Meet the mother of all Cheapie but Goodie products: an outstanding eyeliner that's just $3.
There's just one problem: it's really only outstanding if you use it one particular way. Gel pencils like Essence's latest offering seem to be all the rage right now (looking at you, Benefit!). I've been using them for a few years (my love affair started with Shu Uemura's option, reviewed here) and no matter what gel pencil variation I try, it's never a good pick for lining my lids. They're always hard, too waxy, tug on my eyelids, don't go on evenly or smoothly, and generally aren't worth the effort.
But their redemption, and the reason why I have so many gel pencil liners in my collection, is that they are terrific for tight-lining, which is a cornerstone of my daily makeup. (If you don't know what tight-lining, or "invisible eyeliner" is, The Beauty Department shows and explains it here). It's as though everything that makes the formula nightmarish on the lids makes it terrific in the waterline--the waxiness really allows the pigment to cling and last, and the pencil magically glides on where it would have been practically yanking on my eyelids.
I have a few favorites for tight-lining, and this Essence number beats them all. Normally, my go-tos are Avon Super Shock (another Cheapie but Goodie product), and the Shu Uemura Gel Pencil, and it seems Essence manufacturers heard my complaints about both. Super Shock is incredibly richly pigmented and smooth, but also drifts and transfers something tragic, and Shu occasionally turns my lower waterline gray. Essence's option isn't quite as dark and intense as Super Shock or the Shu (it's more of a dark charcoal than a full black), though it's definitely got enough punch to define my eyes. But its star quality is that barring the tiniest bit of gray in one particular section of my lower waterline, I don't see any transferring or smudging throughout the day--this is a big deal if you also have oily skin and your makeup loves to move around. I'm actually weirdly sentimental about this eyeliner (in case you couldn't tell), because my issues with smudging and transferring put me off tight-lining for a while before this pencil reaffirmed my love for it.
Of course, I've still got my quibbles. The first being that at first use, the pencil seems poorly pigmented and too hard. Don't give up, spend another few seconds playing with it and it'll warm up and deliver--it's a first-time use issue only. Part of me also does wish for it to have stronger pigmentation more along the lines of Super Shock, but I suppose that's a compromise made for an actually budge-proof eyeliner. But the strangest and arguably most frustrating issue I have is actually that the cap of the pencil doesn't fit onto the back of it. It seems a poor design miscalculation, and leaves me in constant fear of losing the cap.
I won't lie, I intentionally have three of these pencils (all in black, though I'm eyeing up the navy one) stashed in various bags and pouches so that no matter what the situation, I don't have to be without it. Give it a try, and I think you'll be a) amazed at the difference tight-lining makes, and b) as happy with this pencil as I am.
If you do try it out, please bear in mind that the pencil is retractable. You wouldn't want to try and sharpen the thing, would you?
That would just be embarrassing.