obsessive tester

What’s the Best Eyeliner for a Perfect Cat-Eye?

Who says everything you learn in high school is completely useless? When I was 16 I taught myself how to apply liquid eyeliner on a moving subway train during my hour-plus commute. Years later, it’s still my signature beauty look — I’ll leave my apartment with greasy hair but you will never see me without a cat-eye. Unfortunately not every eyeliner is suited for my oily lids and generally sweat-prone body. I’ve tried plenty of promising products, only to have them smudge on my hooded eyes within minutes of application.

Much like assessing a dude for my closest friends, spotting a winner takes me mere seconds. While my hands are pretty steady, I still prefer markers or thick, stiff brush liners that are simple to use. They must have caps that click solidly into place — if you don’t hear that satisfying thwack, they’re more likely to dry out or have streaky formulas. Another sign of a good product is the hand test. I’ll run a streak across the back of my hand and see how it dries. If it’s fast, then it won’t wind up smeared across my lid but if it feels even the slightest bit wet or sticky, it’s a hard pass because I’ll look like a racoon within seconds. Read on for my top four picks that managed to hold steady through one heatwave, multiple workouts, and even a few weddings.

Photo: Andre Wagner

From the packaging to the brush to the pigment, it’s obvious why Tom Ford’s liner is the most luxurious of the bunch. It’s solidly black and glides on like a dream. There are two ends: One creates a fine line and the other is for a sweeping stroke. I found that the thin side worked perfectly, holding on through an intense rowing workout. Unfortunately, the thicker side doles out too much pigment so I wound up with smudges after an hour.
Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen, $56 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Photo: Andre Wagner

The cult Japanese brand is the most inexpensive of the bunch, making it the best choice if you’re seeking something close to drugstore prices. While the pigment isn’t as dark as the others, you can go over the line several times to deepen the color — just wait for it to dry before you add a second layer. I also wore this one to a rowing workout and while it wasn’t as long-lasting as the Tom Ford, it held its own. 
Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner, $13.50 at Amazon

Photo: Andre Wagner

Everyone loves this Korean liner and for good reason — the color is intense and it dries super quickly. Like Dolly Wink, it’s a marker style so it feels like drawing with your favorite pen. That makes it a great beginner liner that you can use to teach yourself the perfect cat-eye. While I’m not particularly weepy at weddings, I do love a few glasses of wine, and those wind up showing on my face in the form of blotchy, sweaty skin and excess oil. This liner held up through two particularly drunken parties, while sadly my feet in heels did not.
Clio Kill Black Eyeliner, $20 at Soko Glam

Photo: Andre Wagner

Among the group, this wound up being my hands-down favorite. Over the summer, I had the unfortunate luck of being stuck in the worst heatwave to hit Paris in the past century. While I spent most of my vacation sweating so profusely that I had to throw out a silk shirt, those little wings on my eyes held strong. The formula glides on easily and dries in a flash, but the flexible brush could prove to be tricky if you don’t have a steady hand.
Kat von D Five Fearless Years Limited-Edition Tattoo Liner, $24 at Sephora

What’s the Best Eyeliner for a Perfect Cat-Eye?