I am an eyeliner addict. I have a fairly extensive collection of eyeliners — pencils, liquids, felt tips, brush tips, glitters, etc. I may use liquid liners most often, but I am partial to pencil eyeliner. I recently discovered EM Michelle Phan's Waterliner pencils, which have a unique, rich pigment that is relatively budge-proof. The dark shades were made to define while the light shades were intended to brighten. Today I will share swatches of all my favorite pencil eyeliners and provide comparisons to dozens of others, so check them out after the jump!
FORMULAS & WEAR TIME
My favorite permanent pencil liners are the Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill WP ($28 USD), EM Michelle Phan Waterliner ($20 USD), and By Terry Crayon Kohl Terrybly ($34 USD).
Giorgio Armani has the most limited color selection with only brown and black, while the By Terry line-up has some gorgeously pigmented shimmers like Blue Vision and Brown Stellar. The EM Michelle Phan color range, however, offers the most variety in colors and finishes at an affordable price point. Since I have hooded eyes, all these pencils are best kept closely along the lash lines to prevent transferring. I usually wear my liquid eyeliner thick, but with pencil, a thin line is the way to go. The EM Waterliners wear time on the waterline does varies. The lighter colors like Sunshine Yellow and In the Nude last around 3 to 5 hours, while the brighter metallics and darks last around 6 to 7 (in comparison to Armani's 8 or 9) before significant fading occurs. I highly recommend wearing mascara on your lower lashes to lock the color in place.
The Waterliners do last all day on my lash lines and can be sealed into place with a coordinating powder eyeshadow when I want to sport a thicker eyeliner look (to prevent transferring). Urban Decay offers the widest color selection, but UD pencils are a little too emollient and generally slip off my waterlines within an hour. As you will see in the swatches, their pencils are some of the sheerest, and I layered those a couple more swipes than any of the others. Although I own more Urban Decay, I prefer the MUFE Aqua Eye pencils since I have experienced better pigmentation and less transferring with the Make Up For Ever products. EM Michelle Phan's pencils are best matched up to MUFE's in terms of the shade range and textures, but I prefer the retractable packaging and the smudger sponge/sharpener of the Waterliner that is reminiscent of the Lancôme Le Stylo Wateproof's styling.
SWATCHES & COLOR COMPARISONS
I will begin with the shimmery blacks and move on to the basic matte blacks. EM's Black Olive is a medium black with an olive-tinged base. MAC's Pearlglide Eyeliner in Black Line has a softer formula with a deeper black base, and the higher concentration of gold shimmer allows it to reflect warmer. The Pearlglide formula, however, should not be used in the waterlines. Black Olive and Black Line are very much black pencils, not green as the term 'olive' might suggest. Just keep in mind that only Black Olive should be used in the waterline.
Now, it is no secret that I am helplessly devoted to Giorgio Armani's Eyes to Kill Waterproof Eye Pencil, which is actually labeled as the Waterproof Smooth Silk Eye Pencil on the physical product (causing major confusion). Despite the problem with the name, the GA pencil is undoubtedly the creamiest, richest black eyeliner I have ever encountered. It is also the most water-resistant and almost entirely transfer-resistant once it sets. The EM Cosmetics Black Night Waterliner pencil is the next best option since it easily layers for color as dark as Armani's. It does bleed at the corners after four or five hours, but it is still the best alternative to Armani's pencil. I swatched all the basic black pencils with just one swipe each to show the true nature of their pigmentation in the photo below.
I also like the new Shu Uemura Lasting Soft Gel pencil in 01 Black M. It, however, has a really firm formula that is not ideal for sensitive eyes. The pencil is also incredibly slim, which is great for those that prefer ultra-fine eyeliner looks, but it requires more layering than any of the other pencils in the waterline. Urban Decay's pencil in Zero has the sheerest formula, though it glides on easily in comparison to Shu Uemura's. UD's Perversion is darker than Zero, though not as inky or as silky as Armani's (no comparison there), but it smudges within mere minutes of application. I know it works well for some, but Perversion tops the list of my "popular eyeliners to avoid" list.
Let's move on to the colors! EM's Turquoise is a phenomenally vibrant metallic, a true turquoise. MAC's So There Jade is softer metallic, more seafoam-blue than turquoise, while Urban Decay's Graffiti is a warm grass green with large silver glitters. Urban Decay's Covet (more green) and MUFE Aqua Eyes in 52L (more teal) are somewhat similar from what I can tell, but I do not own them. My beloved Laura Mercier Caviar Stick (eyeshadow) in Turquoise would be the closest dupe, but it was a limited edition item and unfortunately is no longer available. I own nothing remotely like EM's Emerald in eyeliner form since all are either too khaki or grassy. The MUFE Aqua Eyes pencil in 20L
seems to be is noticeably less vibrant and metallic in comparison and is also more pine than emerald. I do not own it, but I went to Sephora just to take a look!
Purple is one of the most difficult colors in cosmetics to perfect, but EM's Royal Amethyst knocked my socks off. It is creamy, smooth, and boasts a brilliantly cool purple color. The only pencil that compares is MAC's Pearlglide in Designer Purple, but it cannot be used in the waterlines due to the large shimmer particles, which will irritate the eyes (especially contact lens wearers like me). It also has a warmer and slightly deeper hue, which translates to a smokier look on my eyes. Urban Decay's Asphyxia is more pink than purple and contains large blue shimmers while UD's Ransom is sheer and more violet than EM's Royal Amethyst.
EM's Teal Tease did not stike a chord with me at first, since I prefer greens, but I have since had a change of heart. I only own bright blues like Urban Decay's Electric or navy blues like By Terry's Blue Vision, so EM's Teal Tease fills the gap between the two. The MUFE Aqua Eyes in 12L is the most similar, but it has a more pearly silver finish with smokier blue base (less green). Then we have Amazing Grey, which is a flattering, soft and warm charcoal that is easily buildable on the eyes. Urban Decay's Uzi is most similar but the base is cooler and translates more black-charcoal. Both are good alternatives to black eyeliner, especially on cool-toned blondes.
Browns and bronzes are my favorite eyeliner colors to wear on casual days and weekends. They are less maintenance and more flattering against my warm undertones, especially when all I am wearing is foundation. EM's Bronze Kiss is most similar to Lancôme's Le Stylo Waterproof in Bronze. I prefer Bronze Kiss for the exceptionally smooth and more unique metallic finish, but Bronze is more matte with only a hint of shimmer, which is better for a work environment. EM's Chocolate Dream is truly an eyeliner addict's dream. It is the creamiest matte color in the Waterliner range. Given a choice between Chocolate Dream and Black Night, I would take Chocolate Dream without a moment's hesitation. I love Lancôme's Chocolate Affair, but it is noticeably more grey toned. MAC's Technakohl pencil in Photogravure is most similar to EM's Chocolate Dream in terms of color, but Photogravure is more dry in texture.
Last but not least, we have the lightest and brightest of the Waterliners. Sunshine Yellow is my personal favorite, since it is the palest of golds. It is a very soft and sophisticated alternative to darker golds like MUFE's 9L [Note: I prefer MUFE pencils to UD's, both $19 USD each]. Both Sunshine Yellow and 9L are metallic in finish and look incredible on the lower lash lines!
Ro's Gold is EM's best selling Waterliner, and it is easy to see why. Most "rose gold" eyeliners tend to lean too peach or too pink, but Ro's Gold is well balanced. I love to wear this one on the lower lash lines and waterlines for a subtle and very feminine brightening effect. It is most similar to the highly exclusive, luxury Japanese brand THREE's 01 Eye Love Flash Performance Eyeliner Pencil (full review here). THREE is difficult to access in America unless you are willing to pay high mark-ups, so try EM's Ro's Gold first. I also included a comparison swatch of Giorgio Armani's limited edition and now discontinued Copper waterproof pencil.
My least favorite of the Waterliners is In The Nude, which is a little too subtle on my waterlines. It brightens up my eyes effectively, but for once can say I prefer a MAC product. The Chromagraphic Pencil in NC15/NW20 ($16 USD) is creamier, with full coverage payoff. Those that prefer a more natural effect, more suitable for the workplace, might try In The Nude first. Edit: Unfortunately, the Chromographic pencil in NC15 doesn't seem to be available online any more and may have been discontinued.
To wrap up the review, here are my personal preference rankings for the collection of Waterliners featured:
TOP TIER - Royal Amethyst, Turquoise, Emerald, Chocolate Dream
MID TIER - Sunshine Yellow, Ro's Gold, Bronze Kiss, Black Night
LOW TIER - Teal Tease, Amazing Grey, Black Olive, In The Nude
Bottom Line: EM Michelle Phan Waterliners may not be perfect, but the lovely color selection as well as the easily identifiable and economical retractable packaging make them some of the best mid-range eyeliner pencils on the market to date!