These days, you can find a mascara wand formed into just about any shape imaginable, which can make navigating the eye makeup aisle slightly more challenging when you're simply trying to find a trusted formula that works. We asked pro makeup artist Abraham Sprinkle to break down the most popular brush types, how to use them, and the finish each one creates. Scroll down to find the brush that's perfect for you!
1. Fiber Wands vs. Plastic Wands
With all the variations on the market, we had to ask—are there any major differences between the traditional fiber brushes, and the new plastic ones? Sprinkle admits that the end result isn't that different, but it's more about your personal preference. "I often look at wands and fibers like penmanship. Some of us like rollerball, as others like felt," he says. "In the end, it's what's comfortable for us to work around our eyes, and it's the application and formula that make the biggest difference."
2. Thick Wands
Forget what you heard—bigger is always better, that is, when it comes to increasing the volume on your lashes. "The best brush for volume is the fatter wand with lush bristles, like Charlotte Tilbury's ($29; nordstrom.com)," Sprinkle tells us. "Large wands pick up a lot of product, which get distributed at the base to build girth."
3. Skinny Wands
When you want to focus solely on extending the length of your natural lashes, opt for a super-thin wand. Sprinkle recommends Maybelline's Lash Discovery ($6; target.com) which he says "gives a seamless coating from root to end."
4. Curved Wands
Brushes with a slight bend like Eyeko's Black Magic ($25; nordstrom.com) hug the shape of your lash line to ensure even coverage all over. "It can also help in curling or adding shape to lashes. The curved brush covers the natural shape of your lash line as it applies the product," Sprinkle says.
5. Tapered Wands
With a ton of volume at the base that thins out toward the tip, Christmas Tree-shaped wands like the one used in Lancome's Doll Lash mascara ($28; nordstrom.com) are perfect for plumping up your lashes while separating each individual strand. "I like to apply my first coat horizontal, then angle the brush vertical to individual detailing on the areas that need drama, like the corners," he advises. "The cylinder brush has a small tip and fat base, which is ideal for getting right into the lash line, and applying product to your lower lashes."
6. Ball-Shaped Wands
Though the end of Givenchy's Phemomen'Eyes Mascara ($30; neimanmarcus.com) may resemble a medieval torture device, it does far more good than harm, and is ideal for giving your lashes a defined, hyper-real appearance. "The idea behind the ball-tipped brush is to build the lash from root to end, and you can spend time detailing individual areas instead of the conventional one-swipe mascaras," says Sprinkle. "It sort of forces you to be more precise in applications."
7. S-Shaped Wands
If layers upon layers of mascara are your thing, seek out an S-shaped wand like the brush on Buxom's Sculpted Lash Mascara ($19; sephora.com). "They're best for clump-free application, as you can apply multiple coats without having your lashes look chunky," Sprinkle tells us.
8. Hourglass Wands
Sprinkle admits that hourglass brushes, like the one on Too Faced's Better than Sex mascara ($23; sephora.com), are one of his favorite shapes. "It allows you to lay the product on evenly, and results in more uniform lashes," he explains. "Think of frosting on cakes—this brush makes mascara lay smooth and even like fondant. You can place it right againsts your lashline and get even results, and this is best for users who like multiple coats."
9. Bubble Wands
"The idea behind the shape of this wand is that it hits lashes at 3 different points during application," he says. When working with brushes like Milk's Ubame mascara ($24; sephora.com), sprinkle advises wiggling the brush as you swipe it upward to ensure all of your lashes are covered.