black eyeliner
A model is photographed backstage during Milan Fashion Week.

It feels fair to say that black eyeliner is a touchy subject for many. I am among those makeup-lovers who feel naked without inky wings but positively fearful about trying my hand at a smudged look, à la Meghan Markle’s signature above-the-neck glam. Perhaps my anxiety about sooty liner stems from my middle school days in the early aughts, when my peers and I had a one-step beauty routine that I now cringe at: pressing dark pigment into our waterlines and calling it a day. As I grew up and my makeup bag expanded from a single pencil to an entire regimen, I abandoned kohl entirely. But now, per the Fall-Winter 2021 runways, black eyeliner is back and bound to reclaim a space in my beauty routine all over again.

That’s not to say, though, that every high-fashion black eyeliner moment looked the same during the FW21 presentations and live-streamed shows. At Marine Serre and Victoria Beckham, makeup artists ever so slightly smudged dark pigment on models’ upper and lower lash lines for a subtle, eye-opening effect. In contrast, dramatic kohl-rimmed liner at Sandy Liang and Christian Cowan gave the designers’ head-turning ensembles a run for their money. For further proof just look to Chanel’s just-released collection, as seen below, for which Lucia Pica accented slick-straight hair with intense hand-drawn etchings—no two alike.

Ahead, shop the best black eyeliner pencils—from a classic kohl option to an easy-to-apply gel formula—to experiment with at home.

the classic Kohl pencil…

kohl-rimmed eyeliner
LE CRAYON KHÔL INTENSE EYE PENCIL, $45 VIA MYER. SHOP NOW

the waterproof formula…

black eyeliner
YSL BEAUTY DESSIN DU REGARD WATERPROOF EYELINER PENCIL IN BLACK, $51 VIA YSL BEAUTY. SHOP NOW

the four-in-one BLACK EYEliner…

black eyeliner
SHISEIDO KAJAL INK ARTIST SHADOW, LINER, BROW IN BLACK, $38 VIA MECCA. SHOP NOW

the crayon with intense pigment payoff…

black eyeliner
MARC JACOBS HIGHLINER GEL EYE CRAYON IN BLACK, $37 VIA SEPHORA. SHOP NOW
thoughts?