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We’re huge believers that some of the best beauty things in life don’t have to cost you an entire month’s rent. And because mascara is such a personal product—there really isn’t one size fits all—we like to lay out all the options that are both effective and economical (#frugalbeauty).
Here’s the great news: Drugstore mascaras easily rival their more expensive counterparts. “I always have a drugstore mascara in my kit," says New York City makeup artist and beauty expert Neil Scibelli. "They’re right up there with luxury mascaras, and many of them share the same research departments and formulations labs. Don’t forget that a lot of these massive drugstore brands have the budget to do extensive testing and re-formulating." To help you make the right decision among all the great options out there, we researched the top options.
Read on for the best drugstore mascaras on the market now.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara
This L’Oreal mascara is considered the holy grail of mascaras by makeup artists and editors alike. As its name suggests, it delivers voluminous lashes thanks to a fiber wand that grabs and dispenses a lot of product to the lash. This formula does come in a waterproof version, but this one stays on so well that there’s barely a difference between the two.
Best for Drama: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
Plenty of mascaras claim to leave you with falsie-like lashes, but this Essence mascara actually lives up to that promise. The formula sweeps on to lashes and creates volume and length. It also manages to keep lashes curled throughout the day. The wand-like applicator is easy to maneuver into inner corners and can even reach bottom lashes with ease.
One reviewer said that after trying this Essence Lash Princess mascara, she'll never buy higher-priced mascaras ever again. Sold.
Best Waterproof: Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof Mascara
This pink-and-green classic from Maybelline is your basic standby waterproof mascara. The neon packaging hasn’t changed, and neither has its old-school mascara wand. The formula can help lashes to appear more curly, even without an eyelash curler.
Perhaps this mascara's greatest strength is its imperviousness to weather conditions and tears alike. The Great Lash mascara stays on through the rain, humidity, sweat, an entire day at the beach, and even a crying session. If you use eye drops regularly, this mascara will stay on through that, too. The slim wand works for both upper and lower lashes and layers well with other mascara formulas.
Best for Short Lashes: Maybelline New York Lash Discovery Waterproof Mascara
This mascara boasts an exclusive mini brush that makes it easy to coat tiny lashes on top, bottom, and in the hard-to-reach inner corners. It's also waterproof, hypoallergenic, and promises not to clump or glob onto your lashes.
Best for Length: L'Oréal Paris Telescopic Original Mascara
This pick works best for those who want longer, natural-looking lashes. It features a skinny wand that extends and darkens your lashes, helping to brush out lashes evenly. Some reviewers said it even helped keep their eyelashes curled, and didn’t transfer to their under eyes, a problem with many mascaras.
Best for Thin Lashes: Almay Extreme Length Mascara
As you age, your eyelashes can become sparse, thin out, and overall, not look as lush as they once were. That being said, you may want to swap your regular old tube for a version that does more than add color and temporary volume to your fringe. That’s where this mascara from Almay comes in. The anti-breakage, vitamin-infused formula combined with super soft bristle brush work together to coat lashes in a nourishing formula.
The strengthening yet shiny formula defends against damage, so you don’t have to worry about losing lashes when removing or applying the mascara, and your lashes become visibly longer and stronger over time.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara
Mascaras tend to antagonize sensitive eyes, but if you can’t give them up, this mascara from Neutrogena is your best bet. The Healthy Lengths mascara contains lash conditioning ingredients that lengthen and define eyelashes for a natural, fuss-free look. You'll be left with a more soft, pretty fringe instead of dramatic lashes, but the mascara won’t irritate your eyes. The wand is small enough to apply the mascara exactly where you want it, whether it's your bottom lashes or inner corner lashes, without getting mascara everywhere.
Best Tubing: No7 Stay Perfect Mascara
For a mascara that separates lashes without clumps or flakes, reviewers love this tubing mascara. Tube mascaras work to define lashes by wrapping the mascara formula around each lash for ultimate coverage.
This formula is labeled as water-resistant, but multiple reviewers said it lasted just as long as other waterproof mascaras. The mascara does dry quickly but is easy to remove. With warm water and/or micellar water, it comes off without tugging at your lashes. One reviewer said the mascara wand also catches corner lashes, flaring them out for a cat-eye look.
Best for Volume: Maybelline New York The Falsies Push Up Drama Waterproof Mascara
When searching for a mascara that volumizes lashes it’s not always as easy as grabbing one that has volumizing claims on the packaging. Many formulas and brushes fall short when it comes to delivering that perfect dose of long-lasting thickness and volume that stays put from morning ‘til night.
Enter this mascara from Maybelline, which features innovative cup-shaped bristles that latch onto your lashes coating them in an inky black formula. The creamy, wet formula glides over lashes smoothly and evenly without clumping or flaking. Another plus is that you can layer this mascara to achieve your own desired level of volume without it turning messy or flaking off.
Best Smudge-Proof: COVERGIRL Lash Blast Volume Mascara
People everywhere swear by this cult-classic volumizing option from CoverGirl, and for good reason: It adds volume without any clumpiness and makes thin lashes look thick and full. Plus, it never smudges or flakes—even on lower lashes.
Best Classic: Maybelline New York Great Lash BIG Washable Mascara
Another take on that iconic green and pink tube, Byrdie’s Editorial & Strategy Director Kathryn Vandervalk vouch for this variant, saying it’s even better than the OG (even though they cost the same). Credit an oversized brush that helps reach every lash to coat it with the mega-volumizing, clump-free formula.
Best Thickening: BLK/OPL Super Volumizing Mascara
Black Opal has specially formulated this mascara with a thickening complex that enhances the look of your lashes. We also love the curved fiber brush, which delivers a full, dramatic look every time. If that wasn't enough, the formula contains vitamin-rich ingredients that condition your lashes, too.
If you take anything away from this page, let it be these two points: You don't have to spend a ton of money to find the best mascara, and that the drugstore is a treasure trove of great options to sweep on your lashes. For serious, va-va-voom volume, reach for L'Oreal's Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara and its fiber wand that coats lashes ever so perfectly. For a waterproof mascara that really won't budge throughout the day, Maybelline's Great Lash Waterproof Mascara does it best. It will stay on through ugly cry sessions, rain, humidity, and more.
What to Look For In a Drugstore Mascara
Waterproof (or Not)
According to Scibelli, this is one of the first questions to ask yourself when choosing a mascara. Obviously waterproof formulas have longer staying power, just keep in mind that removing them will require some dedicated time and effort.
The Type of Formula
Ask yourself what your lash goals are, suggests Scibelli. Is it length? Volume? Both? Choose formulas based on exactly what your lashes need.
To that point, it’s not just about the formula; the brush plays a role, too. Thinner brushes with longer, thinner bristles are ideal for creating length and definition, while shorter, thicker brushes with more densely-packed bristles are great for adding mega volume.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any drugstore mascaras from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.