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Shape Matters: 8 Different Types of Mascara Wands and What They Actually Do

Photo by Sharlotta/Getty Images

It’s no secret that here at IPSY we love lash stuff. From falsies and primers to finding the best waterproof mascaras and curling mascaras to the right mascara for your lash type and more, we’ve investigated it all. Seriously, for some of us, skipping out on mascara when putting on makeup is like forgetting our underwear at home. Our eyelashes feel naked without it. And when it comes to mascara application, choosing from the endless different types of mascara wand options available to us can sometimes send us into a tizzy. 

For years we’ve relied on a small selection of wand variety when buying mascara, like the classic spiral wand shape of our tried-and-true (and so iconic) tube of MAYBELLINE Great Lash Waterproof Mascara. But with all the mascara formula options out on the market that promise to help lengthen, strengthen, lift, and fluff up lashes, it makes sense that an array of different types of wands promising to help do the same have also entered the chat.

“When it comes to mascara, different wands can help you achieve different results. Some wands are going to be great for achieving voluminous lashes, while others are going to be great for separation and lengthening,” says makeup artist Cara Lovello. If you’re like us and need a little help matching your lash needs to each type of brush’s job description, stay tuned for some insight into the most popular types of mascara wands and what they do best.

About the Expert:
Cara Lovello is a celebrity makeup artist in NYC.

1. The Classic Spiral Mascara Wand

JUICE BEAUTY Phyto-Pigments Ultra Natural Mascara

Consider a classic spiral shaped mascara brush the OG of all mascara wands. The brush shape is a makeup artist go-to that you can use to create an everyday, natural look when you’re looking for definition without too much drama. Thanks to its design that sort of resembles a spiral staircase, this type of brush shape is amazing at grabbing onto sparse lashes at different levels to help lengthen and separate while easily delivering product to the roots of your lashes. The best way to apply? Wiggle the wand at the base of your lashes, then twist your wand outwards and upwards as you move from your lash line to lash tips for a fanned-out look.

Our Faves:

JUICE BEAUTY Phyto-Pigments Ultra Natural Mascara

The spiral-shaped brush in this travel-friendly mini promises to fan, lift, and separate without smudging or flaking. Plus, its staggered bristles make it great for grabbing those hard-to-reach lashes in the inner corners of your eye.

MAYBELLINE Great Lash Waterproof Mascara
Like we said—iconic. If the world of mascaras were a hierarchy, this tube would be Mother. This waterproof formula has been vouched for by makeup lovers and makeup artists alike for years thanks to its uncanny ability to deliver buildable volume to even the shortest of lashes while leaving your lashes looking naturally full. Plus, we love how it helps condition our lashes to keep them from feeling dry and brittle.

2. The Curved Mascara Wand

ICONIC LONDON Enrich & Elevate Mascara

If you’ve got stick-straight lashes, getting your lashes to curl and lift can be a tricky process. The fix? A mascara wand with a curved brush that can easily grab onto every single lash, from inner to outer corners. “A curved mascara wand is going to be great if your main focus is on using a curling mascara. Also, if you struggle with getting too much mascara on your eyelids, this wand may help because it is eye shaped,” says Lovello. Because this type of brush has bristles that conform to the shape of your lid, it can deposit mascara closer to your roots and grasp hairs without leaving product behind on your lids. The curved shape of the wand itself helps encourage stubborn straight lashes to curl upwards, lift, and separate, for a fuller, wide-eyed look. Even better, this shape works magic on lower lashes.

Our Faves:

ICONIC LONDON Enrich & Elevate Mascara
For us, applying this baby was love at first swipe. We love how easily the flexible wand curled up our super straight (and short!) lashes—no eyelash curler needed—while leaving them feeling soft and fluttery. Plus, it comes with a built-in lash-strengthening formula that basically makes it skincare for your lash hairs.

TOWER 28 Make Waves Mascara

The dual-sided curved wand in this formula is a friend to any lash type, from thick lashes to shorter lashes to anything in between. The sloped shape grasps on to the tiniest of lash hairs, slays when it comes to defining short bottom lashes, and uses one side to build volume, while the other lifts, lengthens, and defines. Basically, it’s the mascara wand of our dreams.

3. The Jumbo Mascara Wand

TARTE™ Big Ego™ Mascara

When it comes to lashes, it's no secret that bigger is better. So if you’re looking for the look of falsies or just want to take a break from your false lashes without sacrificing volume, consider a jumbo mascara wand your BFF. “Oversize jumbo wands are great for volume. You’ll notice a lot of volumizing mascaras have this type of wand. A jumbo wand allows for a lot of product to sit on the wand, and in turn pack more product onto your lashes,” Lovello tells us. Thanks to their densely packed bristles, oversized wands really help transfer mascara onto every lash, and help build up volume and thicken lashes with each swipe. The only caveat? If you’ve got short lashes, an oversized wand may be too big to grasp your hairs. Try curling your lashes with an eyelash curler first, then hold your wand at a 45-degree angle to comb through small sections of your lid at a time.

Our Faves:

TARTE™ Big Ego™ Mascara

There’s nothing tiny about this mini. Wiggle the fluffed-up wand in a zigzag motion from the base of your lashes to the tips for instant drama with minimal effort. We swiped a second coat, focusing on the outer corners of our lashes, and were floored by the instant doe-eyed effect.

BAREMINERALS Maximist Phyto-Fiber Volumizing Mascara

Plumped up AF. That’s how our lashes looked and felt after swiping this jumbo brush through our lashes just once! Its dense bristles help pack on pigment to all lash hairs while promising not to flake, smudge, or budge all day long. Pretty much a win-win.

4. The Skinny Mascara Wand

TRESLÚCE BEAUTY Ilusion Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara

“Skinny wands are great for lengthening and I find them very easy to use. They aren’t messy and allow you to get in really close to the root,” adds Lovello. What makes a skinny wand so great is its ability to give short lashes a lengthened falsie effect. If you’ve got shorter lashes, most wands with long bristles maybe be too long or widely separated to catch onto your lash hairs. But with a skinny wand, its short bristles can actually help deliver more precise application of product to your lashes hairs, creating the look of long lashes.

Our Faves:

TRESLÚCE BEAUTY Ilusion Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara

The skinny wand in this formula has a “twin-vortex” design that promises to help keep lashes totally clump-free with each application. Even better, it's infused with lash-loving ingredients like mamey sapote seed oil which helps keep your lashes nourished and hydrated for the long haul.

INNISFREE Skinny Waterproof Zerocara Mascara

A lash-defining mascara that promises to keep eye makeup looking fresh all day? We’re into it. While the skinny micro brush in this tube may be one of the tiniest we’ve seen, it delivers big. Swipe it on for instant curl without clumping. It comes with a non-hydrophilic powder that creates a shield against tears and sebum to prevent eye makeup smudging.

5. The Hourglass Mascara Wand

TOO FACED Better Than Sex Mascara

For fluttery, come-hither lashes served up with a side of F.L.I.R.T., look no further than an hourglass-shaped wand. This tool delivers all the glam you need, minus the falsies. We love the curvy shape of this brush style because it delivers multiple benefits with each swipe, helping lift and define sparse lashes while also adding volume and definition to the inner and outer corners.

Our Faves:

TOO FACED Better Than Sex Mascara

Longer, bolder, lifted, and curled? No wonder we’ve already hit the bottom of the tube. We love this mascara for the instant drama it gives our eyes (perfect for any date night or night out). Just hold the wand horizontally and let the hourglass shaped curves take your lashes to new heights.

LANCÔME Le 8 Hypnôse Serum-Infused Volumizing Mascara

Plush, plump lashes are something we’d never gatekeep. This hourglass-shaped wand helps coat every single lash with a nourishing, strengthening formula to keep lashes strong, healthy, and full of volume.

6. The Ball-Tipped Mascara Wand

IT COSMETICS Hello Lashes + Volumizing Mascara With Lash Serum

“A single ball tipped wand could be great for adding volume and packing on extra product with the tip,” says Lovello. If you’re looking for a wand that can really get into those nooks and crannies, this may be your style. Ball tipped wands (those tiny spherical wands with spiky tips), are great for swiping mascara onto hard to reach places, like inner and outer lashes, lower lashes, and short or sparse lashes. We love to carry them around for touch-ups to give our lashes a little bit of lift throughout the day.

Our Faves:

KIKO MILANO Lengthening Top Coat Mascara

We consider this the queen of touch-up tools. The ball-tipped wand in this mascara is made specifically to be used as a topcoat that delivers length to the corners and tips of your lashes after your first coat of mascara is set.

IT COSMETICS Hello Lashes + Volumizing Mascara With Lash Serum

The spherical tip at the end of this wand is positioned perfectly so that no lash hair is left behind. We especially love the deep inky-black pigment that gives our eyes a defined effect with barely any liner and the fact that it uses biotin, argan oil, and jojoba oil, to give our lashes some much needed TLC.

7. The Swan-Neck Mascara Wand

LANCÔME Grandiose Mascara
Courtesy of LANCÔME

Ever swiped merrily away at your lashes, only to realize you’ve also landed your mascara on your temples or cheekbones? We’ve been there. The fix? The swan neck wand. While the S-shape of this mascara brush is amazing at fanning out lashes from edge to edge, the shape of the wand actually mimics the contours of the face, which also makes it easier to apply mascara without accidentally ruining the rest of your makeup. Kind of genius, isn’t it?

Our Fave:

LANCÔME Grandiose Mascara

Reach for this uniquely shaped lash definer for an eyes-wide-open, doe-eyed effect. The swan-shaped wand hugs the curves of lashes and the contours of your face for precise application and works wonders on all eye shapes and lash lengths.

8. The Tapered Mascara Wand


These wands have a distinct Christmas tree shape that makes them super efficient at grasping baby hairs, especially if your lids are on the smaller side or if you have hooded eyes. They’re one of the more popular brush designs, and for good reason. A tapered wand allows you to apply mascara along the curve of your lash line and elongate and separate lashes without overdoing it with the amount of product you're applying. The result? More evenly distributed mascara, less clumping, and more defined lashes.

Our Faves:

THRIVE CAUSEMETICS Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara

While tubing mascaras can work serious magic on lashes, they aren’t always the easiest to apply. The tapered shaped wand in this tube makes it a foolproof process, even if you’re a newbie. One swipe and we had everyone convinced we’d just sprung for a new set of falsies.


If you’re looking for glam with a lightweight feel, this baby is your jam. The tapered wand in this formula helps do all the heavy lifting, giving lashes volume and curl without weighing them down. We love how light and airy the application feels while keeping smudging and flaking at bay.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated May 17, 2024 12:00 AM