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Mascara vs. Eyeliner – Which Should I Choose?

Mascara vs. Eyeliner – Which Should I Choose?

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.

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.

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.

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

eye with dramatic black eyeliner

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.

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.

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.