Vividly hued mascaras are not just a novelty item—they’re just as chic as black when worn correctly

Many women might fantasize about wearing a non-black (or brown) mascara, but never actually purchase one—it seems extreme, impractical and perhaps un-adult. But, says LA makeup artist Kristee Liu, “colored mascaras are no longer just for teens and kids. They are definitely for anyone who likes to experiment and have fun with makeup.” Further proof: Donna Karan, indisputably a serious and iconic fashion designer, adorned her Spring 2013 runway models with a flash of hot pink lash.

Just as a shade of lipstick can alter someone’s visage in a refined or dramatic way, tinted lashes, too, have the power to change up a stale every day look. “Depending on the color of mascara—like plum vs. blue—the change can go from subtle and sophisticated to bold and fierce,” says the beauty expert who works with singers Cher, Pink and Alanis Morissette. In other words, don’t just run out and grab the most insane shade possible—there are some guidelines.

“If you have blue eyes and/or fair skin, burgundy-colored mascara (try YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils in Burgundy) will make your eyes pop,” says Liu. “If you have green eyes, purple mascara will contrast the green and make your eyes stand out more.” Her favorites in this color family are MAC Zoom Lash in Plum Reserve, and for even more of a jolt, Inglot’s Colour Play Mascara in 04 Purple. Additionally, “Mascara in the blue color family will make brown eyes look brighter and more awake”—experiment with Liu’s pick, Laura Mercier Long Lash Mascara in Bleu. Also, remember lighter colors tend to open up the eyes because they draw attention outward. “It’s always more fun wearing colors you’re drawn to,” says Liu. “But keep in mind that different colors do different things for your look!”

Keeping the rest of the makeup simple—as in a nude-y shadow, a wash of color on the cheeks and a natural-looking lip—and just adding a swipe of vivid color (if you’re a first-timer try just the tips of the lashes first, or the bottom lashes) reads chic and sophisticated, while matching a liner and shadow to the mascara (like at Donna Karan) intensifies the look and makes lashes stand out even more, says the expert. A great go-to for anyone is Make Up For Ever’s Smokey Lash Mascara in #4 Green. And for those really envelope-pushing personalities, try our favorite iteration: “Two different tones of the same color family on the upper and lower lashes, for example, marine blue on top and aqua blue on the bottom lashes.” Adds Liu, “I think any occasion can be a great colored-mascara moment.”