The Best Mascara For Your Lash Type

Here's a scenario you may be familiar with: A friend, favorite blogger, or makeup artist raves on and on about his or her holy-grail mascara, a product they'd wrestle a bear over if it were the last tube on Earth. You're sold.

You hustle with the ferocity of Venus and Serena combined to the nearest retailer, throw your money at the cashier, and, in great anticipation, finagle the product out of its packaging. A couple swipes later, your face sinks with disappointment. You've just wasted money, again, on a product you may try to force yourself to like, but will never quite be content with. It's not the product's fault, and your friend wasn't lying. It's just that not all lashes are the same and, as such, some mascaras work better or worse depending on lash type. Yes, there's such a thing as lash type.

“It’s really difficult to put a mascara recommendation out there and say, ‘This mascara will work for everyone,’ because that’s simply not the case,” explains makeup expert Huda Kattan. “The right mascara with the right lash is going to create beautiful results. However, somebody else can use [the same product] with a different type of lash and have really awful results.”

In short, you should become intimately acquainted with your own lashes before spending money on lash products. Factors to consider include the mascara’s formula, its intended effects, and even the color. Ahead, we break it down.

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Mascara Effects
Generally speaking, there are three major promises mascaras make: the ability to volumize, the ability to lengthen, and the ability to curl. Many can deliver on these promises if they’re quality products and if they’re paired with the right lashes.

Lengthening

Lengthening mascaras, like this one from Estée Lauder, work on both short and full lashes, and help to elongate and separate, explains celebrity makeup artist Marni Burton. Mascaras that contain fibers are particularly good at extending lashes, and some even come as a two-part application process (more on that later). Also, many lengthening mascaras are applied with hard rubber applicators with very short, dense bristles.
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Volumizing
People with sparse lashes should look for mascaras that add volume, like this CoverGirl pick. Volumizing mascaras often contain silicone and/or minerals — which plump and nourish the lashes — and tend to dry faster, allowing you to build multi-layer volume more quickly.

Additionally, volumizing mascaras typically have soft, large-bristled brushes that allow you to deposit more product onto the lashes. If you already have thick lashes and use a volumizing product, you may find yourself dealing with clumpy, spider-like lashes. Twiggy made it a good look, so run with it if you want. However, if clump isn’t your end goal, opt for something less volumizing — or, at the very least, use your product with a light hand.
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Tapered
Wands with a tapered shape have smaller bristles at the tip and larger bristles at the base. The short bristles help reach the itty-bitty lashes in the inner corner of your eyes, while the longer bristles help fan out the rest for a soft, fluttery effect.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Luscious Washable Mascara in Blackest Black, $8.99, available at Maybelline
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Curling
“If you have straight lashes, then a curling mascara is best,” says Burton. “Curling-mascara formulas use supple waxes to soften the lashes, and shape them to have a curved dimension.” When putting on curling mascara — or any kind of mascara — apply pressure to the lash bed and press upward. You can also hold the wand on the tips of your lashes and gently press up and back while the mascara dries. This allows the curl to set. A good eyelash curler can also help you create a dramatic, curled effect.
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Thickening
You know what they say: The bigger the brush, the thicker the lashes. This mascara from Clinique has rubbery bristles spaced really far apart, as far as mascaras go. This design allows the plumping formula to totally saturate the wand itself. So as you comb it through your lashes, the mascara thickens each lash from root to tip, while the bristles keep them separated and unclumpy. You can layer on coat after coat to get dramatically thick lashes — or just stop at one for something a little more casual for your 9-to-5.
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Mascara Formulations
We touched a little bit on mascara formulas, but let’s dive in a little deeper.

Oil-&-Wax-Based
Not only are oil-and-wax-based mascaras the easiest to find in stores, but this is also the most traditional type. The cosmetics world has branched out, but wax has become a standard for a reason. “Wax is best known for its volume, separating, and blackest black capabilities,” explains Burton — adding that she finds wax mascaras create the most natural, beautiful lashes. She recommends looking for soft waxes, which help create a soft and flexible feel. Hard waxes — found in low-quality and expired mascaras — can stiffen your lashes and cause breakage.
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Tubing
This is a less common type of mascara, but it’s proven to be a good alternative for those who are sensitive to wax, oil, and fiber mascaras that may flake or smudge into the eyes. Tubing mascara works by encapsulating the entire lash in a polymer-based formula. It gently hardens, protecting your lashes and hyperextending them. It’s also water-resistant, which gives it the green light for beach days. “Tubing mascara can be tricky to remove,” notes Burton. “You don’t want to pull at your lashes too much when cleansing. Use a natural oil to slide mascara right off.”
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Fiber
We've seen an uptick in fiber mascaras in recent years, like this one from Too Faced. Some are single-tube applications that contain small fibers within the black or brown formula. Others are two- or three-part applications that require you to first apply a base layer, and then swipe on fibers, followed with a sealant layer.

“Fiber mascaras mimic your natural lash,” says Burton. “When you apply product, there are tiny little fibers that latch on to your natural lash which create more tiny little lashes. These tiny fibers grab on to the ends of your lashes, as well, for a lengthening effect.”

The result is full, dramatic lashes. So dramatic, in fact, that it may look like you’re wearing falsies. Fiber mascaras come with a caveat, though: They require a very deft hand. Poor application can result in dramatically clumpy lashes.
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A Note On Color
Mascara color comes into play more for those who have pale complexions, or very light lashes, and also when deciding whether your look is for day or night.

Brown mascaras can create a natural effect, especially during midday on light skin. Black mascara works throughout the day on almost any complexion, of course, but if you’re fair and want to create a “no makeup” vibe, consider the former. Note that brown mascaras come in all sorts of shades, as well. For example, they can lean a little red, semi-dark, or nearly black. Sample and search for swatches when shopping to find the perfect match for you.

Regarding colors such as blue, purple, green, or any pastel, let the spirit move you. Pastel mascaras do tend to wash out light eyes, so choose something rich and vibrant if you want to make your eyes pop. A deep purple, like this one from Make Up For Ever, can do very cool things for any eye color and is a great place to start if you’re experimenting.
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Wand Types
Mascara brushes come in all different shapes, sizes, and types — curved, plastic, natural-bristle, large, small, you name it. All of these can have very different effects on your lashes. That's why it's important to choose the right one.

Curved
Since the shape of curved wands mimics the natural curvature of most lids, these types of brushes are great for reaching the pesky inner- and outer-corner lashes. Plus, they provide a slight curling action.

Urban Decay Mascara Resurrection, $16, available at Urban Decay.
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Plastic
Plastic bristles are ideal for length and separation, because they're able to grab every single lash and coat it with product without veering into clumpy territory.

BareMinerals Lash Domination Volumizing Mascara, $19, available at BareEscentuals.
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Nylon
Chances are you've used classic nylon brushes before. We love them because the densely packed, fibrous bristles help volumize every lash while coating it in a generous amount of product.

Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara, $21, available at Tarte.
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Tiny
Baby brushes like this one make applying product to those hard-to-reach areas (like your bottom lashes, and inner- and outer-corner lashes) super-easy. We're partial to Clinique's version because it doesn't budge all day.

Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara, $10.50, available at Sephora.
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