Gel, Pencil, Liquid: The Different Types of Eyeliners, Explained

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Different Types of Eyeliners

There are different types of eyeliners. And depending on your choice, you can either save yourself 20 minutes in the morning or waste a $20 product. I know, we all like to blame our lack of fine motor skills or our inability to perform well under pressure for not being able to do the perfect cat-eye.

But in reality, using the right type of eyeliner for your eye shape or your level of expertise makes a huge difference in how frustrating things can get during makeup.

And learning which type of eyeliner is the best one for you can help you up your eye makeup game, and save you some time and money. Keep reading to learn more about different eyeliners.

Different Types of Eyeliners

Basically, there are three main types of eyeliner: pencil, gel, and liquid. So in general, they’re classified according to liquidity or solidity.

However, there are different kinds and in-betweeners, and certain vague eyeliner names being thrown around, which can be confusing. So we’re going to dive deep into every single type of eyeliner to cover all the bases.

Pencil Eyeliner

Pencil eyeliner is the most common type of eyeliner. They are beginner-friendly as they give you more control over the application. So you can take your time and color up your eyes one tiny stroke at a time.

You can smudge things out with a brush or thicken your eyeliner by layering. There’s a pencil eyeliner for every eye shape. Whether you have almond eyes or need eyeliner for hooded eyes, pencil eyeliners are universally practical.

Pencil eyeliners are also the most versatile eyeliner. While other ones simply work for lining the contour of the eyes, pencil eyeliners are the ones we use to tightline.

In case you don’t know, tightlining is applying an eye pencil on the upper or lower waterline. It’s like an inner eyeliner. It defines your eyes, makes your lashes look thicker, and makes your eyeliner look even more dramatic.

Pencil eyeliners come in different forms: retractable pen, mechanical pen, or regular sharpenable pencil eyeliner. There are waterproof options and they are available in all colors.

You might think that a pencil eyeliner is just a pencil and not particularly helpful in drawing very thin lines over the eyelid. Well, trust me when I say that it all depends on the pencil eyeliner you’re using.

In sum, pencil eyeliners make the best types of eyeliners. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, pencil eyeliner is a must-have for anyone who wears makeup.

Kohl & Kajal Eyeliner

Kohl and kajal can be used interchangeably. And in terms of shape, kajal eyeliners or kohl eyeliners are not too different than regular pencil eyeliners. The only difference is the actual material used, which ends up affecting the way your eyeliner application goes.

A quick background on this type of eyeliner. Kohl or kajal is traditionally known as surma and it’s the most common eye makeup product in Eastern countries, especially Arabia. According to Islam, kohl is believed to be healthy for the eyes and is said to protect you from the evil eye.

Traditionally, kajal was made at home by mixing certain minerals, including hazardous lead. Either way, the result is a waxy, greyish-black color substance you use on the inner rims of the eye.

I remember my grandfather bringing me kohl eyeliners from Arabia when I was little. There were both powder forms and solid forms. I don’t think my grandfather knew about the lead aspect of it all. But I’m glad I didn’t blind myself.

Cut to today, kajal eyeliners are available in lead-free form. In fact, we’re pretty far away from the original kajal except for the creamy application. And sometimes, brands call kohl eyeliners kohl simply because of the color resemblance.

And trust me, you would not be able to draw a thin cat eye with the original massive kajal, which is as thick as a crayon. Kajal & kohl may look like regular pencil eyeliners but they have a more creamy feel to them.

So when you’re buying a kohl eyeliner, in any shape or form, know that the application is a breeze as the pencil practically glides on the lids.

Liquid eyeliner

This is the eyeliner type that is associated with, well, eyeliner. It’s for the sole purpose of drawing an eyeliner in various thicknesses with various shapes. Liquid eyeliners are not always beginner-friendly and they vary in terms of their tip as well as packaging.

You can find a liquid eyeliner with a brush tip or a felt tip. And they can come in a pen shape or a small jar with a dipper. Not surprisingly, the tip will have a major effect on your application process.

Liquid eyeliners with a brush tip can spread out very easily and start to bleed as soon as you start applying. It’s all because of the liquid texture. Even though they’re great for very precise wings and lines, they require practice. Plus, you cannot use liquid eyeliner for tightlining.

Liquid eyeliners with a felt tip, on the other hand, are more beginner-friendly. They’re sometimes called eyeliner pens or markers. Even though they’re liquid, they dry down relatively faster and don’t spread out as much as brush tips.

It’s not fair to compare liquid eyeliners with pencils or gels. It all comes down to personal preference. As a side note, liquid eyeliners, the oil-free options, tend to work better for people with eyelash extensions.

Very waxy and creamy eyeliners and thick pencils are difficult to come off. But lightweight, water-based eyeliners can easily be washed off without the need for rubbing.

Gel Eyeliner

Sometimes called cream eyeliners, gel eyeliners are the ones we see in a pot. They basically fall between liquid and solid. They require a brush, which is sometimes sold together with the eyeliner.

Gel eyeliners have a very creamy, waxy feel to them. You dip your brush, preferably an angled or pointy brush, into the pot and get a small amount. And you apply it the way you apply a pencil liner.

In terms of beginner friendliness, this type of eyeliner can fall anywhere on the spectrum. But the most important advantage of gel eyeliners is that you have control over the amount you apply, which prevents mess.

So you slowly build up to whatever look you’re going for. Subtle or dramatic, gel eyeliners will work for both. The downside is that you can’t really tightline with them.

The waxy substance tends to get dry and clumpy, which makes it difficult to color up the waterline and it can be really irritating. Also, things can get messy during makeup removal so make sure you double cleanse.

What else can be used as an eyeliner?

Last but not least, as one of the most practical DIY methods of all time, we have eyeshadows we can use as eyeliner. If you have eyeshadows in darker shades you don’t like to use on your eyelids anymore, you can now make use of them.

Just damp an angled brush and dip it into a black eyeshadow plate. And apply it like you’d apply gel eyeliner. The damp brush will make the eyeshadow stay put.

And even though an eyeshadow can fade during the day and not look as sleek as an eyeliner, it’s still a great way to save and repurpose the product instead of tossing it away.

So these are the most common types of eyeliners out there. Honestly, there’s no such thing as bad eyeliner anymore. If you’re having trouble making peace with liquid eyeliner, you probably haven’t found the right one yet.

If you don’t like the matte finish of pencil eyeliner, maybe you haven’t tried a satin finish. Almost all types of eyeliners have a beginner-friendly option.

I mean, we have liquid eyeliners we literally roll over the eyelids. We have eye pencils that have angled tips. Don’t worry too much about it and get to experimenting.

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