10 Mascara Primers That Are 100% Worth the Extra Step

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Mascara primers, like butter in a sauté pan, are the secret extra step that creates a particularly great result. And while the comparisons between frying up food and painting your lashes end there, it's no less true. When it comes to well-curled, lengthened, and volumized lashes, sometimes you need a little something extra (i.e. lash primer). According to New York City-based makeup artist Joseph Carrillo, mascara primers really help out thicken and lengthen a lash. "They usually come in the color white. So you can see where you have applied it," he says. Carrilo adds that they even have some benefits. "These primers now come with is properties to condition the lashes for growth and to prevent them from breaking," he adds.

To find the best options, we scoured the internet in search of raving reviews. Then, we cross-checked those with recommendations from our own editors here at Byrdie HQ. What we got was a comprehensive list of the best mascara primers on the market.

Below, discover our top mascara primer picks.

Our Top Picks
It's infused with an oil serum concentrate to improve the thickness and curl of your lashes—immediately and over time.
Specially formulated for sensitive eyes, this pick enhances the color, length, curve, and thickness of your lashes.
This affordable pick offers a ton of volume and a super-smooth, even application.
This pick amplifies your natural lashes for a thicker, longer look for under $10.
Just one or two swipes of this pick will have your lashes looking more defined, thicker, and so lifted.
Once applied, it offers both longer and stronger lashes, prepped and ready for a bold mascara application.
This travel-size pick reveals soft, silky lashes in just one step.
This pick comes in a rich black formula and is packed with vitamins A and C to keep your eyelashes nourished and lengthened.
This brown-tinted primer defines and separates lashes for a natural, feathery look.
It acts like a magnet to attract and hold the mascara for hours on end.

Best Overall: Dior Diorshow Maximizer 3D Triple Volume Plumping Lash Primer

Dior Diorshow Maximizer 3D Triple volume plumping lash primer

This lash primer's formula, dubbed an "air-pumped texture," coats each lash with a dense layer to intensify the effects of your mascara. Plus, it's infused with an oil serum concentrate to improve the thickness and curl of your lashes—immediately and over time. In the clinical study, in fact, subjects reported 73% more curl after eight weeks of application and 90% more curl when compared to their bare lashes.

What Our Testers Say

"I also noticed that the primer dries and feels silky on the lashes—it absolutely gives them a protective coating and makes them feel stronger. I instantly noticed how my lashes looked more curled and separated, but it wasn’t too obvious, which I really liked." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Lancôme Cils Booster XL Super-Enhancing Mascara Primer

Lancôme CILS BOOSTER XL Super-Enhancing Mascara Base

Specially formulated for sensitive eyes, Lancôme's primer offers a white mascara base with microfibers to enhance both the color and the length, curve, and thickness of your lashes. The microfibers coat each lash, pumping them up once a mascara coat is painted on top. With so many positive reviews on the brand's website, we trust the hype.

Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Big & Loud Lash Primer

NYX Professional Makeup Big & Loud Lash Primer

Though prestigious products are great, we can't help but fall in love a little harder with an offering that comes at a lower price point. NYX Professional Makeup's drugstore version is exceptional—it offers a ton of volume and a super-smooth, even application (courtesy of the thin brush).

Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Voluminous Lash Primer

L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Primer Mascara

This shockingly lightweight formula (no more droopy, heavy lids) amplifies your natural lashes for a thicker, longer look that still feels soft.

Best Volumizing: Stila Lash Stunner Extreme Lash Primer

stila lash stunner extreme lash primer

Key Ingredients

Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also helps soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.

A favorite of our editorial director, Faith, Stila's lash primer is a combination of vitamin E and jojoba to effectively thicken sparse eyelashes. Plus, it's brown, which complements and warms your complexion.

"I love that the formula is a light-brown color instead of white," Faith notes. "When I pulled out the wand, I saw thousands of little bristles coating the brush—bristles that I could just imagine coating my lashes and making them thicker, fuller, and more Twiggy-esque. The next day, I curled my lashes as usual and applied the lash primer immediately afterward. I didn't see an immediate difference but waited a few seconds and applied the mascara. Kapow—then the magic happened."

She continues, "Usually I have to apply many, many coats of mascara to coax out any semblance of actual eyelashes, but this time, just a quick stroke or two immediately showed results. My lashes were more defined, thicker-looking, and so lifted. There wasn't any clumping, either."

Best Lengthening: Urban Decay Subversion Lash Primer

urban decay subversion lash primer

Key Ingredients

Panthenol is the provitamin—a precursor, or substance that the body can convert into a specific vitamin—for B5. It binds to and holds water effectively, moisturizing the skin and helping it maintain softness and elasticity.

Created without parabens and whipped into a butter-like texture, this panthenol and vitamin E–infused creamy, conditioning lash primer works to coat every inch of your eyelashes, from root to tip. Once applied, it offers both longer and stronger lashes, prepped and ready for a bold mascara application.

Best for Travel: Tarte Opening Act Lash Primer

tarte opening act lash primer

Now for the jet-setting crowd: This one's travel-size. Its formula reveals soft, silky lashes with just one prep step—swipe on the conditioning blend for unprecedented separation and absolutely zero clumping.

Best Black: Pixi by Petra Black Lacquer Lash Primer

Pixi Black Lacquer Lash Primer

Rather than white (or clear), this lash-prepping primer comes in a rich black formula and is packed with vitamins A and C to keep your eyelashes just as nourished as they are lengthened. The comb applicator defines, volumizes, and sets each lash prior to mascara application (or on its own for a tinted, natural look). 

Best Brown: Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Tinted Lash Primer

benefit theyre real tinted eyelash primer

Use this mink-brown primer (a favorite of our assistant editor, Erin) to tint, define, and separate your lashes for a natural, feathery look. Use it alone or pair it with mascara for a quick boost.

Best Long-Wear Benefits: Estée Lauder Lash Primer Plus

estee lash primer plus

Estée Lauder's formula works best to extend the wear of your mascara. So no slipping, smudging or flaking. Plus, it acts like a magnet to attract and hold the mascara, so less of your product is needed per application.

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