There is a wide range of eyeliners available on the market, and they're available in dozens of colors. However, not all eyeliners are well-suited for tightlining, and to help you figure out which will work best for you, check out our list of the best eyeliners for tightlining.
What is Tightlining
Tightlining is when you use your eyeliner to go along the very edge of your eyes or even in between your lashes.
This technique can be used to create a natural look that makes your lashes seem fuller and thicker. However, it's also often used to add intensity to a dramatic eye look.
How to Tightline
Depending on who you talk to, tightlining is lining the very edge of the top and bottom of both of your eyes or just the top of your lashes. The process for each is very similar, so we'll explain both.
To tightline your upper lash line, gently pull your eyelid back using your lashes to expose the underside of your eyelid.
From there, you'll gently run your liner along the exposed edge of your lid. If you point your pencil or liner pen upwards instead of straight back, it's nearly impossible to poke yourself in the eye accidentally.
If that's a bit too scary to do, you can also work liner between your lashes. Looking down, apply liner in short strokes to the spaces between your lashes with your eyeliner pencil or brush.
For your lower lash line, simply pull the skin under your eye gently to expose the edge of your lower eye.
Gently run your liner pencil or brush along this edge. You can also apply the liner between your lashes instead of along the edge, but this doesn't provide as clean a look as when you do this to your top lashes.
Setting Your Eyeliner
While there are liners that are excellent at staying in place along your waterline, even without being set, you may still struggle with eyeliner that runs if you have watery eyes.
Alternatively, some of the formulas for people with sensitive eyes don't have as much staying power as those that have standard formulas.
Using a small flat edge brush, gently go over your liner with a small amount of eyeshadow in the same color as your liner.
This is much easier to do with your lower lash line, and it may be a good idea to approach your top lash line from above, so you don't get fallout in your eyes.
What to Look for in an Eyeliner for Tightlining
There are several things you'll want to look for trying to find the best eyeliner for tightlining. They include staying power, an easy to use applicator and a fairly gentle formula.
You'll want staying power because, even if you don't have sensitive eyes, having liner run into them is probably going to irritate your eyes.
Additionally, staying power ensures that your liner doesn't move around or smudge. Waterproof formulas are often good for this, but a waterproof formula doesn't always mean smudge-proof.
Related to this, you need not just a formula that stays but one that applies smoothly and evenly with a solid amount of pigment.
If you end up dragging a liner across your lash line over and over, it may lead to irritation. When you use a liquid liner, the product should glide on without creating blotches.
You may find it helpful, if you want to use a gel liner, to purchase a separate liner brush. The ones that come with gel pots tend to be thicker and of lower quality. A bad liner brush can make a great gel liner difficult to apply.
A fine tip is also important since the point of tightlining is to create as thin a line as possible.
If you're going for a more natural look, tightlining should make it appear as though you're not wearing any eye makeup and that your eyelashes are naturally thick and full.
It's also far easier to do delicate work and get between lashes with a fine tip. A flat tip is okay as well so long as it has a thin edge.
If you have sensitive eyes, you may need to go for a gentle formula designed specifically for people with eyes that are prone to irritation.
Many waterproof liners are prone to causing problems for people with sensitive eyes, so if you have eyes that are easily irritated, waterproof liners are probably not going to work for you.
You may want to consider a smudge-proof formula or set your eyeliner instead of opting for a waterproof liner.
The Best Eyeliners for Tightlining
L'Oreal Paris Infallible Lacquer Eyeliner
The L'Oreal Infallible Lacquer Liner is designed to last for at least 24 hours without smudging or running.
It's a gel liner that promises to provide even and smooth application, and it comes with a decent brush that is thin enough for tightlining.
The liner is also specifically formulated for people who wear contacts and/or have sensitive eyes, and it's ophthalmologist tested.
- The liner comes in five shades, so you're not just stuck with black.
- Thanks to the gel formula of the liner, it provides staying power without being a standard waterproof formula. This means you can use it on your waterline without irritation.
- Unlike most gel liners, which have a matte finish, this liner dries to a glossy finish.
- The liner can be used for tightlining or creating a cat eye or winged look.
- While smudge-proof, if you rub your eyes, it will transfer or rub off.
- Removing the liner can be difficult, and it may become crumbly instead of coming off smoothly.
- Although the liner brush included can be used to tightline, if you're new to this technique, you may need a thinner or different brush for the best results.
- You need to ensure that you close the lid on the pot tightly or the liner will dry out.
Christian Dior Diorshow Art Pen Eyeliner
This is a pen eyeliner that promises to provide a long-lasting liner that applies easily and smoothly thanks to the super fine applicator.
The color comes out rich and dark, so you don't have to keep running the liner over your eyes. Additionally, it's an interesting formula that provides staying power, but it's not waterproof.
This means that it's far less likely to irritate your eyes than other formulas, but if you have watery eyes, it may not be the best option.
- Removes easily with makeup remover or water.
- A high-precision calligraphy felt-tip applicator ensures that you can get the thinnest application possible.
- The very thin tip makes the liner perfect for getting between your lashes.
- The liner is Smudge-proof and flake-proof, and it lasts all day without fading.
- The formula is fantastic for people with easily irritated eyes or allergies.
- The cost is fairly steep since you're paying for just 0.037 ounces of product.
- Since it isn't waterproof, the liner may not be a great option if you have contacts and need eye drops or have watery eyes.
- Some people have problems with the applicator drying out or the tip falling off.
Ardency Inn Modster Smooth Ride Supercharged Eyeliner
One of the downsides of a number of otherwise stellar liners is that there's a very limited color selection.
The majority of liners are available in black or brown, and some may have a coffee or charcoal color available.
There are 14 shades available in Ardency Inn's Modster line, and they range from a rich black to bright turquoise. The liners are waterproof and very creamy, so they glide on while delivering rich pigment.
- It's a cruelty-free product.
- The formula dries down to a budge-proof finish, but it takes a few seconds, giving you time to fix mistakes or blend it.
- It has excellent color payoff, so you do not have to go back and forth over and over.
- Thanks to carnauba wax, the liner is incredibly soft, so it doesn't tug at your eyes or lids.
- The liner is waterproof, and the formula has ingredients that may be irritating if used on your waterline.
- Some people have found that the liner flakes when it dries.
- If you don't wait for the liner to dry down completely, it may smudge or transfer.
LORAC Front of the Line PRO Liquid Eyeliner
This is a pen liner with an automatic delivery system that's designed to provide a smooth and even line.
Thanks to a very fine and flexible tip, you can easily create thin lines or thick ones. The liner is water-resistant, so it's able to stay in place, but it may not be as irritating as fully waterproof formulas.
It's also free of a number of ingredients that tend to be irritating for people with sensitive eyes, including parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, and it's made without synthetic dyes or fragrance.
- The flexible liner tip makes it easy to use, and you can create thicker lines by running the tip along the side or by applying more pressure.
- You can choose from four colors in this line.
- The formula dries very quickly, which isn't always the case with liquid liners, so you don't have to worry about it smudging or transferring.
- Since it's only water-resistant, it's not completely budge-proof.
- Some people find that the color payoff isn't great when they apply the liner to their waterline.
- If the liner isn't stored properly with the cap on tight, it may dry out quickly.
NYX Cosmetics Collection Noir Liquid Liner
This liquid liner comes with a brush applicator instead of a felt tip, and it allows you to create a very fine line without having to worry about poking yourself in the eye.
The liner is designed to provide a rich pigment with just one brushstroke, and it is waterproof and smudge-proof. The liner dries down quickly, so you don't have to worry about transferring the liner when you blink.
- The applicator brush is incredibly thin, so you can easily get into the spaces between your lashes and create a line that hugs your lids.
- Since the liner is incredibly pigmented, you can often get by with just one stroke.
- The formula is incredibly long-lasting, and even individuals with oily lids have no problems with it transferring or smearing.
- The liner may fade throughout the day, and some people find that it may also start to flake.
- It can be difficult to remove, and it may crumble depending on how you're trying to take your makeup off.
- While the thin tip is great for tightlining, it may not be a great applicator if you also want to use the liner for cat eyes.
While every liner on the list is an excellent choice for tightlining, the best eyeliner for tightlining is L'Oreal Paris' Infallible Lacquer Eyeliner. The reason is that the liner manages to both stay put and not irritate people's eyes even if they have sensitive eyes or wear contacts.
The other liners on the list manage to stay put but are irritating or are great for people who need a gentle formula but can transfer or smudge. The L'Oreal liner manages to stay put and is gentle at the same.
L'Oreal's gel liner is also the best choice for tightlining because you can apply it however you wish.
The benefit of a gel liner is that you can either use the brush in the packaging or spend money on a brush that works best for you.
With pencil liners and pen liners, you're stuck with whatever applicator comes with the product.
Some people find a pencil brush is easier to use while others have to use a flat liner brush. With a gel liner that applies as smoothly and with as much pigment as this one does, you can pick your brush.
Finally, the price point on the gel liner is excellent. So long as you ensure that the pot lid stays closed and you clean your brush after each use, you can get up to two years of use out of the liner.