The Best Brown Mascaras Are the Key to Soft Girl Makeup

Am I wearing mascara, or are these just my lashes?

best brown mascara
(Image credit: Future)

Look at Kylie (and Kendall) Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, or Gigi Hadid's recent makeup, and you’ll quickly notice a few identifying factors. You’ll find some faux freckles, maybe a clear gloss, and—the new soft girl makeup hallmark—a subtle brown mascara. “Using a brown mascara in place of the traditional black is a great way to give a softer look, for days when you want a no-makeup makeup, fresh-faced kind of vibe,” makeup artist Jonet Williamson tells Marie Claire

A more subtle color payoff doesn't require sacrificing any volume or length. Take Too Faced’s Better Than Sex—it’s now available in a warm brown hue that provides a bold, volumizing aesthetic to lashes. Or try Tower28’s Make Waves Mascara in Drift, a cool-neutral brown that, with one coat, will look like a slightly more defined version of your natural lashes. These are just two of the many brands releasing their cult-favorite formulas in chocolate colorways, which makes finding the best brown mascara for you that much easier. 

What to Look For


While you can absolutely pick whichever shade of brown mascara your heart desires, undertone is important. Those with warmer undertones (think: golden or yellow) can reach for warm, rich browns, whereas those with cooler undertones (e.g., red or pink) might want to consider cooler, redder browns. “For someone with a warmer undertone, the YSL Lash Clash Mascara in Uninhibited Brown is a great option because of its warm and rich hue,” Williamson recommends. “If you have more of a cool or neutral undertone, Tower28 Make Waves Mascara in Drift would be perfect. It's more of a cool espresso tone.” 


Switching up your mascara’s shade shouldn’t affect its quality. “Look for a formula that can deliver volume, length and curl that stays lifted,” Too Faced Creative Director Elyse Reneau recommends. “Just because you are choosing a softer shade than black, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the same results.” 

The Best Brown Mascaras

Meet the Experts

Jonet Williamson

Makeup Artist, Jonet Williamson discovered her love for art at a very early age. While growing up in New Orleans, one of the world's most eclectic and inspiring cities, Jonet was admitted into the gifted art program of her magnet high school. Here is where she began to master color theory, symmetry, texture, and innovation. From paint brushes to makeup brushes, she has used those same skills to solidify her style as a pro within the beauty industry.

In 2005, Jonet began her journey in beauty working as a makeup artist for M.A.C. Cosmetics. Here the feeling of connecting with other women and helping them see the beauty within themselves became her greatest passion.

With a willingness to learn and an eye for perfection Jonet moved to New York City in 2014 determined to further her artistry and career. Since then, her work has been featured in commercial campaigns (Dolce & Gabanna, Levis, Shea Moisture), editorials (Essence, L'Officiel), and tv & film productions (CBS, MTV, TNT).

Drawing influence from the art of painting her style is a fusion of hyper real skin, modern beauty elements, and abstract expressionism. Jonet Williamson also works closely with brands on content creation (Revlon, Shiseido, L'Oreal, Beauty Counter) and product development. If you follow her online you can expect to see lots of fresh skin, a vibrant use of color, striking graphic liner shapes, and soft glam looks fit for a red carpet.

Elyse Reneau

Elyse Reneau is an accomplished makeup artist with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. Her artistry has been showcased on stars from the hit shows SNL, Orange is the New Black, The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, E! Network’s Fashion Police, and The Bachelorette. Her passion in life is empowering people through makeup and inspiring confidence. Her tips and tricks have been featured in Allure, Glamour, The New York Times, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Birdie, and more.

Samantha Holender
Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar,,,, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.