Your Ultimate Guide to Every Type of Mascara

Updated 03/13/19
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The allure of lengthy, voluminous lashes is one that isn't forecasted to die down anytime in the near future. In fact, they date back to Ancient Rome when sky-high flutters were deemed a sign of having high moral standards. Then, in 19th century Europe, women began threading their lashes to their eyelids to achieve maximum height (ouch). As a more practical (and safer) solution, chemist Thomas Williams made Cake Mascara, inspired by his sister Mabel who applied Vaseline and coal dust to her lashes to lift and tint them (the brand would later be called Maybelline). Since then, we've made extreme headway in the lash-enhancing department with semi-permanent treatments like lash lifts, tints, and extensions, but there's nothing like the simplicity and ease of a traditional inky mixture and corresponding curling wand to make your steepest lash dreams come true. Mascara: it's our desert-island product.

Still unsure which tube is best for you? We've touched on the best wands for your lash type, but it's important to also be able to decipher between the various formulas. Below, we've outlined every type.

Fiber Mascara

Best for: short, thin, sparse lashes

Typically a dual-phase system, fiber mascaras come with both a white fibrous primer to adhere the tiny lengthening fibers to your lashes as well as a finishing black cream formula. One thing of note: When it comes time for removal, the fibers may come loose and fall into the eyes, so take care to gently cleanse the area, keeping eyes closed while you wipe away. 

Physician's Formula Eye Booster
Physician's Formula Eye Booster $15
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Tubing Mascara

Best for: short, thin, sparse lashes 

Similar to the idea of fiber mascara, tubing mascaras form tiny cones around the individual lash hairs to help lengthen and bulk the lashes. And unlike many fiber mascaras, they don't easily flake off during wear. 

Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions $24
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Curling Mascara

Best for: stick-straight lashes

If your lashes jut straight out, you have the upside of not having your mascara smudge on your lids, but you do have the downside of not possessing the power of a lifting curl to make your lashes look even longer. Enter: curling mascaras, with their curved brushes and lifting formulas to help lashes bow just right. Place the inner curve of the wand against the curve of the underside of your lashes and shimmy upward for maximum height.

Benefit Roller Lash
Benefit Roller Lash $25
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Waterproof Mascara

Best for: athletes, those with watery eyes/allergies

Maybe your eyes frequently water or you're constantly rubbing them, or you're an athlete who needs a high-powered mascara to rebuff the perils of sweat. Whatever the case may be, a waterproof formula will provide you the defense you need against smudged eyes. A good hack: Coat your lashes with regular mascara first, then follow up with a waterproof formula to make the removal process a bit easier. This way, the budge-proof variation isn't touching your actual lashes.

Eyeko Yoga Waterproof Mascara
Eyeko Yoga Waterproof Mascara $26
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Natural Mascara

Best for: anyone

Sifting through the ingredients list on a regular mascara may leave you feeling uneasy, what with the petroleum derivatives and parabens. The good news is a high-performing mascara doesn't have to come with scary additives; team Byrdie has a few tried and true favorites we turn to when we're being especially conscientious (which, admittedly, could be more often than we practice).

W3ll People Expresionist Pro Mascara
W3ll People Expresionist Pro Mascara $22
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Volumizing Mascara

Best for: thin, sparse lashes

Thick, voluminous flutters add an intensity to our overall beauty look that's always welcomed, whether the motive is all-out glam or pared-down Saturday afternoon errand-running makeup. To impart the most oomph, volumizing mascaras have a thicker, waxier formula, often with silicone polymers to bulk up the lash hairs.

Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes
Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes $29
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Clump-free Mascaras

Best for: dense lashes/anyone

What goes into your mascara's formula is directly correlated with how it'll appear on your lashes; ipso facto, the thicker and more volumizing the iteration, the more likely you are to be left with spider lashes. If your goal is feathery, separated flutters, a formula infused with glycerin or silk extract will serve you well, as will a silicone brush for extra clump-beating power.

CoverGirl Clump Crusher
CoverGirl Clump Crusher $8
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Bottom-lash mascara

Best for: anyone

If you've ever struggled to precisely coat your bottom lashes without experiencing dreaded flecks of formula or smudges underneath your eyes, know you're not alone. That's why several brands have created ultra-thin wands to cater to this very need. A long, slim brush hugs the lashes and expertly pulls the formula through without touching the skin underneath. Yet another beauty product we didn't know we needed. 

Pixi Lower Lash Mascara
Pixi Lower Lash Mascara $11
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Mascara Primer

Best for: anyone

As senior editor Hallie Gould puts it, mascara primer is "like the butter in a sauté pan," providing the proper base needed to achieve lash greatness. It primes, thickens, and conditions lashes, providing a strong foundation for the inky black mascara ahead, which helps lashes look even fuller and longer than they would with just mascara alone.

Lancôme XL Vitamin-Infused Mascara Primer
Lancôme XL Vitamin-Infused Mascara Primer $26
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