Eyeliner vs Mascara: Differences & Tips (A Complete Guide)

eyeliner and mascara with eyeliner vs mascara text overlay

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Sometimes, two great things go head to head, and a never-ending debate ensues. Instagram or Twitter? Cookies or brownies? Chick-fil-A or In-n-Out? 

The makeup world is no different, and one of the most popular debates is about two eye essentials: Eyeliner and Mascara. 

Everyone wants to know which is better, but the truth is, any good makeup artist will tell you that both eyeliner and mascara can work together to create the eye-catching (pun intended) look you desire! 

But, what is the difference between eyeliner and mascara? And which is more important?

Today I am answering all of your burning eyeliner and mascara questions, plus a few tips on how to best use these eye products to compliment each other!

Check out all of this and more below!

eye of a woman wearing eyeliner and mascara

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Difference Between Eyeliner and Mascara

The first thing I want to cover is the differences between eyeliner and mascara.

There are a few key differences that show just how different these two products are, and how they each work to draw attention and/or accentuate a specific part of your eye.

Check out the differences between eyeliner and mascara below!

Related Eyeliner post: How to apply eyeliner if you have Almond eyes!


eye of a woman wearing eyeliner and mascara

What is Eyeliner?

Eyeliner works to brighten your eyes, and generally add definition to your eyes. Eyeliner is especially perfect for those with large eyes, as it can draw even more attention to those gorgeous eyes!

Eyeliner also allows much more creativity than mascara. There are so many different eyeliner designs to learn and try out on your eyes, so the options are endless! 


The eyeliner comes in three distinct types: pencil, liquid, and gel. Each of these formulas has pros and cons, but no matter which you choose, all of them will make your eyes pop!

Related Post: What are the Different types of Eyeliner (pro tips + best products)

Application Tips

When you add eyeliner to the waterline of your lashes, it can make your lashes look even more defined, especially when you pair it with a good mascara.

I also recommend adding more eyeliner to the outside corner of your lashes than the inner corner, to make your eyes look bigger. Check my guide on everything you need to know to apply eyeliner like a pro even as a beginner.


eye of a woman wearing mascara

What is Mascara?

Mascara is used to lengthening and thickening your eyelashes.

This draws even more attention to your eyes and makes them look bigger. 


With mascara, there are a few different formulas to choose from. Finding a waterproof mascara is a must for me, but you can also choose mascaras that are volumizing, or curling, depending on preference.

Plus, there are several different mascara brushes that work in unique ways to style your lashes exactly how you want them. 

Related post: The Absolute Best Mascaras for HOODED EYES! (reviewed by a Hooded eye MUA)

Application Tips

When applying mascara, you can’t go wrong. One tip is the amount of mascara you use. If you want a natural look, try doing just a couple of swipes of mascara. I also recommend curling your lashes before you apply mascara. This will open your eyes even more! 

Is eyeliner or mascara more important?

mature woman wearing eyeliner and mascara

Another common question associated with eyeliner and mascara is: which is more important?

As I mentioned above, both eyeliner and mascara are important for creating a gorgeous eye look.

However, depending on what you value the most, one product might stand out as a little more important. 

Occasions when eyeliner is more important

If you want your eyes to look brighter: As I mentioned above, eyeliner is perfect if you want your eyes to look brighter. A classic black liner will make your eyes pop! 

If you have dark circles/bags under your eyes: Eyeliner is a great distraction from any dark circles or bags that you have under your eyes. Whether you didn’t get enough sleep or have chronic under-eye problems, eyeliner can pull the focus away from your under eyes and onto your gorgeous lines. 

TIP: To look even more alert, use black eyeliner on the top of your eyes and a neutral shade on your waterline. 

If you have bigger eyes: If you have big eyes and you want them to look a little smaller, you can apply more liner to the inner corner of your eye. But, if you want them to look even bigger, focus your liner on the outer corner of your eye. 

If you want to get creative with your look: From open wings to cat eyes, to thin lines, there are so many different shapes and designs you can do with your liner. It may take a few tries and a bit of practice, but eyeliner allows you to hone in on all of your creativity! 

Occasions when mascara is more important

If you have smaller eyes: Mascara is known for making your eyes look bigger, so it is a perfect fit if you have smaller eyes. I recommend applying mascara to both your top and bottom lashes to make them look even bigger. 

If you want to look more awake: Mascara is also a great solution if you got minimal sleep the night before. It naturally opens your eyes up and makes you look more alert! 

TIP: Don’t get heavy-handed with your mascara. Applying too much product can make your eyes look weighed down, so make sure to only do a few strokes.

If you want a quick and easy eye look: Mascara is one of the easiest products to apply. In just a few seconds, you can give more definition to your eyes. If you need a quick, on-the-go product, mascara is your best bet. 

But, if you want a bolder look, both mascara and eyeliner are crucial! 

Should your eyeliner match your mascara? 

If you are like me and believe both eyeliner and mascara work in tandem to create the perfect eye look, you might be wondering how to best pair the two products.

Overall, your eyeliner and mascara should match. For example, brown mascara will look better with brown eyeliner. But, there is one exception to this rule:

The Most Versatile Eye Product

When you wear black mascara, you can get a little crazy with your eyeliner.

If you want to add a pop of color to your eye look, wearing black mascara and bright eyeliner is your best bet. I LOVE this color eyeliners set from amazon.

Black mascara is a subtle way to let your bold eyeliner do all of the talking, and will still add definition to your eyes, without distracting from your pop of color!

Eyeliner or mascara first? 

When it comes to completing your eye look, deciding which step to complete first can be tricky.

When you already have your lashes curled, it can make it difficult to be precise in your eyeliner application.

This is why I recommend applying eyeliner first, then curling your lashes and adding mascara.

This way, you don’t have to worry about smudging your lashes as you draw a dramatic wing or subtle lines. 

TIP: When you apply your eye products, make sure to check the expiration date on all of your products. The area around your eyes is the most sensitive part of your face, so you want to make sure that you are using top-notch products!

Can I just wear eyeliner and mascara? 

At the end of the day, your makeup look is going to look the best if you feel the best.

So if you love rocking just eyeliner and mascara, go for it!

But, if you want a little more and you aren’t sure what else to add for your eye-catching look, I recommend adding a little lipstick and blush, even if you aren’t wearing foundation. 

Check this guide on the best makeup steps to apply makeup without foundation (with a step-by-step tutorial) that includes a way to wear eyeliner and mascara even on those days when the foundation is not something you would want to use.

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Favorite Products: Eyeliner vs Mascara

As a Makeup Artist I have traid several different mascaras and eyeliners. I have my favorites for each of them, depending on the makeup look and the type of eye. But here’s my top#1 overall recommendations for each.

✅ This is my all time favorite eyeliner


 This is my all time favorite mascara

Conclusion on Eyeliner VS Mascara

It is no wonder that eyeliner and mascara are the topic of so many debates.

These two products can create stunning looks both on their own, and when paired together.

While some makeup lovers insist that one product is better than the other, I think it is undeniable that both products bring something unique and valuable to the table.

Plus, when used together, you can create a bold and beautiful look! 

When it comes to eyeliner, it will definitely be your favorite eye product if you want brighter eyes, or you want the creative freedom that liner allows.

But, mascara will be at the top of your list if you want your eyes to look bigger, or you need a pick-me-up after a night of no sleep. 

No matter which product you prefer, I hope this article gives you a few new tips to incorporate into your eye look and some guidance about how to utilize each product in the best way.

What’s Next? Check these Related Posts:

The Absolute BEST Waterproof Eyeliners you need to try! (So it won’t smudge)

The TOP 7 Best Eyeliners for Hooded Eyes

The Best Mascaras for Hooded Eyes (by a Hooded Eye MUA)

How to Apply Eyeliner like a Pro (Secret hacks!)

Eyeliner vs Mascara: Differences & Tips (A Complete Guide)

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