The 17 Best Natural & Nontoxic Eyeliners + Why You Should Go Clean

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.

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There are three natural makeup items I get asked about the most: mascara that doesn't bleed, a creamy true red, and liner that won't smudge. All these are notoriously hard in the nontoxic, natural space, as most people want staying power and rich pigment, both things that are hard to formulate without using less than ideal ingredients, like carbon black for color and preservatives in liquid liners.

Why you should switch to a cleaner eyeliner.

People often assume lipstick or foundation is the most important product when in search of clean: The former because it's by the mouth and foundation because it covers a wide area of skin. Personally, I always assumed because liners or mascaras covered such a small surface area, it couldn't be that bad. However, research has shown that of the beauty categories that are important to switch over to clean versions, eye makeup might be the most important, as the eye area has been shown to absorb the chemicals it comes into contact with, according to research from reproductive epidemiologist Kim Harley, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley. The good news is that after research participants switched to clean personal care products, the presence of chemicals like parabens and phthalates decreased by up to 45% in three days.

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How to find one that's right for you.

Eyeliners, however, have another issue: application. I don't think many would argue with me saying that it is the hardest cosmetic to apply. (A friend and I joke that eyeliner can sense your fear.) To start, there are so many types of eyeliners, and each one has a different technique and finish. Then there's the fact that liner takes a precision that things like blush and foundation just don't. And, finally, for many people, it's not an everyday product, making practice inconsistent at best.

So if you are in the need of a liner, here's what you can do. First, decide what sort of "eye look" you want: This will all depend on how intense and sharp the final result should be. A clean flick? You'll need something jet black, fine-tipped, and inky. A subtle smudge to create a base for mascara? A less harsh gray or brown soft pencil will do the trick.

Here, we gathered the very best natural options and what they are suited for:

W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Liquid Liner

This will give you the sleekest cat-eye, thanks to the smooth formula and felt tip. (Felt tips are firmer than brushes, so they're easier to draw with, which makes them great for anyone.) And this sticks around like the best of them and is water-resistant (not waterproof, so it will wash off). The key that everyone forgets about liquid options? Let it dry for at least 10 seconds before moving, applying another coat, or topping it with mascara. Also, unless you're a pro, it's best to draw on a flick with short strokes, rather than one long go of it.

Expressionist Liquid Eyeliner, W3LL PEOPLE ($17.99)

Jane Iredale Mystikol Powdered Eyeliner

Powder eyeliners have always been my go-to, so I'm partial to Jane Iredale's handy creamy-powder hybrid. The all-in-one set comes with a soft, dense liner pod that can do it all: a tight lash line to dramatic night look, if you are so inclined. This powder works so well because it's slightly wet already (most powders you need to wet before applying), so you can simply dab and apply. Plus, the brush is right in the cap: Pull off the narrow end of the top, and flip it around for the oval-shaped tip.

Mystikol Powdered Eyeliner, Jane Iredale ($24)

Jillian Dempsey Eyeliner

There is nothing more classic than a kohl eyeliner pencil. It drags on dark and smooth with the most satisfyingly easy smolder. These are ideal for when you want your eyeliner to be noticeable but not overly dramatic. An old makeup artist hack for kohl pencils used to be to warm it up a bit by rubbing the capped tip between your palms—so it was softer—but this is made with jojoba and marula oils, so it needs no extra help: It's about as velvety as they come.

Eyeliner, Jillian Dempsey ($20)

ILIA Pure Eyeliner

Colored eyeliners were originally created to help bring out your natural hue. But they've gotten more popular of late just as a playful touch in an unexpected place that isn't too bold (unless you're doing a neon liner, most shades are really very subtle). Navy blue, a deep plum, and emerald green tend to be the most wearable—which ILIA has in their collection, plus a sparkly gold-and-black option just for fun.

Pure Eyeliner, ILIA ($24)

Antonym Natural Certified Natural Pencil Noir

For those with sensitive skin and eyes, liners are challenging or off-limits altogether. This classic black pencil, made with candelilla and carnauba, is dermatologist-approved for those with sensitivities as well as for the water line (generally a no-no for a lot of liners).

Natural Certified Natural Pencil Noir, Antonym ($19)

bareMinerals One Fine Micro Precision Liner

There are times that call for nothing more than glowing skin, hydrated lips, and a coat of mascara. On those days, the fastest way to look put-together, without looking "done," is a matte black etching of liner across the lash line. It adds a nice thickening base for your mascara but doesn't look like you are wearing anything at all. This ultrafine cream pencil gives you just that—no hassle, no fuss.

One Fine Micro Precision Liner, bareMinerals ($19)

INIKA Certified Organic Eye Pencil

This dazzling emerald shade is sophisticated and playful. It's a little less daring than a cobalt blue and yet still so eye-catching. But fans of this pencil collection rave for its long-lasting wearability: This won't disappear or melt as the day goes on, which makes it perfect for everyday use.

Certified Organic Eye Pencil, INIKA ($22)

Omina Long Stay Vegan Cream Eyeliner Pot

This jet black liner will give you a look that ranges from barely there to thick, thick, thick. Because it's in a pot, you have more control of the outcome: Simply find a liner brush that suits your needs, and sweep this on eyes. For a sharp line, use a thin, small brush with precision. Or use a wider brush, press it in, and blend it as needed (make sure to do it before the formula dries.)

Long Stay Vegan Cream Eyeliner Pot, Omina ($24)

BeautyCounter Precision Liquid Liner

A dense, matte black formula, this dries down quickly. Why is that so essential for a liquid liner? It won't transfer to the top lids—upon application and then throughout the day, too. Fans of the liner note how easily it goes from thin to thick, just by applying a bit more pressure.

Precision Liquid Liner, BeautyCounter ($28)

Alima Pure Pressed Eyeshadow

One of the best ways to achieve a soft focus, subtle liner is to use a pressed eye shadow (a little makeup artist hack for ya!). Lightly wet a liner brush, dip it into your eye shadow, and smudge in your liner. Because it's pressed powder shadow, it's not a densely pigmented. Another bonus: You don't have to stick to just your standard liner shades! As long as you have a clean shadow, you can turn it into an eyeliner.

Pressed Eyeshadow, Alima Pure ($26)

Kjaer Weis Eye Pencil

This pencil is made with coconut oil and carnauba wax—which makes the texture thick yet smooth. We love this line, however, for the bright peach shade: You can add it into your inner corners or on the lash line, and you'll look like you've gotten a full night's sleep or just got back from vacation.

Eye Pencil, Kjaer Weis ($30)

Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Cream Shadow Stick

Another eye shadow, technically, but shadow sticks make for great liners in a pinch or if you're going for that hazy liner effect. This comes in plenty of hues, from rose gold to deep slate, so you can create a totally unique look for you. Plus, the subtle, subtle shimmer will add a little sparkle to your eye.

Phyto-Pigments Cream Shadow Stick, Juice Beauty ($22)

Aveda Petal Essence Eye Definer

This ophthalmologist-tested pencil is ideal for the sustainability-minded among us. The casing is responsibly sourced wood (certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council). Users love it because it won't tug and pull at the delicate skin around the eye, which is a common problem for pencil liners.

Petal Essence Eye Definer, Aveda ($20)

RMS Vintage Cake Liner

Ah, the original eyeliners: cake slabs. This is a chic, modernized version. Wet a liner brush to turn the cake into a paste-like texture, and apply to your lids as desired. Unlike the pressed shadow mentioned above, or the gel liner pot, this is an opaque, matte option. Read: It's a liner for serious users. Be warned, however, it does tend to smudge with oily lids.

Vintage Cake Liner, RMS ($24)

NakedPoppy Liquid Eyeliner

The extra-fine-tip felt pen makes a cat-eye swoosh effortless. It also gives for a little "correction time" so you can go back and edit as needed (meaning: It doesn't stick immediately, so you can quickly wipe up any mistakes). Seriously: If you ever thought the flick just wasn't for you, this will give you second thoughts.

Liquid Eyeliner, NakedPoppy ($18) 

Lord & Berry Kajal Stick

Kajal is a longtime Indian beauty standby and is for those who want serious liner. The stick is decadently black and goes on lavishly: For those who want that '60s rebellious, rimmed look. (Clean beauty fans like dramatic statements, too!).

Kajal Stick, Lord & Berry ($15) 

Burt's Bees Defining Retractable Eyeliner

This 100% natural liner is the perfect blend of gel and creamy texture, thanks to the mix of jojoba oil and shea butter. The soft, deep brown blends in effortlessly on the lash line and is ideal for those with fair skin and light lashes.

Defining Retractable Eyeliner, Burt's Bees ($9.99)

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