There are seemingly thousands of mascara options on the market, and take it from me—after a while, it’s hard to discern between them. It feels like every day I scroll through TikTok, am blown away by someone’s gorgeous lashes, then find myself sprinting to the nearest Sephora or drugstore to snag yet another tube.
And the thing is, there are a lot of similarities with the best of the best. The fan-favorite mascaras have a lot of crossover, but everyone’s got a different preference for a different reason, whether you’re picky about your brush and application process (guilty), or have a specific lash type with specific needs.
As such, I’ve spent the past month putting a ton of them to the test—my eyelashes and I have seen some sh*t these past weeks, and I’m down to my last drops of Avène micellar water. I rounded up 20 of the best-selling, most-popular, best-loved mascaras on the market to put them to the test. The criteria for this list included top reviews and ratings from various beauty retailers, popular beauty writer and editor picks, beauty chat forums, and internal W+G shopping data. And because I know my lashes are different from your lashes, I had a couple friends (and my 60-year-old mom) try them too, so we could compare notes.
At the end of it all, we landed on a top 10 for you to choose from. You likely won’t go wrong with any mascara on this list—they offer incredible length, volume, curl, definition, and longevity. In fact, they were all so fantastic, it was incredibly difficult to put them in any kind of order, but we did our best. Try any and all of them, and see what makes your lashes pop, as well as what gives you that confidence boost with just a couple swipes.
A $5, 5-star mascara is hard to beat on paper. And yes, this ultimate bargain find offered enough to hang with the best of ‘em on this list of all-stars. We got to review all five iterations of Essence’s Lash Princess collection, including Volume, Curl & Volume, Sculpted Volume, False Lash Effect, and False Lash Effect Waterproof. And while admittedly, this collection wasn’t for everyone, there was a MAJOR standout by a longshot (and one that surprised us all): the Waterproof False Lash Effect. Yes, the waterproof formulation delivered an even better statement lash than the water soluble formula.
Not only was it the least clumpy and smoothest application of the entire collection, but it stood out even among the mascaras that were six times (or more!!) pricier. We’re talking perfect definition and separation, the right amount of volume before it gets clumpy or spidery, and length.
As for the waterproof component, I tested this at an Elton John concert in which I knew I’d be crying, and it absolutely lasted all night. That said, I almost felt like I needed a chisel to remove at the end of that excursion… but that’s pretty typical for a waterproof, right? If you have any aquatic plans this spring or summer, don’t hesitate to drop a few extra bucks on this one; it costs less than an iced brown sugar shaken espresso at Starbucks.
For feathery, soft Bambi lashes, Too Faced’s iconic BTS mascara is exactly what you need. Though you can build up to a bolder more statement lash, this formulation and fluffy brush provided the most natural result with just one coat. It also made it look like I upped my lash count—as if I had even more lashes after a couple swipes.
This mascara has been a fan favorite for nearly a decade. And because you can build to a more dramatic, thick, bold lash look with another coat (or two), BTS is really versatile in its application; you can wear it as part of an everyday, natural makeup look, or add some drama for added glam. I had a couple friends try this too, and it received praise across the board. The only con was longevity; some of my guinea pigs reported that there was loss of length and fallout after a few hours.
True to its name (like Monsieur Big), this hit from Kosas really does deliver big lashes. And major props to the formula for actually strengthening lashes while you wear it. Part mascara, part lash conditioner, it uses ingredients like castor oil, vitamin B5, and biotinoyl tripeptide-1 to help with lash growth. I admittedly haven’t used this product long enough to notice lash growth benefits, so this review is primarily focusing on the mascara side of things.
The Big Clean is definitely a volumizer—you’re getting a decidedly bold lash look, especially with more than one coat. The formula is a bit heavier than the others, so you’ll likely need a lash curler to keep them from sticking straight out (my lashes struggled with this); my assumption is this is due to the serum and nourishing ingredients. Overall, the end result is truly gorgeous.
Just one coat of this was shockingly similar to the $27 Better Than Sex mascara from Too Faced (which I will get to soon). Feathery, separated, literally clump-free lashes with the appearance of an increased lash count. The definition is exceptional, and the volume added with a single coat is subtle—lashes are defined and noticeable, but not fat, clumpy, nor spidery. The length is also impressive, and the formula is lightweight enough to allow for a lifting curl. This is yet another “these are just my natural, super gorgeous lashes” mascara. I was also pleased with how easy it was to remove with just water, not even cleanser or micellar.
Of note: We also tried L’Oréal’s Voluminous Noir Balm ($9)—another iteration of Voluminous—which was a really unique, silky formula. While offering tons of length and volume, there was a bit of smudging and fall out (but it’s still a great option to check out!).
I’m relatively certain that this mascara could survive a nuclear apocalypse. After 12 hours of travel, sleeping a full night without washing my face (I was tired, OK!!), and going another 12 hours on a work trip, it looked—and I cannot say this more strongly—flawless. Two friends involved in my review process told me that my second-day, slept-on mascara from Benefit was better than just-applied mascara from other brands, if not the best look of the week.
The wand is my favorite part—it’s BIG. It’s also spiky, firm and comb-like, and perfect for separating lashes to give a beautifully defined finished result (low key also looks like a miniature medieval torture device). All in all, I love it. It’s so good that it makes me want to try their magnetic mascara, too (apparently I’m not burnt out from trying 20 mascaras in the past month). The only con is that this formula is a touch tougher to remove at the end of the day. Not as rough as a waterproof mascara, but more of a challenge than the rest.
One of my recent discoveries that spurred the idea for this mascara research was Monsieur Big from Lancôme. Grab this when you’re ready for a bold look. A thick-and-fluffy, volumizing spooly-brush allows you to create giant lashes, but the formula helps prevent the lashes from glomming together, even as they expand in thickness. What’s especially great about this one is that it’s not just a major volumizer—it also offers telescopic length. Monsieur “Big” literally lives up to its name.
I also had great success with longevity; no fallout, no smudging, and simple to remove. It is a wetter formula than average, so keep that in mind if you live in a humid area or are about to watch a tearjerker—it’s most likely not going to withstand additional moisture.
It was so tough to choose between Ilia’s two mascaras—both were absolutely amazing. The powerhouse Limitless Lash lengthening mascara was just barely edged out by their Fullest volumizing mascara in this review, however. Though I have a personal preference toward the lengthening brush and formula, the impact from the volumizing formula was impressive—and not just on my lashes, but on a friend’s as well (it gave a serious wow factor). While the lengthening mascara’s brush is firm, spike-y, separating, and uniform in shape, the volumizer’s was fluffy and spooly-like, with an hourglass curve in the center (FWIW, this is pretty standard for the two respective types of mascara).
Both formulas are buildable without clumping, and just under two coats of the volumizing mascara makes for a bold yet understated look. To top it off, there’s no fallout, and removal is possible without eye makeup remover (we used a gentle cleanser and water). Overall, this collection of two vegan mascaras blew me away.
For naturally-enhanced looking lashes that look longer and more bold totally on their own (as though you’re not wearing anything at all!), you can’t beat Merit Clean Lash Lengthening mascara. This stuff blew me away. Its formula is also clump-free and ink-y enough, so I can swipe on a few layers before heading out the door, and I never have to worry about smudges. It’s truly a care-free mascara.
Its highlights include a special tubing technology which is what gives you that easy, no-smudge look while giving each individual lash more length, a precision brush that separates each lash for those Bambi eyes, and fatty acids and olive oil that moisturizes and adds shine. Plus, the mascara is super easy to take off—I generally don’t even need to use makeup remover. Water and my regular cleanser do the trick.
I’ve tried Diorshow and Diorshow Pump ‘N’ Volume, and have loved both, so I was eager to try one that was brand new to me: Dior’s “Iconic Overcurl” variety. As you may have imagined, the brush is curved—curled, if you will. Think: a spooly meets an eyelash curler. The formula on this Dior lash extender really is lightweight enough to allow for natural curling, sans tools. The combo of this levity with the curved applicator made for a delivered promise—curled back, voluminous, long lashes.
My lashes still felt soft to the touch once it dried—not crunchy or weighted down—and the morning application lasted for 12 hours on two different occasions (one of them being yet another long travel day), with absolutely no fall-out or smudging. It comes in gorgeous, whimsical-yet-sophisticated packaging, and is easy to remove with even just water (seriously, I didn’t even need soap… it melted off with a bit of warm H2O!).
I’m a biased reviewer for this one as it’s my absolute favorite, and has been for 15+ years. It’s got a solid lengthening-style brush with defining, comb-like bristles, and is buildable for many coats (though you likely won’t need more than, say, one and a half). The brush is also medium size, perhaps a bit on the smaller side, allowing for more control and precision.
This formula thickens, curls, lengthens, and defines, creating spectacular lashes that tread the line between false lashes and are-they-real natural. It lasts hours upon hours, with no fallout, no flaking, and no smudging. Even though it’s not waterproof, it can survive humid temperatures (and the occasional tears) without becoming runny. Sleek, luxurious packaging adds to the overall experience (gotta love those little Chanel Cs on the cap), and at the end of the day, it’s easy to take off.
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