A thin, winged liner is an incredibly powerful thing: It has the ability to rapidly elongate, accentuate, and brighten up eyes, which is why many beauty lovers — including Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho and my very own sister Harley Viera-Newton — seldom leave the house without one. I myself have tended to admire delicate winged liners from afar, due to the fact that I’m useless at using them. My trembly hands often create a strange, wobbly wave, or, if I manage to steady them, I’ll usually make the line too thick and intense-looking, and have to take it all off.
Because I’m so terrible at applying eyeliner, but love the way a clean, precise wing looks, I’ve long been on the hunt for one that is extra extra user friendly — something so easy to apply that it is impossible to mess up. My requirements were simple: The product itself had to be dark enough that it would show up on my lids without having to go over the line again and again, and couldn’t be too runny (runny eyeliners bleed, and that gets messy quick). It also had to have a tip so thin, flexible, and beginner-friendly that it would glide across my lash line into an elegant little flick on the first try.
My sister’s favorite has long been a Stila eyeliner —and for a long time, it was the closest I thought I’d ever come to finding a liner my shaky hands could work with. But the felt tip was never quite flexible enough, and the product dried out quickly after purchase, which I didn’t love. But during a recent trip down a Reddit wormhole, I found a trove of rave reviews for the new liquid liners from Em Cosmetics — a brand owned by beauty guru Michelle Phan, whose liquid blushes I have and adore. I learned that Em carries two different types of liquid liners: a thicker felt-tip liner, and a thinner brush-tip liner for more precise, subtle lines. The reviews on Reddit all claimed that the bristles on the brush tip are very flexible and easy to maneuver, and that they make creating a baby wing super easy. So I, of course, ordered it.
Those reviewers were 100 percent right. The actual product is super pigmented, so you can get a really great opaque black without having to go over it several times (as is the case with Stila). And the soft, paint brush-esque tip (Phan actually used illustration pens as inspiration when creating it) is insanely handy for getting a really thin, close-to-the lash line on the first try. When it comes to the greatest makeup challenge of all — applying a little cat eye-esque flick at the corner of your eye — well, the brush tip kind of does it for you. All you have to do is tilt the liner upward, and it paints on a soft little wing. It’s so easy, in fact, that I’ve found myself reaching to use it for everyday wear, not just for special occasions. This product does the seemingly impossible: In one use, it turns shaky-handed people like myself into baby-wing experts. What a world. (A tip: it’s important to give this liner a good shake before you use it, to ensure all the pigment is evenly distributed throughout the tube.)
More Strategist-approved eyeliners
For a colorful eyeliner that’s easy to use, Rio likes Glossier’s Play Colorslide. “It’s waxy but not insanely pigmented, so if you decide you want a touch of color on the lids but aren’t quite ready for a liquid bright-blue cat eye, this is the perfect thing,” she says. “I like to run it quickly along my upper lashes for a super-easy, practically impossible-to-mess-up cat eye or accent. My favorite colors at the moment are Nectar, a mustard yellow; Jumbo, a gingery orange; and Adult Swim, a deep navy.”
Writer Alison Freer loves her Vamp Stamp, an eyeliner stamp designed by a makeup artist who lost feeling in her hands after being diagnosed with a benign spinal-cord tumor. “It’s a small, food-grade silicone stamp that provides the perfect winged eyeliner blueprint, making the execution of a flawless cat eye about a million times easier,” she says. “Each end of the wand is a stamp: one for your left eye and one for your right. You gently dip the stamp into the little pot of eyeliner ink, then press firmly onto the ends of your eyes. It’s exactly like using a rubber stamp and ink pad, only you’re stamping a perfect winged cat eye directly onto your face.”
Former Strategist writer Lori Keong raved about this Clio Kill Waterproof Pen for it’s stiff tip, which makes it “easy to draw precise lines, and easy to build bolder lines, with very minimal smudging as the day wears on.” According to Keong, many redditors in the Asian Beauty subreddit consider it “HG,” or “Holy Grail” — it’s frequently name-dropped in monolid eyeliner threads — “so I know that I’m in good company when I recommend it.”
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.