How to find transfer-proof eyeliner pencils

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How to cite: Wong M. How to find transfer-proof eyeliner pencils. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. January 7, 2024. Accessed July 21, 2024.

Something that made a big difference to me in 2023: I worked out how to find eyeliner pencils that were transfer-proof even on my oily skin! 

My eyelids are super oily, so eyeliners always smudge or start transferring after a few hours. Transfer-proof pencils aren’t really that new an innovation, but for the longest time I didn’t really know what to look for. I’d read reviews where people said particular eyeliners were smudge-proof, but when I tried them they’d smudge on me – so clearly my eyelids are just a whole level above!

Here’s what you’re looking for…

Volatile solvent at the top of the ingredient list

Volatile means that ingredient evaporates really easily. These are the most common ones you’ll see in makeup:

  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Isododecane
  • Methyl trimethicone

The solvent itself isn’t the bit that makes it longwear, but it’s a sign that there are film-forming polymers in the product that will stick together after those solvents have evaporated off. When you apply a product you’re essentially smudging it on, so the film needs to change to become smudgeproof. With these products the solvents leave, then the film-forming polymers can bind together to form a durable, long-lasting film.

Snug packaging

Again, this shows that there are enough volatile solvents in the product that they need to be sealed in gas-tight packaging. This sort of packaging stops the volatile solvents from escaping, leaving your product to dry out and shrivel.

If you remember the gel eyeliners in pots that were super popular 5 to 10 years ago – they’re a lot less popular now, because the same technology has now been turned into pencil form, in large part because of these packaging innovations. Pencils are a lot more practical as a product since you don’t have to carry a separate brush around or wash it. Again, this isn’t brand new – some brands have been making these sorts of pencils for years, but there are far more now.

For packaging with a good gas-tight seal, you need a hard component that mashes into a soft component with pressure. This is the same principle behind screw-tops, which create pressure between the hard top of a container and the soft seal inside of the lid.

(The video version which has more close-up shots of packaging examples is here.)

Most of these eyeliners have a thick lid that feels like it really jams on, with a sort of creaking feeling. They also often have thick bands inside the lid that act as a tighter seal:

smudgeproof eyeliner seal

No oily ingredients near the top of the ingredient list

This isn’t a complete dealbreaker, but in general if there are oily ingredients high on the ingredient list it’ll be riskier, because it’s a sign that the product might stay somewhat oily on your lids instead of drying down completely. With super oily lids, you don’t really want more oil!

The most common ingredient I’ve seen is dimethicone, which does make the product apply more smoothly.


Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner is my favourite transfer-proof eyeliner pencil. I kind of hate Revlon because they make really good eye products, then randomly discontinue them all the time. But I keep going back because they’re so good.

The older version that I also loved was a pencil in a sharpenable barrel, which is generally an easier form to make gastight, but these days wind-up products are more popular. It has the thick seal, and the bit that winds is the top half of the pencil. The crack where the two components join is just inside the seal, which limits any solvent evaporation. There are overall very few lines and gaps in the packaging. 

Maybelline Master Liner and Rimmel Scandal’Eyes Eye Definer are similar, but they’re less smudgeproof on me.

Merzy First Gel Eyeliner is another of my favourites. It’s another wind-up product, but even though the winding part is on the outside, it’s got a surprisingly good seal (the winding part is quite stiff). It also has a thick lid that jams on. 

These principles work for other makeup products that are transfer-proof too!

Many of these products were provided as PR samples in the past or were sent to me as part of sponsored posts, but as always these are my honest opinions. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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3 thoughts on “How to find transfer-proof eyeliner pencils”

  1. for me, hands down best eyeliner is Stila stay all day waterproof liquid liner. It’s a liquid pen with fine tip.

    I’ve tried Revlon, it smudges, and impossible to get a clean cat eye with that wonky sharpener.

    I don’t have oily skin, though. Just speaking from living in the tropics (Maui) and sweating/swimming with eyeliner.

    Michelle, love your posts. Keep up the good work

  2. thanks for this! I’m still on the search for the perfect liner. I prefer a light brown shade, which makes it extra hard to find.
    I did find a couple of good ones though:
    Ulta beauty’s own brand of gel eye liner in Bronze,
    and Haus Labs by Lady Gaga in Bronze Shimmer.
    you have to sharpen them but you get SO much more product out of it. it’s a way better bang for your buck. besides, I’ve had some twist-up liners break off at the base and fall out, or dry up on me (I’m looking at Sephora’s house brand there).

    • hi amy! not sure if you’ve looked into clio, but clio makes good gel liners in many shades of brown. Personally I love the gelpresso which comes in 5 shades of brown, and the sharp, so simple comes in a few shades of brown too. they’re both pretty good but smudges a tad bit on my super oily eyelids. but for most people they’re super long lasting! hope this helped in your search of the perfect liner.


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