What Should I Consider When Buying Mascara?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

If you’re at the store or the cosmetics shop buying mascara, you may find yourself overwhelmed with too many choices. Not only will mascara choices vary, but brush length and shape also varies and may be a factor to consider when buying mascara. Further, one has to assess color as well as variety, since one shade may be better than another for your lashes and coloring.

Mascara comes in various formulas for lengthening and thickening.
Mascara comes in various formulas for lengthening and thickening.

Typically, mascara is available in black or brown. You can also sometimes find clear mascara that may work well as a first coat, or on its own if you have thick dark lashes. For a silly costume, or for a rock concert, you might consider buying mascara in purple, blue or green. But for everyday use, black or brown tends to be more flattering. Those with light coloring may find black to be a bit overwhelming, and may opt for a subtler brown. Once you have decided on the appropriate color, buying mascara gets a little more complex.

Mascara typically is available in black or brown, but it also comes in colors or even clear.
Mascara typically is available in black or brown, but it also comes in colors or even clear.

First, if you are using mascara for a special day, like your wedding, consider buying mascara that is waterproof. This will help you get through your day without worrying that you’ll look like a raccoon if you shed a few tears. You may also want to use waterproof mascara for all days, and especially in rainy weather. If you are buying mascara that is waterproof, be sure to also pick up an oil based eye-makeup remover for cleaning off the mascara at night.

If you tend to have skin irritations from make-up, you want to think about buying hypoallergenic mascara. This may be particularly useful for those with frequent eye allergies too, as some mascara can irritate the eyes. If you’re into cruelty-free makeup, you may also want to consider buying mascara that has not been tested on animals. These tend to be gentler on the eyes in general because they cannot be tested on animals and use ingredients that are not likely to irritate.

You will also note that mascara comes in thickening formulas, lengthening formulas and anti-clumping formulas. Some brushes will be curved, and some will be long and straight, or short and straight. Longer brushes will allow for easier application of the mascara. Curved brushes push top lashes upward for more curl. The formulas above are relatively self-explanatory, but one choice may be better than another when you are buying mascara.

Thickening formulas tend to have wax or polymers that make the lashes appear slightly thicker. If you have thin lashes these may be your best choice when buying mascara. Lengthening mascara may have essentially the same formula as thickening mascara, but come with a longer brush that has denser bristles. This puts more mascara on the lashes with each application and allows you to get the tips of your lashes with greater ease. It doesn’t really lengthen the lashes, but simply puts more mascara on, providing a longer-looking lash.

For some, buying mascara that is anti-clumping is the best way to go. Anti-clumping mascara tends to have silk or other oils that keep the mascara from sticking together. It tends to work fairly well if you wish to apply more than one coat.

Lastly, consider buying mascara every two months. Over time, it can dry out and won’t work as well, and may also become a breeding ground of infection-causing bacteria. If you have an eye infection while using mascara, buy new mascara when the infection is resolved. Further, don’t share mascara with others, as this too can result in viral or bacterial eye infections.

Failing to wear waterproof mascara when it rains – or when sweating or crying – can cause the makeup to run and smudge.
Failing to wear waterproof mascara when it rains – or when sweating or crying – can cause the makeup to run and smudge.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


A common mistake people make is they use gel based formulas instead of wax based ones even though they have short lashes. If you have really sparse, short lashes, you should not apply anything that's heavy because it will weigh it down. It won't make them longer or more visible.

You have to go for a lighter wax formula that can make the lashes stand out without weighing them down. I think wax based ones are always a safe option. It looks good even on long lashes.


You can actually buy a collection of professional mascara wands that have every shape and length you can imagine. I just found out about it and have ordered it. It comes with 12 different mascara wands that are disposable. I think professional makeup artists use these for hygiene and sanitation reasons since they work with multiple people at one time.

I'm really excited about it because till date I haven't been able to figure out which type of wand works best on me. I'm planning on trying them all and comparing the results. Since they are disposable, I won't use them for the long term but once I know which types suit my lashes the best, I can buy that kind afterward.


@burcidi- If you already have thick lashes, you should use a mascara that has long bristles, it can be curved if you want them to look even longer.

If you have problems with the mascara clumping, silk formulas would be good, but a comb brush would solve that problem as well. These mascara brushes tend to separate the lashes out, so it won't stick together when you apply it. And don't forget to wipe off the excess mascara onto a tissue in the first couple of uses. That causes a lot of clumping too.


Oh wow! I didn't know that I should pay attention to the mascara brush. I usually just pay attention to whether it is waterproof or water soluble. I don't like waterproof mascaras because it is so hard to remove them at night. I lose quite a bit of lashes while cleaning waterproof mascara, so I always buy water soluble.

When it comes to the brush, I just pick up whatever I feel like! The most recent release is usually what I go for. I didn't know that I should select it based on my lash thickness and length. I have thick and long lashes. Which kind of brush should I use then? Would a curved brush with anti-clumping be a good choice for me?

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