Whether you’re going for a subtle boost to your eye makeup routine or you’re hoping to rock a glamorous cat eye that will leave you feeling like the pop star du jour, the best cheap eyeliner can help you do the impossible: achieve the long-lasting, smudge-proof look of your dreams without messing up your budget.
But like most beauty products, eyeliner isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of item. When it comes to rocking eyeliner, choosing the right eyeliner formula can make all the difference, but first you need to know what you’re looking for.
Pencil eyeliner is great for beginners because it’s typically easier to manage than liquid liner, and it’s more forgiving if you make mistakes during application. It’s also much more versatile than liquid eyeliner since you can apply it to both your upper lid and inner waterline (the area where your eyelids meet when you close your eyes) without having to worry too much about smudges.
Liquid & Gel Eyeliner
Liquid and gel liners are fantastic if you're going for a more dramatic look, because they can provide precise lines of super-rich and intense color once you get the hang of them. And because gel liners typically pair the stability of an eyeliner pencil with the pigmentation of a liquid eyeliner, they’re often a pro-favorite. In fact, makeup artist Carl Ray — who’s A-list clientele has included former First Lady, Michelle Obama — told Allure that he opts for gel liner because it’s easy to apply and very long-lasting. The only downsides to liquid and gel eyeliner is the fact that neither are ideal for waterlining, and most gel eyeliner comes in a small pot and requires a special eyeliner brush to apply.
Eyeliners For Waterlining
If waterlining is super important to you, you should know that Kohl and Kajal eyeliners with creamy formulas and smooth, rounded tips are ideal when it comes to choosing the most waterline-friendly eyeliner. The main factors to consider here are how long they wear, level of pigmentation, and how easily the eyeliner will glide across your waterline — because you shouldn’t have to aggressively rub product on the most sensitive part of your inherently sensitive eyelids. The key is to find a liner that goes on gently.
Whatever look you’re going for, and whichever eyeliner formula you decide on, options abound these days. With all the eyeliners available today, you can take your pick of budget-friendly products that range from waterproof to cruelty-free to contact lens-approved.
Take a look at the best cheap eyeliners below. All of them are under $14 and highly rated on Amazon.
1. The Best Cheap Eyeliner Pencil
The Best Black Waterproof Eyeliner Pencil by Mia Adora is a smudge-proof, paraben-free, fragrance-free, and cruelty-free miracle, according to Amazon shoppers. The waterproof eyeliner boasts a respectable 3.9 stars on Amazon, and it's conveniently self-sharpening as well. Since all of Mia Adora's eye makeup products are made with gentle ingredients that promise not to irritate your delicate waterline, you should be able to use this liner for everything from waterlining to tightlining to creating the perfect cat eye.
What fans are saying: “I have never applied eyeliner to my waterline that stayed all day. This does. Through some sort of wizard magic, it stays on my waterline ALL DAY.”
2. The Best Cheap Liquid Eyeliner
We’ve already established that liquid eyeliner isn’t great for waterlining, but it is excellent for cat eyes. And NYX Epic Ink Eyeliner is one of the most-beloved liquid eyeliners you'll find at a drugstore price. Available in black or brown, this pick is cruelty-free, vegan, waterproof, and offers a lovely satin finish. Plus, it boasts a 4.3-star rating and more than six hundred of customer reviews.
What fans are saying: “I love this eyeliner!!! I am a nurse and work long hours. I put this eyeliner on in the morning and it stays on all shift. No smudging! I have worn other all-day-wear-liners but they still smudge or need reapplying. This was compared to Kat Von D tattoo liner and I’m glad I tried this one because it’s way cheaper, and I love that NYX is cruelty-free. I hope they never stop making this product.”
3. The Best Drugstore Eyeliner Gel
Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner boasts 4.1 stars and over 2,000 reviews on Amazon, and it's easy to see why. This popular gel eyeliner is oil-free, ophthalmologist-tested, dermatologist-tested, allergy-tested, and suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers to boot. It's also specially designed to last for up to 24 hours of wear, and available in 10 shades. Maybelline customer care doesn't suggest using this liner on your waterline though, so keep that in mind if waterlining is your go-to move.
What fans are saying: “I love this eyeliner! I have monolids so my makeup smudges really easily but I find that I don't even have to use a primer or set this. It just stays on all day without having to reapply it.”
4. The Best Cheap Natural Eyeliner
Pacifica Beauty Natural Eye Pencil is 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free, and it contains nourishing jojoba oil, shea butter, vitamin E, and vitamin C. It's also formulated without parabens, carmine, silicone, petroleum, or phthalates, and it's available in black, brown, and silver. Additionally, this water-resistant, long-lasting, buttery-smooth formula glides on easily, so it should be just fine to use on your waterline. Equally important: Amazon shoppers give this pick a solid 4.1-star rating.
What fans are saying:“I honestly prefer these over more expensive brands, like Urban Decay eyeliner. This goes on like a dream and causes no irritation when applied to my waterline. I love how long-lasting these are and that they can withstand wet conditions, like a swimming session.”
5. The Best Eyeliner For Waterline
Milani Supreme Kohl Kajal Liner offers a creamy kohl kajal formula with a smooth, self-sharpening tip, which makes it ideal for waterlining. It's also a cruelty-free and vegan option, and Amazon shoppers give it a respectable 3.9-star rating.
What fans are saying:“Wow. This is great for tightlining. I have hooded eyes and am always on the hunt for a good smudge proof liner for my waterline. This stays put, I had to scrub it off with a makeup remover wipe to get it off. Scrub. My eyes are also extremely sensitive and I wear RGP contact lenses and had no issues at all.”
Also Nice: An Affordable Eyeliner Brush
The Pro Precision Eyeliner Fine-Angled Brush is a multi-tasking wonder that works with gel or cake eyeliner, and it can also be used to fill in and shape your brows. On top of that, it's vegan and cruelty-free bristles are great for people with allergies, or for those who care about environmentally-friendly labels. Plus, Amazon shoppers seem to love it, giving the brush a whopping 4.6 stars and nearly 1,500 reviews.
What fans are saying:“I looove this brush! It took me forever to find a brush that worked nicely with both gel and cake eyeliner, and this is finally the one! It cleans nicely and doesn't leave any shed hairs anywhere. I'll never be able to use another!”
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