer name, shine, and a glossy finish, you’ll love this liner. It’s a super sleek black that goes on smooth, and the thin tip makes it really easy to be precise. I will note that when I opened it, the tip felt dry and applied in streaks, so just be sure to do a few preliminary swipes when you first open it and shake the ink down before using. Otherwise, this really doesn’t budge, even with my oil-turf eyelids. It was honestly kind of a nightmare to take off — the blessing and curse of good liquid liner.