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.

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

4.9
Dior Diorshow Maximizer 3D Triple volume plumping lash primer

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Applies easily and smoothly

  • Thickens and helps lashes appear fuller

  • Doesn't stick or clump

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Best Products also picked the Dior Diorshow Maximizer Lash Primer.

What do buyers say? 87% of 600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

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.

Key Ingredients: Wax blend, diamond powder | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

dior diorshow maximizer 3D triple volume plumping lash primer

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca 

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

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Helps add length

  • Conditions lashes

  • Mascara lasts longer

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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.

Key Ingredients: Wax blend, vitamin E | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Big & Loud Lash Primer

NYX Professional Makeup Big & Loud Lash Primer

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Thickens and helps add fullness to lashes

  • Applies easily and smoothly

  • Thin brush lets you build coats

What We Don't Like
  • Must let dry before applying mascara

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).

Key Ingredients: Candelilla wax | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Voluminous Lash Primer

L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Primer Mascara
What We Like
  • Won't weigh down lashes

  • Conditions lashes

  • Defines and separates lashes

What We Don't Like
  • Tube can dry out quickly

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

Key Ingredients: Wax blend, hydrogenated jojoba oil | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Volumizing: Stila Lash Stunner Extreme Lash Primer

stila lash stunner extreme lash primer

Courtesy of Stila

What We Like
  • Tinted formula blends into lashes

  • Helps lift lashes

  • Nourishing formula

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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."

Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, jojoba oil | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Lengthening: Urban Decay Subversion Lash Primer

urban decay subversion lash primer

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Helps add length

  • Strengthens lashes

  • Creamy, emollient texture

What We Don't Like
  • Not as dramatic as other primers

Key Ingredients

Panthenol (pantothenic acid) 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.

Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, panthenol | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Travel: Tarte Opening Act Lash Primer

tarte opening act lash primer

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Keeps lashes soft

  • Separates and defines lashes

  • Thickens and helps lashes look fuller

What We Don't Like
  • Very small tube

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.

Key Ingredients: Cellulose, caranuba wax | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Black: Pixi by Petra Black Lacquer Lash Primer

Pixi Black Lacquer Lash Primer
What We Like
  • Richly pigmented

  • Nourishing formula

  • Helps define lashes

What We Don't Like
  • Not as dramatic as other primers

Rather than white (or clear mascara), 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). 

Key Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate, panthenol | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

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

benefit theyre real tinted eyelash primer

Courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics 

What We Like
  • Brown tint

  • Defines and separates lashes

  • Looks natural

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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.

Key Ingredients: Wax blend, serine | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Long-Wear Benefits: Estée Lauder Lash Primer Plus

estee lash primer plus

Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Mascara won't smudge

  • No drying time

  • Applies easily and smoothly

What We Don't Like
  • Tube can dry out quickly

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.

Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No

What to Look For in Mascara Primers

Conditioning

When choosing a mascara primer, looking for one that offers conditioning and nourishing benefits for the lashes is a fantastic way to double-up on your makeup routine. The best mascara primers will provide conditioning ingredients such as vitamin E, rich oils, panthenol, and other vitamins to boost lash health and appearance.

Formula

Look for a formula that appeals to the desired look and results. Mascara primers use ingredients such as waxes to coat and thicken the lashes and oils to nourish and plump. Some formulas are creamy and rich, while others are stiffer to provide structure for mascara without weighing down your thin eyelashes.

Pigment

Consider whether you want a clear, white, or pigmented mascara primer. Pigmented mascara primers can offer more color without risking white peeping through. Some mascara primers that offer color can be used on their own for a natural, subdued look that also provides nourishment to your lashes.

FAQ
  • What does mascara primer do?

    Mascara primer provides a base for your mascara to cling to while nourishing your lashes. Primer can thicken, lengthen, and volumize your lashes, boosting the ability of your mascara. It also reduces the number of mascara coats you may need and helps it last longer.

  • Does mascara primer protect eyelashes?

    Mascara primer can protect your eyelashes by providing lash-boosting ingredients that coat your lashes and provide a barrier between your lashes and the mascara. Primers often contain oils, vitamins, and other benefits for your lash health.

  • Is a mascara primer necessary?

    Mascara primer is not necessary, but it is very beneficial. It can help you use less mascara while providing a barrier between mascara and your lashes that also works to nourish and grow them.

  • Should eyelash primer dry before applying mascara?

    It is best to allow your eyelash primer to dry before applying mascara. Otherwise, your primer could be swiped off with your mascara brush. A good strategy is to brush primer on your top lashes, then the bottoms, and then use mascara on the first top lash, and so on, allowing the most time between applications to dry.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. GET MORE LENGTH OUT OF YOUR LASHES WITH A MASCARA PRIMER. Best Products. https://www.bestproducts.com/beauty/g26813253/mascara-primer-reviews/

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