The variety of mascaras is quite astounding. You have your lengthening and volumizing ones, with tubing, waterproof, drugstore and curling having prime seats at the beauty counter, too.
And, there’s no arguing about it — a good mascara will become a must-have in your makeup bag, your work tote and atop your makeup vanity to stay at arm’s reach.
Whenever I head on over to Sephora or to an online retailer, I’m always looking for a new formula (or, new to me at least). After testing dozens of mascaras for more than a year now, I’ve finally bundled all of my top formulations to bring you an edit of the 42 best mascaras on the market.
“Mascara is a unique product that the formula needs to work with the brushes,” Ginger King, cosmetic chemist and beauty expert, told the New York Post. “You can have the same formula but a different brush gives you a different look.”
Uniquely, King says the formula usually consists of wax, polymers and pigments. “A good mascara should have lash-caring ingredients besides the basics mentioned (wax, polymer, pigments) and should not clump or smudge.”
Ahead of my top picks, there’s an expert-backed guide that details how to find the best mascaras for you. But first, it’s time to see which mascaras made the cut.
How we tested
All personal favorites aside, I put together testing criteria when I set out to review mascaras. Here are all the benchmarks I kept in mind when fluttering my lashes with different wands:
- Length: When testing, I looked for formulas that naturally allowed my lashes to rise near my eyebrow.
- Volume: When testing, I looked for formulas that enhanced and amplify my current lashes — almost giving the effect of falsies.
- Clumpiness: Or more specifically, lack thereof, I made sure that none of these mascaras ‘glued’ my lashes together or had black residue or flakes after application.
- Ease of removal: When testing, I made sure none of these formulas required intense scrubbing when I removed the formula with a basic liquid formula.
Next steps for the review: I am still continuing to test new mascaras or others that did not make the cut for this edition.
Click to jump to a specific type of mascara to read each one’s review:
Best Cruelty-Free Mascaras
About the brush: The brush is of castor bean bio-plastic with arrow tips, ensuring that it’ll separate tiny, thin lashes.
When used, the Exa ten18 Lash Amplifying Mascara soon became one of the best — if not the best — clean mascaras I’ve used. Not only does its wand create the most impressive separating and lash-enhancing effect but it also doesn’t clump or smear.
About the brush: The brush is a patented dual-sided brush that has shorter bristles to curl and create volume and longer bristles to lift, lengthen and separate.
I’ve been using the ILIA Limitless Lash Lengthening Clean Mascara for more than a year and it hasn’t failed to impress me. Not only is it one of the quickest to help lengthen and define your lashes but it’s a clean makeup essential when paired with the brand’s Clean Line Liquid Eyeliner ($28).
3. Jones Road The Mascara, $26
About the brush: The brush is curved to help capture the inner corner’s baby lashes while lengthening the outer lashes.
Jones Road is a beauty brand — specifically, a clean beauty brand — that has received plenty of hype, and for a good reason. Its products are reasonably priced and designed to be buildable, as is the case with the brand’s The Mascara. With a curved wand, it’s a triple threat at lengthening, volumizing and curling.
About the brush: The brush is partially contoured to help reach your long and shorter lashes alike, giving them a natural and glossy finish.
Though the Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Ultra-Natural Mascara doesn’t give your lashes that ‘wow’ feeling, it’s perfect if you want to do a quick swipe to make your lashes a bit more enhanced. Its color isn’t super rich and it almost appears as a brown mascara, which I liked.
5. Lawless Beauty The One & Done Volumizing Mascara, $25 to $33
About the brush: The brush is thin with an elastomer, dough-foot applicator and gently grips your lashes to elongate them, while its spherical tip separates them.
The Lawless Beauty The One & Done Volumizing Mascara is phenomenal for not only lengthening and volumizing but also staying put all day. If you have a cocktail hour to hop to after your 9-to-5, this one is it.
Plus, at QVC, you can pick up two full-sized formulas for just $25.
About the brush: The brush is askew to lift and curl your lashes and it boasts vegan lash-wrap technology to keep lashes defined and clump-free.
The Milk Makeup RISE Lifting + Lengthening Mascara has been a staple on my makeup counter for months, much ado to its bold wand that you’d think would lead to clumps — but doesn’t. When in doubt, I know it won’t fail me (oh, and it’s packaging is super ergonomic to grip to when applying).
About the brush: The brush is average-sized with minor spikes to help elongate each lash, from the inner to the outer corner.
Saie is rising up the charts as a clean beauty brand worth shopping, from its award-winning Slip Tint ($36) to its Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter ($28). Its Mascara 101 Lengthening & Lifting has an impressively flexible wand which is great for applying at your inner corner, especially.
About the brush: The brush is a true wand shape made of silicone, helping to naturally comb through, separate and enhance every lash.
I’ve never tried anything from TOK Beauty, but when I started using its Eyes That TOK Lash-Enhancing Mascara, I was hooked. Out of the dozens of mascaras I tested, this one has the truest wand shape which gave my eyes the perfect lift and curl.
About the brush: The brush is one with three flexible suspended bands that help lengthen and define each individual lash.
Meet the Tower 28 Beauty MakeWaves Lengthening + Volumizing Mascara, the makeup product that’s been populating on TikTok. For just $20, it’s amazing how defining it is, naturally enhancing each lash yet buildable for a day-to-night look. Two words: buy it.
Best Curling Mascaras
About the brush: The brush is a patent-pending Hook ‘n’ Roll brush, featuring tiny custom-designed hooks to ‘catch, lift and curl’ short and straight lashes.
The Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Curling & Lifting Mascara isn’t one to give you outrageous volume but its curling power is beyond compare. Its slightly askew wand is custom to the brand to help lift even your smallest lash.
2. Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara, $32 to $35
About the brush: The brush is patented to coat individual lashes in its spread-out, smudge-free design.
When paired with Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($32), the brand’s No Smudge Mascara will make you feel like you just stepped off a professional beauty counter stool. Its spacious wand helps naturally define each lash and is great to use on the outer corners to flirtatiously enhance your overall look.
About the brush: The brush is curved to curl every lash from bottom to top, along with bringing exaggerated volume to the lashes.
If you want your eyes to pop, you’ll pick up the Dior Diorhsow Iconic Overcurl Mascara. I found myself reaching for this nonstop, especially for formal events) as it just gives your lashes a bit more oomph than normal. For a curling mascara, I loved the volume that came with this formula.
About the brush: The brush is a brand-exclusive flat-to-fat brush that brings volume, lift, lengthening and curl power to the lashes.
The Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Full Frontal Volume, Lift & Curl Mascara is one that’s more catered to lifting and curling than volume — but I still loved it nonetheless. Especially when it follows the brand’s Flyliner Longwear Liquid Eyeliner ($24), it’ll soon become a staple.
Best Drugstore Mascaras
About the brush: The brush is a chubby wand that is clump-free with its many fine bristles.
For just $9, the Covergirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara is one I would buy again and again. I can’t believe how much it compared to some high-end ones I’ve been using (and, out of the dozens I’ve tried, ranked even better). Plus, it’s chubby packaging is simple to find in your makeup bag.
About the brush: The brush is a near-hourglass shape that’s feathery soft and helps diminish flakiness.
With nearly 94,000 rave reviews on Amazon, it’s no surprise the L’Oreal Paris Lash Paradise Mascara is a top-seller. It’s just $10, too, and great if you want a formula that’ll help elongate and separate as opposed to giving intense volume.
About the brush: The brush is a turbo-skinny wand that’s flexible, much ado to bring precision and lengthening power to the lashes.
Receiving nearly as much acclaim as its Lash Paradise Mascara, L’Oreal Paris’ Telescopic Original Lengthening Mascara has been seen all over social media as ranking highly next to department store-grade formulas. It’s great for precise lengthening, too.
About the brush: The brush is a brand-exclusive Flex Tower brush that extends individual lashes from root to tip.
I can’t rave about the Maybelline New York Sky High Mascara enough. It’s an Amazon best-seller with more than 100,000 positive reviews and truly makes your lashes ‘sky high.’ You just have to try this product at least once, and we guarantee it’ll be a repurchase.
Best Lengthening Mascaras
1. Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Lengthening Mascara, $23 to $27
About the brush: The brush is flexible and bendy with a dough-foot applicator, bringing much versatility to build-up how tall you’d prefer your lashes to be.
When I’m going for a more natural makeup look and want to enhance my lashes and the blush to my cheeks, I’ll reach for the Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Lengthening Mascara. Its wand is the perfect one to wiggle and skyrocket upward for a lengthening effect, thanks to its lightweight bristles.
About the brush: The brush is smaller than average but features a multitude of micro-bristles arranged in a fanned-out style.
At first, I wasn’t a fan of the Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Lengthening Mascara (likely because I had a phase when I was only looking for volumizing mascaras), but I fell in love with it after another few tries. Its fanned-out brush really produces that lengthening effect, and it’s one of the easiest to use.
About the brush: The brush is double-ended, one of the most unique tested to bring lengthening power on one side and volumizing power on the flip-side.
Did someone say double threat? HUDA BEAUTY’s LEGIT LASHES is a superstar in the mascara department for having a lengthening side on one end and a volumizing brush on the other. After using, I was more impressed with its lengthening side, but I love mixing and matching both.
About the brush: The brush is holistically skinny yet poof-ed up at the tip, which helps it to elongate each lash while providing some volume, too.
The IT Cosmetics Superhero Elastic Stretch Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara is great if you want instant length; it doesn’t take many coats to achieve a lash-enhancing effect. But, it doesn’t last all day, so if you don’t mind reapplying, this one is wonderful to consider.
About the brush: The brush is incredibly small and one of the most precise tested, many thanks to its ability to target the outer corner for a few strokes and the inner corner for the next few strokes.
The ITEM Beauty by Addison Rae Lash Snack Clean Lengthening Mascara is one of the most affordable, non-drugstore mascaras on this list and beyond impressive for buildable lengthening. Its wand is super micro-sized which makes it probably the best for lash-defining.
About the brush: The brush is a nice size, featuring a large wand and fanned-out bristles to help dramatize while lengthening the lashes.
If I had to give an award to ‘most-used mascara,’ the ONE/SIZE by Patrick Starrr Fantasize Lifting & Lengthening Mascara receives it with flying colors. It just does it all: lengthen, volumize and curl. You’ll want to add this one to your cart, New York Post Shopping-approved.
About the brush: The brush is wrapped around a formula with conditioning peptides to help strengthen and lengthen your lashes — the closest one to to touch your eyebrow line.
If you want a noticeably incredible mascara that’ll have people asking, ‘what mascara are you wearing?‘ it’s the Pat McGrath Labs FetishEyes Lengthening Mascara. Nearly every time I go out to dinner with this bad boy on, I always receive compliments on how long my lashes look, making it one of my top recommendations.
About the brush: The brush is your typical lengthening wand, featuring a slightly skinny wand and intense, multi-textured bristles.
The Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara is one of the most consistent mascaras for both lengthening and defining, thanks to its no-frills brush that’s semi-smaller than most, giving you the working power to build up your lashes how you see fit.
Best Tubing Mascaras
About the brush: The brush is much like a flosser pick, featuring a bendy, elongated design and towering-sized bristles that work together to help enhance each lash.
To elongate your lashes in one of the simplest ways possible, reach for the Blinc Lash Extension Tubing Mascara. It’s not one to provide intense volume but it’s curling and lash-enhancing power is one to try.
About the brush: The brush is fat and full of drama, helping it to lengthen and volumize while preparing your lashes for long-term wear.
The caliray Come Hell or High Water Volumizing Tubing Mascara has a fluffy wand which is one of the most special of the bunch, for one reason and one reason only: intense drama. I was pleasantly surprised with the ‘bounce’ effect it gave to my lashes.
About the brush: The brush is dome-shaped and amply textured, giving your lashes a dramatic effect that’s buildable when applied.
The Merit Clean Lash Lengthening Tubing Mascara is a great tubing mascara that’s also from a top-rated clean beauty brand. Its textured wand helps make your lashes multi-dimensional, too, a rarity in the mascara world.
4. Tarte Tartelette Tubing Mascara, $24
About the brush: The brush is tapered, skinny and features tiny feathered-out bristles that result in the most beautifully natural look.
The Tarte Tartelette Tubing Mascara went viral for a reason, and it’s because it’s impressively phenomenal at elongating and giving your lashes a bit of a volume boost. Seriosuly, you need to add this one to your cart — no questions asked.
Best Volumizing Mascaras
About the brush: The brush is dramatic and slightly contoured, bringing much volume and lift to your lashes.
Truth be told, I reviewed nearly every product from Anastasia Beverly Hills, and its Lash Brag Jet-Black Volumizing Mascara is one to be beaten. It continues to be one I reach for and recommend for its everyday wear, buildable finish.
About the brush: The brush is a brand-exclusive Snowflakes brush that combines short and long bristles to help deliver an eye-opening effect.
Looking for a designer mascara? The Chanel Le Volume De Chanel Mascara is not much more than other name-brand mascaras and will give your lashes not only lengthening power but also a glossy finish.
About the brush: The brush is a plush peanut-like shape that volumizes while curls each lash from the inner to outer corner.
For a mix of drama and curl, the Lancôme Le 8 Hypnose Serum-Infused Volumizing Mascara is a standout formula. I expected it to clump and flake — because of the nature of the wand — but it stayed put nearly all day and looked great.
4. MAC Cosmetics MACStack Mascara, $24 to $28
About the brush: The brush has a tubular wand with feathered-upward bristles to enhance and amplify lashes from root to tip.
The MAC Cosmetics MACStack Mascara, though I haven’t used it as long as some others, is growing to be my new favorite mascara. It literally touched my eyebrow (I still can’t believe that) and volumized just as beautifully.
About the brush: The brush is a cone-shaped design with a precision tip that helps separate and volumize each lash.
Make Up For Ever’s Smoky Extravagant Mascara has a uniquely shaped wand that enables you to define your inner and outer corner as well as your bottom lashes. I love how it separates, too, and when paired with the brand’s Aqua Resist Graphic Pen ($24).
About the brush: The brush is ‘eye-hugging,’ helping its spaced-out bristles to provide buildable volume to each lash.
To hop on the beauty brand that’s been taking the internet by storm, try the Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Perfect Strokes Universal Volumizing Mascara. It’s one of the mascaras that I tangibly saw my lashes extend and amplify with, and it’s great to use with the brand’s Perfect Strokes Matte Liquid Liner ($19.
About the brush: The brush is your standard mascara wand but features multi-dimensional bristles that don’t require many coats to look stunning.
For just $12, don’t walk — run — to the SEPHORA COLLECTION Big By Definition Defining & Volumizing Mascara. It requires minimal coats to look completely amazing — and it’s one of the best ever on this list.
About the brush: The brush has extreme feather detailing which provides intense volume to each lash.
Too Faced’s Better Than Sex Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara is one many people would trade in their life savings for (truly). Its hourglass-shaped brush does help define and exaggerate, though can be drying at times. Overall, it’s a favorite for a reason and is unmatched with the brand’s Better Than Sex Easy Glide Waterproof Liquid Liner ($24).
Best Waterproof Mascaras
About the brush: The brush has close-to-the-wand bristles, allowing the formula to blend naturally and smudge-free while coating each lash.
Though the Benefit Cosmetics’ BADgal BANG! Volumizing Waterproof Mascara comes in a non-waterproof make, its water-resistant finish topped the charts for me. It didn’t flake, smudge or budge — and for a waterproof mascara, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.
About the brush: The brush is lightweight with fanned-out bristles that helps resist flaking and smudging.
For a waterproof mascara that’ll help lengthen without budging, try the Clinique High Impact Waterproof Mascara. It’s most similar to a tubing and curling mascara with a buildable, lightweight finish.
About the brush: The brush is curved and dense, allowing each lash to be not only volumized but incredibly lifted.
The Lancôme Lash Idôle Lash-Lifting & Volumizing Mascara has been a favorite of mine for months, though it can dry and flake a bit after five hours. However, it’s ability to curl (and look like falsies) is beyond compare, which allowed it to make the cut with flying colors.
About the brush: The brush is more like a kabuki brush than a mascara wand, helping to volumize and separate each lash.
As its name suggests, the MAC Cosmetics In Extreme Dimension Waterproof Mascara will give your lashes extreme dimension to the max, and its straight, un-curved wand made it one of the easiest to apply. For daytime or nighttime, it’ll look gorgeous.
About the brush: The brush is ultra-thin without a shape, yet features a spiked-out dough-foot applicator that targets and lengthens each individual lash.
I lived on the Tarte Maneater Waterproof Mascara this past summer because it doesn’t lead to clumpy volume. Instead, its thin, dough-foot applicator only requires a few swipes before heading out to the pool.
An FAQ on Mascaras
Ahead, our cosmetic experts gave the 411 on how to shop for the best mascaras and what to look for in formulation and brushes.
What should I look for in a mascara brush?
Of course, the brush you want depends on the look you’re seeking out. “If you want a separate clean look, the silicone type of spiky brush works well,” Ginger King, cosmetic chemist and beauty expert, told The Post. “If you want a more volumized look, the tree-shaped brushes work well. If you want a curly look, the spiral brushes work well.”
Interestingly, this is why “when brands put out the mascaras, they typically will show the types of brushes,” King adds.
What’s the difference between a lengthening and volumizing mascara?
“Lengthening mascaras typically have a thinner spiny brush, while volumizing mascaras will have a thicker brush,” Natalie Dresher, professional makeup artist who specializes in special event and bridal makeup, told The Post. “Lengthening mascaras typically have a no-clump formula, and volumizing mascaras may get a bit more clumpy after a few coats.”
It’s all in the brush, too. “The denser the bristles, the more products get on the lashes, and look more volumized,” King notes. “The more spaces between the bristles, the cleaner and more lengthened look.”
How should I apply mascara?
The golden question, right? According to King, it’s best if you look down instead of looking straight or up to the mirror. “You can apply both under and over the lashes,” she adds. “On average, consumers use 14 strokes per eye when they apply mascaras.”
Dresher applies two coats and makes sure to get each lash in the direction she wants from root to end. “I definitely pay more attention to my outer lashes because I prefer them thicker and longer- a natural cat eye effect,” she adds.
How many coats of mascara do I need?
Though this will vary, think about the look you want to achieve. “If you want to look natural, one to two coats is ideal,” King says. “If you want a more dramatic appearance, you can layer up to five to six coats.”
How should mascara be removed?
With a range of makeup removers on the market, you’ll be sure to have a variety of options to take the day off. However, our makeup artists recommend specific routines.
“My favorite way is using a cleansing balm, and then following up with an oil based cleanser,” Dresher notes. “If I’m using waterproof mascara, definitely micellar water.”
Some mascaras require an oil to remove while others can be rinsed off simply with soap and water. “If you’re not sure, read the direction on the package or always use an eye makeup remover,” King recommends.
How does waterproof mascara differ in formulation and wear?
“Waterproof mascara is made with solvents, polymer and wax,” King explains. “This type adheres stronger to the lashes thus more resistant to humidity.” Plus, if you tend to sweat or even cry a lot or being poured by rain without an umbrella, waterproof mascara can avoid ruining your face makeup with black or black or brown streaks coming down the face.
“Waterproof mascara is definitely good for long wear days or days you’ll know you’ll be crying but I wouldn’t recommend them for daily use,” Dresher advises.
When does mascara expire?
Typically, your skincare or makeup containers will have a tub icon with a number, signaling how many months a product is good for. With mascara, sometimes, that icon isn’t on the bottle.
“Mascara typically expires three months after opening,” Dresher says. “If mascara ever has a rancid smell or is dry when inserting the wand, definitely replace it.”
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