If you’ve ever drawn on an immaculate cat-eye and then stepped back to admire your artistry, only to blink and have your hard work be destroyed due to oily eyelids, you are not alone. It can happen to the best of us. Which is why we're here to talk about the best eyeliners for oily lids—they're truly an essential.
Oily eyelids can wreak havoc on our makeup routines, whether you’re a makeup newbie or a pro. “A common occurrence is the transfer of mascara to the upper lid, as well as runny eyeliner, and the separation of eyeshadow pigments on the eyelid,” explains Neil Scibelli, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with Elle Macpherson, Molly Sims, and John Legend. The good news is, there are ways to tame our oily lids so that we can wear eyeliner without fear, whether it’s adjusting our skin-care routine or finding the best makeup products to use—or a mix of both.
- Ellen Marmur, Dr. Ellen Marmur is a NYC-based dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare.
- Neil Scibelli, New York City-based celebrity makeup artist
- Parisa Jalalat, Dr. Parisa Jalalat is a Los Angeles-based optometrist.
- Sheila Farhang, MD, board-certified dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, reconstructive Mohs micrographic surgeon, and founder of Avant Dermatology in Arizona
What causes oily eyelids?
First, we have to understand what oily lids actually are. Dr. Ellen Marmur, the NYC-based dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare, says that oily eyelids can often be misunderstood. “Usually the culprit is sweat, not oil. The skin on the eyelids has sebaceous glands and sweat glands, but the oil glands of the eyelid called meibomian glands are anatomically inside the edge of the eyelid just beneath the lashes,” she says.
Because people can confuse a shiny eyelid for oil rather than sweat, Dr. Marmur says that they may be tempted to put harsh products on this thin, sensitive skin leading to irritant contact dermatitis, chalazions, and extra red wrinkly skin. “Try a product formulated for the eyelids like Bright & Tight with gentle retinol to normalize the skin, and help create a more youthful appearance." Dr. Marmur adds, "My fave beauty hack for sweaty, greasy-feeling eyelids is to dab a tiny bit of your gentle antiperspirant on each upper lid—but make sure it is a tiny bit so you don't get it into your eyes. This should help reduce the sweat and absorb the moisture!”
If the issue is indeed oil overproduction, it might be the result of using harsh soaps and cleansers that dry out and strip the skin, or something more serious, like meibomian gland dysfunction, known as MGD, or blepharitis, a condition that affects the production and quality of oil from the meibomian glands along the lid margin. “MGD/ blepharitis is multifactorial and can be caused by skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and ocular rosacea,” explains Dr. Parisa Jalalat, a Los Angeles-based optometrist.
“Also, bacteria and debris buildup from poor lid and lash hygiene, deposits on contacts lenses, oily serums, heavy lotions and lash extensions can clog and inflame the meibomian glands.” Dr. Sheila Farhang, Founder of Avant Dermatology and Aesthetics in Tucson (and sister of Dr. Jalalat), points out that certain skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, aka dandruff, or rosacea, could also cause oily skin from an overproduction of oil. “It’s important to be mindful of environmental and lifestyle causes of oily lids including humidity and touching or rubbing eyelids,” she says.
How to treat oily eyelids
To help control oily lids, both Dr. Farhang and Dr. Jalalat says that it’s all about maintaining good lid and lash hygiene. “Use micellar water, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water For Oily Skin for eye makeup removal,” advises Dr. Farhang. For your AM and PM routine, Dr. Jalalat suggests using a gentle face cleanser to wash the lids, like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, while targeting the lid margin. “After washing the lids, spray your lids and lashes with hypochlorous acid, like OCuSOFT Hypochlor Hypochlorous Acid Solution Spray. This is a key ingredient that is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and can help treat blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction,” she says. If you're worried about oil overproduction, you can always discuss it with your healthcare provider.
Now that you have your oily lid skincare routine taken care of, it’s time to figure out what to do about that runny eyeliner. For starters, Scibelli suggests using a great mattifying eyeshadow primer. “This will ensure your product stays on the lid all day. I really like MAC Prep + Prime 24-hr Extend Eye Base. It helps to lock in shadow, and you can even use some right under the lower eye line before applying your liner to prevent smudging,” he says.
With all of these tips, your eyelids will be oil-free in no time. All you need to know is which eyeliners to stock up on. Ahead, find the best eyeliners for oily lids, with some recs from our experts.
The Best Eyeliners for Oily Lids
Urban Decay’s beloved gel eyeliners are Scibell’s “go-to’s” for longwear and for oily skin types. “They glide on easily and stay on all day,” he says. They come in pretty much every color imaginable, as well as four with a glam glitter finish. Our favorites are “Perversion,” which is the blackest of black, and “Chaos,” a loud cobalt blue that adds a fun pop of color to any ensemble.
There’s a chance Revlon’s ColorStay liquid liner was one of your first forays into the liquid eyeliner world—and that’s because it’s a classic. This is also another one of Scibelli’s favorites: “They come in a range of wearable colors and truly hold up with their smooth waterproof formula.” Our go-to is this jet black, since it’ll give you a tried-and-true cat eye that won’t budge.
Dr. Marmur loves this affordable and long wearing gel eyeliner pencil for people with oily lids. “Tap a little eyeshadow in the same color over it to set it,” she says. This formula lets you seamlessly glide on bold and vibrant colors (without having to draw the same line over and over to get the pigment just right), and it’s designed to last 36 hours without smudging.
Wear this as an eyeliner or smudge it for a stunning eyeshadow look—either way, sweat or oil are no match for its long-lasting formula. Even better? Your lids will be moisturized and protected thanks to skincare ingredients like vitamin C and E. It comes in 13 gorgeous neutral shades.
Finally, an eyeliner made for actual sweaty activities…like sports! And sex! This vegan gel liner contains hydrating coconut oil for a smooth application, but is fade-resistant for up to eight hours. It also features a built-in sharpener, so you won’t have to worry about keeping a separate one on hand.
Lady Gaga’s beauty brand Haus Laboratories offers us an easy-to-apply, long lasting gel pencil that comes in a gorgeous variety of 20 shades to create fun, Euphoria-inspired looks.
Whenever we wear this pencil liner, we feel so…posh (sorry, we had to). Our senior commerce editor (who has naturally oily eyelids) has been testing this liner for about a month, and whether it’s ultra hot out (it was recently 90 degrees in Los Angeles), or she forgot to apply primer, she’s noted that this stuff just will not budge. Waterproof and smudge-free, this creamy formula has a blendable application, so you can go with clean and crisp lines, or a more smokey look. It’s also enriched with vitamin E, B5, and chamomile extract, all of which hydrate and calm the skin (also, no flakiness—ever). Bonus: It’s dermatologist and ophthalmologist-tested. Pro-tip: The olive shade is really, really pretty (and just dark enough to use if you’re usually a jet black liner person).
These rich, smudge-proof, kajal liars are formulated with antioxidant skincare ingredients like aloe vera extract and vitamin E complex. Get it in five different shades (the black, “Nazar No More” is gorgeous, but the navy blue, “Rain Check,” gives us major heart eyes).
If you’re dreaming of a highly pigmented, jet-black liner that does even more than the perfect cat-eye, you’ll want to try this brand-new liquid liner. It’s not only transfer-proof, but is made with a lash conditioning serum that gives fuller, longer lashes in just two months.
A cruelty-free, vegan, waterproof liquid liner that is super pigmented and easy to use? Truly the eyeliner of dreams. Thanks to its precise (yet flexible) tip, every swipe gives you clean lines. Want your line to be a bit thicker? Just press down more, and the Epic Ink will deliver. Bonus: It’s under $10.
This waterproof gel liner comes in a ton of beautiful shades, and won’t flake off no matter how many hijinks you get yourself into, as it can last for up to 36 hours and is transfer-resistant.
Liquidlast has been around forever (if it was your first splurge-y eyeliner, join the club!), and is still one of the strongest, stay-put liquid eyeliners out there. Since the tip is very fine, it does require some application practice—but once you get it down, you’ll be left with the boldest, MUA-level eyeliner artistry. Ophthalmologist-tested, transfer-resistant, and waterproof, this liquid liner is an essential for folks with oily lids.
Looking for a long-lasting eyeliner that resists water, goes on smooth, has moisturizing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, AND is made without parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates? Thrive’s famous liner will be your new favorite.
This stuff is basically a removable eyeliner tattoo, so it’s truly made for the oiliest of eyelids. With its special Fixerset technology, this gel eyeliner sets in just 10 seconds, ensuring you have a bulletproof liner that looks crisp for hours. When you want to take it off, you’ll need to use an oil-based cleanser or remover.
Eyeliner fans swear by this classic liquid liner for precise cat-eye that lasts all day. It’s not only waterproof and long-lasting, but it’s easy to use even if you “suck” at eyeliner. Its felt tip is precise but feels more like a marker than a brush, and as long as you store it tip-down, it’ll always stay saturated with ink (until it runs out, but it takes awhile!)
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