1. Determining the difference. Everyone has seen pencil eyeliner before; it resembles the type of graphite pencil that you write with. Because it’s a familiar utensil, it’s the type of liner I’ve always been most comfortable with. A variety of pencil eyeliners are available; some are soft and some are harder; some need to be sharpened manually and others twist up. Cream eyeliner hasn’t been around as long and isn’t as popular, but I find it’s a very versatile product. Most cream eyeliners come in a small pot and are applied with a small, angled brush. I like cream eyeliners because they give you more control and flexibility.
2. Deciding what you want out of a liner. The best eyeliner for you depends upon what type of look you’re trying to achieve and what you feel most comfortable using. It has been my experience that some pencil liners stay put longer than cream eyeliner, but this depends on the brand. Liquid typically lasts longer than cream or pencil, but it often looks less natural and can be more difficult to apply. I recommend having several options in your makeup bag, as each type of liner can be used to achieve different looks.
3. Advantages of pencil liner. I use a gel twist-up pencil liner for my average daily makeup routine. I like it because it’s quick and easy to apply—who has time to fuss with her look in the morning? It doesn’t provide a very dramatic look, but then I’m not looking for dramatic on the average day. I prefer the soft, twist up versions because they smudge better than harder versions and aren’t as sharp (super sharp pencil liner can’t be good for the delicate eye area).
4. Advantages of cream liner. I reserve my cream eyeliner for times when I want a more dramatic look for a special occasion or a night out. Many cream liners come with a brush, but I prefer a stiff angled brush that I purchased at Sephora. I like cream liners because they give me more control and are really versatile in the types of looks that I can create. Applying cream eyeliner is also very gentle on the delicate eye area.
The bottom line: Both cream and pencil eyeliners have their advantages. Choosing your best eyeliner will depend upon the method of application that you prefer and the type of look you want to create. Try experimenting with both—you will likely find different occasions for each.