Building Your Kit Part 10: Mascaras from A to Z


If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the lashes are the window dressing. Lashes are a finishing touch for any eye look, whether you’re going for long and luscious, sparse and spiky, or full and dramatic. And if you want to frame the eyes perfectly, it all starts with mascara.

With so many choices on the market, mascara really comes down to personal preference, but there are certain go-tos I recommend every artist keep in his or her kit. Black mascara, brown mascara, plus both clear and waterproof options tend to be the most used lash products, but I also love carrying a few colored versions, too. Here are my recs for building the perfect mascara arsenal.

Basic Mascaras

Black: It’s the most basic and popular lash product, so keeping the perfect black mascara in your arsenal is a no-brainer. For your black mascara, I recommend stocking up on a thickener you love. Adding in a bit of black can bulk up most lashes and still look natural. I also recommend keeping a lengthening formula on hand for lashes that need some additional dimension. Waterproof formulas aren’t my favorite for everyday, but they’re definitely a necessity for hot weather or occasions when your makeup needs to last all day.

Brown: Often the forgotten stepchild, brown mascara is an amazing option for blonde or fair-haired wearers. Brown is also a beautiful balancer on bottom lashes when you want the focus on a dramatic top lash. Brown mascaras come in warm red tones or cool taupe tones, and I like to carry one of each undertone in my kit.

Clear: With this product you can hold brows in place, add some curl and dimension to natural lashes, or even create your own color of brow makeup or mascara. A clear mascara is a must-have, multipurpose tool.

Colored Mascaras

Like I said, this comes down to personal preference—but colored mascara can be a powerful addition to your kit. With a colored mascara, you can play with color theory to bring out someone’s eye color, or even tie in the latest color trends to an everyday makeup application.

Blue: Blue is always a sure bet and easy to experiment with. Subtle, soft blues are a great option for fairer skin tones, where black might be too intense. Try focusing deeper blue shades at the root and watch how quickly it brightens up the eye. Electric, bright blues can make a strong statement and make any makeup look more modern.

Purple: Purples are perhaps the most misunderstood shade. A universally flattering tone, purple mascara works well on everyone, from the lightest to the darkest complexions. Take note—it may appear more dramatic in the tube than it does on the lash, but nonetheless, it can help you create a sultry or surprisingly natural look. Purple shades make brown eyes appear deeper and more dramatic, and it will bring out flecks of green and gold in hazel, blue, or green eyes.

Green: Green might make you think of New Wave or call to mind Blondie’s “Rip Her to Shreds” video, but it can be used for all sorts of occasions outside of this weekend’s ’80s party. Green has the ability to make a subtle or bold statement. It works beautifully on brown-eyed girls and can also pull out violet tones in blue eyes. Try pairing green mascara with your next red lip application and watch how the complementary color combination gives you that extra bit of ‘oomph’.

Burgundy: Burgundy mascaras are another often-overlooked makeup option. Burgundy really makes green eyes pop, but it’s also great on brown eyes when you want a romantic or sensuous look. A bit of burgundy mascara paired with this season’s metallic eyes is a great warm option that has all the heat of a smokey eye. And it’s a little more daring and unexpected than black mascara.

Auburn: It’s not just for redheads! This warm red color can completely open up green and hazel eyes. Auburn mascara is also useful for deterring attention away from under eye discoloration and will leave any complexion looking open and well-rested.

Final Tip: Play With Formulations!

I love to carry both lengthening and thickening formulas. One of my favorite professional tips is to use a lengthening mascara into the middle of the lash line, and then add a thickening formula to the outer corners of the lash. The technique creates an amazing look—it opens up and flatters every eye shape.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! While you may not choose to carry each and every color in your kit, it’s always good to know how a simple layer of mascara can transform an application and bring a look to an editorial level. An exciting edge is just a flick of the wand away!

Check out Parts 1–9 of James Vincent’s Building Your Kit series here, and stay tuned for Part 11, coming soon!

As Director of Artistry for The Makeup Show, The Powder Group and On Makeup Magazine, makeup artist James Vincent has touched every facet of the industry with his talent. With specialties in film and theatre, television and celebrity work, editorial and runway work, James is foremast a passionate educator, training for brands such as MAC, Stila, CNN and Lancome. He continues to inspire the next wave of artists with his beauty expertise. Follow James on Twitter @JVincentmakeup.