Mascara vs. Eyeliner - Which Should I Choose? (2023)

Eyeliner and mascara typically go hand-in-hand. Every good makeup artist will tell you that you shouldn’t choose between them. When you’re trying to race against the clock, however, you might need to make a compromise.

And unlike professional makeup artists and seasoned beauty vloggers, your average makeup user needs more than just two minutes to get either of them done, so we’re to help you decide which one to apply. We’re also going to discuss the differences between the two, just in case you’re a total beginner to makeup.

Contents [ show ]

  • Differences Between Mascara and Eyeliner
    • Mascara
    • Eyeliner
  • Are Mascara and Eyeliner Bad for Your Eyes?
    • Avoid Your Eyelid Margins
    • If You Wear Contacts, Practice Better Hygiene
    • No Sharing
  • Substitute for Mascara
  • Substitute for Eyeliner
  • Should I Wear Mascara or Eyeliner?

Differences Between Mascara and Eyeliner

Certain comparisons will never have a clear winner. The same can be said for mascara vs eyeliner. But before you try to make a decision, see what makes them different from each other and why you need them.


Mascara is typically used for thickening and lengthening your eyelashes. It’ll give you a fuller look, and when applied correctly, it will add a certain definition to your eyes. Not to mention, it also adds a protective layer against dust, sunlight, and other debris that could make its way into your eye.

Its biggest selling point is that it makes your eyes look bigger. So if your eyes tend to be on the smaller side, or if your lashes are fairly short to begin with, mascara would be a safe bet.

Application Tips

Mascara will really only work for you if you put it on correctly. It might take around five minutes, but you’ll thank yourself for taking the time to meticulously apply it before you head off.

(Video) Why this technique is BETTER than your false lashes!

Depending on your lash situation, you may want to consider being more light-handed with your mascara. If you apply it too liberally, it will work against you. Your eyes will look heavier—and not in a good way. Oh, and always start with curled lashes. This minimizes the amount of mascara your lashes will need, and will pull your eyelashes upward, opening your eyes up even more.

When applying the product itself, it’s important to start from the root. Move your brush in a left to right motion a couple of times to break up your lashes while you’re pulling the brush toward the tip. This will give you a more natural look instead of a clumpy mess. And don’t ignore your bottom lashes when completing your look. This will further add to the effect of bigger eyes.

Things to Consider

Before you buy just about any mascara in the market, you need to consider two things: formulation and brush type.

Mascara Brushes

There are various types of mascara brushes in the market. You will need to do some trial and error before you find the one for you since it’s more of a personal preference.

Fuller brushes tend to go heavy with the product but are better for breaking up your lashes. On the other hand, you can get a more natural look with a brush that has fewer bristles.

Mascara Formula

Now, on to the formula. You can pick waterproof or regular, depending on your daily activities, and you should choose something that will last all day. Waterproof mascara does a great job at lasting all day long and is an excellent choice if you tend to get sweaty.

That said, a regular mascara formula would be okay too, especially if you’re going to spend the whole day somewhere cool, but you might need to re-apply every few hours. Furthermore, you also need to take into consideration how well your mascara smudges—or doesn’t.


Eyeliner typically adds a unique kind of definition to your eyes. And it works wonders when you have dark circles around your eyes and look really tired. Generally, it’ll brighten up your eyes when applied correctly.

(Video) How To: Choose The Best Eyeliner For You | Sephora

It’s also a great choice for anyone with larger eyes. Apply it a bit more heavily, and you’re sure to draw attention to your eye makeup.

Application Tips

Mascara vs. Eyeliner - Which Should I Choose? (1)

Adding eyeliner to your waterline will give your lashes a fuller appearance without the need for mascara. You don’t have to add a wing to each eye, but adding a thin and short one will brighten up your eyes.

It’s also generally a good idea to apply eyeliner more heavily on the outside corner of your eyes. If you fill out the inner corners too much, your eyes will appear smaller and look darker instead of brighter.

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with dramatic wings. In fact, if you have the time to do them, you definitely should. They will make you look like you actually had enough sleep for once.

Things to Consider

Much like mascara, you have to consider your eyeliner’s formulation. But more than that, you also need to consider the type of liner you want to use.

Eyeliner comes in two basic forms—liquid and pencil. And depending on how much time you want to spend in the morning applying it, you may want to practice a few times. Pencil liner is easier to control. However, it does tend to smudge, and it can even transfer to your eyelids over time, so you won’t look put together for too long.

On the other hand, liquid eyeliner is typically either waterproof—or it isn’t. And it will generally last you the whole day without budging. That said, if you haven’t mastered the art of eyeliner application, you might need to try a few times to get it right each time. And it will definitely take you longer to apply eyeliner than mascara, no matter how much of an expert you are.

(Video) Mascara : How To Choose and Tips

Also, if you make a mistake, you might need to use a makeup remover to remove it.

Are Mascara and Eyeliner Bad for Your Eyes?

Mascara and eyeliner can be bad for your eyes if they’re past their best-by date, since they will eventually attract bacteria, which will breed if it’s in the right environment. This is especially true for liquid makeup. And since mascaras and eyeliners never get disinfected between uses, they’re at greater risk of spreading germs.

This close to your eye, you won’t want to take any chances. We suggest cleaning your brushes in between uses. Or you could also throw out any liquid makeup that makes it past the three to six-month mark.

And just to make sure you don’t get an eye infection, practice the tips below.

Avoid Your Eyelid Margins

Applying makeup to your waterline or the edges of your eyelids can cause blockages to your meibomian glands. These are basically responsible for lubricating your eyes. Eventually, it could lead to irritation and dry eyes.

If You Wear Contacts, Practice Better Hygiene

All bacterial and irritation risks are doubled if you wear contact lenses. That’s why it’s extremely important for you to disinfect your tools and wash your hands with soap and water before applying makeup.

No Sharing

Unless you want to potentially spread bacteria from other people to your eyes, don’t share your makeup. It’s unsanitary, and it will only raise your risk of infection.

Substitute for Mascara

If you’re not a fan of mascara, or if you just ran out, then you might be looking for a substitute. You’ll be surprised to hear that there’s one readily available in your home.

(Video) Brown Mascara vs Black🤔

It may come as a surprise to you, but Vaseline is a great substitute for mascara. Its texture thickens your eyelashes without the tint. Essentially, you’re left with a clear mascara. It also doubles as a makeup remover.

And the best thing? You don’t have to worry about smudged mascara.

Substitute for Eyeliner

If your eyeliner pencil is reduced to an ineffective stub, or if you run out of liquid eyeliner, there are a couple of ways you can still get those perfect wings.

Your first option is to use your eyeshadow. Dab a wet, pointy-tipped brush onto your eyeshadow and use that to line your eyes. You can go over it as many times as possible to get sharp, black lines. And what’s more, you can do this in any color.

You could also wet your eyebrow pencil and use that. The application won’t be as smooth, so you’ll have to be very careful. Regardless, it should look pretty decent when drawn right.

Since this is basically DIY eyeliner, you probably won’t get the same outcome as you normally would with an actual eyeliner. Unless you have lots of time to practice, we suggest lowering your expectations a bit, so you aren’t too disappointed by the outcome.

Should I Wear Mascara or Eyeliner?

When it comes to the mascara vs. eyeliner debate, it all boils down to your preferences and how much time you’re willing to spend on your eye makeup. While using the two makeup tools in tandem make for a gorgeous look, using just one of them can add a certain allure to your features as well, as long as you do it right and you don’t overdo it.

And make sure to follow the tips we provided to avoid eye infections. The last thing you need is pink eye.

(Video) Black vs Brown mascara


Is it OK to use mascara as eyeliner? ›

Paula says you can use the mascara to line your eyes like you would with eyeliner. Simply apply the mascara super-close to the lash line, shimmying it up against the skin to create a smudge-y line. If you have a brush, use that—you can drag the brush along the mascara wand and apply the product like a gel liner.

Does eyeliner make you look older or younger? ›

Applying a thick, black eyeliner makes your eyes appear really small and beady — making you look older than you are. An easy solution to this problem is to switch your back eyeliner with a brown one for a softer and more youthful appearance.

Does mascara make you more attractive? ›

Mascara, eye shadow and eyeliner: Cosmetic surgeon Adam J. Scheiner, M.D. says that because women naturally have more color variation around their eyes, eye makeup enhances that and makes them look more attractive. You also can use these cosmetics to increase the perceived size of your eyes so you look younger.

Is it OK to wear eyeliner without eyeshadow? ›

Keeping your look as simple as possible is a great idea for summer and it's totally fine to wear eyeliner without eyeshadow. In fact, if you're looking to speed up your makeup routine, try skipping mascara and wearing a very thin black or dark brown liner close to the lash line.

Why shouldnt you wear eyeliner? ›

Essentially, covering your lower lash line in eyeliner can block the tiny little glands, meaning your eyes aren't getting their normal amount of hydration from the oils the glands produce.

Where should you not put eyeliner? ›

It is best not to use liquid liner at all on the bottom lashes since it has the potential to smudge unevenly and create fine lines below the eyes. Additionally, it can make the eyes appear harsh because it is difficult to blend. Use a fine, stiff, angled brush to apply gel or powder liner below the bottom lashes.

What eyeliner is in style 2022? ›

The waterline eye trend requires coating both lash lines in deep, smudgy liner — a familiar look if you were a tween or older in the mid-00s. The 2022 version of the trend employs a more advanced technique than most probably used back in the day, but the results are no less striking.

Do men prefer makeup or no makeup? ›

In the spirit of speaking with data, I ran a quick survey on Qualtrics with about 60 men. 78% said they preferred women with the no-makeup look while just 22% said they preferred makeup. In a company context, product managers would assume that this revealed a clear preference.

What mascara is everyone talking about? ›

Essence mascara has been on best-sellers list for a couple of years now. It's so popular, in fact, that a tube of mascara sells every 10 seconds, according to People.

Does wearing no makeup make you look younger? ›

Less makeup leads to less germs that will interrupt the formation of your new skins cells. You'll feel a more clear, vibrant and hydrated face. Your skin will stay looking younger.

How can I make my eyes look pretty without mascara? ›

2) "Opt for long-wearing eyeliner or really thin liquid liner to make the base of lashes appear thicker," says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose, who recommends black for brunettes and chocolate brown for blondes and redheads. "Dot it along the lash lines and line the top, then blur it out with cotton swabs."

How can I feel pretty without eyeliner? ›

We have come up with a list of tips from the experts and beauty gurus to achieve how to look good naturally without makeup.
  1. Exfoliate your skin.
  2. Moisturize daily.
  3. Use serums.
  4. Eat Healthy.
  5. Take Supplements.
  6. Drink water.
  7. Groom your brows.
  8. Use face masks.

Do you really need eyeliner? ›

No! Wearing eyeliner is entirely up to you and will depend on the look you're trying to create. If you want more definition, then eyeliner is a great way of adding depth to that lash line. But if you want a more natural appearance, you'll probably want to give the eyeliner a miss.

Is it better to wear eyeliner on top or bottom? ›

"Keep the liner to the top lid for a more lifted, youthful effect." If you really, really want to go after your bottom lash line, Stiles recommends using a lighter color there than you're using on the top. "This will still give you definition, but feels softer and more flattering," she adds.

What are the disadvantages of eyeliner? ›

Eyeliner in your inner eyelid, or waterline, increases your risk of vision problems.
Eyeliner Risks
  • discomfort for those with sensitive or dry eyes.
  • irritation.
  • redness.
  • bacteria entering the eye.
  • eye infections.
  • blurred vision.
Oct 13, 2015

What is the safest eyeliner to use? ›

  • Best liquid: NakedPoppy Liquid Eyeliner.
  • Best felt tip: W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Liquid Eyeliner.
  • Best powder: Jane Iredale Mystikol Powdered Eyeliner.
  • Best gel: Burt's Bees Defining Retractable Eyeliner.
  • Best pencil: Kjaer Weis Eye Pencil.
  • Best kohl: Jillian Dempsey Eyeliner.
  • Best pen: Ilia Clean Line Liquid Liner.
May 24, 2021

What happens if you accidentally put mascara in your eye? ›

An accidental jab from an eyeliner pencil or mascara wand can actually leave scratches on the cornea. Makeup that is flaky, dry, and powdery can also fall into the eye and cause irritation, redness, and swelling.

Does mascara damage eye lashes? ›

It is the perfect companion of a no-makeup makeup look. However, wearing mascara everyday can also be damaging for your delicate lashes. In an attempt to make your peepers look prettier you might actually be damaging your lashes.

What happens if you wear mascara everyday? ›

What's happening there is the eye likely doesn't have enough oil to keep the water in," says Chelnis. And mascara can actually clog the pores in the area, leading to less oil production—especially when not washed off nightly. "This not only leads to dryness but styes and eyelid inflammation," he says.

Why you shouldn't wear mascara? ›

Dr Alexis Granite, consulting dermatologist for Kiehl's Since 1851, has revealed that constantly wearing mascara can cause inflammation and infection and even loss of your eyelashes. She said: “Removing eye make-up before you go to sleep is crucial.

How many times a week should I wear mascara? ›

“If you remove your mascara properly, it's not bad to wear mascara every day,” says Saffron Hughes, a makeup artist and lash expert. “Be gentle when you do remove your mascara, as daily rubbing and tugging can result in brittle, dry, weak lashes.”

Should you remove mascara every night? ›

Leaving your eye makeup on overnight can lead to eye infection and irritation. Just as bad, a stye can form from mascara clogging glands connected to your eyelashes. Your eyelids are extremely thin and sensitive, so make sure to treat them with care. The bottom line is removing your makeup is very important.


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