The 7 Types of Mascaras and When (and How) to Use Them

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Actor Meghann Fahy with a lashy makeup look

@nikki_makeup / Instagram

For many, mascara is absolutely essential—nearly every makeup wearer uses it. Yet with so many formulas and types, finding the right one for your needs can sometimes be confusing. While long, voluminous lashes are usually the end goal when wearing mascara, each formula offers different benefits (and cons). Ahead, we asked pro makeup artists Courtney Jarrell and Nydia Figueroa to explain the various types of mascara and when and how to use them. Read on to find out what they said. (Your lashes can thank us later.)

Meet the Expert

  • Courtney Jarrell is a professional makeup artist based in New York City. She specializes in makeup for editorial and film.
  • Nydia Figueroa is a celebrity makeup artist in New York City and New Jersey.

Volumizing

  • When to use it: If both thickness and volume are what you’re after, volumizing mascara should be your pick. «Volumizing mascara is a great option for people with thinner or sparse lashes,» Jarrell says. «The formulas are usually heavier and darker, and the wand will have many bristles to [pack on the product]. Volume mascara fills in the gaps to achieve a fuller, fluffier, more glamorous look.» Just make sure not to go overboard: «If you over-apply a volumizing mascara, it can clump quickly,» she adds.
  • Product pick: For that false-like lash effect, apply a few coats of the Catrice Cosmetics Pure False Lash Beyond Black Mascara ($7).

Lengthening

  • When to use it: Lengthening and separating are the two main benefits of lengthening mascara, so Jarrell says it’s an excellent product for those who want to get in on the trending «clean girl» aesthetic. «The consistency is airier than a volumizing formula and can sometimes even have fibers or polymers that attach to the end of your lashes to maximize length,» she explains. «A lengthening mascara wand typically has fewer bristles, creating a softer, more intentionally sculpted look.» Figueroa shares a pro tip she uses often: «I love to layer lengthening mascara to build, and I layer this type with a volume mascara for the ultimate lash effect. Just be sure to avoid using too much product, as this can weigh down the lashes.»
  • Product pick: For a budget-friendly formula that offers both lengthening and volumizing benefits, try Essence Cosmetics’ Lash Without Limits Extreme Lengthening Volume Mascara ($5).

Waterproof

  • When to use it: There is a lot of controversy around waterproof mascara and who is supposed to use it—so allow us to set the record straight. «Waterproof mascara has a bad reputation of being too harsh for your lashes and hard to remove,» says Jarrell. However, «Waterproof mascara has the best hold—especially for someone with stubbornly straight lashes. Sometimes, I like to layer a waterproof mascara over a regular mascara to ‘seal’ the lashes and hold the curl.» Figueroa says waterproof mascaras are ideal for «someone who has oily eyelids or wants their mascara to be bulletproof. This is a great option for special occasions like weddings.» She doesn’t recommend adopting a waterproof formula as your everyday go-to: «Use waterproof mascara sparingly, as it can be more difficult to remove,» she adds. «Use a gentle eye makeup remover like micellar water to prevent damage to the lashes.» Jarrell said the key to removing waterproof mascara is to «simply soak it in a cotton pad with remover and don’t rub or tug the lashes too hard.»
  • Product Pick: Milani’s Highly Rated Anti-Gravity Waterproof Mascara ($13) has a fluffy brush to ensure every lash gets coated.

Tubing

  • When to use it: A fan favorite known to create the illusion of lash extensions without the heavy price tag, tubing mascara has risen in popularity over recent years thanks to its guaranteed results and pain-free removal process. «Tubing mascara has moldable polymers that wrap around and coat each lash. The tiny cones stretch (creating dramatic length) as the wand combs through every lash,» explains Jarrell. «[It’s] very cool—and even more incredible to see the little tubes when removing it, which is so easy. You can use warm water and a cotton round and hold for about 30 seconds. The tubes will roll right off.» She adds that this one is great for folks who want length without smudging or flaking. (So most of us.) But there is one big caveat, says Figueroa: «I wouldn’t cocktail this with any other mascara and [would] use it on its own.»
  • Product pick: Thrive Causemetics’ Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara ($26) is a tubing mascara that creates the look of extensions and can be easily removed with just water.

Fiber

  • When to use it: «Fiber mascaras are very similar to tubing mascaras,» says Jarrell. «Teeny tiny fibers are infused into the formula to bulk the lash, adding length and volume. Some brands go as far as to have a two-step system where you first apply a coat of mascara, then a dry coat of fluffy fibers, and one more layer of mascara. Wiggle that wand in between the lashes to see the magic of how this innovative formula performs.» Figueroa recommends fiber mascaras to anyone with shorter lashes who wants to add length. «Take your time with this application and press and roll for the best result,» she instructs. «Do not over-apply this mascara as it will create a clumpy effect on the lashes
  • Product pick: Maybelline’s Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Washable Mascara ($12) has tiny little fibers that attach to the lashes and aid in lengthening.

Clear

  • When to use it: Clear mascara doesn’t deliver the same results as its pigmented counterparts but still has benefits. «Clear mascara works great for a clean and natural look,» says Figueroa. «It can be used to define lashes without adding color. It is also great as a brow gel to tame unruly brows.» Jarrell shares these sentiments: «Clear mascara is as ‘no-makeup makeup‘ as it gets,» she adds. «Colorless mascara holds a curl and adds shine to the lashes for super subtle detail. [It’s] a great final touch for people who want to curl and go.»
  • Product pick: Multi-task with Wet N’ Wild’s Mega Clear Lash and Brow Mascara ($3).

Bottom Lash

  • When to use it: It’s the age-old question: Should we really use mascara on our bottom lashes, or will it just end up smudging? While any formula can be applied to the bottom lashes, this area needs extra attention. «Any mascara formulation can be applied to the bottom lashes… [but] if I had to choose, tubing mascara would be my winner,» says Jarrell. «It’s the least likely to leave you with smudging or flakes.» When applying mascara to your bottom lashes, she says it’s crucial «to use a tissue and wipe away the excess product off of the wand before.» Technique-wise, «I will use the tip of the wand with a light hand and swipe side to side.» She also recommends fan brushes for reaching every lash and ensuring they’re all coated. «For the bottom lashes, it’s best to use mascara with a smaller wand or a precision tip to avoid smudging,» adds Figueroa. «Lengthening mascara and waterproof mascara are great for this method.»
  • Product pick: Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara ($18) has the tiniest little brush to cover all your bottom lashes, minus any clumping.

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