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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.
How To Remove Mascara When You Have Eyelash Extensions
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.
Shop The Best Water-Based Mascaras
In a hurry? Here are the best water-based mascaras:
1. Expert’s Pick: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara
2. Best Under $10: Maybelline Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara
3. Best Strengthening Water-Based Mascara: Blink Lash Noir Mascara
4. Best Water-Based Mascara For Bottom Lashes: Lash Affair Eyelash Extension-Safe Mascara
5. Best Dual-Sided Water-Based Mascara: GladGirl Lash EnMasse Mascara
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."
Relevant review: “I love this mascara. I've tried many even expensive brands. This doesn't clump or flake all day and removes easily. Looks great on natural lashes and extensions. [...] I have this on auto delivery and have used it for a long time. Never dried out.”
2. Best Under $10
If you love the look of full, fluffy lashes (and if you get eyelash extensions, we’re guessing you do), Maybelline’s Full N’ Soft mascara is for you. Formulated with vitamin E to keep your lashes soft and healthy, the brush is nice and fluffy, so it’ll coat every last lash, and the water-based formula is totally free of oil. And when it’s time to remove your extensions, this mascara will make it look like you’ve still got them in.
Relevant review: “This is by far the best mascara I have ever used. Every time I try a different mascara, I immediately regret it and go back to this one. It never clumps or gives me "spider eyes." It makes the lashes look full and like you have lash extensions.”
3. Best Strengthening Water-Based Mascara
For a mascara that was formulated to be used with eyelash extensions, Blink’s Lash Noir Mascara promises not to clump or strip your faux lashes. The conditioning formula contains vitamin E, like the Maybelline mascara above, but its nourishing and strengthening effects are bolstered by the addition of keratin. It can be used to lengthen the tips of new extensions or to 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.
Relevant review: “The last person that did my lashes only recommended the most expensive mascara when all I wanted to do was put some mascara on my lower lashes and use it between fills. I found this and it was a life saver!! It wasn’t to expensive and it saved my lash extensions!!”
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.
Relevant review: “I spend a lot on lash extensions and I love that this is especially made to be gentle on them. This mascara is super smooth and free of clumps.”
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.
Relevant review: “Great mascara for eyelash extensions [...] Love the ease of application. Two different brushes for different looks. Never looks clumpy and washes right off, cleanly, with micellar water.”
Tirzah Shirai, founder and CEO of BlinkBar lash extension salon in Los Angeles, CA
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