Learning how to find the best mascara for your lashes can be a trial-and-error process. Hopefully, I can shorten that process for you by showing you what to look for, sharing my top mascara picks, and letting you in on some secrets to getting the most out of any mascara you decide to try.
First, you’ll need to know what your lashes need and the effect you’re hoping to get.
A Brief History of Mascara
Believe it or not, women (and men) have been darkening their lashes since at least 3500 B.C., where Egyptian men and women would use kohl to make their lashes darker for protection from the sun. Women took it a step further by adding what they considered an aphrodisiac–malachite–to their lashes.
Since then, lash trends have shifted to include different colors, a barely-there look, and back to dark again. Once dark lashes were relatively settled on for the majority of the population, mascara formulations made their way to the market (in the early 1900s).
As before, trends dictated the formulas and what they were meant to accomplish, from waterproof to clear, dramatic, and dark to colorful.
As of today, it seems as if different women have different ideas about what their lashes should look like, so you’ll find drugstore aisles lined with mascaras meant to lift and curl, volumize and lengthen, separate, and add color (whether it’s deep black, brown, or something unusual, like royal blue.
The choices seem endless and new formulas come out all the time, some with fibers, some magnetic, some more like the tried-and-true (but supposedly better, more advanced) formulas we’ve had for decades.
How to Find the Best Mascara: What to Consider
The first step to finding the best mascara is determining what you want it to do for your lashes, then looking for the ones that at least make those claims (whether or not they’ll follow through on those claims on your lashes will require you to consider a few other things).
Effects Promised vs What You Want
Is it more important to you to get amazing volume and/or length or to be able to skip the lash curler and have fanned-out, flirty lashes? Mascara claims may include:
- Lasts all-day
- Fanned-out separated lashes
- False lash effect
- Deep, dark color
- Any combination of the above
There’s no right or wrong. What do you think looks the prettiest? Do you need a few mascaras on hand–one dramatic one for date nights, another for everyday, and yet another (waterproof) for outdoor activities and/or watching sad movies or laughing until you cry with your friends?
Your Own Lashes
The length, thickness, amount of curl, and condition of your lashes will play a part in finding the best mascara, too. What do your lashes already do well that you may not need to focus on when you’re in the market for a new mascara? Are they naturally curly? So long they nearly touch your eyebrows and/or brush against the lenses in your glasses?
What would you like to improve? If they’re straight, maybe you wouldn’t mind a little extra curl. Got plenty of length but lack thickness?
A volumizing mascara will give you the drama you crave. Have blonde lashes and love the natural look, but do you want to make your eyes stand out a little more? An everyday brown or blackish-brown mascara may be just what you need to bring out your eyes without being too obvious.
If you have blonde, red, or gray hair, black mascara may not be your go-to, whether it’s personal preference or it just looks too harsh with your coloring.
Most makeup companies have a range of shades in their mascara lines, from brown to the blackest black, sometimes auburn, and occasionally even something fun, but still subtle (blue, green, purple, etc.). In some cases, though, you’ll need to narrow your search because a line only comes in black.
Some formulas have oils and other ingredients to nourish and protect your lashes. Instead of mascaras becoming detrimental for your lashes long-term, as some people fear, they can actually encourage growth and keep them healthy.
If you have watery eyes, cry a lot, sweat a lot, or spend a lot of time outdoors when it’s hot and humid, you may need to narrow your choices down to whatever is waterproof. Again, most brands do a pretty good job of accommodating this need, but not every mascara comes in a waterproof version.
That said, some are long-lasting and perform so well, they might as well be waterproof, so don’t limit your options too much if you find that waterproof mascaras just aren’t working well for you.
Some formulas are thicker than others. If you tend to have a problem with clumpy lashes, you may find that you prefer working with the thinner formulas. Need all the volume you can get? You may like the drier formulas that feel thicker straight out of the tube.
Is length all you want? A formula with fibers may be just what you need, though I’d proceed with caution if you wear contact lenses.
You know the classic wand–thick bristles, generally the same length with a bit of tapering at the ends. Those are perfect for a lot of women and do a wonderful job at adding volume and some length. The bigger and fluffier the brush, the more volume you can expect.
Of course, we all like variety, so there are other options out there to provide volume, length, curl, separation, and more.
First, let’s start with the flexible wand since it can show up anywhere, despite the type of bristles at the end. These are good at getting every lash quickly but are often paired with wetter mascara formulas, which can be messy (and negate the perk of quick application if you aren’t careful). The brush at the end can accomplish any effect, depending on the style, shape, and position of the bristles.
On To The Shape And Style of The Bristles:
Thick and fluffy: These are perfect if you love drama. They’re often paired up with drier formulas and meant to deliver volume and maybe a little length, too.
These are newer to the market, but they seem to be here to stay. They’re good for quick application, and the effects will depend on the length of the bristles and the circumference of the brush itself. Generally, these aren’t the absolute best at building volume because they tend to be paired up with thinner formulas, but that’s not always the case (CoverGirl’s LashBlast mascara proves that plastic bristles and volume can still go hand-in-hand).
Ball at the end
If you really want to get every single lash, including those tiny ones in the inner corners, this is one way to get the job done.
These aren’t always like a literal, tiny comb. Sometimes there are rows of “combs” wrapped around a central point, which makes the brush look almost like a small, classic brush at first glance.
The teeth of these combs may be short on one or two sides and longer on the other two sides. They’re usually good for distributing products, then combing it through for separation (and sometimes volume and/or length).
These are good for coaxing your lashes into a lifted, almost curled shape and not neglecting the inner and outer lashes.
This isn’t the same as the curved shape. It’s thicker at each end and dips in at the middle. These are also designed to get every lash, usually building up length and volume at the same time.
These sometimes overlap with the comb-like brushes, and they’re good for getting separated, natural-looking lashes with a little extra length.
Tips for Using Mascara
There’s no one right way to apply mascara for every eye type and across all formulas. You’ll need to practice to see which methods work for you. Once you switch to a new mascara, you may need to experiment again to pin down the best application for that type of formula on your particular lashes. Here are a few tips:
- Apply a light coat to the tops of your lashes first, then do the underside.
- Don’t let mascara dry between coats.
- Get the wand as close to the lash line as possible and wiggle it from side to side (a tiny motion) from roots to tips for the most volume and length possible. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can start spinning the mascara from roots to tips, too, for a more even application of the product.
- Layer mascaras you love for a customized effect (this works especially well if one is for volume and the other is for length).
- Try a mascara primer.
- Use an eye makeup remover–not your usual face wash–to safely and effectively remove your mascara.
- Play around with color. Maybe you try a blue mascara on the top of your lashes and black on the underside and bottom lashes for quick glimpses of color. Or do black on your top lashes and color on the bottom lashes.
- Use clear mascara for a barely-there makeup look or to keep your eyebrows under control.
- To get the smaller lashes in the corners, hold the wand vertically and apply it from that angle (pushing up along the upper lashes and gently swiping down along the lower ones). Similarly, to get the very ends of your top lashes, hold the wand vertically and quickly push the tip of the wand upwards along the tips (not the whole length) of the lashes, moving from the inner corner toward the outer corner. This will coat whatever the first horizontal pass may have missed.
If you’re ready to dive in and try a brand new mascara, here are some of the best on the market to start with:
Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High
This has been a top-seller for 2021, and it deserves all the hype it gets. Unfortunately, it’s not as good if you want understated lashes or a shade other than black. It doesn’t weigh lashes down but adds volume, length, and enough clump-free drama to look like you could be wearing false lashes.
- Does it all
- Very dark
- On the expensive side for drugstore mascara
- Not a wide color selection available (only two shades of black)
Maybelline Great Lash
This pink and green tube has been a classic since the 1970s. It seems to do it all and work on all types of lashes (it’s also good for blending your real lashes with false ones if you use a light coat).
The traditional brush style gives a boost to length and volume, and some of the blackest formulas on the market fall within this range. There are also versions of this mascara with a curved brush, cone-shaped brush, and even an especially large brush, so you can play with the effects, adding more definition, volume, or curl, depending on what you need.
- Does it all
- Variety of colors and brush styles available
- Thin formula can be messy
- May smudge
- Not especially dramatic
This was the top seller in 2019, and it’s been a favorite for more years than that, by far. It’s available in unusual shades you won’t find everywhere else, like violet, burgundy, navy blue, cobalt blue, emerald green, and carbon black.
- Lots of volume
- Classic brush style, but not too big
- Thick formula may clump on some
L’Oreal Lash Paradise
Lash Paradise is actually under the Voluminous umbrella, but the formula feels and behaves a little differently. The bristles are fluffier and wavy but still don’t stray that far from the classic brush style.
- Less clumping
- Feathery lashes
- Good dupe for Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara
- Doesn’t come in as many colors as the original Voluminous
- Some feel that the brush holds too much product, and that could cause clumps or weigh down lashes
Benefit They’re Real
This is one of my favorites because it separates well while adding natural-looking (but better) length and volume, plus separation. The focus is on length, but it does so much more than that.
- Length and volume
- Dark black
- Reaches every bit of every lash (on me, it can even give the illusion that I’m wearing eyeliner when I’m not)
- Not exactly inexpensive (the travel size is available for less, though)
- Only comes in black
- Spiky brush (be careful not to poke yourself in the eye!)
Too Faced Better Than Sex
This was a much-talked-about mascara option for a while, and with good reason (even beyond the name). It has a fluffy, hourglass-shaped brush that grabs and volumizes every lash while also separating and curling them.
- Looks like false lashes
- Conditions lashes
- One of the more expensive mascaras on the list
- Some say it’s clumpy
CoverGirl Lash Blast
Lash Blast has an interesting brush. It’s plastic, with spiky teeth, and larger than the usual plastic brush. It’s excellent at grabbing lashes and combing the product through, so you’re left looking like you have millions of lashes (okay, maybe millions is an exaggeration, but you get my point).
- Provides volume without clumping
- Wide range of shades available
- Design of the tube can make it difficult to open
- Large, spiky brush could lead to more painful pokes in the eye during application
- Doesn’t do much for length
Tarte Maneater one won the Best Mascara (Drama) Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2020. The brush has 500+ bristles, sure to grab plenty of product, then all of your lashes, so they get an even coating of the creamy, deep black formula. Its skinny brush doesn’t stand in the way of volume–it provides that right along with the additional length and lift.
- Very dark
- Dramatic effect that rivals false lashes
- Provides curl, length, and volume
- Can be messy during application
Lancôme Monseiur Big Volumizing Mascara
This has a very large, fluffy brush that can be difficult to manage. However, if it works for you and your eye shape, the results can be stunning. It pairs well with a smoky eye because the results are intense enough to stand out against dark liner and shadow.
- Thick, dramatic lashes
- A little length
- Can be clumpy because the brush grabs a lot of mascara
Benefit Roller Lash
Want to lift and curl in an adorable package? Try this one. Its curved, plastic brush design grabs your lashes, paints them with mascara, and helps them stay in their place–curled, lifted, helping you achieve the flirty, wide-eyed look–for up to 12 hours. It won an Allure Best of Beauty Award for a good reason.
- Mini size is available
- Curl and lift (for up to 12 hours)
- Only comes in black
Lancôme Lash Idôle Lash Lifting & Volumizing Mascara
Here’s another option for lift (and volume!) with a curved, plastic brush design. It, too, only comes in black.
- Comes in a mini size option for less of a commitment
- Provides length, lift, and volume
- Doesn’t clump
- Lack of shade range
- May flake
Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
This is currently the top-selling mascara on Amazon. It delivers the false lash look, and it’s affordable.
- Lot of thickness
- Very inexpensive
- Formula tends to be pretty dry
- Risk of clumps
Tarte Lights, Camera, Flashes 4-in-1 Mascara
This is Tarte’s best-selling formula. It lasts 24 hours, it’s vegan, and it does all the things a mascara could be expected to do, wrapped up in a single nice, neat tube.
- Does everything
- Doesn’t smudge
- Isn’t “the best” at any of the things it does (in my opinion, at least), but it does make a nice all-around choice for everyday drama
- Other options cost less (but this isn’t the most expensive on the list)
Advantages of Mascara
Mascara sometimes feels like the miracle-working finishing touch to any makeup look, in my opinion. What’s not to love about it? Here’s a list of the advantages of wearing mascara:
- It brings out your eyes, whether you’re wearing other makeup or not.
- It can make you look like you have longer lashes than you do.
- It can make you look like you have more lashes than you do, thanks to amazing volumizing formulas.
- You can get the flirty lashes you’ve always dreamed of with the right formula.
- Want an especially sexy and/or seductive gaze? Mascara.
- It (along with eyeliner) can be the balance your bolder eyeshadow looks need to look beautiful on you (some eye makeup just doesn’t look complete without that extra pop of dark color and drama).
- You can find drugstore mascaras that perform just as well as high-end mascaras, giving you gorgeous volume, length, curl, and separation for less than $10.00.
- Some formulas nourish your lashes with special ingredients, potentially even helping them to grow more on their own.
Disadvantages of Mascara
Mascara’s a well-loved product, for a good reason, but what are some of the dark sides (no pun intended) to wearing it?
- Some formulas can be drying to your lashes, which could cause breakage.
- Some formulas can be difficult to remove, which could cause damage to your lashes.
- You may start to feel as if you can’t go out without it, once you find one you love!
- If your lashes get wet, some formulas may run into your eyes and cause stinging, smudge your contact lenses, and just cause general eye discomfort.
- If you forget to toss it when it expires, you may risk an eye infection.
- You may feel like you need to try them all, which can be an expensive (though admittedly fun) experiment.
The Main Differences Between Wetter and Drier Mascara Formulas
I’ve mentioned wetter formulas and drier formulas a few times, but what does that really mean? What are the differences?
- Wetter formulas are better for delivering length, whereas drier formulas are better at delivering volume (some wetter or drier formulas can do both, though).
- Wetter formulas can be messier to apply, whereas drier formulas can be applied quickly without much worry of smears and smudges during the application process.
- Wetter formulas tend not to clump, whereas drier formulas are less reliable about being clump-free.
- Wetter formulas are good at giving fanned-out, flirty, separated lashes, whereas drier formulas may provide more dramatic than flirtatious.
Still have questions about how to find the best mascara? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions. Maybe these answers will help you narrow it down.
Question: What is the Healthiest Mascara?
Answer: The 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara has ingredients like black tea, berry extracts, vitamin E, honey, rice powder, and more to tint and nourish your lashes.
Question: What is the Number 1 Selling Mascara?
Answer: Maybelline is the best-selling brand, but L’Oreal Voluminous was the number 1 selling mascara, as of 2019.
Question: What is the Best Mascara in 2021?
Answer: Hands down, it’s Maybelline’s Lash Sensation Sky High Mascara (Washable). It had the top spot earlier in 2021 and seemed to maintain it for quite a while. As of this writing, Amazon’s top seller is Essence’s Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara.
Question: Is it Okay to Wear Mascara Every Day?
Answer: It’s best to skip mascara sometimes, as wearing it every day could dry your lashes out or even lead to infection or irritation.
Question: Does Using Mascara Ruin Your Eyelashes?
Answer: Not if you use your mascara responsibly. Don’t wear it every day. Choose formulas with nourishing ingredients, and toss the tube when it’s expired (around three months), whether you’ve used it all up or not.
Question: Is Clear Mascara Better than Black?
Answer: Probably not from a conditioning aspect, but clear mascara can be better than black if you really love the no-makeup, makeup look with glossy-looking lashes.
Question: What Mascara Makes Your Eyelashes Grow?
Answer: Look for mascara formulas that have ingredients meant to condition your lashes. These will protect the health of your lashes and give them a chance to grow as long as possible. For specifics, try Rimmel Lash Accelerator or It Cosmetics Hello Lashes + Volumizing Mascara with Lash Serum.
Question: What is a Good Mascara that Doesn’t Clump?
Answer: Benefit Mascara’s They’re Real; Maybelline’s Great Lash; and Clinique’s High Impact mascaras are all good choices.
Question: Is Pitco 65C+S fryer energy-efficient?
Answer: Yes, considering its high capacity and fast performance, Pitco 65C+S consumption of 150,000 PTU per hour is very efficient. This performance is provided by the long-lasting, high-temperature heat baffles that are mounted directly in the heat exchanger tubes of this tube-heated fryer.
Question: Can I use Pitco 65C+S at home?
Answer: Theoretically, nothing prevents you from installing or using your Pitco 65C+S deep fryer at home, but it is highly unlikely that you’ll have a use for its large capacity at home on a regular basis. Also, note that installing a commercial-grade fryer at home officially voids its warranty, so you’ll be responsible for any future repairs on the machine on your own.
Question: Can a Pitco 65C+S fryer overheat?
Answer: This gas fryer is equipped with a temperature limit safety shutoff feature. It should automatically turn off the entire gas flow if the temperature inside the fryer exceeds 450°F. This prevents the unit from potentially dangerous overheating.
Conclusion: How to Find the Best Mascara
Take a good look at your lashes and consider the makeup styles available to you (what would you be comfortable wearing in your daily life?). What would you improve about your lashes, and what effects do you want your perfect mascara to achieve? Use the information about the brush types, wetter vs. drier formulas, and the best mascaras on the market right now to narrow down a few to try. Then it’s trial and error.
Maybelline’s Lash Sensational Sky High mascara is my personal recommendation for a mascara that does it all without looking too clumpy, needing a lot of extra steps to look good, or smudging throughout the day. It may not work for everyone, but it seems to do a lot of things well for a lot of people. It was such a hit on TikTok, it sold out for a while, and I think it’s one of those rare social media product hits that lives up to the hype.
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