Mascara Wands: An Education

Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill
L'Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black
Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara
Clinique High Lengths Mascara
Chanel Le Volume de Chanel
Benefit They're Real! Mascara
Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant
Flower Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara
Givenchy Noir Couture Waterproof Mascara
Givenchy Phenomen' Eyes
It Cosmetics by Jamie Kern
Buxom Sculpted Lash Mascara
Lorac Cobra Mascara
L'Oreal Faux Cils Papillon
Maybelline The Falsies Volum' Express

"Life is a mystery," mused a heavily mascara-d Madonna back in 1989. Among the things confounding the now-55-year-old was certainly not the power of lash-enhancing makeup. But those were different times. As much as we're all for variety—especially when it comes to the shade, formula, weather-preparedness, etc. of a mascara—today's unending mascara-wand options have proven bewildering. Sure, they look different, but do they really act differently, too?

When the latest batch of what-are-we-supposed-to-do-with-these mascaras came into our office, we wondered once again how much of wand design comes down to peacocking and how much is really function? We decided we were due for an education in that department, so we paid a call to two women who know their inky, black, clumpy stuff—Gucci Westman and Charlotte Tilbury—to telll us how to use each and every wand like a pro. And now we're telling you. See that? Circle of life...or something.

On Fatter Wands [2-3]:
Gucci Westman: “I personally prefer it when the wand is bigger, longer, and fatter. It’s easier to get to the root of the lash and then evenly distribute the product from there.”

On Fiber Wands [2-3]:
Charlotte Tilbury: “Mascara is my desert island must have! Throughout my career, I've been constantly searching for 'the one.' I always look for a wand that gives my lashes length, volume, separation, curl, and drama. For me, a fiber wand always works best because it really deposits the product onto the lashes for a wide-eyed, flutter effect.”

On Delicate Wands [4-5]:
GW: “I end up using a small mascara wand for lower lashes, and for creating a natural-lash look. It doesn't do much aside from tinting the lashes black. I ever so lightly go over the lashes with a little wand, and it really nicely gets to the root, especially if you have shorter lashes. It creates a more delicate look.”

On Short, Rubber Bristles [6-7]:
GW: “These are made for getting to the base of the lash, on shorter lashes. With short, rubber bristles, the mascara tends to go on less clumpy.”

On Tapered Wands [8-9]:
GW: “There are cone-shaped wands and also wands that are skinny at the base, wide in the middle, and then skinny at the top again. Those ones are typically trying to help you define the shape of your eye—you get closer to your lash line with the skinnier part of the wand. I always prefer to wipe excess mascara off of the wand, and apply the product to the root with the skinny end, because it’s so much easier to control, as opposed to doing it with the middle of the wand. The fat middle part of the wand is going to give you more volume. And when you apply a second coat, it will keep adding to the volume and length."

On Ball Wands [10-12]:
GW: “These are made for the intricate areas—outer lashes and lower lashes. I would use one if I were doing really clumpy Sixties lashes and I wanted to get the skin just below the waterline to be a little blackish, but I don’t think that's what it’s made for!"

On Curved Wands [13-16]:
GW: "Curves are meant to open up your lashes more—for example, a curve at the base is of a wand will curl up your outer lashes and wing them out. When curves occur on the inner corner, or in the center, those, too, will grab onto the lashes in those areas of your eye and give them a little lift."

On Using Multiple Wands:
CT: “I haven't found one wand that can do everything. I used to use four or five different mascaras, starting with Chanel Inimitable to separate and define, building up with one from the Maybelline Colossal line, and finally adding intense drama with an Estée Lauder or Tom Ford.”

On Going Without:
GW: "Mascara can make a look a little too pretty; it's not my favorite part of doing makeup. That said, it's the one product women use every day, if they wear anything at all. But on set, sometimes I like to leave it out and let the rest of the makeup have a moment."

Photos by Elizabeth Brockway.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Sophie P

    An interesting and helpful post! :)

  • KT

    I always use 2 mascaras - usually a "classic" brush (like MAC zoomlash) and then a rubber brush (like max factor false lash effects). I just love the look of long, black lashes.

  • Michelle Lee

    love all mascara types!

  • Komal

    Love, love, love this. I'm totally feeling eyes at the moment - did you guys see Rita Ora's insane look at the GQ awards?

  • Janet Lee

    Maybelline Lash Discovery is also good for bottom lashes and inner/outer lashes because it has a small wand, and cheaper than Clinique.

  • rachna sharma

    Very informative post! Totally love it!

  • Georgie

    My mascara criteria are having a large fibre brush and not being waterproof. ALso I like to go over my lashes with a clean spoolie brush (or a well washed Maybelline Great Lash Mascara brush - the crap wand has a use!) so I can put on way more layers.

    • Janet Lee

      Yeah, I always get clumps. Just curious, how come you don't use waterproof? Because they're too hard to remove?

      • Georgie

        Yeah, I swear I lost 15 lashes that one time I used Benefit They're Real (so much volume but ugh it's tar in a tube)
        I like to be able to get it off with my normal cleanser :)

        • stacey

          I've found that waterproof mascara is the only thing that will hold a curl--but I have also found that I lose lashes or feel like my eye area becomes dried out when trying to remove it. Coconut oil is the best way I've found to remove it to avoid this problem.Roll your lashes between your fingers with the oil to break down the mascara, then finish with your normal face wash or Bioderma to take off that last remnants. Works great!

  • Emily Knott

    This was such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing!


  • babs

    I love this post! I've always wondered about different mascara wands. I'm definitely a short rubber bristles girl - they separate the lashes and give you a very natural look. The Physician's Formula organic mascara is a great one. I always get compliments on my eyelashes, never on my mascara. ;)

  • Haute Inhabit

    I think that the texture of the mascara should correlate well with the brush. Watery, sticky, thick? Whatever makes that substance work better.

  • Yagmur

    So, please do tell why no Lancome here? Pretty surprised...

  • LGandaB

    Thank you for not featuring the horrific new Avon Mega Effects mascara with its "paintbrush"-style wand. There's a reason mascara has been a two-piece cosmetic for the last few decades... nobody needs their mascara to come in three pieces!

  • blushingincolor

    This is very helpfull, it's like a jungle out there with all the shapes and sizes :)

  • Santa

    I'm a fan of dying lashes and curling. Wide-eyed definition. Except with the lightest of touches I think mascara looks really unsophisticated - so obvious!

    • Alma Doll

      I completely agree. I try to have mine dyed every few weeks and just curl them. However, I have found Kevyn Aucoin mascara and like how it looks when applied with a light hand, very natural.

  • Jennifer Monforton

    Nice roundup! BeneFit They're Real has a unique sort of brush that really does perform well! xo

  • Jessica


  • Dana Maye Buchmiller

    I loved this post so much I included it in my "Link Love" post here -

  • Janis Colas

    I can personally endorse Kltech Brand New Eyelash. Awesome!


CHANEL Inimitable Intense Mascara
Estee Lauder
Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Mascara
Tom Ford Beauty
Tom Ford Beauty Extreme Mascara Raven
Maybelline The Colossal
Maybelline The Colossal Volum’ Express Mascara