BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Beauty & Personal Care

Best mascara primer

Which mascara primer is best?

If you want long, full lashes, it’s as easy to achieve as finding a great mascara primer. Applying a layer before your choice of mascara can lengthen and volumize your lashes and enhance your eye makeup in one simple step. 

This white or clear substance conditions and preps your lashes to take on the best elements of your mascara formula. If you want a primer that will protect and encourage lash growth, the Lancôme Cils Booster XL Lash Thickening Mascara Primer is for you.  

What to know before you buy mascara primer

Your lashes

It’s important to keep your lashes in mind when buying both mascara and primer. If you have short, fine lashes that you’re looking to grow, you should look for products that are lengthening and volumizing. You can also find primers with nutrients that can naturally grow your lashes. If you have straight lashes, you may want something that adds a bit of curl. If they’re particularly light and hard to see, a tinted primer gives you a good base for maximum color. 

How to apply

The exact application depends on the product, but you should always put on your primer before your mascara. Some need time to dry before you add your mascara, while others can still be wet. Be sure to coat your lashes with mascara until you can’t see any white left. Some are meant to be left on overnight for maximum volume enhancement, while most others are meant to be taken off before you go to bed. 

As with other eye makeup products, you shouldn't share them with others as this can lead to eye infections. You should also avoid diluting them because this causes a shorter product life span. 


Consider where you plan to wear and take your mascara primer to determine the right one for you. For example, if you’re going to an event that might make you cry (or you just have naturally wet eyes), you should look for a waterproof product. It also helps you choose the size you need, such as a travel size you can easily take in a small makeup bag with all your essentials. 

What to look for in a quality mascara primer


Some mascara primers are meant to enhance the health of your lashes with vitamins and nutrients. These make them stronger, longer and more voluminous. Some even double as a night mask to further this goal and leave you with soft and supple eyes. If you’re already mostly satisfied with your lashes, you can save a bit of money on this feature. However, if you want to extend the life of healthy lashes, this is a great and easy way to do it. 


The last thing you want from your lash base is clumps. If your primer isn’t smooth, it will only make your mascara harder to apply. The formula shouldn’t be too thick or sticky but also not so thin that it’s runny. It should prevent breakage and give you long lashes that are easy to build on without becoming cakey. Primer should be kind and gentle on the eyes, especially if you have allergies or sensitivities. 

Ease of application 

Applying mascara primer shouldn’t make your makeup routine take much longer. If it has to dry before you build on it, the drying time should be relatively quick. It should separate and thicken your lashes while still looking natural. It should also be simple and fast to remove.  

How much you can expect to spend on mascara primer 

Mascara primers typically cost $7-$30, depending on the quality of the brand and how much is included. High-end or conditioning ones cost more, while travel-size and drugstore tubes are relatively cheap. 

Mascara primer FAQ

Should you be able to see the primer on your lashes before you apply mascara?

A. Yes, you should be able to see it if you have applied enough primer and the formula isn’t clear. However, if you have particularly light lashes, you may not be able to see the product as clearly. 

Do you need a primer if you have long lashes? 

A. Mascara primer can still help volumize long lashes and give your mascara a great base to make it last longer. It can also nourish and soften lashes as well, keeping them healthy. 

What’s the best mascara primer to buy?

Top mascara primer

Lancôme Cils Booster XL Lash Thickening Mascara Primer

What you need to know: This option from Lancôme is a great volumizer that doubles as a lash conditioner. 

What you’ll love: This primer separates and lengthens your lashes, and improves thickness and curl. It has a smooth and even application. You can apply it to lashes alone for a night mask before bed. 

What you should consider: Some customers with sensitive eyes experienced a bad reaction, while others experienced dried-out lashes. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Top mascara primer for the money

L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Primer

What you need to know: L’Oréal offers this classic, quality lash booster for an affordable price. 

What you’ll love: It enhances mascara and conditions lashes while providing a great base. It’s great for sparse lashes and straight ones in need of curl. It can last for hours and is from a reputable brand. 

What you should consider: It’s somewhat flakey and clumpy. It’s not as volumizing as some people expected. 

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

Worth checking out

Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Tinted Lash Primer

What you need to know: Try this tinted primer that defines lashes on its own or with mascara. 

What you’ll love: This formula conditions and softens lashes. It has a specially designed brush for lash separation. It can be worn alone for a simple and natural look or with your mascara. 

What you should consider: It’s on the expensive side. It doesn’t provide as much curl as some people expected.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon 

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Anabelle Weissinger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: