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The 12 Best Drugstore Eyeliners of 2023: Perfect Winged Looks for Under $12

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Walking into a luxury beauty store and dropping the equivalent of a cell phone bill for a new makeup product is easy. But it’s not always the most fiscally responsible thing for beauty babes to do. Yes, there’s something nice about splurging. But those little self-care purchases add up. But that’s why we’re here to reiterate that wallet-friendly brands competitive with premium alternatives do exist. 

Say hello to the drugstore niche. For many of us, this is where we first tested our makeup skills once our parents let us play with cosmetics. Additionally, the lower price and consistent availability across physical retailers make the drugstore beauty brand an attractive option regardless of age or income level.

Take a peek at our top-recommended drugstore eyeliners and get ready to make a shopping trip. But first — read our guide to the main types of eyeliner to determine which one’s right for you.

Best drugstore eyeliner overview:

How we chose the best drugstore eyeliners

To compile this list, we researched manufacturer specifications, including the type, formula, color range, and more, to create a short list of the top drugstore eyeliners. Then, we combed through detailed product descriptions, ratings, and reviews to find the best drugstore eyeliners for each category.

Our picks for the best drugstore eyeliners

Best overall
Rimmel London Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer

What we love

  • 6 shades
  • Built-in smudger
  • 10 hours of longwear

What we don’t love

  • May smudge on oily skin types

The Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer from Rimmel London is an excellent option for pros and newbies alike, thanks to its soft texture and easy glide. It offers a commendable shade range that includes six hues across both metallic and matte shades. 

This retractable gel pencil comes with a built-in smudger and promises up to 10 hours of waterproof longwear. However, some reviewers noted that this liner can smudge on oily skin after a while.

Type and formula: Retractable gel | Colors: 6 | Finish: Matte, metallic | Waterproof: Yes

Best budget
Essence Cosmetics Long Lasting Eye Pencil

What we love

  • Vegan and free from oils, parabens, fragrance, and alcohol
  • 7 shades
  • Affordable

What we don’t love

  • Not waterproof

Whether you’re on a genuinely tight budget or simply don’t feel like splurging, the Essence Cosmetics Long Lasting Eye Pencil is a solid choice. This retractable gel pencil is free from oils, parabens, fragrances, and alcohol with a vegan, cruelty-free formula. 

The product comes in seven shades, so you can choose between classic hues and bold brights.

Type and formula: Retractable gel | Colors: 7 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: No

Best for smokey eyes
Milani Stay Put Eyeliner

What we love

  • Built-in smudger
  • Waterproof
  • 5 shades

What we don’t love

  • No clear timeline for longwear listed

Milani is a fan favorite in the drugstore circuit for being one of the few traditional brands that has historically embraced all skin tones. The Stay Put Eyeliner is an ideal option if you like to shift between a classic eyeliner look or a smokey eye. The creamy retractable gel pencil also features a built-in smudger.

We like that this pick is waterproof and sweat resistant, with claims that you can even take a dip in the pool while wearing it. Because of the retractable design, you’ll never have to worry about achieving crisp lines.

Type and formula: Retractable gel | Colors: 5 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best enhancing
Physicians Formula Eye Booster Lash 2-in-1 Boosting Eyeliner & Serum

What we love

  • Felt-tip liquid formula
  • 2-in-1 formula to boost lash growth
  • Easy application

What we don’t love

  • Gray-black instead of inky black finish
  • New formula may impact efficacy

Imagine an eyeliner that can do more than simply line your eyes. Physicians Formula has the answer you seek with the Eye Booster Lash 2-in-1 Boosting Eyeliner & Serum. This felt-tip liquid liner features a double-duty formula designed to make your eyes pop and encourage lash growth

Because this is a liner, you can get as close to the base of your lashes as possible — which is also ideal for applying the serum. The brand promises that this pick features a high-tech Japanese formula that’s not only longwear but also water- and smudge-resistant. 

However, some reviewers noted a formula change that caused the product to flake as an eyeliner. Additionally, many people mentioned the color is more of a gray-black than a true inky black.

Type and formula: Felt-tip liquid | Colors: 1 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best colors
Pixi Beauty Endless Silky Eye Pen

What we love

  • Large, 23-color shade range
  • Silky gel formula for skip-free application
  • Waterproof and longwear

What we don’t love

  • Total hours of longwear not specified

Not everyone wants to wear black or brown eyeliner every day for the rest of their lives. If you like to accentuate your eyes with pops of color other than eyeshadow, you’ll like this extensive shade range from Pixi Beauty’s Endless Silky Eye Pen. 

These are traditional gel pencils that offer a waterproof, longwear, no-smudge, no-budge experience. While the brand fails to quantify how many hours of longwear you can achieve, we like that the creamy formula makes for easier, skip-free application.

Type and formula: Gel pencil | Colors: 23 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best gel pot
Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner

What we love

  • 24-hour longwear formula
  • Comes with applicator brush
  • Oil-free formula

What we don’t love

  • Slight learning curve to perfect application
  • Only 2 shades

If you’re not intimidated by a gel pot, give Maybelline’s entry into this product category a try. The Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner is a game changer that any experienced or budding makeup lover needs in their arsenal. We like that this pick comes with a precision brush, so you don’t have to buy one separately. 

While a traditional gel pot can challenge your drawing skills, we like the inky color payoff and the promise of up to 24 hours of smudge-resistant wear. The waterproof, oil-free formula glides easily over your lids. Although there are only two colors, we think it’s a must-have.

Type and formula: Gel pot | Colors: 2 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best for beginners
NYX Cosmetics Epic Ink Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

What we love

  • Precision tip applicator brush
  • Waterproof and longwear
  • Vegan formula

What we don’t love

  • New formula may have altered consistency
  • Only 2 shades

Although some would say that a classic pencil is the best option for eyeliner beginners, we disagree. We think it’s a tie between gel pencils and felt-tip liquid liners. So, if traditional liquid liners give you butterflies, the NYX Cosmetics Epic Ink Waterproof Liquid Liner is a great alternative. 

This precision tip liner allows you to make both thick and thin lines, and the flexible brush tip glides over your skin for easy application. Meanwhile, the vegan formula is designed to be longwear and is perfect for cat eyes, wings, and graphic liners. But a word of caution, some reviews mentioned that a formula change makes for a runnier consistency.

Type and formula: Felt-tip liquid | Colors: 2 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best waterproof
Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner

What we love

  • Retractable, waterproof gel formula
  • 24 hours of wear
  • Comes with built-in sharpener

What we don’t love

  • Weak color payoff

Revlon’s ColorStay Eyeliner claims to stay put for up to 24 hours, a waterproof formula that comes in eight vivid shades. This is a retractable gel pencil that features a built-in sharpener on the other end to give you precision when you need it. 

But, some reviewers noted that the pigment isn’t very opaque, and you may need to retrace your lines to get a better color payoff.

Type and formula: Retractable gel | Colors: 8 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best micro
E.l.f. Cosmetics No Budge Precision Eyeliner

What we love

  • Micro precision tip
  • Longwear and smudge-proof
  • Retractable gel formula

What we don’t love

  • Not waterproof

Whether you’re trying to tightline or want to make more precise lines, you need a micro eyeliner pencil. E.l.f. Cosmetics’ No Budge Precision Eyeliner is the answer to your prayers. 

Along with being ridiculously affordable, cruelty-free, and vegan, this wallet-friendly liner features a retractable gel design in a micro size that’s perfect for getting into tight spaces. Plus, you’ll get a longwear formula that’s also smudge-proof.

Type and formula: Retractable gel | Colors: 1 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: No

Best matte
Wet n Wild MegaLast Breakup-Proof Liquid Liner

What we love

  • True inky black matte finish
  • Waterproof, up to 16 hours of wear
  • Precision tip for thick or thin lines

What we don’t love

  • Only available in 1 color

If you like the idea of a liquid liner but are frequently frustrated by lesser options that apply as gray — this Wet n Wild product is the answer. The MegaLast Breakup-Proof Liquid Liner is a felt tip version of the brand’s iconic traditional liquid liner, Megaliner.

The beginner-friendly formula provides an inky black matte finish using a precision applicator tip, allowing you to create thick or thin lines with ease. As with the original formula, it’s also waterproof and promises up to 16 hours of wear (minus the learning curve).

Type and formula: Felt-tip liquid | Colors: 1 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best graphic
L.A. Girl Line Art Matte Eyeliner

What we love

  • Precision tip for graphic eyeliners
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Waterproof and smudge-proof

What we don’t love

  • No details on length of longwear claim

If you’re into graphic eyeliner looks, you know that having a precision tip for your liner is a must. L.A. Girl’s got you covered with the brand’s Line Art Matte Eyeliner. 

Available in four colors, you’ll get a fine tip so sharp you’ll be able to expertly achieve cut creases and everything in between. This is a felt-tip liquid liner in a waterproof, vegan formula that promises to be smudge-proof and longwearing.

Type and formula: Felt-tip liquid | Colors: 4 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Best classic
CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eyeliner Pencil

What we love

  • Built-in smudger
  • Waterproof formula
  • Comes in 4 shades

What we don’t love

  • No details on longwear claim

We’re rounding out our top picks with a nod to a classic eyeliner. If you’re not quite ready for gels and liquids, you can’t go wrong with the traditional pencil. 

CoverGirl’s Perfect Blend Eyeliner Pencil comes with a built-in smudger on the opposite end so to create smokey eyes. Choose from four shades with this waterproof formula.

Type and formula: Pencilv| Colors: 4 | Finish: Matte | Waterproof: Yes

Line and define like a pro

Eyeliner is a staple in pretty much every makeup routine, and there’s no reason to skip it because you can’t afford the median or luxury-priced brands. Drugstore-brand eyeliner comes in many forms, including traditional pencils, gels, creams, and liquids. Meanwhile, there’s something for everyone with the vast array of colors and formulas available. If you’re looking for a great go-to retractable gel pencil, Rimmel London’s Exaggerate Waterproof Eye Definer is a solid choice with a comprehensive shade range and built-in smudger. 

How to pick the right drugstore eyeliner for you

Drugstore eyeliners are intended to be affordable — but you can’t stop there. Think about the type of formula you want to use, as well as whether shade range, longevity, and durability claims are compatible with your needs. 


Eyeliner formulas usually center around traditional pencils, gels, and liquids. We only included one classic pencil formula because these days, it seems that gel pencils have replaced the old-school options. 

Gel eyeliners are ideal because they’re less likely to create skipping when you apply them. However, depending on the applicator design, you may need to consider how easily you can sharpen the point for better precision. Gels can include gel pencils and gel pots, which require an accompanying brush to apply properly. 

Liquid eyeliner formulas can be further broken down into felt-tip and classic liquids. Of all the formulas, liquid has the highest learning curve — especially the traditional liquid pots. But liquid formulas tend to offer the best matte finish and durability. If classic pots are intimidating, opt for the felt-tip alternatives, which give you the control of a pencil but with a bolder color payoff and precision thanks to the thin tip applicator. 

Sharpness and point

Depending on the type of eyeliner design you’re attempting, sharpness and pointiness matter. For a classic eyeliner look, sharpness isn’t as critical. But if you’re attempting a cat eye, wing, or graphic eyeliner, you’ll want a precise application. As mentioned earlier, liquid liners with a felt tip (whether pot or pens) are ideal for more detailed applications. 

However, gel pots — as long as you use an angled liner brush — offer precision too. Micro-gel retractable pencils are also great because the diminutive size of the pencil head ensures you always have a precision point. For other gel pencils, check for a built-in sharpener or invest in one so you can use it as needed. 


Removing eyeliner can be easy or hard, depending on the formula. Most of the recommendations in our guide are waterproof formulas, which require a bit more elbow grease to remove. While many people attempt to rely on makeup remover wipes to cleanse their face, this is quick but not thorough. Wipes remove what you see but fail to cleanse your pores. This is why they shouldn’t be your only cleansing option if you wear makeup.

More importantly, wipes tend to be ill-equipped for removing more serious waterproof formulas. Instead, you’ll want to use a cleansing balm or micellar water that’s safe for your eyes. Balms emulsify into oils, which can better penetrate heavy-duty makeup and break it down so you can easily rinse with water or wipe them off with a washcloth. Meanwhile, micellar waters are effective at breaking down makeup. Both balms and micellar waters support a more traditional cleansing method that removes makeup from your pores to prevent breakouts. 


What’s the top-rated drugstore eyeliner? 

Top-rated is irrelevant if it doesn’t work for you. Think about your skin type when you shop for liners. Likewise, consider the color payoff and finish that you desire. For example, many gel formulas aren’t compatible with oily skin, as oily skin can encourage smudging. Instead, matte, oil-free, and budge-proof formulas are best for that specific skin type. 

Which eyeliner should a beginner buy?

The easiest liners are going to be those in pencil or pen format. Gel pencils are ideal for first-timers as these usually feature skip-proof formulas that apply easily. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling more adventurous, a felt-tip liquid liner can help you achieve more precise looks like cat eyes, graphic liners, and wings. 

What’s a good eyeliner that stays on all day?

This depends on your body chemistry. While you should look for a waterproof formula that promises to be budge-proof, note that this varies by individual and skin type.