When to Use Which Eyeliner
There are many varieties of eyeliner on the market today. Unfortunately for us, there is no omnipotent eyeliner out there, all of them are separated into different categories that are designed for different uses around the eye. These are the ones we see most often in the cosmetic industry.
Most Common Eyeliners in the Cosmetic Industry
- Liquid eyeliners (brush applicator)
- Felt-tip eyeliner (also called art liner)
- Gel or Cream eyeliner
- Kohl Pencil Eyeliner
- Kajal Eyeliner
- Regular pencil eyeliner
- Mechanical twist-up eyeliner
- Eyeshadow (used as eyeliner)
If you are concerned about any ingredients you see on an eyeliner, please visit the FDA's website for an approved list of chemicals.
Visit the FDA Website
FDA information on makeup safety and regulatory information for cosmetic products.
Eyeliners at a Glance
The Gel or Cream eyeliner has a very waxy consistency and is generally applied with an eyeliner brush or a q-tip.
You should use a gel/cream eyeliner whenever you want to ensure that your eyeliner will be waterproof and will stay put. Since it is made of wax, it will not come off easily. I put mine to the test by rubbing my arm with water and soap. Only after a couple of seconds did the eyeliner start to smear off. It took eye makeup remover to get it completely off of my hand.
Use a brush to apply this eyeliner when you want more control over the line and/or need a more precise line. Dip a q-tip in the gel eyeliner in order to give it a smokey effect.
Gel eyeliner does great in the waterline because it's very waterproof. Although it is safe to apply it to the waterline, it is difficult to do so. I recommend getting a pencil eyeliner, dipping the end in the gel/cream eyeliner and then using the pencil tip to smudge on your waterline. Attempting to do so with a brush or q-tip will result in teary and red eyes.
You might not be able to tell from the photographs, but the Kajal eyeliner has an immediate benefit over any other pencil eyeliners: It's not creamy. I say this is a benefit because unlike other pencil eyeliners this one won't smudge nearly as easily, even in the waterline. It takes only a bit of moisture (a drop of water on your finger is fine, or even using the water in your waterline will do) to get the eyeliner working and it doesn't tug or pull on your eyes.
Think of this eyeliner as a dried out marker. If you attempt to write with it dry, it won't really work. Add a bit of water, and it will. The Kajal eyeliner in the photograph was not purchased in the United States, rather it is from Pakistan, where the Kajal eyeliner originated. Compared to other pencil eyeliners, this one lasts much longer than any of the ones I've used so far.
You can purchase these on Amazon or eBay. The traditional ones are not sold in the United States due to concerns over the ingredients, but if you are interested in purchasing one, I'd suggest the one in the photo, the Hashmi Kajal eyeliner which is lead-free (eliminating most of the concerns about Kajal liners not from the U.S.) and herbal.
Kohl and Regular Pencil Eyeliners
Kohl Pencil Eyeliner
The main characteristic that Kohl eyeliner is known for is the creaminess of the product. Kohl pencil is different from regular black pencil because it's much creamier and much easier to smudge around. It can be used to create smokey eyes without having to tug at your eyes so much.
For example if you wanted to create a really smokey eye using just eyeliner, you probably should choose Kohl eyeliner instead of Kajal eyeliner.
Kohl eyeliner is easy (super easy) to apply to the waterline, and it has the benefit of not making your eyes water so much since you do not have to keep retracing over your lines, however out of all the eyeliners I believe Kohl pencil to crease the easiest and last the least.
Regular Pencil Eyeliner
Regular pencil eyeliner is just that. Regular. It's a cross between a Kajal (a dry formula) and a Kohl eyeliner (a creamy formula). If there is any type of eyeliner you should have in your makeup bag it should be a regular pencil eyeliner because it's so versatile. It's good for the waterline, for tight-lining, and if you have a sharp tip, even a cat-eye.
The staying power of this eyeliner is generally around 3 hours (even if it claims to be waterproof). It combines the qualities of many eyeliners and similarly also combines the staying power. Pro's and con's, ultimately, it's your choice.
Mechanical Pencil (Retractable Eyeliner)
A retractable eyeliner, or mechanical pencil eyeliner, is no different than a regular pencil eyeliner or a kohl pencil except for the fact that it does not need to be sharpened. You just twist the barrel of the product and it pops up.
The downside to this type of eyeliner is that once the originally sharpened and crisp point is dull, there is almost no way to get it pointy again because there is nothing to sharpen, it's hard to create a cat-eye with this type of liner or to make very precise lines with it unless you find a way to sharpen it.
Liquid Eyeliner (Brush Tip)
There are two types of liquid eyeliner, the one shown in the picture to the right is a liquid liner with a brush tip. The second type, the felt-tip marker, is discussed in the next section.
Liquid eyeliner is about the best there is when it comes to staying power. There are some pretty noteworthy con's though. First off, you can't apply it to your waterline. Go ahead, try, it'll never dry. Second of all, it can't be smudged easily (this could also be a good quality).
If you're trying to create a long-lasting smokey eye, it'll be really hard to try to smudge liquid liner around before it dries. It only takes a few seconds to dry, more or less depending on the brand you have.
However if you want something that will last a long time, liquid eyeliner is the way to go.
The brush tip that usually comes with these forms of eyeliner is good for drawing thin, wispy lines however it does take some practice. If you press down on the brush hard enough they can be used to create thicker lines. You can see some of these differences in width in the picture.
Liquid Liner (Felt-Tip Marker)
This is the felt-tip marker. It's also a liquid eyeliner but instead of a brush we have a felt-tip. I prefer this type of liner to the brush tip ones because it allows you more control of the line you are making.
If you can learn to steady your hands, you can create quite beautiful shapes and geometric patterns with this eyeliner.
Of course its most common use is for a quick and easy cat-eye effect because it allows you to create thick and thin lines depending on how you hold the marker. Hold it flat against you eye for thicker lines and more perpendicular to your eye to draw thinner wispier lines.
The staying power is basically from the moment you put it on, to the moment you decide to wash it off. A felt-tip doesn't let you add too much product like a brush tip would, and therefore there is no risk of the eyeliner flaking and falling in your eyes because of excess product.
These eyeliners are also called art liners by some cosmetic companies like Lancome.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Deya Writes
Nicole on January 29, 2017:
The retractable eyeliners can be sharpened. I have a liner that the top of pulls off. There is a small white plastic piece with a hole big enough for the liner to fit in. Twist it lightly and you have a sharpened pencil again. It looks just like a eyeliner sharpener but instead of metal blades, its plastic so its easier on your tip. Not all retractables have this, if you find one that does keep it. Even if you run out because theye are hard to come by. If you see one with a line at the opposite end of the lid, check and see if it has one in it. They are life savers!
Clueless on November 19, 2012:
I knew there was a lot of types but not this many! Cool
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on November 17, 2012:
I wear very little makeup but love my eyeliner. Thanks for an interesting and informative Hub.
Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on November 17, 2012:
I have always stuck with the tried and true eyeliner - which for me is the regular pencil eyeliner. However, a few years ago, I found the mechanical ones and loved them because I didn't have to worry about sharpening them. It was always such a mess and the ones I was getting kept breaking on me. That being said, I realized that my mechanical one, while a little more money in some ways, always ran out so quickly. Maybe I need a new type.
This hub was full of great information. Who would have thought there could be this much information on eyeliner. Well done. I have a tendency to rub my eyes a lot and I always end up walking around with only one eye having makeup. I might need to try the gel eyeliner!
Jennifer Eve from New York on November 15, 2012:
Nice make up voted up..
Deya Writes (author) on November 07, 2012:
I'm glad she enjoyed it! Thanks for the comment
Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on November 07, 2012:
My wife likes your hub very much, thank you so much, voted useful.