Gel eyeliner comparison with scientific methody stuff – Face of Australia, Essence and Mary Kay

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How to cite: Wong M. Gel eyeliner comparison with scientific methody stuff – Face of Australia, Essence and Mary Kay. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. May 31, 2013. Accessed June 22, 2024.

I love gel eyeliner’s longevity, user-friendliness and colour payoff, so naturally I was very excited when I was given the change to try out a limited edition gel eyeliner from Mary Kay. (I didn’t even know that Mary Kay were active in Australia, but it turns out they had 10 000 consultants in Australia in 2010, and have been here since 1971.)

Naturally, I wanted to work out how it compared to other gel eyeliners, so I pitted the Mary Kay eyeliner in Jet Black (M) against the two other blacks I own, Face of Australia Budge-Proof Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black (F, reviewed earlier here) and Essence Gel Eyeliner in Midnight in Paris (E, reviewed earlier here).

Colour payoff and wear test

As much as I’d like to have swatched the liners on my eyes for a more scientifically valid result, I couldn’t think of a way to conduct a fair test, with the same weather, activity level and part of the eye used (my eyeliner never wears off evenly, even between my two eyes). So inner wrist swatch it is! I applied these all using the brush that came with the Mary Kay liner (didn’t take a photo unfortunately – it resembles a retractable lip brush but isn’t retractable).

Original swatch:

Verdict: The Mary Kay one is the most pigmented, but it’s also the most newly opened. The Essence liner is almost a year old, so the pigmentation is really impressive! The FoA liner is pretty dark, but compared to the payoff wallop that the other two deliver, it looks weak in comparison (it’s as pigmented as I remember it being when I first tried it).

I attempted to reproduce my oily lids by dabbing a tiny bit of jojoba oil on my wrist after swatching, but the rest of the time I just let it sit under my sleeve while I did a ton of baking. Obviously, your eyes don’t get anywhere near this much rubbing, so it’s a lot more extreme treatment than what you’d get realistically, but it showed the differences between the liners quite well. I did a grid pattern inspired by Rowena in an attempt to even out the minor differences in movement/fabric contact on different parts of my arm (the whole shebang was about a square inch in size – it looked a bit like a nightclub stamp!).

Here’s my arm after 7 hours (under different lighting conditions):

Verdict: The Mary Kay liner wins in longevity, although the Essence puts up a good fight – its uneven wearing may be explained by the fact it’s older and a tad dried out. The FoA liner loses by quite a bit. As expected, full removal of all the liners needed waterproof eye makeup remover, and the Mary Kay gel liner needed a few more swipes to disappear from my arm completely.

Price comparison

FoA: $9.95 for ~1.9 mL, brush included (there’s no quantity on the container, so I had to get out my ruler and do some serious squinting – luckily it’s almost a perfect cylinder) = $5.2/mL

Essence: $5.95 for 3 mL, no brush = $2.0/mL; with brush (sold separately, $2.95) = $3.0/mL

Mary Kay: $27 for 4.5 g, brush included = $6.0/g

Verdict: Essence is the clear winner here in terms of value for money! Even though the Mary Kay liner looks exxy at first, it’s actually decent value for the amount you get (although obviously, it depends on whether you can get through it before it dries up…).


FoA’s gel liner is housed in a lightweight plastic container with a screw top lid, which contains a built-in brush.

Essence’s gel liner lives in a cylindrical glass jar with a plastic lid.

Mary Kay’s gel liner is in a very similar glass jar, with a shiny red metallic lid.

Verdict: Essence and Mary Kay are better for storage, but the glass jars with thick bottoms make them quite heavy if you want a purse/travel-friendly option. I’m undecided on which one I prefer.

Availability and colour range

FoA’s gel liners are conveniently available from Priceline, Kmart, Big W and pharmacies, as well as some online retailers (stockist info here). They’re available in 5 shades.

Essence gel liners are DISCONTINUED. Argh! They came in black, brown and silver, but it doesn’t matter because they’re been DISCONTINUED. I don’t know why Essence has to do this – I’ve seen so many HG declarations. It was a bit of a pain in the ass to find a liner which wasn’t dried up and cracked, or had a big finger dent in it (Target never seals their Essence products, grr), and that would’ve counted against their availability score, but again, that doesn’t matter because they’re YOU GET THE IDEA.

Mary Kay’s gel liner is limited edition (boo) and only comes in black in Australia, although some countries get teal as well. You can buy it from your local consultant who will come to your house (yay), or you can get it delivered from their online Beauty Direct service.

Verdict: Face of Australia is the most convenient option and has the best colour range, although if you’re largely house-bound during trading hours, Mary Kay is a decent option. Boo, Essence! Boo.

Overall: I wasn’t expecting to like the Mary Kay liner so much – I thought I’d found my HG in the Essence liner, and the price looked exorbitant at first glance, but it’s actually similar value to the Face of Australia offering (which I usually consider a budget brand), despite performing better in both intensity and longevity. The main drawbacks are the fact it’s limited edition, and only available in one colour – hopefully it’ll join the permanent range! Otherwise, FoA is the best option for shades and availability, or if you’re a commitment-phobe.

Did you enjoy this comparison post? Should I do more? Let me know in the comments below!

Mary Kay and Face of Australia gel liners were provided to me, which did not affect my opinion. Essence gel liner was purchased with my own money. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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8 thoughts on “Gel eyeliner comparison with scientific methody stuff – Face of Australia, Essence and Mary Kay”

  1. My holy grail gel eyeliner is Bobbi Brown. It’s hideously hideously expensive, but once I put it on it does not move anywhere. I regularly wear it for 16-18 hours in a row with no visible fading.

    Having said that I’ve only regularly used the grey and the cobalt blue. I have a twilight shimmer which is significantly less good, so I think the matte shades are the way to go, if you’re ever tempted to cough of $50 for them. (half that price in the US, Singapore etc)

    • The Essence one has been working really well for me – I’ve performed strenuous dance routines under hot spotlights in it! But if I can’t get that cheaply anymore I might have to upgrade… sigh.

  2. I love Essence gel eyeliners (I have black, brown, purple and green), but I don’t think the black and grey ones have been discontinued. Maybe it’s just your importer who decided not to get these pretties any more. The importer for Serbia had similar “brilliant” idea, but both eyeliners still exist on company’s very up to date website and I had seen them several weeks ago in stores in the Netherlands.
    Whatever the reason, it is bad you won’t be able to get these any more because they really are great value for money. All I can say is stock up. BTW, I put gel eyeliner on with Alverde bent eyeliner brush, and I use Essence eyeliner brush for cleanup around my nails.

    • Ugh! I’ll have to stock up on them in Europe then 🙁 Thanks for letting me know about the other colours – I’ll look out for them later in the year when I go overseas!

  3. Long time lurker here, I love your blog. Vedrana abone (I also love the Alverde bent brush) is right, the Essence ones haven’t been discontinued by the company, only some colours (I live in Germany, the mother land of Essence). It might be the fault of the importer in Australia.

    • Argh! We already don’t get so many things here, and now we’re having something taken away? *cries* Maybe it was because no one was buying them, since they always have finger dents in them cos of the no-seal issue? Just saying!


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