Cream Eyeliner vs. Gel Eyeliner

Get a thick cat-eye line with gel or cream eyeliner.

Photo: Ralf Nau/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The big cat eyes with the long swoops and heavy lines that run almost to your hairline are hot on the runways and easily applied to create your own runway moment. To achieve the smoky eyes, however, you need a steady hand and eyeliner that won’t run, smudge or drip. Cream and gel eyeliners are widely available in a range of colors. The differences are subtle, but could make a big difference in your final look.

Perfect Lines

There’s nothing worse than crooked, smudged or uneven eyeliner. According to makeup artist Rae Morris, messy eyeliner gives you a harsh look and can add years to your face. Creams tend to smudge a little easier, which may be suitable if you have round eyes and want to give them a more almond shape. Cream can settle into lines though and should be avoided if your eyelids have an abundance of creases. Gel dries quicker than cream eyeliner and works best when you’re in a hurry and want to get that perfect line.


Gel eyeliner comes in waterproof versions and is ideal if you plan to wear it all day and into the night. Additionally, even if you prefer the ease of cream liner on your upper lids, you may consider a combo application and put waterproof gel liner on your lower lids in case you let loose with any tears or have a tendency to leak when you yawn. Sweat also causes your eyelid glands to water, so stick with waterproof gels if you work up any kind of perspiration, especially if you’re hitting the dance floor. Creams, on the other hand, work well because they blend with the oiliness that usually builds up on your lids, which are the oiliest places on your whole face.


You can find creams in waterproof versions as well, which are ideal if you like to smudge your liner on purpose before setting it with a touch of loose powder. Cream eyeliners come with a wider brush than gel liners, which typically use a narrow, tapered brush. The wider brush you use with creams allows you to apply a thicker swath over your lids in just one stroke. With the skinny tapered brush, you may need to make a number of passes with the brush or use the gel to fill in the width of your cat-eye appearance. Smudging with a waterproof cream liner allows you to get a little more natural with your makeup and know that the style won’t run if your eyes start to leak a little.


For an optimal makeup bag, you may just want to carry one of each kind of eyeliner, and include a Kohl pencil for even more variety in the kinds of effects you can achieve. The ultra-thin brush you usually use with gel eyeliner can give you a subtle, thin line when you just want to accentuate your eyes and don’t necessarily want the retro cat-eyes effect. At the same time, a pencil is easy to use for quick touchups that you don’t have to wait around for as it dries. Pen-like applicators can make gel liner easy to carry around, but again, you’ll have to wait a few seconds for it to dry before you move on. Keep a full lineup of eyeliners so you can change your makeup to suit your mood, the occasion and your timing.

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