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For most of us, mascara is our first introduction into the beauty world and our go-to product, even on “no makeup” days. This also means that we’ve likely all experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of mascaras—especially waterproof formulas that don’t deliver. There’s nothing worse than expecting your mascara to weather the storm (literally), only to discover that it’s smudgy or even runny at the first sign of moisture. Well look no further, we’ve got you covered!
Whether you’re simply trying to look alive despite your teary eyes or going full-blown glam for a special occasion, you don’t have to break the bank to get a quality waterproof mascara. You can achieve the volume, length, curl, and staying power you’re looking for just by taking a quick trip to the drugstore.
Ready to kiss raccoon eyes goodbye? Read on for the best drugstore waterproof mascaras.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Waterproof Mascara
This mascara seriously rivals its more expensive counterparts. It’s formulated to separate lashes and build them to 4x their natural thickness, so you can get that hyped up look you want. Renée Loiz, celebrity makeup artist, beauty expert, and founder of Color May Vary note this as her go-to. “It does all the things: lengthens, thickens, and conditions without clumping," says Loiz. "It has great staying power—I've even used it for weddings! The very black color really makes the lashes pop.”
Best Budget: Wet n Wild Mega Length Waterproof Mascara
Sweat, humidity, tears, and wandering hands—this waterproof formula can withstand it all. Enriched with vitamin E to soften and protect your lashes, the precision comb brush hugs every single lash for optimal length. The results are longer-looking, more defined lashes.
Best Budget, Runner-Up: e.l.f. Cosmetics Waterproof Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara
You can always count on e.l.f to deliver quality products at unbelievable prices. At less than 5 dollars, this cruelty-free mascara creates full, thicker-looking lashes that withstand the elements. The short brush is perfect for barely-there lashes and bottom lashes, coating every strand for a lengthened, volumized look.
Best Classic: Maybelline New York Great Lash Waterproof Mascara
Look familiar? There’s a reason why this classic mascara has been praised by beauty lovers for the last 50 years, and the waterproof formula lives up to the name. It’s tried and true for delivering natural-looking volume as it thickens and conditions lashes. Plus, it’s contact lens safe and hypoallergenic to reduce irritation to sensitive eyes.
Best Lengthening: Essence Lash Princess Lash Effect Waterproof Mascara
If you think falsies are the only way to remedy your short-lashed woes, then think again. This mascara is the real deal. People with short, fine lashes are used to putting in some extra work with mascara to achieve the right look, but this mascara easily coats, lengthens, and lifts. The brush also does a good job of separating to reduce clumping, and it lasts all day with minimal to no flaking or smudging.
Best Curling: Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Waterproof Mascara
We’ve all reached for one mascara to lengthen and another one to curl, but this unique brush is the do-it-all solution for your lash concerns. It has ten layers of bristles to separate unruly lashes while delivering volume, definition, length and lots of curl for a fanned-out look. Users say that it’s totally cry-proof and keeps lashes lifted and curled all day long.
Best Volumizing: Maybelline New York Total Temptation Waterproof Volumizing Mascara
This creamy whipped formula delivers the volume you want while leaving your lashes soft, separated, and lengthened. It’s super buildable, so if you want to take the drama up a notch, just keep coating! You can also feel good about the addition of coconut extract, which conditions your lashes while you pump up the volume.
Best Volumizing, Runner-Up: Neutrogena Healthy Volume Waterproof Mascara
Moisturized lashes without the raccoon eyes? Yes please! Waterproof formulas tend to be drying, but this one is infused with olive oil to prime and condition while delivering lashes that are 4 times fuller and clump-free. The results are bold, well-coated lashes with minimal flaking.
Best Brush: L’Oreal Bambi Eye Waterproof Mascara
You can count on an eye-opening effect from this volumizing and lengthening mascara—thanks to its hard-hitting brush. It contains a mix of long and short bristles to separate and define each lash while evenly distributing the velvety waterproof formula for a fanned-out look. Reviewers say their eyes appear wider and more open with minimal clumping.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Almay Multi-Benefit Mascara
This volumizing, lengthening, and defining mascara delivers the results you want while being incredibly gentle. It’s hypoallergenic, ophthalmologist tested, and fragrance-free—making it safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers alike. Plus, it’s infused with keratin to help strengthen your lashes for the long haul.
Best Non-Clumping: COVERGIRL Clump Crusher Mascara
Sometimes we expect a bit of clumping as a sacrifice for fuller, more voluminous lashes, but this lash-defining formula lets you kiss clumps goodbye. The curved, double-sided brush design fits well to the curve of the eye for root-to-tip coverage, plus it’s buildable so you can go as natural or as voluminous as you’d like.
Best Cruelty-Free: Pixi by Petra Lash Booster Waterproof Mascara
This mascara checks a lot of boxes: we’re talking waterproof (of course), maximum pigment, and a noticeable lifting effect. Most importantly, it’s cruelty-free. Plus, it’s infused with Vitamin E to nourish as it coats your lashes for a long-lasting, smudge-free look.
If you’re in a quick-pinch for a waterproof drugstore mascara that you’ll love as much as a luxury one, look no further than the L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Waterproof Mascara. It’s got each of the big 3 covered: volume, length, and curl. When it comes to lengthening, you can’t go wrong with Essence Lash Princess Lash Effect Waterproof Mascara. It separates and fully coats each lash for serious length. For sensitive eyes, try Almay Multi-Benefit Waterproof Mascara and get the look you want without the irritation.
What to Look For When Buying a Waterproof Mascara
There are several things you’ll want to consider about your mascara’s formula. Is it clean, cruelty-free, and sans harmful chemicals? Is it safe for sensitive eyes? You’ll also want to make sure that your waterproof mascara is infused with a hydrating ingredient in order to condition and preserve the health of your lashes.
When it comes to the consistency of your mascara’s formula, Loiz recommends a medium weight. “Thicker mascaras clump a lot, but thinner formulas barely grab onto your lashes," she advises.
It might seem like it’s all about the formula, but the type of brush that mascara has plays a major factor in your results as well. “I like a thinner and more firm brush bristle because it's easier to grab onto bottom lashes and those smaller lashes in the outer and inner corners," she says. "I also prefer a firm brush because it's able to coat the lashes more easily.”
Not all mascaras are created equally, so be sure to take note of the benefits promised by each one. Do you want more curl in your straight lashes or are you looking to lengthen short lashes? Or maybe thickening fine lashes for more volume is your primary concern. Whichever the case, make sure you’re finding the right one for your specific needs.
What’s the best method for applying mascara?
Loiz says, “I take the bristle and start from the outer corners of my lashes from root to tip and follow to the inner corner; I like to do a few coats to make sure it looks nice and full. Then I use the brush to fan my lashes outward to create more of a winged effect. I do this on all my clients and myself as well to create more of a wide, almond shape. In the 1950s, they would even extend the lash past the lash line for this effect.”
Is it okay to use waterproof mascara daily?
While you might love the staying power of waterproof mascara, it may not be the best choice if lash health is your primary concern. If you don’t need that type of staying power every day, try alternating with a traditional formula when you can.
“I like to use waterproof mascara if there's going to be sweating or for a wedding where there might be tears, but I don't recommend it for daily use,” recommends Loiz. “It tends to make your lashes dry and they can be hard to remove, which can be harsh on your fragile lashes and cause excess wear on the delicate skin around the eyes.”
How long should you keep a mascara?
Wondering if your mascara is expired? Chances are, it’s already past is prime. “You should replace your mascara every 3 months," says Loiz. "Over time, your tube is picking up the bacteria and dust from the environment that could cause the formula to go bad and even cause eye infections.”
How we test waterproof mascara
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Why trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Kindra Moné has been creating fashion and beauty content since 2013. Whether contributing to some of the top women’s lifestyle magazines or working in-house with global brands, Kindra has collaborated with some of the most knowledgeable beauty professionals in the industry. When she isn’t writing or trying out Instagram recipes, she’s giving wellness tips and sharing fashion news on her podcast.
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 waterproof mascaras from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.