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On the quest for sky-high lashes, many people will eventually turn to lash extensions. Whether you get them for special events only or regularly, extensions require making slight adjustments to the rest of your beauty routine. Most notably, you'll find your go-to mascara needs to be replaced with a water-based formula, according to Tirzah Shirai, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based BlinkBar lash extension salon. The best water-based mascaras are oil-free so that they don't break down lash extensions or irritate your eyes. "Water-based mascaras are oil-free and have a neutral pH, which is what makes this type of mascara safe for eyelash extensions," Shirai tells Elite Daily, adding that they're also more likely to contain fewer chemicals than oil-based mascaras, making them gentler for people with sensitive eyes.
Furthermore, any type of oil-based eye makeup or makeup remover can damage your new lashes. "Oil-based makeup products and mascaras actually break down the lash adhesive and loosen the extensions," Shirai explains. "It is also extremely important to not use oil-based removers or cleansers because they will break down the lash adhesive the same way an oil-based mascara will." That means that in addition to checking the ingredients list on your mascara, you'll need to reexamine your morning and evening cleanser. "I recommend using a lash cleanser daily and then brushing your lashes with a spoolie after cleansing," Shirai shares of how to care for lash extensions. "This ensures that you won't have any old makeup residue or buildup on the lash line, which will help with the retention of the extensions."
To help you find the right mascara match for your lash extensions, here are five of the best water-based mascaras on Amazon — including Shirai's top recommendation.
1. The Expert’s Pick
While Shirai prefers mascaras that were specifically developed to be used on lash extensions as they tend to be gentler, she notes that you don't have to rule out drugstore options entirely. "One I would recommend is the L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara," she says. "It is oil-free, and it's tested to be safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers." The best-selling mascara comes in eight different colors (including four black variations) and works to simultaneously thicken, soften, and add volume to your lashes. One thing Shirai says you'll want to be cautious of, however, is the formula you choose. "Don't mix this one up with the waterproof version," she cautions. "That is not safe for lash extensions."
2. Best Conditioning Water-Based Mascara
For a mascara that was formulated to be used with eyelash extensions, Blink Lash Noir Mascara promises not to clump or strip your faux lashes. The conditioning formula includes ingredients like keratin and vitamin E to strengthen your natural lashes and add shine, and it can be used to lengthen the tips of new extensions or fill in sparse spots between sessions. Because it's water-based and water-soluble, it can even be removed without a cleanser, as rinsing with warm water will wash away the mascara.
3. Best Thickening & Lengthening Water-Based Mascara
To really amp up your lash extensions, Xtreme Lashes Length & Volume Mascara features a fuller brush that grabs onto every last lash for more definition and drama. The formula promises to wear without clumping, flaking, or smudging, and can easily be taken off with an extension-safe makeup remover. For best results, it's recommended that you gently brush through your extensions before applying the mascara (avoiding application at the base of the lashes so as to avoid lifting the extension adhesive).
4. Best Water-Based Mascara For Bottom Lashes
When you have lash extensions, the added length and volume can make your bottom lashes look extra skimpy. Lash Affair Eyelash Extension-Safe Mascara was developed with this in mind, offering a flake-free formula that adds jet-black pigment to your lower lashes (though it's also safe to use on the tips of your upper extensions). The Arizona-based company also offers extension-safe products like a liquid eyeliner, lash serum, and eye makeup remover.
5. Best Dual-Sided Water-Based Mascara
If you prefer a more versatile formula, GladGirl Lash EnMasse Mascara features a dual-tipped applicator that lets you choose between two entirely different wands. One side houses a fuller brush that was designed to give you more volume, and the second wand is loaded with more bristles are better for separating your lashes. Both ends are saturated in a water-based mascara that’s vegan, cruelty-free, and easy to wash off.
Tirzah Shirai, founder and CEO of BlinkBar lash extension salon in Los Angeles, CA