A smart approach to spending dictates that there are some things worth splurging on — and others that may not be worth the extra few dollars. Anti-aging moisturizers packed to the gills with retinoids and peptides and SPF 30 and Elizabeth Báthory’s secret blend? Worth it. Liquid eyeliner, mascara, and other bacteria-laden items it’s wise to replace every few months? Not so much. The best drugstore liquid eyeliner is a better bet.
Whether you’re the kind of person who’s made a signature look out of a cat eye or just prefers to face the day with a teensy-weensy bit of definition around the eyes, chances are a good liquid eyeliner is your mainstay. And if you’re putting on eyeliner every single day, then you’ve more than likely noticed just how quickly you seem to go through the liquid stuff. Either you run out or it runs out of steam; it’s the circle of life.
Spare yourself the drama and invest in one of these 5 hand-to-God tried-and-true liquid eyeliners, all of which can be purchased for under $15 anywhere drugstore eyeliners are found. That’s practically an invitation to buy them in bulk.
This water-resistant formula, with its potted "inkwell" packaging and precise tapered tip, is a classic crowd-pleaser that's just as good now as it was when it was the first eyeliner you'd ever used. Perfect for eye-lining needs both big and small, the flexible tip makes easy work of creating a thick cat eye or the thinnest eye-hugging tightline known to man. Virtually mistake-proof, hypoallergenic, and steadfast for up to 16 hours.
Almay Liquid Eyeliner, $4.79
There's no use in labeling something "intense" when it just objectively isn't—so with that said, I'm fond of this liner on principle just because it hasn't lied. Beyond that, it delivers the kind of opaque, intensely black lines that anyone in their right mind knows is exactly what you want out of a liquid liner. It's totally smudge-proof and water-resistant—go on, try it—and suitable for sensitive eyes/people.
L'Oreal Paris Lineur Intense Brush Tip Liquid Eyeliner, $7.97
Now here is the gold standard, the one inky, easy to apply, legitimately long-wearing formula that has elevated itself from drugstore-thrill status to nominee for G.O.A.T. The flexible felt tip makes for a smooth application process with no tugging, perfect for the smooth stroke necessary for creating a precise line. It's impossible to screw up, and also impossible to get off without an oily makeup remover. Both good things.
Maybelline Line Stiletto Ultimate Precision Liquid Eyeliner, $5.99
If any eyeliner could ever be considered coddling, this one would be it. The ergonomic shape provides a "grip zone" that fits perfectly into the hand for a steady hold that ensures crisp, precise lines and the easiest application process ever. Once on, it doesn't smear, doesn't flake, doesn't fade—in short, it just doesn't play around. Respectable.
NYX The Curve, $15
$2.99 could buy you one overpriced latte with a cat's face made out of foam or this superlative, wildly affordable liquid liner, which goes on perfectly black, dries fast, lasts forever, doesn't smudge, and generally satisfies all around. Fire up your Mr. Coffee instead.
Wet n Wild MegaLiner Liquid Eyeliner, $2.99