Which gel eyeliner is best?

While you may be a fan of pencil or liquid eyeliners, they’re not the only formulas worth having in your makeup collection. Gel eyeliners have rich, creamy consistencies and buildable formulas that let you create countless looks, from razor-sharp wings to ultra-thin lower lash lines. 

Several varieties of gel liner are available, ranging from paint pots to mechanical pencil liners. If you’re looking for a versatile formula, KVD Beauty Super Pomade Vegan Eyeliner can even be used as brow color or eye shadow. 

What to know before you buy a gel eyeliner

What is gel eyeliner?

Gel eyeliners have rich, creamy consistencies that glide across lids without tugging or skipping. They’re far less drying than traditional pencil liners, and they’re more forgiving than liquid liners. Most formulas are long-wearing because they’re water-resistant or waterproof, making them suitable for everyday or special occasion eyeliners. 

Types of gel eyeliners

Many gel eyeliners come in pots and are applied with tapered eyeliner brushes. Others offer traditional or mechanical pencils that offer quick-and-easy applications. A handful of liquid-gel liners either have brush or felt-tip applicators. They have slightly thicker, smoother consistencies than regular liquid liners. 

Tips for applying gel eyeliner

If you’re new to using gel eyeliner, there are a few tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your application.

  • Use an eyeshadow primer with gel liner to prevent formulas from smearing or migrating. 
  • Invest in a professional-grade liner brush for precision application. Some people prefer flat angled brushes, whereas others like bent or tapered brushes.
  • To prevent gel eyeliner from drying out, always make sure the pot or pencil is securely covered with the lid or cap.

What to look for in a quality gel eyeliner

Common ingredients

Because gel eyeliners share the same consistency, it’s no surprise they have similar ingredients. Many formulas contain common ingredients like cyclopentasiloxane, silica, talc, isododecane, dimethicone, kaolin and polyethylene. A few gel eyeliners are vegan or cruelty-free, while others may include some plant-derived ingredients. Sensitive skin-friendly gel liners are often formulated without artificial fragrances, parabens, sulfites, phthalates or gluten. 

Long-wear formulas

Almost all gel eyeliners have long-wear formulas that may last between eight and 24 hours. Certain formulas are water-resistant and can repel light amounts of moisture. Others are waterproof and repel more intense moisture exposure, like raindrops, snow, high-humidity conditions or tears. A few gel liners are advertised as “smudge-proof,” meaning they’re less likely to migrate on their own or if they’re lightly rubbed. 

Finish

Most gel eyeliners have a glossy finish reflecting light, making them a popular choice for dramatic eye looks. Some gel liners, however, have more subdued glossy finishes. While they still deliver drama, they have less of an “in-your-face” finish. As a result, some people prefer gel liners with these muted finishes for daytime looks. 

Shade variety

Black remains the most popular gel eyeliner color, followed by deep brown. Some makeup brands only offer gel eyeliner in these two colors, whereas others, like MAC, KVD Beauty and Inglot, offer up to a dozen shades or more. Besides other popular shades like navy and charcoal, their collections include bolder colors like burgundy, pink, light blue, green or white. 

How much you can expect to spend on a gel eyeliner

Drugstore gel eyeliners start at $5, and if you spend closer to $8, you’ll find several popular formulas from leading brands. Gel eyeliners from premium beauty brands cost $18-$30, and a few outliers may run closer to $35. 

Gel eyeliner FAQ

Do all gel eyeliner pots come with liner brushes?

A. No. While many drugstore formulas sell pots with mini brushes, seeing similar sets from premium beauty brands is less common. More often than not, they sell pots and brushes separately. With that said, some premium beauty brands sell brushes specifically made to apply their gel liner. 

Can I use gel eyeliner if I have oily skin?

A. Many people with oily skin use gel liner, only they help set it with eyeshadow primers and makeup setting sprays. However, some individuals with oily skin may find that certain gel formulas may be too greasy for their skin. In some cases, gel liners may contribute to excess oil production around the eyes. 

What are the best gel eyeliners to buy?

Top gel eyeliner

KVD Beauty Super Pomade Vegan Eyeliner

KVD Beauty Super Pomade Vegan Eyeliner

What you need to know: This vegan eyeliner, a perennial favorite, has a smooth, creamy consistency that is ideal for creating wings. 

What you’ll love: The waterproof liner has bold, opaque pigment that lasts all day without flaking or migrating. You can also use it as brow color and eye shadow. The liner is available in over 16 shades, far more than most gel liners. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan.

What you should consider: The gel eyeliner pot doesn’t come with a brush, and the pot may dry out before you use it up.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta

Top gel eyeliner for money

L'Oreal Paris Infallible Lacquer Gel Eyeliner

L’Oreal Paris Infallible Lacquer Gel Eyeliner

What you need to know: If you’re looking for an introductory gel line, this L’Oreal variety is ideal because it comes with a brush.

What you’ll love: The liner has a glossy lacquer finish that photographs well. It’s a 24-hour formula that holds up well to moisture and humidity. The set comes with a tapered brush that makes ultra-thin lines and razor-sharp wings. 

What you should consider: The eyeliner is somewhat drying, which isn’t ideal if you already have dry skin. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined Gel Eyeliner

Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined Gel Eyeliner

What you need to know: The Bobbi Brown gel liner offers the best of both worlds with  pencil-like application and rich gel consistency. 

What you’ll love: This mechanical gel liner is easy to sharpen with a couple of twists. The long-wearing formula lasts up to 12 hours without fading. Because the texture is creamy and silky, it’s popular among those with dry or mature skin. 

What you should consider: When applied to the lower lash line, it may smear or migrate during the day. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta, Sephora and Macy’s

 

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

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