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Which waterproof eyeliner is best?

We’ve all been there: You take your time getting your makeup perfect for a special event, and about an hour in, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and discover your eyeliner is in smudgy puddles at the outer corners of your eyes.

Whether you’re preparing for an important event or a hot day, waterproof eyeliner is a must-have for certain occasions. If you’re looking for one that lasts and doesn’t break the bank, Benefit Cosmetics Badgal Bang! 24-Hour Waterproof Eyeliner is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a waterproof eyeliner

The look you want to achieve

Liquid eyeliner comes in pencil and liquid forms. Liquid makes sharp lines that are great for cat eyes and other dramatic looks, while pencil is more blendable and lends itself to smoky eye looks. 

Shimmer vs. matte

Waterproof eyeliners, especially liquid ones, come in both finishes, and each achieves a distinct look. Shimmery eyeliner gives your eye makeup some whimsy and flair, while matte can serve as the foundation for a more subtle, blended look. Whichever you choose, remember that in choosing waterproof eyeliner, you’re creating a look that lasts.

The condition of your eyelashes

Although waterproof eyeliner goes on your lids, not your lashes, it still gets close enough that, with regular wear, it could affect your lashes’ condition. The chemical used to make eyeliner waterproof is often dimethicone, which can have a drying effect on lashes. If you tend to have fragile lashes that fall out or break easily, be sparing in your use of waterproof eyeliner and diligent about removing it gently at the end of the day.

Applicator types

Liquid eyeliner wands can create a precise line if you’ve got a steady hand. But most of us have had the experience of having our hand jerk during application, creating a squiggle of liquid liner that seems impossible to correct.

  • If you don’t want to have to start over, consider an eyeliner stencil as you apply liquid (even a piece of dampened clear tape will do).
  • If you like to control the liquid’s consistency and its saturation on the applicator, choose a pot of gel you can apply with a brush.
  • If you find liquid opens up too much margin for error, opt for a pencil applicator instead. 

What to look for in a quality waterproof eyeliner

Color saturation

Waterproof eyeliners tend to be solid and opaque, but not all are. If you want a softer look, you may want to find a liner with some transparency for ultimate blendability. If, on the other hand, you want a dramatic look, be sure to find a deeply color-saturated liner.

Drying time

Waterproof eyeliner gives you a window of time after application in which you can correct mistakes and even out lines. 

  • If you want to apply it and go, look for a quick-dry liner.
  • If you prefer more blendability and the opportunity to fix any smudges, look for a liner that takes longer to dry.
  • If you do get the slow-dry variety, note that you’ll have to avoid touching the area for longer, or blot it once you’re done. 

The ability to keep up with your lifestyle

Not all waterproof eyeliners are created equal. Some stand up to natural use, like the heat and grease created near your eyes during a hot day. A few are truly waterproof, the kind you can wear while you swim. These are more durable but also harsher on the eyes, so figure out just how much staying power you need to keep your look fresh.

How much you can expect to spend on waterproof eyeliner

The selection of waterproof eyeliners is broad. You can pay as little as $8 for a drugstore brand.  A premium department-store variety with moisturizing ingredients can cost $20-$30.

Waterproof eyeliner FAQ

How do I remove waterproof eyeliner? 

A. Removing waterproof eyeliner is key to keeping the skin around your eyes and lashes healthy. Because its waterproof consistency is achieved with strong chemicals, you don’t want to fall asleep with waterproof eyeliner on. And because it’s waterproof, it will take more than a simple face-washing to get it off.

The key to removal is an oil-based product. Choose a special makeup remover or micellar water and a cotton pad. You may need to rub the area to get all the eyeliner off, but be gentle. After you’ve removed all the liner and the makeup around it, wash the area to get off any remover residue. 

My waterproof eyeliner still smudges. How do I stop that?

A. Because the only thing that removes waterproof eyeliner is an oil-based product, any oil it comes in contact with may cause it to run. It’s waterproof, not oil-proof. To keep this from happening, be sure to apply it on clean, recently-washed skin without an oil-based primer. Dry thoroughly upon application. If you really need it to last, consider a setting spray, which will seal in the color.

What’s the best waterproof eyeliner to buy?

Top waterproof eyeliner

Benefit Cosmetics Badgal Bang! 24-Hour Waterproof Eyeliner

Benefit Cosmetics Badgal Bang! 24-Hour Waterproof Eyeliner

What you need to know: This full-coverage truly waterproof eyeliner goes on smoothly and stays put.

What you’ll love: The deep color saturation lets you achieve the look you want. It comes in four color options (pitch black, deep brown, dark purple and midnight blue), offering versatility for the looks you want.

What you should consider: Because this is not a liquid, creating a truly sharp line for a cat eye may require a steady hand.

Where to buy: Sold by Sephora

Top waterproof eyeliner for the money

E.l.f. Cosmetics Intense H20 Proof Eyeliner Pen

Elf Cosmetics Intense H20 Proof Eyeliner Pen

What you need to know: This truly waterproof option gives you the control of a liquid eyeliner.

What you’ll love: This deep, matte color goes on thick and dries relatively quickly for the perfect cat eye.

What you should consider: This waterproof eyeliner takes its job seriously, making it tough to remove. If you choose it, be sure you’ve got a good makeup remover.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Worth checking out

Mac Pro Longwear Fluidline

Mac Pro Longwear Fluidline

What you need to know: This prestige brand creates beautiful shades and quality products, and this gel pot of eye color lives up to the brand’s standards.

What you’ll love: A pot of color you apply with a brush, this gel gives you the long wear of a waterproof eyeliner with a softer, silkier feel that doesn’t feel wet like liquid liner. 

What you should consider: These colors can also double as eyebrow gel, although the selection of hues only makes that an option for people with darker brows (or who want a dramatic dark-brow look).

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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