How to Choose the Right Mascara Brush For Your Lashes

March 20, 2024
Wendy Rose Gould
By: Wendy Rose Gould | by L'Oréal
mascara wands

If you want longer, fuller, or more dramatic-looking lashes, it all comes down to choosing the best mascara brush for the job. The right mascara brush can instantly define your lashes and deliver anything from a softly curled look (perfect for a trendy coquette aesthetic) to lashes that give falsies a run for their money. But here’s the catch: There are a dizzying amount of brush types to choose from, including curved, hourglass, cone-shaped, ball-tipped, and more. Fortunately, identifying the ideal brush for your lashes doesn’t need to be complicated—if you know what to look for, that is.

Ahead, we’ll be showcasing the most common mascara brush shapes, explaining how each one works, and sharing who may benefit from each type. Plus, we’ll include some of our top picks for the best lengthening mascara, best volumizing mascara, and best mascara for short lashes—among other categories. The end goal? Snagging your perfect match.

Understanding Mascara Brushes

Mascara brushes vary widely, and each type is designed to do different things. For example, straight wands provide an even coating for a natural look, while curved bristles are known for delivering some serious curl. And while tapered brushes are generally considered the best mascaras for reaching the corner and bottom lashes with precision, spiral brushes are a game-changer when it comes to defining individual lashes and preventing clumps.

The bristle length and density matters, too. Thin and short bristles are known to add volume to your lashes, while long and thick ones help lengthen. When it comes to bristle density, sparse bristles often allow for a lighter application—perfect for low-key, no-makeup makeup days. Meanwhile, densely packed bristles tend to make for the best volumizing mascaras.

9 Types of Mascara Brushes and Their Effects

There are so many mascara brush options to pick from, and some will be better suited for your lashes than others. Read on to discover some of the most common shapes, along with the unique effects that each type has to offer.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Straight Brush: Defined Lashes

Straight mascara brushes are a must-have when it comes to achieving a defined and natural look. The linear design evenly coats lashes, separating them for a clean and polished finish. To use this type of mascara brush, start at the base of your lashes and wiggle the wand upward for even distribution.

Try: L'Oréal Paris Telescopic Washable Mascara features an elongated straight wand that'll take your lashes to the next level. Because it lifts and instantly boosts lash length up to 5MM, it’s also considered one of the best mascaras for short lashes.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Spiral Brush: Lengthened & Separated Lashes

Spiral wands get an A+ in lash separation and definition. Their twisted bristles are ideal for preventing clumps, providing a clean and evenly fanned-out appearance. For this brush type, we recommend starting at the base of your lashes and twisting the wand upwards to capture each lash. This technique enhances length and creates that covetable, well-defined lash line.

Try: It’s hard to go wrong with a classic option like Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. Not only is it one of the best affordable mascaras on the market (under $9) but it consistently makes the list of best-rated mascaras among editors and influencers. This mascara features a lash-doubling formula and a lash-building brush that makes it easy to create gorgeous-looking ashes.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Curved: Curled Lashes

Curved mascara wands are perfect for adding a bit of drama by lifting and curling your lashes. The arched design seamlessly follows the natural curve of the eye to enhance volume and create a wide, doe-eyed effect. To use this type of mascara, begin at the roots and gently sweep the wand upwards for an instantly lifted effect.

Try: Lancôme Lash Idôle Mascara hooks onto the root of your lashes and then curls them upwards, making this one of the best mascaras for straight lashes that need some natural curl. The lightweight gel formula won’t weigh lashes down, either, which helps keep your lashes lifted.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Hourglass: Curled & Long Lashes

If you want curl and dramatic length, try an hourglass-shaped mascara brush. This type of design is able to lift, curve, and amplify both straight and short lashes. The tapered middle concentrates product on the center lashes, while the rounded edges coat the outer and inner lashes. When using this type of mascara brush, start at the base, then wiggle the wand upward to build volume. Finally, sweep the brush towards your lash tips for a flawless finish.

Try: Maybelline New York The Falsies Lash Lift Washable Mascara Eye Makeup is arguably one of the best drugstore mascaras out there that features an hourglass-shaped brush. This mascara gives you an instant lash lift effect and features a fiber-infused formula that thickens and lengthens your lashes.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Thick & Fluffy: Volumized Lashes

Thick and fluffy wands are a great pick for anyone seeking serious length and volume. The dense bristles coat lashes generously, creating a full, voluminous effect. So, if your goal is to achieve a high-glam look, reach for a thick and fluffy mascara brush. Start at the base when applying and comb through to the tips, layering for intensified drama.

Try: NYX Professional On the Rise Volume Liftscara is one of our favorites. The round brush is slightly thicker in the middle in order to coat each and every lash more effectively–making your eyes appear bigger and your lashes longer and lifted.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Cone-Shaped: Fanned Lashes

When it’s precision and versatility you’re after, cone-shaped mascara brushes are the way to go. The tapered end allows for targeted application, coating your inner and outer corner lashes with ease. Meanwhile, the thicker portion allows you to build volume for a flirty and feminine look. Start at the base, using the narrow tip to reach small lashes. As you move towards the tips, the wider base helps add volume.

Try: L’Oreal Paris Panorama Washable Mascara is a good example of a cone-shaped mascara brush. This formula and brush design allows you to seriously pump up the volume at the outer edges of your lashes while providing lift and separation all over.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

Comb Brush: Defined & Separated Lashes

Comb mascara brushes are excellent for separating and defining each lash. They also come in handy for sparse and thin lashes since they allow you to coat each lash with precision. The spaced-out, comb-like bristles also help prevent clumps for a sleek, natural finish. Begin at the base, combing through lashes from root to tip.

Try: Maybelline The Falsies Push Up Angel Mascara deposits pigment along the lash line so eyes look more defined. In addition to coating lashes without clumps, the gently curved shape also offers lift, volume, and a winged effect.

Which Type of Mascara Brush Is Right for Your Lashes?

S-Shaped: Curled, Lifted, & Lengthened

Similar to the hourglass-shaped brush, an S-shaped mascara brush offers curling and lengthening results, but with a bit of extra oomph. The unique curve of this brush mimics the natural shape of your eyes, easily reaching every lash for a lifted finish. When applying, start at the base, rocking the wand back and forth to coat lashes evenly.

Try: Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Instant Full Body Volume Mascara sculpts your lashes to perfection without clumps or flakes. We love that when you apply this one, it delivers dramatic volume for an intense, extreme volume lash look—almost like you're wearing falsies.

Ball-Tipped: Precise Application

This unique mascara wand features a tiny ball with little bristles on the end, which allows for ultimate precision and customization. The spherical tip is perfect for detailed application, reaching every lash (including the smallest ones in the corners). Begin by gently rolling the ball at the base and work towards the tips for a defined, voluminous, and eye-opening finish.

Try: IT Cosmetics Hello Lashes+ Volumizing Mascara with Lash Serum features a tiny ball on the end that allows you to coat every single lash from corner to corner. The formula also has a built-in serum that includes biotin, argan oil, and jojoba oil for fuller-looking, nourished lashes.

Considerations When Choosing a Mascara Brush

When looking for the best mascara brush for your needs, it’s important to consider a few different factors, starting with these considerations below.

  • Lash Type: First things first, you’ll want to have an understanding of your natural lashes. Are they straight, curly, short, long, sparse, or thick?
  • Lash Goals: Once you know your lash type, you can pinpoint your lash goals. Maybe you want to give your straight lashes some curl, or maybe you’d like to create the appearance of some extra length for your short lashes.
  • Ease of Use: Consider your personal preferences for handling and application technique. Your chosen mascara should feel good in your hand and allow for easy application.
  • Mixing & Matching: Some people find that mixing and matching different mascaras is the best approach. For example, you can try using a volumizing mascara to build intensity, then follow with a defining mascara to help separate your lashes.
  • Daily Needs: Different days and makeup looks call for different types of mascaras. Keeping a few different mascaras in your arsenal can help you customize your lash look no matter the occasion.

Next Up: What Is Clear Mascara? Plus, the Best Ones to Shop

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