After spending 40 hours on interviews and research, plus undergoing dozens of mascara applications (and taking numerous selfies) for more than a month, we’ve concluded that no one eyelash curler works perfectly for everyone; individual eye and eyelid shapes vary way too much for that. The best one for most eye shapes, however, remains the Shiseido Eyelash Curler. Out of the 10 eyelash curlers we tried, it gave us the longest-lasting and most attractive curls, and pinched the fewest people the least.
The Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Eyelash Curler was a strong second-place finisher in our testing. Several testers praised its “natural-looking” curl—probably due to its silicone pad, which is rounder and firmer than the one on the Shiseido—and two called it their favorite. Its price tag is slightly higher and its mechanism is slightly less smooth than that of the Shiseido, which also includes extra pads in the package and has a flatter, more universal curve. But if you can’t find the Shiseido, this is a good substitute.
People with eyes that are too round for the Shiseido might want to splurge on the Surratt Beauty Relevée. At $30, it’s about $10 pricier than our top picks, but it was the only curler with a less slippery matte surface and more stable double loops on the arms.
Our top picks cost at least $20 each, so we were determined to find a cheaper model that worked reasonably well. The Trim can be found in drugstores for about $5 and comes with multiple replacement pads to boot, but it’s a little less sturdy and pinches more easily than the others.
We picked the brains of experts such as Bryan Barron, research director at Paula’s Choice Skincare and co-author of The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here; James Vincent, director of artistry and education at The Makeup Show; and eyelash curler innovator Stephanie Kellar. We pored over user reviews on sites like MakeupAlley and Sephora and combed through beauty blogs and editorial websites to identify the eyelash curlers that earned the highest praise across the board.
I’ve used an eyelash curler since college, starting with a Revlon drugstore model and eventually upgrading to pricier Shu Uemura. I was also an editor at various women’s magazines for 15 years, so I’ve read plenty of copy about the pros and cons of curlers, the top brands on the market, and strategies for achieving the best swoop.
If you already have an eyelash curler that you love, there’s no reason to upgrade (unless the pads are worn down and you can’t buy replacements … but we’ll get to that).
If you’ve used only cheap, rickety drugstore curlers, you might find that you actually enjoy using a slightly pricier version with better padding, more comfortable handles, and a more precise match to your eye shape. If your current curler is pinching, causing lash breakage, or doesn’t reach all your eyelashes, or you’re curious to try one for the first time, give our top pick a squeeze.
Scared to put a metal contraption near your eye? Fair enough, though if you pick the right model for your eye shape and size, and use it correctly, we swear the process isn’t painful.
How eyelash curlers work
While mascara will darken and thicken lashes, and even add a bit of lift, an eyelash curler, first invented in 1923, is the only tool that can curve straight lashes upward.
A curler comprises four key design components: two arms that open and close a thin, curved piece of metal on top that bites down on the pad on the bottom.
Our experts agree that the best eyelash curlers are metal, not plastic, because metal tends to be sturdier and weightier, allowing users to easily apply more pressure to their lashes, which results in a long-lasting curl with less effort. Essentially, that metal jaw is folding your eyelashes temporarily. Think about the way paper conforms to the surface it’s on when your hand presses down on it; bend it over the edge of a square table, and it forms a sharp crease, but wrap it around a cardboard tube, and it gently rolls.
While writers, editors, industry folk, and everyday users all have their favorite models, there’s been very little standardized testing done to compare them head-to-head. There are roundups of people’s favorite eyelash curlers, but there’s almost no thorough vetting of them aside from Good Housekeeping’s several-years-old assessment.
When we chose our first eyelash curler picks in 2014, we researched curlers to get a list of 25 contenders. We narrowed those down to 15 models to test by eliminating models with complaints of rickety construction, pinching, or failure to properly curl.
For our 2016 update, we identified five new-to-us models to test against our previous top pick, the Shiseido Eyelash Curler, based on reviews, price, and shape. Three of these were marketed specifically for rounder or flatter eyes. We also opted to retest four eyelash curlers we’d dismissed in the past but are designed for specific eye shapes, in hopes that some might work for people who aren’t well-served by more universally designed curlers.
There is no one-size-fits-all eyelash curler. That would be impossible, given that eye and eyelid size, shape, and curvature—meaning the curve from corner to corner—differ from person to person, and even between eyes on the same person. Eyelash curler jaw shapes vary the same way. Our reader survey (and various other sources) on eyelash curler usage suggested that almond-shaped eyes are the most common, so we looked primarily for products that fared best for that shape.
Pinching your eyelid is the number-one worst thing a curler can do. Technically, any curler you use improperly—say, by clamping it down too close to the base of your lashes or the corners of your eye—can potentially nip your skin. “No curler with two surfaces coming together in opposition is pinch-free,” said Stephanie Kellar, inventor of the now-discontinued Lashpro curler.
But what most often causes pinching is a mismatch between your eye shape and the shape of the curler—for instance, if you’re trying to reach right to the root of your eyelashes at both corners of your round eyes with a relatively flat curler, you’ll nip the middle of your eyelid.
A rounded curler can cause major issues for those with flatter eyes, curving in at the sides too soon and potentially nipping eyelid skin on the inner corners of the eye as a result.
People with rounded eyes will have fewer issues using a flatter curler, since it should reach past, and avoid pinching, their inner and outer eye. People with a flatter eye shape (think almond-shaped, monolid, or deep-set), on the other hand, should generally choose a flatter curler with a shallower curve to it to prevent pinching. Having trouble figuring out what shape your eye is? Check out this Smashbox video or this breakdown at The Blondeshell; note that your eyes may be a combination of these types.
To increase your chances of achieving a graceful curve in your lashes rather than a severe, L-shaped crimp, you need a firm but springy silicone pad with a top that’s “really rounded—not flat,” said Rebecca Perkins, co-owner of makeup salon Rouge New York and the former makeup department head for Law & Order SVU. A rounded pad will keep the sharp metal jaw from digging too deep, so the curler’s jaw isn’t at risk of chopping off (!) your lashes.
Smooth or slippery pads won’t grip lashes well enough, James Vincent said, while too-sticky pads can snag or pull out your lashes, as well as pinch your eyelid. Over time (as quickly as three months, if you use your curler nearly daily), the pad will wear down, at which point it’ll need replacing. Some curlers can take refill pads, but not all of the models we tested provided extra pads. Even fewer offered the option of buying replacements, meaning once you use up the ones included, you’d be forced to replace the entire curler.
A good curler will move fluidly, with joints that aren’t loose, creaky, or wobbly. The loops at the bottom of the arms should fit easily between your index and middle fingers, and the overall design should feel comfortable to use without requiring too much pressure.
A curler’s color also plays a small role in how easy it is to use: A black curler with black pads will make it slightly more difficult to see if your lashes are lined up correctly. This wasn’t a dealbreaker for any of the models, but we do wish the top manufacturers would forego trendy black for something that’s slightly easier to use. If a curler comes in multiple colors, pick one that will contrast with your lashes.
Although we featured a heated eyelash curler pick and runner-up in our previous version of this guide, we opted not to retest them this time around, or to try any others. For one thing, none of our experts recommended them outright; when asked specifically about them, each said heated curlers are fine to use but not necessary or superior to standard non-heated curlers. Second, heated curlers tend to be more expensive (our last pick currently costs more than $30—and about $50, including shipping), and in our previous testing they did not produce substantially better results—certainly none superior enough to warrant the high price for most people. Finally, heated curlers require a learning curve that we don’t feel most users will want to master, particularly newbies. That said, if you have a heated curler, have mastered using it, and like it, and it works for you, you’re no worse off than with any other curler.
We also have noticed a proliferation of mini eyelash curlers on the market (there’s even a heated mini eyelash curler!). They may be useful for people who can’t find a traditional eyelash curler long enough to reach into the corners of their eyes, or who have shorter, wispier lashes that traditional curlers don’t catch, Barron said. They’re not necessary for most people, however, which is why we chose not to test them.
I examined all 10 models for any obvious flaws, like rickety construction, hard-to-hold handles, or sticky hinges. Testers evaluated each curler for ease of use, how well it fit their eye shape, and how long the resulting curl lasted.
Two testers were surprised by how well curlers could work and now plan to buy one; another had bad luck with all of them, commenting, “I can’t believe in eyelash curlers. They are dead to me.” Given this range, we set out to identify the models that would work the best for particular eye shapes and personal preferences, knowing that none is perfect for all people.
Our favorite eyelash curler remains the Shiseido Eyelash Curler. Not only does it comfortably curl lashes without crimping, but testers of different eye shapes also found it less likely to pinch skin or tear out eyelashes than any of the other models they tried. It’s nearly unanimously well-reviewed among users.
What seems to set the Shiseido apart from similar curlers is the measurements of its jaw, which is shallow—its arc is only 6 millimeters deep, the shortest of any tool we tested—and yet wide, at nearly 30 millimeters long, yielding a flattened curve that seemed to hit a sweet spot for all of our testers. It’s nearly impossible for people with flatter eyelids to curl their lashes if their tool is too curved, at least without hurting themselves or yanking out hairs. A flatter curve also allows the widest range of eye shapes to get as close to their lash roots as possible. No matter what eye shape you have, no one should experience serious pinching with the Shiseido. The opening for slipping your lashes into is a generous 7 millimeters, which also makes it easy to maneuver into place.
While there wasn’t a particularly noticeable difference between the curlers in terms of curl quality or longevity (which was about a few hours for most, though not all, of our testers) the Shiseido held an obvious advantage in its construction. Thanks to its rounded silicone pad and smooth open-and-close action, it does a fine job of giving lashes a nice round curl without sharp creases we saw from some of the cheaper models with harder pads. Crimping like this was an occasional problem with our budget pick, the Trim.
Most of the curlers we tested were constructed nearly identically, with very subtle differences. What distinguished the Shiseido was the part above the hinge tilts a few millimeters away from the eye skin and was slightly longer than the competition, which seems to reduce pinching.
The Shiseido has long been a favorite among beauty enthusiasts . “If I didn’t use my curler,” said Kellar, “I would use the Shu Uemura or the Shiseido. It has a little thinner of an angle than the Revlon/Tweezerman mass-market stuff”—meaning it should give more of a curl shape when the top of the device hits the pad, rather than an exaggerated crimp. Every single person who tried the Shiseido for us, no matter their eye shape, rated it second or third best, if not the best overall. No one had anything negative to say about the curler, which was not the case for others tested.
A perk of the Shiseido is that it comes with a replacement pad for when the current one wears out. You can even buy more pads when that one loses its spring.
As noted above, this curler performed well all-around, no matter the eye shape, but it also wasn’t anyone’s most beloved, favorite choice (unlike our runner-up and upgrade picks). For curl shape alone, the Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Eyelash Curler’s slightly rounder and firmer pad seemed to work slightly better for those with the right eye shape. That said, it didn’t receive any negative marks either, so based on overwhelming user response, we feel confident proclaiming it the best curler for the most people.
Sweethome editor Ganda Suthivarakom has used our pick for eight years (until last year, when she passed it on to us for examination for this guide). It’s held up well over that time, though she uses it only once or twice a quarter. “I could stand to replace the pad, but can’t complain,” she said. “I’ve never been pinched by it, which is not something I can say about other eyelash curlers.” She adds that the curler hasn’t rusted, its mechanical action is still as smooth as it ever was, and she doesn’t see any reason to replace it any time soon.
Kevyn Aucoin Beauty’s Eyelash Curler is slightly more curved in shape than the Shiseido, which means it won’t work as well for the most people. However it works very well for round or almond-shaped eyes. When it came to achieving a perfect, natural-looking curl, this model worked the best thanks to its pad, which is slightly rounder and firmer than our top pick’s.
Aucoin “developed the much-loved Shu Uemura for the Asian market, and developed his own curler to be more universal,” Vincent noted. The Aucoin curler’s curve is 2 millimeters deeper than our top pick, but the same width, meaning it’s more curved. That may explain why, though some testers loved this product, it fell lower on the list for others.
The Kevyn Aucoin model’s pad feels notably firmer and more rounded than that of the Shiseido. That may explain why two of our testers—with rounder and flatter eyes, respectively—called it their “favorite” curler, and three independently praised it for its “natural” and “nice curl,” even when it wasn’t exactly the right shape for their eye. The curler pad’s light-red color also made it easier for me to successfully navigate my black lashes into its jaw, compared with darker curlers like the Shiseido or Surratt, on which my lashes were harder to spot.
The Aucoin curler’s arms were a little looser and less sturdy feeling than the Shiseido, and it costs about a dollar more but doesn’t come with any replacement pads. If the Shiseido is unavailable, this is a great second choice.
The Surratt Beauty Relevée is not for the monolid or flat eye: It’s more curved than our other picks. While its pad isn’t so different from that of the Shiseido, its arms give you extra control and stability when using it, due to its unique finish and double finger loops. The Relevée is also the priciest curler we tried by about $10. If you’d like to invest in a quality product, it might be worth the cost.
The Relevée’s jaw is a little deeper than the Shiseido, and a little shorter in width, giving it more curve than both the Shiseido and the Aucoin. One tester with almond eyes said: “I liked the Surratt eyelash curler the best. It felt weighty, substantial … comparatively gentle, with no tugging or crimping.” People with rounder eyes also gave it high marks for its shape. A tester with flatter, monolid eyes, however, complained that the Surratt “pinched so I couldn’t even use it! My eye still hurts!!!”
The Relevée is expensive, comes with no replacement pads, and didn’t perform leaps and bounds above the competition—especially not for people with flatter eyelids. If you prefer a light-colored curler so you can clearly see whether all your lashes have fit into its jaw, you might not appreciate its black color.
The Trim is neither too round nor too flat, meaning it should fit most people’s eyes, but it feels more rickety than pricier curlers and has a stiff, flat pad, which means it’s more prone to nipping eyelid skin if you’re not careful. But since it’s pretty inexpensive and available at most drugstores (unlike our other picks, which are mostly available online or only at certain department stores), you might find it worth it to risk a small pinch if you need an eyelash curler in, um, a pinch.
The Trim came to our attention via Bryan Barron as a good inexpensive pick for many eye shapes. We pitted it against the B-leve B-flirty, our pick from last year. We noticed the same issues with the B-leve this year; while it boasts fancier spring-loaded handles, the Trim’s basic looped handles were easier and more comfortable to use, and it created more natural-looking arced lashes than the B-leve. The B-leve is harder to find in local stores and online, too.
While it doesn’t feel as sturdy as some of the expensive models on the list, the Trim has the hardest, least springy pad, and is perhaps slightly pinchier for all of these reasons. It is perfectly serviceable for a five-buck drugstore find, and comes with five replacement pads, too.
Sometimes eyelash curlers get mascara gunk along the metal jaw, and eyelashes can get pulled out when they stick to this crud. Clean off your curler regularly with makeup remover to prevent this from happening. Make sure you never curl after applying mascara, only before. That, too, will prevent your lashes from getting yanked out.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing the pad in a traditional curler every 6 to 12 months of consistent use—over time, the metal will break down the pad material and create an indentation that will hamper its ability to curl.
Need a primer or refresher course on how to use an eyelash curler in the first place? James Vincent has one here.
In early 2015, tech and beauty outlets alike got excited about Adele Bakhtiarova and her fledgling company Voir Creations. Snap a pic of your eyes with your smartphone, and Voir promises that its mobile app will transform the pic into a 3-D scan, allowing the company to print out an eyelash curler to your specifications. A year later, this product is still “in development,” per the website. We look forward to trying it out if and when it comes to fruition.
Many publications and professionals consider Shu Uemura the gold standard. Including me. My roundish-almond-eyed self swears by it, and so do lots of other people. None of our testers concurred, though. While experts like Kellar point out that it has pretty much the same design as the Shiseido, the Shiseido is slightly less wide and flatter than the Shu, which has a deeper curve to it. Something about those flat (but not too flat!) and short (but not too short!) measurements seems to render the Shiseido’s shape more universal. The Shu also lacks the replacement pad that comes with the Shiseido.
The Sephora Collection Show Curl XL Lash Curler has a silicone pad that’s firm and rounded like the Aucoin’s, and a mechanism that’s smooth and sturdy like the Shiseido’s. It didn’t perfectly suit any of our testers’ eye shapes, though. It was a little rounder than I needed, but because it was a little narrower than my lash line, it didn’t pinch at all. A tester with round eyes called it “fine, but maybe not quite round enough.” Your mileage may vary.
The Tweezerman ProMaster Lash Curler (not to be confused with the Tweezerman ProCurl or the cheaper drugstore model, both of which we opted not to test due to only-okay reviews; see below) is designed for deep-set and almond-shaped eyes with hard-to-reach lashes. All of our testers found it a bit flimsy and painful to use, except our tester with flat, monolid eyes, who deemed it her favorite.
The new Bobbi Brown Gentle Curl packaging describes it bluntly as a curler designed for Asian eyes. Our (Asian) monolid tester told us: “It was a bit much in terms of crimp, but … I’d still use it.” Still, she far preferred the Tweezerman and Aucoin. No one else cared for it.
We dismissed the Billy B Beauty Eyelash Curler last go-round, but tried it again this year because Vincent liked it for a rounder pick. It still didn’t fare as well as other models we tried; one tester with round eyes said, “I’d say the Billy B fit me best, except that I got a … weirder curl out of it.”
Eyelash curlers we dismissed last year:
We really liked the Tarte Picture Perfect Lash Curler. It didn’t pinch (much), but it doesn’t curl better or longer than the Shiseido.
The Laura Mercier Eyelash Curler was the favorite in a Good Housekeeping Research Institute test, but offered no improvements upon the traditional curler, and still managed to pinch the hell out of the skin surrounding the eyes thanks to a very small opening for eyelashes.
The previous writer on this guide, Jamie Wiebe, noted that Lancôme’s Le Curler was really not that great: It tore out eyelashes and caused a tiny welt that lasted a long time after a particularly brutal pinch. It also comes with a pretty high price and a flatter pad that leads to crimps, not curls.
The Sonia Kashuk Dramatically Defining Lash Curler is super-cheap, but it pinched too much to make the low price worth it.
The e.l.f. Studio Eyelash Curler is ultimately too cheap to trust with the delicate skin near your eyes. It doesn’t get great reviews, with several mentioning its small size and curvature as flaws.
We dismissed Revlon’s Lash Curler outright due to complaints of crimped, not curled, eyelashes, which I can confirm based on my own previous use—not to mention numerous users complaining it just “didn’t work.”
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: May 24, 2016