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Eyeliner vs. Mascara: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on June 9, 2024
Eyeliner is makeup applied to define the eyes' edges, while mascara is used to enhance eyelashes.

Key Differences

Eyeliner and mascara are both essential makeup products, yet they serve distinct purposes. Eyeliner is specifically designed to define and enhance the shape of the eyes. It's applied along the lash line, both on the upper and sometimes the lower lids. Mascara, on the other hand, is intended to lengthen, darken, and volumize eyelashes. It is applied directly to the eyelashes using a wand. With various formulas available, mascara can make lashes appear fuller, longer, and more curled.
When considering their formulations, eyeliners can be found in pencil, gel, liquid, and powder forms, while mascaras typically come in liquid form housed in tubes. The variety of eyeliner forms allows for different application techniques, from smudging to precise lines. Mascara formulas, meanwhile, can be waterproof, lengthening, volumizing, or a combination.
In a makeup routine, eyeliner is usually applied before mascara. The order ensures that the mascara doesn't smudge when the eyeliner is applied. Both products, when combined, work harmoniously to give eyes a defined and captivating appearance.
To summarize, while both eyeliner and mascara are eye makeup essentials, the former focuses on defining the eyes' shape and the latter on enhancing eyelashes.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Define and enhance the eyes' shape
Enhance eyelashes

Application Area

Lash line (upper and/or lower)

Common Forms

Pencil, gel, liquid, powder
Liquid in tubes

Desired Effect

Subtle to dramatic eye definition
Lengthened, volumized eyelashes

Application Order in Makeup

Before mascara
After eyeliner

Eyeliner and Mascara Definitions


A cosmetic used to define the eyes.
She applied a winged eyeliner for a dramatic look.


A tool for enhancing and dramatizing the eyes.
The volumizing mascara gave her a wide-eyed look.


A makeup product for accentuating the lash line.
The gold eyeliner made her blue eyes pop.


A common beauty essential found in many makeup bags.
She never left home without her favorite mascara.


An essential for adding depth and dimension to the eyes.
A touch of eyeliner transformed her daytime look to evening-ready.


A product that can be waterproof or washable.
For the beach day, she chose a waterproof mascara.


A tool for creating various eye looks from subtle to bold.
She opted for a smudged eyeliner for a smoky effect.


A makeup product applied to eyelashes with a wand.
She always curled her lashes before applying mascara.


A cosmetic available in multiple forms like pencil, gel, or liquid.
She struggled with liquid eyeliner but found gel easier to apply.


A cosmetic for darkening, lengthening, and thickening eyelashes.
Her mascara made her lashes look twice as long.


Makeup used to outline the eyes.


A cosmetic applied to thicken, lengthen, and usually darken the eyelashes.


Makeup used to outline the eye, generally applied along or close to the lashline.


A cosmetic powder of a dark tint, applied to the eyelid close to the base of the eyelashes to accentuate the eyes. Compare eye shadow.


Makeup applied to emphasize the shape of the eyes


Can eyeliner be smudged intentionally?

Yes, some eyeliners are smudged for a smoky effect.

How does mascara work?

Mascara darkens, lengthens, and volumizes eyelashes.

What is eyeliner used for?

Eyeliner is used to define and enhance the shape of the eyes.

Can eyeliner be used on the waterline?

Yes, but ensure the eyeliner is safe for waterline application.

Is colored eyeliner popular?

Yes, colored eyeliner can create unique and vibrant eye looks.

Can mascara be layered?

Yes, many layer mascaras for added volume and length.

Can eyeliner be used as an eyeshadow?

Yes, some eyeliners can be blended out as eyeshadow.

Can mascara be clear?

Yes, clear mascara provides a natural look and tames brows.

What is the purpose of waterproof mascara?

It resists smudging from moisture, like tears or sweat.

Is there a way to prevent mascara from clumping?

Ensure the wand is clean and avoid pumping it in the tube.

How is eyeliner removed?

With makeup remover or a gentle cleanser.

Are there eyeliners for tightlining?

Yes, some eyeliners are specially designed for tightlining.

Is mascara safe for sensitive eyes?

Opt for mascaras formulated specifically for sensitive eyes.

Are there different types of eyeliner finishes?

Yes, eyeliners can be matte, glossy, metallic, or shimmering.

Should eyeliner be applied before or after eyeshadow?

Eyeliner is usually applied after eyeshadow.

Is mascara safe for lash extensions?

Use oil-free mascara specifically made for extensions.

Can you wear eyeliner without mascara?

Absolutely, it's all about personal preference.

Why does mascara sometimes flake?

It could be old, dried out, or not compatible with one's skin type.

What's the best way to apply mascara?

Start at the lash base, wiggling the wand upwards to the tips.

How often should mascara be replaced?

Mascara should typically be replaced every 3-6 months.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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