Which mascara is best?
Mascara is one of those essential makeup products that no look seems complete without. It can help lengthen, thicken and define your lashes to bring the focus to your eyes. It polishes off any eyeshadow look. With so many mascaras to choose from, finding the right one for your particular lashes can be a serious challenge. That’s because there are lengthening, volumizing, priming, and curling mascaras, as well as waterproof formulas, to suit any occasion or look. Mascara is even available in a rainbow of colors these days; though black is always the classic option.
Check our buying guide for all the tips you need to choose the best mascara for your makeup bag. We’ve also included some specific product recommendations, including our top pick, Christian Dior Diorshow Iconic Mascara, which both lengthens and thickens lashes without clumping or flaking.
What to know before you buy mascara
Mascara is available in several different types, which determines what effect they offer and how they’re best used. Some formulas are a hybrid, so they can serve multiple purposes:
- Lengthening mascara helps your lashes look longer with nylon or rayon polymers that form a layer that extends the ends of the lashes.
- Volumizing mascara helps your lashes appear thicker and fuller with silicone polymers or waxes that form a layer to give them a denser look.
- Curling mascara helps give your lashes a lifted appearance with polymers that shrink when you apply it to curl lashes.
- Fiber mascara is a two-step product with a traditional mascara and a tube of extremely fine fibers that are applied over the mascara to both thicken and lengthen your lashes. The fibers are then sealed in place with a second coat of the regular mascara.
- Priming mascara is applied before traditional mascara to condition the lashes, so your regular mascara applies more smoothly and evenly. It can also keep your mascara from smudging, flaking, and clumping.
When you’re choosing mascara, it’s essential to take your lashes into account to find the best formula. Here’s a guideline for selecting a mascara based on your lash type:
- Long lashes should opt for a curling mascara or a volumizing mascara.
- Short lashes should choose a lengthening mascara or a fiber mascara.
- Fine lashes should go with a volumizing mascara.
- Straight lashes should select a curling mascara.
- Sparse lashes should grab a fiber mascara or a volumizing mascara.
What to look for in a quality mascara
You can find mascara brushes with either plastic or nylon bristles. Plastic brushes are a good option if you find that your mascara usually clumps, but nylon bristles are your best bet if you want fluttery lashes.
Mascara brushes are available in a few different sizes. A large brush lets you apply your mascara more quickly and is effective for volumizing. Though they are more likely to leave smudges on your eyelids. A small brush is your best bet for lower lash mascara, but you may also prefer one if you don’t want to miss any lashes when you’re applying your mascara.
The shape of a mascara brush can play a key role in its application and performance. You can choose from several shape options:
- Curved is effective for volumizing and lifting your lashes.
- Hourglass can be easily applied to all your lashes to help widen your eyes.
- S-shape is a good option for volumizing and lengthening short lashes.
- Spiral is the best choice for short or fine lashes because it can lengthen and volumize.
- Pointed is effective for clump-free layering of mascara.
Some makeup wearers prefer a mascara brush with a wand that has some give, so you can apply mascara to the lashes at the inner corner of the eye more easily. There can be a learning curve with using flexible wands, though; so you may wind up with some smudges at first.
A waterproof formula prevents your mascara from running or smudging if your eyes become watery or teary. It can be a good option if you suffer from allergies or sweat a lot, but it’s also ideal for occasions when you know you might be crying, such as weddings or funerals.
You’ll never go wrong with traditional black mascara, but these days you have plenty of color options when shopping for mascara. Brown is a good option if you have light lashes or skin because it’s less harsh. Blue is ideal when you want your eyes to appear brighter. Fashion colors like purple, yellow, turquoise, lime green, and hot pink can be a fun option if you’re going for a bold look.
How much you can expect to spend on a mascara
Mascara can cost anywhere from $2 to $45. You’ll usually pay $2 to $14 for formulas with lower-quality ingredients, $14 to $25 for average-quality formulas, and $25 to $45 for mascara with the highest-quality ingredients.
Should I apply mascara before or after curling my lashes?
A. You should always apply mascara after using an eyelash curler. If you have mascara on your lashes, they may stick to the curler, which can then pull them out.
Is waterproof mascara bad for your lashes?
A. Waterproof mascara can dry your lashes if you use it every day. Try to wear it only for special occasions, or follow up with a lash-conditioning product every night if you want to wear it daily.
What are the best mascaras to buy?
Our take: An outstanding formula from a luxury brand that helps lengthen and volumize lashes and has earned loyal customers worldwide.
What we like: Instantly darkens, lengthens, and thickens lashes. Doesn’t flake or clump. Brush design helps separate lashes for a more defined look. Available in black, brown, and blue. A tube lasts for quite some time.
What we dislike: Requires some time to dry, so it can smudge a bit.
Where to buy: Sold by Sephora
Top mascara for the money
Our take: The brush and tube can make application a bit of a challenge, but the mascara has a long-wearing smudge-free formula that provides dramatic results.
What we like: Lasts all day without fading or smudging. Offers a dark and dramatic black color that emphasizes lashes. Lengthens, volumizes, curls, and separates lashes.
What we dislike: Brush picks up too much product, and tube stopper comes loose easily.
Where to buy: Sold by Sephora
Worth checking out
Our take: An intense volumizing formula with many devoted fans; though it does have a tendency to dry out quickly.
What we like: Applies extremely smoothly and evenly. Lengthens and volumizes lashes but doesn’t clump or smudge. Can last from morning to night. Kohl-pigmented formula delivers intense black color.
What we dislike: Has a drier consistency than many other formulas, and can become even drier and thicker over time.
Where to buy: Sold by Sephora
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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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