Swap Out Your Drugstore Makeup For Clean & Natural Eyeliner
I tested + reviewed 10 clean, natural and organic kohl eyeliner brands and 3 natural liquid eyeliner brands. Read my reviews to find out which brands go on easily and have the most staying power. Plus, an eyeliner hack you don’t want to miss!
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My signature look in middle school was a thick line of bright purple eyeliner, and I wore that same crayon-like look all through high school. Luckily I’ve moved on from that look and swapped out the bright purple for charcoal, and I wear either charcoal or black eyeliner exclusively now.
Why did I make the switch to natural eyeliner?
According to the American Optometric Association (1), makeup debris and particles can get into the tear duct and other parts of the eye and can cause dermatitis, dry eye, blocked ducts and other reactions. So that means all the harmful chemicals in traditional makeup are making their way into your eyes.
Aside from getting makeup residue in your eyes, cosmetics and personal care products can enter the body through dermal exposure (2). With women and teenage girls using more personal care and cosmetic products than men, it comes as no surprise that women have higher urinary concentrations of phthalates, parabens and other concerning chemicals (3).
That’s where natural, clean and organic personal care and cosmetic products come in.
In a study of 100 adolescent girls, researchers measured levels of phthalates, parabens, triclosan and BP-3 in urine samples. After the study subjects used personal care and cosmetic products free of these chemicals, urine samples were taken again. The concentrations of these chemicals were reduced by up to 45% after just 3 days using products free from phthalates, parabens, triclosan and BP-3 (4).
That’s enough research right there to convince me to make the switch to clean, natural and organic skincare and cosmetics, and hopefully you’re ready to make the switch too. I tested 10 brands of natural, clean and organic eyeliners in search of the perfect one—one that went on smoothly and had staying power. And I found one that I love! Read on for what to look for in a clean eyeliner, reviews and my favorite brands.
WHAT TYPE OF EYELINER I USE
There are a few different kinds of eyeliner out there:
- Kohl eyeliner is like a pencil, and needs to be sharpened. I like to use a kohl eyeliner pencil since it gives my eyes a less harsh (or “soft”) look compared with liquid eyeliner, and I can still sharpen it so it goes on cleanly. The look is customizable since the eyeliner can be smudged with a q-tip. Kohl eyeliner is good for the “smoky eye” look too. Make sure to get a really good eyeliner sharpener. For years I had a cheap one that didn’t sharpen well. I can’t believe the difference a good sharpener makes. I sharpen my eyeliner about once a week. I find that it doesn’t need to be sharpened for every use.
- Twist-up eyeliner is convenient since it doesn’t need to be sharpened, but I find that the line is too wide to get good control. Maybe the first few times I use the twist-up it stays sharp and clean, but I don’t feel like the eyeliner stays sharp and clean for more than a few applications.
- Liquid eyeliner gives your eye popping definition, and if you want the “cat eye” look, this is the best type of eyeliner for that. The issue I have with liquid is that it’s harder to fix a mistake if you apply it wrong, and I also feel that it looks too painted-on and harsh. It’s fine for going out at night, but for everyday use, I much prefer a kohl eyeliner.
HOW TO APPLY EYELINER
I have completely switched up the way I apply eyeliner from when I first started. My old method of applying eyeliner involved pulling the skin tightly on the corner of my eye. With the skin tight, I would draw a line on the top lid. NO, NO, NO! This method stretches your skin, and who wants the skin near their eyes to stretch out and get all crepey?
Start with a sharp point or tip. I don’t need to sharpen my eyeliner every day (I do it about once a week), but the whole process of applying eyeliner goes so much smoother with a sharp tip.
The BEST method of applying eyeliner to your top lid is to look straight in the mirror when applying, taking care NOT to pull the skin tight on your eyelid. This is a one-handed job (your hand is holding the eyeliner, that’s it).
I start at the center of my lid and draw a line outward, toward the outer corner of my eye. The tip of your eyeliner should be as close to the roots of your lashes as possible. Your eyeliner should be creamy enough to go on easily in one line or a few short strokes, and you don’t need to wiggle the eyeliner forcibly back and forth.
For the second step, I draw a line from the center of my eyelid inward, toward the inner corner of my eye. You can use a q-tip to remove any errant marks and to help shape the line. Yes, it’s that simple! Remember, you don’t need to touch or pull any skin on your face to apply eyeliner. I learned this method from a talented makeup artist at Bobby Brown, and I’m glad I made the switch a long time ago. For everyday wear, I only line my top lid.
For a more dramatic look (special occasions, dinner out, etc.), I line my lower lashes, as well as my upper lashes, with eyeliner. For the lower lid, start at the outer corner and draw a line as close to your lash roots as possible. I draw the line on the top part of the roots (close to but not on the waterline) and correct with a q-tip. This line is drawn very thin, so make sure your eyeliner is sharp.
NATURAL KOHL EYELINERS TESTED
Antonym Certified Natural Eye Pencil
- Cost: $19
- EWG score: 1
- My take: This is updated, since noir (black) was not available during my first phase of testing. The noir (black) color is out of stock often, and there’s a good reason why. It’s now ,my favorite natural eyeliner pick. It went on smoothly and stayed on the longest out of all the eyeliners I tried. I highly recommend the Antonym Eye Pencil in Noir. I originally bought the steel color, which is a really pretty bluish gray. This eyeliner is hard to apply unless you use the blow dryer technique. If you heat it up, it applies fairly easily. The eyeliner kind of smudged and travelled up my lids—I actually didn’t mind since it looked like really pretty eyeshadow. I think steel is a very pretty color, but you just won’t get a defined line that stays in place all day. The bonus is that this eyeliner comes with a sharpener that is one of the best around. The sharpener works so much better than the one I was using before, and I’m glad it came with the eyeliner for free.
- From the Antonym website: A favorite among top makeup artists! Our certified natural water resistant eye pencil has a soft and smooth application and a rich color pay-off. The formula was created to provide a long lasting, waterproof coverage guaranteed to help you achieve your desired look. You can use the eye pencil to create a precise line on the upper eyelid to a perfect smudge for the a sultry, smoky eye. Made with ingredients that are of 100% natural origin, the pencil is free of preservatives and dermatologically approved, safe to use in the rim of the eye. Moisturizing ingredients and natural anti-oxidants of marula oil, jojoba oil, candelilla and carnauba are excellent for sensitive skin. The eye pencil includes a detachable, precision-made sharpener.
Lily Lolo Eye Liner (Black)
- Cost: $16
- EWG Score: This product does not have a score yet with EWG, but all of the ingredients scored either a 1 or 2 when looked up individually.
- My take: This was my second favorite eyeliner out of the ones I tested. I love that it’s one of the less expensive options out there too! The eyeliner went on smoothly and had one of the longest staying powers out of all the brands I tried. Even after exercise, most of the product stayed in place—it wore off a little, but the color didn’t fade. After a day of wearing, I would probably reapply if I was going out for a night on the town, but overall it had the longest lasting power. I would definitely buy this eyeliner again.
- From the Lily Lolo website: The NEW Vegan Lily Lolo Black Eye Liner pencil is an absolute makeup bag must have. Suitable for all eye colours. Enriched with organic moisturising and conditioning ingredients which are excellent for sensitive skin. Its soft and smooth application combined with a rich colour pay-off make our Natural Eye Pencil perfect to outline, define and enhance your eyes. Long lasting & non-drying formula, organic Jojoba oil: regulates the oil and moisture content of the skin, shea butter, canola oil: moisturising and ideal for skin protection, vitamin E: anti-ageing, vegan friendly, made with natural ingredients, gluten Free.
Alima Pure Natural Definition Eye Pencil (Ink)
- Cost: $18
- EWG score: 1
- My take: This eyeliner was came in second place for me. It went on fairly easily and smoothly, but not as much product stayed on as the Lily Lolo eyeliner after working out. I also noticed some of the product wore off after a day of desk work, but not as much as some of the other eyeliner brands I tested. I would consider buying this again.
- From the Alima Pure website: Natural Definition Eye Pencil is a long-lasting, natural eyeliner pencil made with soothing natural oils, waxes, and Chamomile extract to protect the delicate eye area. This eyeliner glides on smoothly, blends easily, and lasts all day. Not tested on animals. Vegan. Formulated without: gluten, fragrance, silicone, parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, phthalates, dimethicone, talc, bismuth oxychloride, and nanoparticles. Shelf life: 31 months before opening. 24 months after opening.
Inika Certified Organic Eye Pencil (Black Caviar)
- Cost: $22
- EWG score: 2
- My take: Inika formulates the prettiest black color (really rich and matte)—I just wish it didn’t wear off as easily. It went on smoothly, but I noticed some of the product wore off after a day of desk work. It helped when I heated this eyeliner up with the blow dryer before applying the second time I used it—more product stayed in place.
- From the Inika website: This Eye Pencil boasts a soft, silky-rich texture that glides on seamlessly and provides intense colour payoff. Crafted from natural plant-based ingredients and pure mineral pigments, it delivers even colour and allows for comfortable all-day wear. Formulated with Certified Organic Coconut oil for added softness and nourishment. A rich and creamy consistency is unparalleled in the world of natural liners. Suitable for sensitive eyes. Easy-glide formula makes achieving dramatic looks simple. Lasts all day. All INIKA products are 100% naturally derived, Certified Vegan & Cruelty Free.
W3LL People Hypnotist Eye Pencil (Black)
- Cost: $17.99
- EWG score: all 1’s and 2’s (EWG verified)
- My take: This is a decent eyeliner, but it wore off more quickly than I would have liked. It goes on fairly smoothly. The trick is to heat it up with your blow dryer for a smoother application and more staying power.
- From the W3LL People website: Professional performance in a vegan, premium non-toxic eyeliner! This gorgeous and lustrous ebony eye pencil glides on like a dream and offers a smooth, precise line for a perfectly defined eye. Easily blends create a seductive, smoky eye. Hypnotist is designed to be moisturizing and nourishing to the eye area without the harsh chemicals and skin-aging adhesives found in most eye cosmetics.
Burt’s Bees Nourishing Eyeliner Pencil (Soft black)
- Cost: $9.27
- EWG score: 1
- My take: This eyeliner is hard to apply unless you heat it up, and the color was more brown than black. I didn’t feel like it did a great job at keeping a solid line. It wore off after desk work (even after heating it up), so I would not recommend this eyeliner.
- From the Burt’s Bees website: Beautifully define your eyes with our fade- and smudge-proof Eyeliner Pencil. 99.9% natural and specifically formulated for your delicate eye area. Fade- and smudge-proof color that beautifully defines and enhances your eyes. Pencil is made of responsibly sourced cedar wood. Safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers; ophthalmologist tested. Formulated without parabens, phthalates, SLS, petrolatum or synthetic fragrances; not tested on animals.
Pacifica Natural Eye Pencil (Jet)
- Cost: $10.99
- EWG score: no score
- My take: This eyeliner went on smoothly and had a nice dark color, but it faded quickly.
- From the Pacifica website: This rich water-proof, buttery smooth eye pencil glides on smooth, delivering big color pay off with every stroke. The long-lasting natural formula provides hours of wear and contains beneficial ingredients great for sensitive eye areas. Eyeliner with natural ingredients and mineral colors. Water-resistant wear. 100% Vegan and Cruelty-Free. Formulated without carmine, phthalates, petroleum and silicone.
Ere Perez Jojoba Eye Pencil (black)
- Cost: $21
- EWG Score: no EWG score
- My take: This eyeliner was stubborn going on the first time, but went on smoothly after heating up with the blow dryer. Not a lot of product stayed on after a day’s worth of desk work. I would not buy this one again.
- From the Ere Perez website: Soft natural eyeliner pencil. A soothing formulation of oils including jojoba, known to nourish your skin and condition your lash. Gentle on eyes, suitable for sensitivities. Frame eyes or smudge for a smokey look. Practical design for easy application. Available in 10 tones.
Kjaer Weis Eye Pencil (Black)
- Cost: $30
- EWG score: no score.
- My take: I was expecting a lot more from the most expensive eyeliner I tried. It did not apply well, so I had to heat it up with the blow dryer. Even after that, it did not stay on well. I would not buy this eyeliner again.
- From the Kjaer Weis website: CCPB Certified Organic. Of the agriculturally derived ingredients in this product, a minimum of 95% comes from organic farming. Produced in Italy. Not tested on animals. Gluten Free. Shelf Life: 30 months before being opened. 12 months after being opened.