If you’re anything like the average woman, you’ve dropped some major dough on makeup. From foundation to liquid eyeliner to eyeshadow and mascara, it’s likely you have a drawerful.
A recent study by OnePoll for Groupon found that the average woman spends $313 per month on her appearance, or $225,360 over her lifetime. Women spend the most on facials, followed by haircuts, followed by makeup.
We’re going to put a stop to this stat, starting with eyeliner, which is seriously having a moment. From taking over your eyes with neon shades (yes, we absolutely love neon eyeliner) to taking on those statement winged looks — eyeliner is the key for completing your look right now. But it still doesn’t mean you need to spend top dollar to make your eyeliner work for you. You might be partial to liquid liner but the best drugstore eyeliners might challenge that thinking.
So we interviewed makeup artists to hear all about their fave eyeliners that are $10 or less — which can be found at your local drugstore (or online).
Besides sharing their recommendations, we’ve added how to sharpen drugstore eyeliners, what they are made of and how best to sharpen them. If you don’t have a makeup pencil sharpener, you’ll want to invest in one so you can keep your best drugstore pencil eyeliner in use right down to the nub. Of course, the liquid eyeliners and gel eyeliners don’t need sharpening.
This NYX sharpener at $4.50 has two size holes, one for thin makeup pencils and the other for jumbo pencils. You can find others in your drugstore makeup aisle.
We also included information about what each pencil eyeliner is made of. This is useful to people who might have allergies or if you are interested in buying drugstore eyeliners made of ingredients you can pronounce.
Lastly, in our effort to help make the perfect smoky eye but feel good about it, we included whether the pencil eyeliner is classified as “cruelty free.” This implies that the product and ingredients used were not tested on animals, however there is no strict government requirement for the use of this term. If this is of great concern to you when you buy makeup and if you are often wearing eyeliner, look for more specific language such as “not tested on animals.”
12 Drugstore Pencil Eyeliners Under $10
- Best for People of Color: Black Radiance Eye Appeal Retractable Pencil
- Best for Long-Lasting: CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eye Pencil
- Best for Quick Application: Maybelline New York Unstoppable Eyeliner
- Best for Dramatics: Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner
- Best for Color Selection: NYX Professional Makeup Jumbo Eye Pencil
- Best for Sensitive Eyes: Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner
- Best for Precision Lining: Wet n Wild Kohl Crayon Eyeliner
- Best for Different Effects: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen
- Best for Beginners: E.L.F. Cosmetics Intense Ink Eyeliner
- Best for Criers: Rimmel Exaggerate Eye Definer Noir
- Best for Splurge: L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Smoldering Eyeliner
- Best for Humidity: Milani Eye Tech Extreme Liquid Eyeliner
Here are more details about the 12 affordable eyeliners that will keep your makeup budget in check while letting you take advantage of the latest trends.
1. Black Radiance Eye Appeal Retractable Pencil
Best for People of Color
$3.99, Black Radiance Beauty
This retractable pencil comes in black and a subtle sparkle black, says Margina Dennis, a makeup artist who works on editorial shoots and also blogs about her work and the industry. She was one of the makeup artists who worked with actors on the 2021 movie version of West Side Story.
What it’s Good For: This is very pigmented, wears really well and doesn’t dry out or cause irritation if you use it in your waterline. It also makes a great base for a dark, intense smokey eye.
Made Of: Castor seed oil, wax, hydrogenated cottonseed oil and acetate
How to Sharpen: Twist it. Get a perfect point to make a precise line by twirling it in a circular motion on a paper towel.
2. CoverGirl Perfect Blend Eye Pencil
Best for Long-Lasting
$3.19 at Target
Available in basic black or in black brown, this CoverGirl pencil eyeliner is a classic. It can be drawn as a thin, sharp precise line or it may be smudged and blended.
What it’s Good For: It has a deep color and it comes with a blender tip to create a classic smokey eye, says Annie Gabillet, the editor and founder of Safe Makeup Project, a clean beauty website that reviews high-end and affordable cosmetics. This is a drugstore eyeliner that doesn’t contain potentially harmful ingredients that is also a high-performing option.
Made Of: Hydrogenated coco-glycerides, hydrogenated tallow, polyethylene, wax, caprylic/capric triglyceride, petrolatum, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbic acid, citric acid, iron oxides
How to Sharpen: Makeup pencil sharpener
3. Maybelline New York Unstoppable Eyeliner
Best for Quick Application
$9.99 at Ulta
The eyeliner is long wearing in just one swipe, and it’s smudge-resistant.
What it’s Good For “I love a mechanical eyeliner that doesn’t require having a sharpener on hand,” Gabillet says. “This eyeliner will stay in play once you apply it, and it gets a green score from EWG (the non-profit Environmental Working Group).” Beauty products with a green score can’t contain ingredients with any health, ecotoxicity or contamination concerns.
Made Of: Isododecane, beeswax, cera carnuba, dimethicone, isoeicosane, hydrogenated palm kernel glycerides, methyl-paraben, isopropyl palmitate
How to Sharpen Swivel the tip for a fine point.
4. Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner
Best for Dramatics
$7.49 at Bed, Bath and Beyond
For an intense look — even if you have sensitive eyes. It’s gel eyeliner, a cross between liquid eyeliner and a pencil eyeliner. Consider this a good choice for your Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup palette.
What it’s Good For: The smudgeproof, waterproof eyeliner will stay on for up to 24 hours, and it’s made for drama. Tested by a dermatologist, this oil-free formula is allergy-tested and is safe for sensitive eyes and is available in 10 shades.
Made Of: Cyclopentasiloxand, polypropylsilsesquioxane, ceresin, isododecane
How to Sharpen: This doesn’t sharpen
5. NYX Professional Makeup Jumbo Eye Pencil
Best for Color Selection
The NYX jumbo pencil comes in 16 colors, including one called “donut,” which looks like lavender to us. Check out matcha, cupcake and french fries.
What It’s Good For: This is a versatile eye pencil that can be used for liner, primer or eye shadow. Heck, at this price, buy a couple and experiment with a two-tone look. We think frappe (charcoal) would look good with an iced latte (pinky-beige). It might take some practice to get a finer line with the jumbo tip.
Made Of: Mineral oil and powder
How to Sharpen: Use the larger hole on a makeup pencil sharpener.
6. Almay All-Day Intense Gel Eyeliner
Best for Sensitive Eyes
$8.49 at Almay
This fragrance-free, hypoallergenic eyeliner is a fantastic find for anyone with sensitive eyes. It’s available in six dramatic colors including navy, chestnut and plum.
What it’s Good For: This is the best eyeliner for sensitive eyes. It’s a creamy, waterproof gel eyeliner that dries super quickly and may be blended if you also work quickly. “I don’t recommend using it in the waterline, because this is very drying,” Dennis says.
Made Of: Recycled paper fibers and biobased cellulose
How to Sharpen: Use a makeup pencil sharpener.
7. Wet n Wild Kohl Crayon Eyeliner
Best for Precision Lining
$1.89 at CVS; only available in stores.
At this price, you could purchase one in each of the six colors which are basic neutrals. This could end up being your go-to best drugstore eyeliner and a perfect candidate for your purse makeup bag.
What it’s Good For: This is just creamy enough to glide, but not so creamy that it ends up everywhere, Dennis says. This holds up well in the waterline and lasts for 12 hours.
Made Of: Beeswax, carnauba, ceresin and petrolatum
How to Sharpen: Makeup pencil sharpener
8. Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen
Best for Different Effects
$8.99 at Target
Available in three tips: Ballpoint, slim and angled. It comes only in black so might be your best choice to make those dramatic cat eyes.
What it’s Good For: The coolest thing about this liquid eye pen is its tips. You may get it in the ballpoint tip, which you can use to create dots to connect; a slim, tapered tip for the perfect glide on your lash line; and an angle tip for a cat eye, says Kryz Uy, a beauty and travel blogger at Kryuy.com.
Made Of: Water, acrylates copolymer, butylene glycol, sodium lignosulfonate
How to Sharpen: It doesn’t sharpen because it’s a liquid eyeliner pen.
9. E.L.F. Cosmetics Intense Ink Eyeliner
Best for Beginners
$5 at Ulta
The all-day eyeliner is a cinch to apply. It’s a liquid liner that acts like a pen and online reviews give it praise for its all-day performance and ability to create precise lines.
What it’s Good For: Even beginners will be able to master this eyeliner, which makes it easy thanks to the wider application tip. It’s waterproof and smudgeproof — but make sure you put the cap back on, as this may dry out without it.
Cruelty-Free: Yes, 100% vegan the label says
Made Of: Water, styrene, acrylates, ammonium methacrylate copolymer
How to Sharpen: It does not sharpen because it’s a liquid eyeliner pen
10. Rimmel Exaggerate Eye Definer Noir
Best for Criers
$3.47 at Amazon
This waterproof eyeliner will stay all day sans racoon eyes. It comes in five colors, including “copper bling.”
What it’s Good For: Need an eyeliner that glides on smoothly and will stay on all day – even if you tear up at times? This is the one to grab. Even with dry skin, this is easy to apply, and it’ll stay soft long enough to blend smoothly, before staying in place all day.
Made Of: Cyclopentasilowane, polyethylene, wax, polybutene, cera alba, beeswax
How to Sharpen: Twist it; no need for a sharpener
11. L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Smoldering Eyeliner
Best for Splurge
$10.99 at Walgreens (often on sale and under $10)
Do detail work with this fine-tipped eyeliner. Plus, the name screams sultry.
What it’s Good For: Want a defined eye? This is your eyeliner. It’s great for definition. Sharpen it and drag it along your upper lash for a kitten eye, or use the wider part of the pencil to create a thicker line for a wing shaped eye.
Made Of: Hydrogenated palm kernel glycerides, caprylic triglyceride, polyethylene, cera microcristallina, talc, tocopherol
How to Sharpen: Makeup pencil sharpener.
12. Milani Eye Tech Extreme Liquid Eyeliner
Best for Humidity
$7.99 at Milani Cosmetics
The sweatproof, easy-to-apply eye liner is a go-to. This expert liquid eyeliner comes in two shades of black and is an all-around choice for creating all sorts of looks, including using it for winged liner.
What it’s Good For: This is the best drugstore liquid eyeliner will even last through showers (remove with an oil-based eye makeup remover). This is especially good during the humid summer months, as it won’t budge. Choose between two shades of black, and you’ll be able to draw wings, kitten eyes and more.
Made Of: Water, butylene glycol, styrene, ammonium methacrylate copolymer
How to Sharpen: Shake to refresh the oil
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more.