Mascara is available in both water-based (washable) and oil-based (waterproof) formulas. Both types come in several varieties. Lengthening mascaras depend on polymers to coat lashes for the appearance of added length. Volumizing mascara strives to pump up sparse lashes with the help of special plumping agents. Curling mascaras employ special polymers that shrink as they dry, causing lashes to curve upwards.
While a mascara's formula is important, experts say the brush design is also a factor. Volumizing mascaras typically come with densely bristled wands to more generously pile on the product, while curling formulas often include curved-shaped wands to better lift lashes. More and more mascaras are now including anti-clump plastic and rubber bristles.
The big question is whether drugstore brands, commonly found in the $6 to $10 price range, are drastically different from department store mascara brands that cost more than $20. Unfortunately, we didn't settle on a truly satisfying answer. We certainly found far more review support for the more expensive brands -- in professional and user reviews. Users often fiercely devoted to a particular mascara. That said, we couldn't identify any big scientific differences between fancy and drugstore formulas.
Experts say the best mascaras should deliver their promised affect without smudging, smearing, running or flaking. Below, some additional shopping advice: