Universally Flattering Look: Brown Eyeliner

Black eyeliner is a staple in every makeup artist’s (or makeup addict’s) kit. It’s classic and can be used to obtain a variety of looks, from a demure 50’s wing to a thick, smudgy ring à la Nancy Spungen or Joan Jett. I am not here to smack talk black liner. I just want to open eyes to alternative possibilities. Alternative possibilities like brown eyeliner.

Hear me out.

Brown is ultra-versatile. It comes in both warm- and cool-based tones to flatter a variety of skin types. While black is sometimes appear jarring against pale skin, brown can impart a softer look. With a growing selection of shades and levels of opacity, there is a brown liner out there for everybody. I’ve culled a list of favorites, as well as created two flattering looks using brown eyeliners.

For dark skin tones:

For medium skin tones:

  • Urban Decay 24/7 Liner in Demolition comes in both pencil and liquid varieties. It’s a smooth, matte brown that looks great on skin with either yellow or pink undertones. Plus, it will stay on through a hurricane.
  • Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Liner in Sepia Ink is a warm, tobacco-colored reddish-brown. Individuals with medium or fair-to-medium and yellow undertones would look effortlessly glamorous with this liner in a thin wing, and the warm color contrasts will make eyes pop for blue-eyed babes.

For pale skin tones: 

For all skin tones:

  • Sephora Collection Color Proof Waterproof Liquid Liner in 03 Matte Brown is dark enough to be dramatic, but not so dark as to be distracting. Its neutral base works on a variety of tones. If you’re comfortable with liquid liner but not sure which brown works for you, this product is a safe bet. You can see it in action in the pictures below.
  • Sephora Collection Contour Eye Pencil 12HR Wear Waterproof in 12 Cappuccino, 13 Tiramisu and 14 Cocoa are all fabulous browns, with 12 being the most yellow, 13 being fairly neutral and 14 being a bit purple-tinged.  These ultra-waterproof pencils are great for a softer, smudgy line with outstanding staying power.
  • Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Maya is the brown shade of the formula I have previously raved about. If I had to make a sales pitch in three words, I would say “buy it now.” Unfortunately, it would appear as though Sephora is no longer carrying this color. Hopefully they bring it back, but in the meantime, Maya can be found on eBay.
  • I understand that not everyone wants to spend $15-20 on a single eyeliner, especially if it’s a product outside of his/her comfort zone. Rimmel Exaggerate Waterproof Pencil in 211 Sable is fantastic quality at a drugstore price. It’s a deep, neutral matte brown that glides on well, can be smudged with the pencil’s built-in sponge tip, and sets into a long-wearing line. I also used this product for the pictures below.

Aaaaaand here’s the lineup:

Fun doodles swatches

In the above picture, I used the Rimmel pencil on top and the Sephora liquid liner on the bottom. I may have gotten a bit carried away with the swatches.

Smudgy fun with Rimmel Exaggerate

Despit how easy it was to blend out that smokey line, you’d better believe this shit is waterproof. Once it set, it did not move. Not one bit. For a cheap Walgreens purchase, this is a better pencil than some of the Lancôme ones I’ve tried.

This photo is giving off some seriously frightening Clockwork Orange vibes. Please ignore scary eyes and look at that pristine liner.

Did I forget one of your favorite brown liners? Please name it in the comments!


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