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Best Mascaras

Updated April 2018
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  • 34 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 190 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best mascaras

    Last Updated April 2018

    When you ask most people what makeup product they can’t live without, mascara usually tops the list – and with good reason. The right mascara gives you long, lush, defined lashes and instantly makes you look polished even if you’re not wearing any other makeup.

    But choosing a mascara is trickier than it seems. You have to find the right formula, brush, and color to get the look you’re after for your lashes. Not to mention the eternal question: waterproof or not? Sorting through all your choices can get confusing pretty quickly.

     If you’re in the market for a new mascara, our top recommendations are in the matrix above. For more on what to look for to find the right mascara for your lashes, keep reading.

    To get the fullest, longest effect, first place the mascara wand at the base of your lashes. Gently wiggle it back and forth as you pull it up your lashes, so each one is fully coated.

    Types of mascaras

    Lengthening

    Lengthening mascaras are designed to make your lashes appear longer. They often contain rayon or nylon polymers that coat the lashes to extend them past their natural tips. Lengthening mascara usually has a fairly dense brush to help the polymers fully cling to the lashes.

    Volumizing

    Volumizing or thickening mascaras are designed to make your lashes appear thicker and denser. They typically contain waxes and silicone polymers that coat the lashes to give them a lusher appearance. Volumizing mascara is often dark in color to give the illusion of added thickness. This type of mascara usually has a curved or hourglass-shaped brush to ensure that each individual lash is coated.

    Curling

    A curling mascara lifts your lashes to open up your eyes. It usually contains polymers that shrink upon application, which lifts the lashes for a greater curl. Like volumizing mascaras, curling mascaras often have curved applicators to encourage the curled shape.

    Fiber

    If traditional mascara isn’t doing enough to lengthen and volumize your lashes, fiber mascaras are an ideal alternative. They’re usually a two-step product. One side of the tube features a traditional mascara, which you apply first. The other side of the tube contains fine fibers that stick to the mascara to thicken and lengthen the lashes. To seal the fibers in place, you apply a final coat of the traditional mascara.

    Priming

    A priming mascara acts as a primer to boost the effect of any mascara you have in your makeup bag. Apply a coat of priming mascara before your regular mascara. The formula is designed to condition the lashes, so they’re better prepared for the mascara to coat them. It can also prevent clumping and smudging and keep your mascara looking fresh all day.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you wear false eyelashes, apply mascara to your natural lashes before adding your falsies. This keeps the false lashes clean, so they’re easier to reuse.

    What to consider when buying a mascara

    Formula

    The best way to choose a mascara formula is to consider your lashes and the results you want to achieve.

    • Long lashes: If you have long lashes, a curling mascara can emphasize their natural length by lifting the lashes for a more open look. You can also opt for a volumizing mascara if you want your lashes to look denser.

    • Short lashes: If your lashes are naturally short, a lengthening mascara can help them appear longer. You may also like a fiber mascara, which boosts length and volume.

    • Fine lashes: Volumizing mascara is made specifically for getting the most out of fine or thin lashes because the ingredients coat the lashes to make them appear thicker.

    • Sparse lashes: If you don’t have many lashes, choose a fiber mascara to beef up each and every lash. A volumizing mascara also makes the most of every lash.

    • Straight lashes: Lashes that are very straight and don’t hold a curl well benefit from a curling mascara, which lifts and curves the lashes.

    • Lashes that smudge: If you find that your mascara tends to smudge no matter what formula you use, start with a priming mascara, which will help your mascara stay in place.

    Brush material

    Mascara brushes are typically made of either nylon bristles or plastic. While they tend to provide similar results, plastic combs usually give the most definition to your lashes. If you find that your mascara tends to clump, switching to a plastic brush can combat the problem.

    Nylon bristles evenly distribute mascara across the lash, along both the length and width, which can cause clumping. However, nylon bristles can also give lashes a more fluttery look.

    Brush size

    Mascara brush size is mainly a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer larger brushes because they allow you to work more quickly, while others prefer the precision of a smaller brush.

    Mascaras with large brushes tend to apply more product to lashes, which is good for volumizing. However, larger brushes also pose the risk of smudging during application.

    Smaller wands are ideal for the lower lashes, but they also work well if you want to make sure that you coat each and every lash, even those near your tear ducts. They can build up volume, too, though it usually takes a couple of coats to get the job done.

    Eye-catching definition and curl

    What sets the Christian Dior Diorshow Iconic Mascara apart from other mascaras is its unique slanted brush. The long, thin plastic teeth allow the mascara to coat each and every lash for fluttery, separated lashes with the kind of definition that’s every makeup artist’s goal. The brush’s shape also lifts the lashes for a bold curl that can last up to 24 hours.

    Brush shape

    The shape of your mascara brush determines the look of your lashes.

    • Thick: A thick, dense brush is the most traditional option for a mascara applicator. It works well for most types of lashes, but it is particularly effective for adding volume to sparse lashes.

    • Skinny: A very thin mascara brush is ideal if you want to make sure that you coat each and every lash. It provides excellent definition and works well for your lower lashes. A skinny brush often works well for straight lashes, too.

    • Curved: A curved mascara brush lifts and curls your lashes. It also works well if you want to add volume to your lashes.

    • Hourglass: If you really want to open up your eyes, choose a mascara brush with an hourglass shape. It targets the lashes at the outer and inner corners to make your eyes look instantly wider.

    • Spiral: A spiral mascara brush is ideal if you have short or fine lashes because it allows you to lengthen and volumize at the same time.

    • S-shape: An S-shape mascara brush offers two curves, but it is usually on the small side. It works well to lengthen and volumize short lashes.

    • Pointed: A pointed tip works well if you want to layer your mascara without creating clumps. You can wiggle the pointed end between lashes for precise definition.

    • Round tip: Some mascara brushes have a round, ball-like tip. It comes in handy if you want to target your mascara in specific areas.

    Wand flexibility

    Some mascara wands are flexible, so they give when you press on them. This helps you reach smaller lashes at the inner corners of the eyes, though some people find flexible wands a little tricky to get used to.

    Waterproof

    If you have allergies, tend to sweat, or have watery eyes, a waterproof mascara can prevent smudging and running. That’s because the formula contains synthetic ingredients that repel water and other moisture. However, waterproof mascara can dry out your lashes if used too often, so it’s best saved for special occasions.

    Color

    These days, mascara comes in a variety of colors. Choosing a shade is really just a matter of personal preference.

    • Black: Black mascara is the classic option and works with virtually any eye or hair color. There’s a range of black shades, from the blackest black for dramatic looks to soft black for more natural lashes.

    • Brown: If you have fair skin or light hair, black mascara can sometimes look harsh. A brown mascara is an ideal alternative because it darkens the lashes without looking severe.

    • Blue/navy: Blue or navy mascara makes the whites of your eyes appear brighter, so it’s an ideal option if you want a bright-eyed look. It also emphasizes blue eyes.

    • Other colors: Violet mascara emphasizes brown, green, and hazel eyes. You can also find mascara in shades like yellow, pink, turquoise, and gold if you want to have a little fun with your look.
    EXPERT TIP

    Start with applying mascara to the lower lashes. If you apply mascara to the top lashes first, you may get smudges on your eyelid when you look down to do the bottom lashes.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How much does mascara cost?

    Mascaras range in price based on the quality of the ingredients, but you can typically expect to pay between $2 and $45.

    • Budget-friendly

    For mascara made with lower-quality ingredients that may smudge or flake, you’ll usually pay $2 to $14.

    • Mid-range

    For mascara made with average-quality ingredients that isn’t as likely to smudge or flake, you’ll usually pay $14 to $25.

    • Premium

    For mascara made with high-quality ingredients that isn’t likely to smudge or flake, you’ll usually pay $25 to $40.

    Major volume without smudging

    The bareMinerals Flawless Definition Volumizing Mascara provides serious volume and definition thanks to its brush, which distributes product evenly to each lash. But you don’t have to worry about any smudging or flaking. The formula is not only clump-proof and paraben-free but smudge-proof as well, so you can wear it all day without worrying about it winding up underneath your eyes.

    Tips for applying mascara

    • Mascara has a shelf life of three to six months. If your tube is older than that, throw it away because it’s probably dried out.

    • If you use an eyelash curler to curl your lashes, do it before you apply mascara. You can pull out lashes if you curl them with mascara on them.

    • Don’t pump the wand in and out of your mascara tube. This introduces air into the tube, which can dry out your mascara.

    • Layering mascaras allows you to customize the look of your lashes. For example, you might start with a volumizing formula to thicken, then finish with a lengthening option to make your lashes appear longer and more defined.

    Going to sleep without taking off your mascara can cause your lashes to dry out and break. Always remove mascara before heading to bed.

    FAQ

    Q. Is mascara bad for your lashes?

    A. Mascara is usually fine for your lashes. Some formulas even contain conditioning ingredients that moisturize your lashes to keep them healthy. If you’re concerned about chemicals like parabens in your mascara, opt for an all-natural formula. It’s also best to limit your use of waterproof mascara, which can dry out your lashes and cause breakage.

    Q. What’s the best kind of mascara for makeup novices?

    A. If you’re a beginner and not sure what kind of look you want for your lashes, it’s best to start with a lengthening mascara, which isn’t as likely to clump. Choose an option with a smaller brush, too, so you’ll have more precision and won’t have to worry about smudges when applying it.

    Q. What’s the best way to remove waterproof mascara?

    A. Waterproof mascara can be very difficult to take off. In fact, some people find that they wind up losing lashes in the process. For the easiest removal, use an eye makeup remover designed specifically for waterproof products. Soak a cotton pad with the remover, and then hold it over your lashes for at least 30 seconds. In the last few seconds, gently massage the pad against your lashes to remove any stubborn residue. Use a clean pad to wipe off the eye makeup remover, and wash your face as you normally would.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer