Beauty Reviews

Best Eyeliners For The Waterline + Tricks To Keep It In Place

June 8, 2016
For more beauty and style posts, follow me on Instagram! @sarah_najafi

The most common question I get asked is which black eyeliners are best for the waterline. The struggle is real! Honestly, my search for long-lasting, smudge-proof, and highly pigmented formulas is never-ending. And I’m a great subject to test out eyeliners on because they have a tendency to run and bleed onto my skin no matter what I use. I don’t know about you, but carrying Q-tips, makeup remover, and concealer are not an option. But I’m just a sucker for lining my upper and lower waterline…the look is sultry and adds drama to any eye makeup look.

Luckily, I’ve compiled a list of eyeliners that are formulated to stay put and are safe for sensitive eyes. But there is a tried and true trick (or two but you may not be so brave) to ensuring that your liner doesn’t run onto your lower eyelid. Personally, the second method works wonders on me. Sometimes I think I’m not made to wear makeup because my skin and eyes love to reject makeup. Fortunately, there are so many primers on the market that I’m able to prolong the wear of my makeup as well as achieve a more smooth application. So in addition to using one of the methods I will discuss below, I highly recommend using a eye primer if you have issues with your makeup moving around or fading throughout the day. Now let’s first discuss how to apply liner to your waterline.

How To Line The Waterline

What you need:

  1. Eyeliner: pencil or gel
  2. Flat definer brush (Sigma E17, $9.80)
  3. Black or dark brown eye shadow


Ok, so I’ve been doing this since I was about 17. And it’s not scary to me at all, but I realize that’s not the case with everyone. Not to worry, with the method below, you will completely avoid poking yourself in the eye!

Upper Waterline (a.k.a. Tightlining): Tilt your head back, gently lift your eyelid to expose the more of the waterline and also avoid contact with your eye. Then gently run the liner along your waterline.

You can use a pencil or gel liner. If you prefer to use a gel liner, apply a small amount using a liner or angled brush. With an angled brush, gently dab the liner on your waterline with the flat side.

TIP: This is my favorite trick to give the illusion of fuller lashes. I also think this is an absolute must paired with a cat-eye! It makes such a dramatic difference.

Lower Waterline: Tilt your chin down, gently pull your lower lid down, and run the liner along your waterline.

TIP: Make sure to line your waterline before you apply mascara so you can cover the spaces between your lashes as well.

How To Keep Eyeliner In Place

Option 1:

After lining your eyes with either a pencil or gel liner, using a flat square brush, set the liner with a very small amount of black eye shadow (Try Urban Decay ‘Black Out’ or ). You can even set your upper waterline, but that requires some bravery. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this step if you have very sensitive eyes.

Option 2:

For this technique, you’re basically creating a barrier between your lash line and your skin. Once again, first line your upper and lower waterline. Then using a flat square brush (such as the Sigma E17), apply a line of black or dark brown eye shadow by pressing the top of the brush right along your lower lash line. It’s a personal preference on how thick you would like to apply the shadow. You may also soften the edges with a pencil brush (Sigma E30, $14). Ever since I started using this technique, my liner has not smudged, even after a long day and tons of laughing. I don’t know about you, but usually, the second I smile after applying eyeliner to my waterline, it’s all over the place.

I’ve also heard that baking your under-eyes creates a barrier as well, but I haven’t tried that out since I prefer not to bake my concealer.

Check out this short tutorial I filmed showing you how to do both techniques. I applied a very dark black and thicker line of eye shadow just so you could really see what I was doing (Anastasia Beverly Hills Single Eye Shadow in Noir, $12 Also, keep in mind it was tricky filming without using a mirror since I had to use both hands! #thestruggle

Tips for how to apply eyeliner to your waterline:

Close-set Eyes:

Avoid applying liner all the way around and concentrate it on the middle to outer corners. You want to keep your inner corners light to give the illusion that your eyes are farther apart. I also use this trick even though my eyes are not set closely because makeup tends to bunch up in my inner corners. I still get the sultry more full lash appearance without dealing with the maintenance of cleaning up my inner corners.

Wide-set Eyes:

Apply liner to the entire upper and lower water line to make it appear as though your eyes are set closer together.

Small Eyes:

Avoid applying black eyeliner on your lower waterline. Opt for more soft colors. You may still apply it to your upper waterline to make your eyelashes appear fuller. TIP: Add a flesh tone or white eyeliner to your lower waterline to open up the eyes and give a more doll-like appearance.

Large Eyes:

If you want to create the illusion of smaller eyes, apply black eyeliner to your top and bottom waterline.

My Favorite Eyeliners For Waterline and Tightlining


Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, $20

Waterproof, cruelty-free, paraben free.

2 Make Up Forever Aqua Eyes, $21

Waterproof, paraben free, gluten free.

Anastasia Beverly Hills ‘Covet’ Waterproof Eyeliner, $20

IT Cosmetics No-Tug Waterproof Gel Eyeliner, $22

Waterproof, cruelty-free, paraben free, sulfate free, fragrance-free.

Almay Amazing Lasting 16 HR Eye Pencil, $7.99

Water resistant.

Rimmel London Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Liner, $3.99

Waterproof, sweatproof, heat-proof, heat-proof, humidity-proof. Dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested.

Maybelline Precise Skinny Gel Pencil, $7.99


Sigma Stand Out Eyes Gel Liner, $14

Paraben free. They do not test or condone animal testing (“some of our natural fiber brushes are made from animal hair, no animals are harmed during the brush-making process’).

Inglot Gel Matte Eyeliner, $14


10 Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, $26

Waterproof, heat-resistant, humidity-resistant.

(Waiting to hear back for more product information – I got your back!)

Hope you learned something new and are able to create a sultry look without the fear of ending up with a messy eye makeup look. As always, I love your feedback so please leave any comments or questions below! xo Sarah


  • Reply C Gibbons July 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Love this article! Finding an eyeliner for the waterline took years of trying every liner. I had a drawer full of black eyeliners maybe used once or twice. I agree with a few on your list that I have used. The urban decay is my 2nd fav. However I hate pencils I have to sharpen. It also wastes a lot of the liner in the shavings. . My favorite is ‘Inliner’ by POP. Made for the waterline. It doesn’t need any primer or eyeshadow to create a barrier & you can make it as dramatic as you want. You can also use it on the outside. It stays exactly the same all day. Completely waterproof. I can use 1 application in the morning. Work all day. Go out all night & it stays perfect. No sharpening just twist it. No eye irritation. I love it!

    • Reply Sarah Najafi August 7, 2017 at 11:24 pm

      Thank you so much! I’ll have to try the POP liner!

  • Reply Annie October 6, 2017 at 1:06 am

    Thanks for your video. My holy grail for tightlining is Essence gel liner in the pot. It’s getting harder to find now so I think it may be on it’s way out, the horrors!! I just tried Laura Mercier cake tightliner, which wasn’t nearly as good as Essence. Essence is only $3.99 too, rock on!!

    • Reply Sarah Najafi October 6, 2017 at 1:10 am

      Aw thank you! It really is so good!! xx

  • Reply Megan Doheny November 27, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you for these tips! I’ve never tried setting with a black shadow, I’m gonna go out and buy one and try this now! I love doing cat eye but it always bleeds out after a couple hours,and it’s such a pain reapplying it constantly!

    • Reply Sarah Najafi January 29, 2018 at 2:52 am

      I hear ya! Hope it helps! xx

  • Reply Ayu January 9, 2018 at 4:00 am

    Thanks for sharing the information, I am indeed looking for this information. Looks like I found good information on this article. Nice website 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Najafi January 29, 2018 at 2:51 am

      So happy to hear! xx

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