"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.