Point/Counterpoint: Liquid vs. Pencil Eyeliner


Welcome back to Point/Counterpoint—everybody's favorite, intermittent beauty debate column. Let's have the big conversations: if you’re going to use eyeliner, would you rather use a liquid or a pencil? On one side of the aisle is Utibe Mbagwu, ITG’s Social Media Coordinator and lover of all things liquid liner. On the other is Editorial Assistant Ali Oshinsky, who prefers the kind you can sharpen and blend. This is Point/Counterpoint. Fists up, folks. We're about to sling some mud.


Round 1: Versatility

Point, Ali: I'll just get right to it. My main qualm with liquid eyeliner is that I don’t know what to do with it other than a cat-eye, and cat-eyes… don’t look good on me. Or rather, I don’t like them on myself. Every makeup artist who’s ever done me up has elongated the shape of my eyes, and then I have to tell them I love it before rushing to the bathroom to wash everything off. When I do makeup on myself, I prefer to emphasize their roundness. It just feels more me. And with liquid liner, I may make it across the spread of my lid but once I get to the end the little felt tip/dip pot/flexi-brush has me backed into an ocular corner, and the only way out is with a flick. I’m a person who packs at least three pairs of shoes on weekend trips because I like options, so you can see why I’m having difficulty with this.

Counterpoint, Utibe: Ali! Before you banish yourself from the extremely chic world of cat eyes, have you watched this iconic video from Michelle Phan? The possibilities of what you can do with liquid liner are limitless, from Glossier ‘baby flick’ to Amy Winehouse wing. I cannot accept that you’ve tried every different type of cat eye and hated them all–have you tried swapping out black for a natural brown? I personally think you’d be into making your face into a neon, minimalist work of line-art. Liquid liners are inspiring—you can express yourself with them. With the right approach, you can make anything, even liquid eyeliners, feel like you. You already know how to do it, too. Liquid liners are versatile. Pencils, not so much.


Round 2: Wear

Point, Utibe: Why not choose the eyeliner that actually gets the job done? And by that I mean, stay put, resist fading, and show up on your eyelids no matter how dry or moisturized they may be. The eyeliner I wear must make my lovely brown eyes instantly brighter, or what’s the point? Liquid eyeliners are always up for the task, plus you won’t need to lug around a mechanical pencil sharpener in your bag like it’s the third grade. Ali, I’m grown!

Counterpoint, Ali: OK, I’m willing to admit that sharpeners are clunky and often explode. Plus, sure, maybe liquid liners have a longwear reputation for a reason. But, what happens when they stay where you don’t want them? What if you apply your wing, and without even thinking, take a good, hard blink. What then? I’ll tell you what: you’ve got a half-moon shape on the wrinkle above your crease for the rest of the afternoon. Liquid liners may stay longer, but I can’t be convinced they wear as well as pencil. They’ve been known to flake, or transfer—I’d take an artful smudge of pigment that just disappears over a 4PM why didn’t anyone tell me I looked like this panic attack in the communal work bathroom. Just sayin’.


Round 3: Ease Of Application

Point, Ali: At the end of the day, I’m tired, you’re tired—can’t we just agree on which eyeliner is easiest? It’s pencil, obviously. I would say I have a steady hand, and even I have trouble using liquid liner every now and then. It’s just too messy, too uncontrollable, too...liquidy. Whereas a pencil—old school as it might be, I've got that thing (literally) under my thumb. You don't have to wait for it to set, which is why you can use a pencil in your waterline and not a liquid. (Utibe, have you ever flipped up your top lid and tightlined your upper waterline? Your lashes look instantly thicker, and you don't even need mascara—it’s life-changing.) Plus, beyond staying put where you put it, a pencil is forgiving. So, even if your hands have a little shake to ‘em, you don’t have to get over the double trauma of not being able to perform surgery as a career and not being able to apply eyeliner at 7AM. If the line’s not perfect, pish posh! Who cares! You can’t even tell! And if you can tell, just smudge it out until it looks perfectly imperfect in that cool, soft, slept-in kind of way. You can’t tell me you can get the job done faster with a liquid.

Counterpoint: Utibe: Sure, I’ll admit liquid liners can be drippy. But for every liquid eyeliner that’s too messy, there’s a pencil liner making tugged, semi-opaque dashes across my eyelid. Not even a couple layers of mascara can fix that. Still, I hear what you’re saying about control, and to that I say: It’s all in the mind and, more importantly, the brush. Wobbly hands should stay far away from inkwell and sponge brushes and head straight for liquid liners with a felt or brush tip. The liquid liners that have reached holy grail status for me have a flexible brush and a never-dull tip to hug my lash line and draw the finest flick without headache. Of course, good things don’t come easy, and there is a learning curve. A Scotch Tape or some spare Q-tips make excellent training wheels for the liquid-averse. And then, keep going! Soon you’ll achieve that otherworldly feat of acing your liquid liner application the first time through, and you’ll take over the world. Isn’t that what beauty is all about?

So, who won this time? Let’s continue in the comments.

Photo via ITG