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11 Brown Eyeliner Looks to Borrow Right This Minute

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Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

“I like using brown eyeliner when my clients share with me that they want a more natural look or don't always wear a lot of makeup,” says makeup artist Lauren O’Leary. “Brown eyeliner offers definition often without looking too dark or dramatic.”

Whether you’re using it to create a winged eyeliner look or want to define your waterline, brown liner checks all the same boxes as its more common cousin, too—so there’s really no reason not to give it a shot. With that in mind, we sifted through the eye makeup looks featuring brown liner to find the ones worth trying. Scroll ahead and get inspired for your next brown eyeliner look, stat.


Meet the Expert:

Lauren O’Leary is a New York-based makeup artist, model, and beauty expert. She has worked for numerous brands such as GUESS, Saks Fifth Avenue, Maybelline, Allure, Conde Nast Entertainment, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Benefit Cosmetics, NARS, and many more.

1. Monochromatic Makeup

A closeup photo of  Shay Mitchell with a monochromatic makeup look
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

You can swap your usual smokey eye for a more subdued (but still eyeshadow-heavy) look like Shay Mitchell’s, starting with a brown eyeliner and bringing the color out onto the lids with shadow. “​I really like to apply it directly to the eye and then take an angled brush or pointed fluffy brush to smudge and blend it out,” says O’Leary. If you’re planning to smudge, a pencil eyeliner like ONE/SIZE Point Made 24-Hour Gel Eyeliner Pencil in Busty Brown works best. Pro tip: For extra impact, pair your liner with a brown-toned lipstick and cheek color, as Mitchell does here.

2. Minimalist Minded

A closeup of Solange Knowles wearing a silk blouse with five dark green hairclips and a big pearl earring
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Even if you’re going with just a liner along your lash line and calling it a day, brown can still be enough of a look—like it was for Solange Knowles on the red carpet. “It gives a softer, more natural look as opposed to a black or pop of colored liner,” says O’Leary. It proves brown eyeliner makeup doesn’t necessarily need eyeshadow to make the eyes pop; just pair it with a lengthening mascara to add definition.

3. Brown Meets Black

A closeup of Zoë Kravitz with pixie cut hairstyle, wearing black eyeliner and shimmery brown eyeshadow with a nude lipstick color
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Just because you wear brown eyeliner doesn’t mean you have to skip black altogether. Zoë Kravitz is proof: She pairs a black liquid eyeliner (for a classic cat-eye) on the upper lash line, then opts for a shimmery brown pencil on the lower lash line for a look that’s glam, but still relatively understated. It also ties in nicely with the peachy shadow color. To cop it for yourself, try L.O.C.K. COLOR LOCK IT Waterproof Pencil Eyeliner in Pearl Brown, a glimmering bronze shade.

4. Soft Brown Tones

A closeup photo of Olivia Wilde with blonde hair wearing a gold sequin dress
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

For a more muted look like Olivia Wilde’s, consider a matte shade with lots of pigment, which allows you more control depending on how you want to wear it. “I like something rich in color often so that I can soften it with a brush if need be,” O’Leary says. The plum tones in the eye look shown here not only add softness, but they also bring out Wilde’s green eyes.

5. Brown Waterline

A photo of Katy Perry with an out-to-there lashes and thick black liner on the top lash line
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

While Katy Perry’s out-to-there lashes and thick black liner on the top lash line seem like the stars here, what’s also doing some work here is the dark brown eyeliner along her waterline of the bottom lashes. That calls for a water-resistant gel eyeliner pencil that can hold up to tears, like Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner; liquid risks getting into the eye. Not surprisingly, O’Leary says, “​I find myself using more brown eyeliner pencils as opposed to liquid.”

6. No-Makeup Eye Makeup

A photo of Bella Hadid with light makeup wearing metallic earrings
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

While no-makeup makeup gets all the attention, you can apply the concept to the eye area, too—for which brown is perfect. “I use brown as a more natural option than black,” says O’Leary. Here, a light brown pencil (in just a shade deeper than Bella Hadid’s own skin tone) along the lower lashes adds the slightest hint of color and definition, but still looks pared-down.

7. Smudgy Liner

A photo of  Amandla Stenberg with a brown hat and brown curly hair
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

For a softened eye look, like Amandla Stenberg’s, you can’t go wrong with a brown eye pencil. No shade to liquid, but “with pencil, you can smoke or smudge it out a little with a brush,” says O’Leary. “I also have taken an angle brush, picked color up from the pencil, and drawn it that way also.” Either way, you can use a small brush to gently blur it around the edges. Get both liquid and pencil formulas with GIRLACTIK Perfect Pair Eyeliner Duo in Perfect Browns, which gives you all the options.

8. Underlined Liner

A photo of Ruth Bell with her hair slicked back
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Relive your emo days with a little underlining action, which means following the lower lashline and, if you want a little more oomph, drawing it out into a little wing. This makes an impact without any need for eyeshadow or blending, making it a great hack for beginners—no makeup tutorial needed—and a good option if you’re devoted to liquid liner. Try HIPDOT Liquid Kohl Eyeliner in Muddy Brown. (Heads up: Since you’re drawing attention to the under-eyes, make sure to hide any dark circles with concealer.)

9. Greige Gone Great

A closeup photo of  Caroline Trentini with her hair tied into a bun
Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sure, brown is good, but can we interest you in greige? The combo of gray and beige is a riff on brown that offers a neutral tone and departure from black, but without as much warmth as your average brown—just in case you want to switch things up.

10. Two-Toned Brown

A photo of Gigi Hadid is wearing black liner and mascara
Photo of JP Yim/Getty Images

While Gigi Hadid is wearing black liner and mascara on her upper lashes, allow us to zoom in on the bottom lashes. See that? It’s coppery-brown liner paired with what looks to be brown mascara, making for a cool, dual-toned effect.

11. Brown + Brows

A photo of Zendaya with a neutral makeup look, wearing gold earrings
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

We can always count on Zendaya for a killer eye makeup look, and this does not disappoint. Here, she pairs brown liner on the lower lashline with full, perfectly groomed brows for a look that’s both simple and incredibly elegant. Teach us your ways, Z!

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About the author
Deanna Pai
Deanna Pai
Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty and wellness writer and editor based in New York; her work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, and many others.
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Article Last Updated August 13, 2022 12:00 AM