How to Choose the Right Mascara

Crystal Schwanke
Applying mascara

Mascara can enhance the beauty of your eyes like nothing else, especially when also use an eyelash curler. This cosmetic can make the whites of your eyes look whiter after an all-nighter, and you can create a sultry, dramatic look or a flirty, playful appearance. The trick is finding the appropriate formula for the look you desire and the type of lashes you have. Once you have the right product, you just need to know how to apply it for the maximum effect.

Types of Mascara

Volumizing/Thickening

Volumizing/thickening formulas give you a seductive look, especially when paired with smoky eye makeup. Thickening and volumizing formulas generally do the same things, so don't get too caught up in the terminology on the package. Some formulas look more natural and completely suitable for daily wear if you pair them with neutral makeup, although the bold lashes created with this type of mascara would never be considered fair game for a "natural" makeup look.

Generally, the products that come with a primer on one end and the mascara on the other end look better for going out at night because they provide quite a bit of drama and don't smudge as you dance the night away. Thickening products in a regular tube generally look almost as dramatic as their primed counterparts, but they're better suited for everyday wear, plus they're quicker to apply.

One of the best dual-ended combination mascaras is L'Oreal Double Extend. This product's conditioning primer contains Ceramide-R to fortify your lashes. The waterproof mascara is smudge-proof, and the entire product is suitable for contact lens wearers and people who have sensitive eyes.

Great volumizing products with no primer include:

  • L'Oreal Voluminous: This mascara has a relatively large brush with densely packed bristles that grab and distribute the product evenly. The formula isn't too dry or too wet. It's the perfect middle ground.
  • Maybelline Volum' Express Falsies: The entire Volum' Express line is good for creating thicker-looking lashes, but the Falsies product makes sure the lashes on the ends flare out while the rest of them look plumped up and almost as dramatic as fake lashes.
  • MAC Zoomlash: If you like wetter formulas with medium-sized brushes and old school bristles rather than plastic, flexible ones, this mascara should work well for you.
  • CoverGirl LashBlast: LashBlast has a very plump brush with plastic, "spiky" bristles that grab onto every lash.

Hint: To make your lashes look even thicker, dot black eyeliner between your top lashes and smudge. It's a trick for making false lashes look more natural, but it also works for your own natural lashes when you want a false-lash look.

Lengthening

It's time to flirt! Long lashes give you innocent sex appeal without all the drama, which is perfect for a first date. Lengthening formulas are also great for girls who already have thick lashes and just want a little extra oomph. They're also a good option for women who prefer a more natural look and wear neutral eyeshadow; the lashes will still be visible even without extra volume when they're not lost against a dark shadow background.

Suggested lengthening products include:

  • CoverGirl LashExact: The brush on this one is similar to the one that comes with the LashBlast mascara, only this brush is longer and thinner. The bristles and spikiness are still the same, and it does grab every lash, but this brush, along with a "dry" formula, extend the lashes instead of fattening them up.
  • Rimmel Lash Accelerator Mascara: Not only does this formula give the illusion of longer lashes, it contains ingredients designed to make your lashes grow longer, too.
  • Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long Wearing Formula: The long, thin, tapered brush makes it easy to apply the mascara on all your lashes and make them appear longer. However, the real draw for this formula is that it's long lasting, yet still easy to remove when you take your makeup off at the end of the day.

Color

Most people associate "colored mascara" with trendy, vibrant colors, and these colors certainly have their place, such as in a teen's makeup stash. People who are sincerely into the art of makeup often have these colors in their cases too because sometimes vibrant colors complement eye makeup like no other. What people often fail to realize is that mascara also comes in more muted colors like navy, blackened amethyst, deep emerald green and burgundy. These are the colors you can use to brighten your own eye color. If you prefer to explore and experiment, try navy blue for blue eyes, burgundy for blue or green eyes, or deep amethyst and emerald for green, brown and hazel eyes.

Some products worth trying include:

  • Dr. Hauschka's Mascara in Royal Blue: This mascara is one of the brightest mascaras you can find You can apply one coat for just a hint of color in the sun, or you can pile it on for a blast of true royal blue because it doesn't clump easily.
  • CoverGirl Eye-Brightening Mascara: This is for women who are looking for a subtle hint of color and sparkle that will enhance their eye color. It's not noticeable even after you build it up for more intense length and volume; it falls more into the category of, "here's something different about the way you look today, but I can't put my finger on what it is."
  • Chanel Inimitable Mascara: It's not every day that you run across a mascara with the color name, "Zest," but you'll find it in this line, along with Limelight, Aqua Blue, and Blue Note.
  • Yves Saint-Laurent Volume Effet Faux Cils: This mascara gives you a combination of the ultimate drama of a volumizing mascara that makes you look like you're wearing false lashes, and the subtle, eye-color-enhancing colors that make your eyes look even more intense than usual. There are several blues, as well as green, burgundy and violet.

The Ones That Do It All

A mascara that does it all, lengthening, thickening, separating, curling and coloring, is often the holy grail of a girl's makeup treasure trove. It's the key to dramatic lashes, smoky looks, and just feeling like one hot mama. The magic formula will do for your eyes what a little red dress does for your body -POW!

Suggested all-in-one products include:

  • Christian Dior Diorshow: This is a cult classic for a reason. The large brush and creamy formula work together to give elongated, thick lashes.
  • Lancome Hypnose: This mascara formula claims to make your lashes appear six times thicker, and it keeps them soft, supple, and separated.
  • Benefit they're Real!: Here's a medium-sized brush with the flexibility and "spiky" appearance that many of the newer mascaras on the market have. It lengthens, curls, lifts, separates, and doesn't smudge.

Which Color for Your Skin Tone, Eye Color, and Hair Color?

The biggest factor in choosing a mascara is skin tone, but eye color and hair color sometimes factor in. Here are a few tips.

Woman applying makeup
  • If you're a fair-skinned, light-eyed blonde, black might be harsh for you to wear every day. Try brown or black-brown instead for a softer look.
  • Fair-skinned, light-eyed brunettes can go either way and use black, brown-black or brown, depending on their mood, the rest of their eye makeup and what makes them feel most comfortable.
  • Fair-skinned redheads look fabulous in auburn!
  • Medium skin tones, regardless of hair and eye color, can often go for a soft black shade.
  • Darker eyes often look best with "blackest black," while lighter eyes look best with "black-brown" shades.
  • Dark skin tones look best in black; they really make the eyes pop against deep skin tones.

If you're into vibrant colors, just play around with different palettes. Usually, when colored formulas look good or bad, it has more to do with the rest of the makeup than your own personal coloring.

Keep a Few Mascaras on Hand

Although mascara's only good for about three months once it has been opened, it doesn't hurt to have a little mini-arsenal on hand. You may prefer one type for daytime and another for night, or you may want to wear waterproof sometimes, but not every day since that can cause lash breakage. Colors are fun, but they're not always appropriate for the workplace. If you feel like you'd like to have a collection of mascara so you can play around with your look, go for it. Just try not too have too many in any single category so you won't have to toss them before you've had a chance to use them up.

How to Choose the Right Mascara