Mascara is a make-up bag staple, but with so many on offer, how can you steer customers towards their perfect match? Caroline Brien has the low-down

Clever brushes and hi-tech formulas mean there has never been a more exciting time to shop for “the one” when it comes to a lash-perfecting mascara. The flip side of this, however, is that such vast choice makes mascara shopping a daunting experience, with research revealing that British women still find mascara language confusing when it comes to claims and results. Some cosmetics companies are aiming to remedy this with simpler names. For example, Revlon recently overhauled its entire mascara range, creating a straightforward, five-strong collection with informative, easy to understand names such as “Super Length” and “Dramatic Definition.”

Where packaging labels tend to be more poetic, customers may benefit from expert guidance as they scan your shelves. “There are new mascaras constantly being launched and all claim to do amazing things for lashes,” says Janine Bird, national makeup coach at Smashbox. “I recommend trying on in store to see how one works with your customer’s own lashes rather than because it’s been recommended by a friend. She may have very different lashes, so the results could be very different and potentially disappointing.”

Identifying the type of lashes your customer has and managing expectations is an excellent place to start. “As well as looking at her lashes yourself, ask: ‘What kind of lash look do you like?’ or ‘What mascara have you used in the past and what did you love about it?’,” suggests Janine. “I like these questions because rather than asking what the customer doesn’t like, you’re concentrating on the positives.”

Help customers get it right

Every need has a solution – it’s just a matter of knowing which is which…

Customer need: longer lashes

Solution: These days, it’s not just the formula, but also the brush that’s key to the perfect finish, so much so that cosmetics companies often patent their designs. “Due to technology, it’s now a 50/50 split between formula and brush when it comes to the result you achieve,” say Lisa Potter-Dixon, head make-up artist & brow expert at BeneFit. As a general rule, thin brushes add length and definition, so if your customer has short, straight lashes, they should go for a curling and lifting formula with a fine brush. This will make the most of their lashes.”

Customer need: staying power

Solution: Panda-proofing eyes with a smudge-, heat- and water-resistant formula once meant opting for a mascara labelled “waterproof”. Today, however, there are fantastic “long wear” options that won’t flake or smear, while primers (the current beauty buzzword in skincare and make-up) are making a comeback. “Gone are the days of the cakey white primer,” says Lisa. “Modern versions can be used as an undercoat and a natural, daytime mascara. Then if customers want to add drama once happy hour hits, they can layer mascara over the top for defined, luscious lashes that will stay put no matter how hard they hit the dance floor!”

Customer need: thicker lashes

Solution: Whether lashes are long or short, they can be fine, lack oomph and require some plumping up. “Look for words like ‘volumising’ or ‘maximising’ on the packaging,” advises Janine. “In terms of the brush, the more condensed or tightly spaced the bristles are, the more volumising the effect of the mascara as more product is deposited to give a thicker final effect.” In essence, fat brush equals fat lashes.

Customer need: defined lashes

Solution: The key to creating sleek, smooth definition is a brush that fans out lashes and a formula that gives glossy darkness. “Look for descriptions like ‘doll-like’, ‘natural’ or ‘lengthening’,” says Janine. “Brushes should have wider spacing between the bristles with different lengths and thickness of bristles. Comb-style and silicon moulded brushes are great for creating this kind of effect too.”

Customer need: dramatic impact

Solution: Full-on impact is the perfect complement to an evening make-up look, adding the kind of length and volume that until recently was only achievable via false lashes. “Choose mascaras that use descriptive phrases like ‘buildable volume’, ‘fibre technology’ and ‘show-stopping’,” suggests Janine. “Also look for a brush that has tightly spaced bristles of different lengths so the fibres in the formula will coat lashes in a 360-degree way. This ensures masses of volume and length while allowing definition too, plus the buildable element will allow the customer to keep adding coats without clumping but continually boosting volume.”

Here are Caroline’s current favourites...

Estée Lauder Little Black Primer (RRP £20)

This clever triple-action formula was a sell-out success when it launched a year ago, and with good reason. Used alone, it gives a subtle hint of definition and colour. One layer also gives lashes a fantastic base coat so that any mascara applied afterwards instantly becomes more smudge- and flake-proof, the colour has more pop and there’s added volume too. Or used after mascara, it creates a water-resistant finish and enriches the tone, thanks to the black pigment.

YSL Beauté Mascara Vinyl Couture (RRP £25) (exclusive to Debenhams from 11th May)

Coloured mascaras have finally thrown off the preconception that they’re retro (but not in a good way). Thanks to updated colours and modern textures, there’s no reason to stay confined to black: in fact, many make-up artists recommend brown and navy as softer but equally flattering shades. YSL has introduced a ninestrong collection with a glossy vinyl, high fashion finish ranging in shades from fuchsia to gold. My favourite is “I’m The Excitement”, which gives a flash of jade green when you flutter your lashes.

Revlon Ultra Volume Mascara (RRP £9.99)

Does exactly what it says on the tin! The fantastically fat brush ensures that the formula really packs a punch by delivering plenty of the thickening formula, but keeps lashes separated rather than allowing them to stick together thanks to two lengths of bristles. BeneFit Roller Lash (RRP £19.50) The curl power of this mascara has a real “wow” factor from the first time you use it – you can actually watch them curl up like holding a “magic fish” in your palm. Most of this is down to the specially sculpted brush, moulded with “hooks” that catch lashes individually to lift and then curl them. The formula provides 12-hour staying power and contains conditioning ingredients to strengthen too.

Smashbox X-Rated (RRP £19.50)

For flattering, fluttery length and volume, I love this rich formula. The “tripod” fibres warp around each lash individually to double their thickness and create the illusion of added length, but without creating a clumpy mess. You can also keep adding layers without fear of flaking, plus I find the long handle of the brush allows me to reapply easily. Illamasqua Mascara Gain (RRP £20) I’m a big fan of salon lash tints, but not always so great at making time to book them. This ingenious formula from the innovative brand Illamasqua not only gives lashes a coating that boosts length and volume, but it also includes a walnut extract that acts as natural dye. After using it for two weeks, bare lashes have a deeper, darker colour and look more defined. For me, that’s a win-win. L’Oréal False Lash Sculpt Mascara (RRP £9.99) For full-on impact, this is my new go-to. The applicator is a graduated two-tier comb with a well in between that holds the inky black colour. Not only does this give it a superb lengthening and fanning effect, but it allows you to get right into the base of the lashes and work the “tightlining” trend, where the gaps are filled in to mimic the look of black eyeliner. It takes a bit of practice, but the dramatic results are worth it.

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