Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could walk into a drugstore and test out the different types of mascara? Unfortunately, all of those affordable formulas are usually tightly wrapped with plastic and cardboard. And high-end beauty retailers don’t make it any easier to try before you buy. Some stores let shoppers try on mascara using disposable spoolies, but there’s no way to really know if other customers have double-dipped into the tube (hello, hygiene hazard). And while those throw-away tools let you experience the formula, there’s no way to get the full effect without using the wand. And anyone who loves mascara knows that the wand is the most important part.

As a beauty editor, I’ve developed a sort of sixth sense where I can twist off a cap and immediately know if I’m going to like a mascara or not. And you can do it, too. All you have to do is examine the wand. The different curves and brush styles create unique effects on the lashes. That’s why we talked to several makeup pros to help you understand the functions of some of the most popular applicators before your next mascara run.

Related: 20 Game-Changing Makeup Hacks We Learned On Instagram

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