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We demand quite a bit from mascara. The criteria for mascaras are specific and familiar to anyone who’s invested time in finding the perfect formula. The ideal mascara lengthens, volumizes without clumping (unless you specifically seek out the spidery lash look), darkens, retains curl, even resists water and sweat and doesn’t irritate your eyes — all without flaking. You might even want a cruelty-free option. Luckily, the saturation of the mascara market means both drugstore and higher-end provide plenty of options that cater to every level of specificity.
From a budget dupe for a higher-end letdown to a Japanese mascara that truly darkens your lashes, there are all kinds of mascaras available to cater to your specific needs. Whether you're lookng for a formula that's waterproof, volumizing or anything in between, there's a solution available at every price point, from drugstore to luxury.
Here, find the best mascara for your needs.
Best Overall: Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Mascara
The anime packaging might be divisive, depending on your aesthetic, but don’t be fooled: According customer reviews, this Japanese drugstore mascara holds curl all day, lengthens, separates and coats lashes in the blackest black that puts even the darkest American mascara to shame. This mascara even works on short lashes. Note: It also does not come off under any circumstances, so it's suggested to use an oil-based makeup remover at the end of the day.
This mascara is also so strong, if you live in a humid climate, plan on being in inclement weather or need a long-wear solution, Isehan's mascara could be perfect for you.
Best Drugstore Mascara: L’Oreal Paradise Lash Mascara
While slightly pricier than other drugstore mascaras, this one from L’Oreal is impressive for the price. This mascara volumizes and leaves you with feathery, long lashes. It doesn’t flake or clump, though you can add extra coats if you prefer spidery lashes. Though not technically waterproof, the mascara is generally found to be long-wearing anyway. Packaged in a metallic pink tube, this is a well-formulated dupe for the Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara (which is notoriously flaky) that stacks up against higher-end mascaras.
Best Lengthening: Revlon Super-Length Mascara
Whether you have naturally long lashes or struggle with shorter ones, this super-affordable mascara lengthens and separates in just a few swipes. Some reviewers wrote that they found the oval packaging ugly, but if you can get past that, this formula does coat lashes in a true black without weighing them down for a fluttery fringe that doesn’t flake or clump. And complaints about the humble packaging aside, the highly portable pill-shaped container stands up well to being tossed around in your bag, making this choice great for travelers or gym goers.
Best Volumizing: Benefit Badgal Bang! Volumizing Mascara
This mascara is the latest in a line of cult favorites with equally exclamatory names such as the Benefit They’re Real! Mascara and Benefit Roller Lash Mascara. But while the latter leave natural-looking lashes suited to daytime wear, the Badgal Bang! Volumizing Mascara is designed for drama, making it more appropriate for special events or a night out on the town. A slim applicator, designed to catch every lash, coats your eyelashes with a volumizing jet-black formula. The result is waterproof, falsie-like lashes that open up the eyes. According to reviews, all it takes it one to two coats to see the difference.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Clinique High Lengths Mascara
Clinique tends to be the go-to for makeup wearers with sensitive or finicky skin. If your eyes water easily but you’re not willing to give up mascara, you’re in luck: this gentle formula darkens, lengthens, curls and volumizes for enhanced lashes without irritation or clumping. The mascara also lasts long enough on your lashes but isn’t impossible to take off at the end of the day. The formula dissolves easily with ordinary makeup remover or micellar water. And depending on your level of finesse, you might even be able to maneuver the applicator around your bottom lashes, as one reviewer did. The long wand does deposit a generous amount of product, so reviewers advise wiping excess off the applicator and waiting a few seconds between coats.
Runer-Up, Best Volumizing: Maybelline Total Temptation Washable Mascara
This mascara from Maybelline, producer of the classic Great Lash mascara, is another great formula for adding volume. Like other formulas on this list, the Total Temptation mascara adds quick volume and length in a few swipes. The fluffy wand enhances even the shortest lashes with an eye-defining ink-black formula, according to reviewers who were pleased with the clump-free results. The mascara is long-lasting but like the name suggests, easy to remove without excessive tugging, all in adorably retro millennial pink packaging.
Best Waterproof: Lancome Hypnose Drama Waterproof Mascara
Waterproof mascaras will last through rain, snow, sweat and tears and are ideal for people who want a no-smudge guarantee. The tradeoff, however, tends to be weighed-down lashes that refuse to hold any kind of shape. This mascara from Lancome manages to incorporate the long-wearing properties of waterproof mascara with the volumizing and lengthening qualities of regular formulas. The curvy wand thickens eyelashes in one swipe, but you can double up on coats for even more dramatic lashes. Reviewers said this mascara helped their eyelashes remained curled without transferring onto their skin.
Best Cruelty-Free: Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay Mascara
If you’re looking for a cruelty-free option, this long-wearing (though not technically waterproof) mascara is it. Aside from not being tested on animals, this mascara contains lash-conditioning ingredients like Amazonian clay, which keep lashes hydrated, soft, and healthy. It also lengthens and volumizes for natural-looking lashes that open up the eyes without flaking or clumping. What's more, this gentle, long-lasting mascara is also vegan.
Runner-Up, Best for Sensitive Eyes: Almay One Coat Multi-Benefit Mascara
Sensitive eyes and mascara don’t usually mix when most formulas turn your peepers into a teary, irritated mess. That is until we discovered this sensitive-eye friendly option from Almay. The multi-benefit mascara boasts a unique 4-in-1 formula that helps to condition, thicken, lengthen, and define your lashes without causing any redness, burning, or tearing. Basically, as the day goes on your lashes will stay looking gorgeous while remaining comfortable at the same time.
Another fab feature? It features lash-boosting keratin which helps strengthen and thicken your natural lashes overtime. If regular black mascara isn’t your thing, this particular version comes in three black-brown shade variations. If waterproof mascara is more your thing there’s a version of this mascara too. Of course since it’s perfect for those with easily-irritated eyes, it’s ophthalmologist tested and perfect for contact lens wearers. Coat your upper and lower lashes for full, flirty lashes that last all day long. Repeat as desired.
Best Curling: Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara
If you suffer from lashes that stick straight down then you know the trouble you have to go through for your eye lashes to hold any sort of curl. For long-lasting upturned lashes, try out this curl-forming mascara from Clinique. Like the name suggests, the wand’s arched shaped allows you to achieve your boldest, most fluttery lashes without pinching, tugging, or tearing. The curved wand lifts every last lash, imparting a beautiful onyx-colored formula that’s smudge-, flake-, and smear-resistant and that lasts for up to 24-hours.
Like all of Clinique’s eye products, it’s ophthalmologist tested and fragrance-free so it’s safe for those with sensitive peepers. For the ultimate flirty curl, make sure to wiggle the wand from roots to tips. Repeat depending on how voluminous you want your lashes. The best part? When you’re ready to take it off at the end of the day just use warm water and your favorite eye makeup remover—no rubbing required.
Best Smudge Proof: Maybelline New York Full 'N Soft Waterproof Mascara
No matter if you have with oily eyelids or it’s the dog-days of summer, no one wants their mascara to give them those dreaded racoon-eyes.. That’s why we suggest putting down your usual fringe-enhancing tube, and reaching for this waterproof, smudge-proof version from Maybelline. The thickening formula coats each and every lash with a lacquer-like finish giving you full, shiny lashes that last from dawn to dusk. The nourishing mascara also features vitamin E to help moisturize and thicken your natural lashes overtime. Although the formula is water -and smudge-proof it’s easy to get off at the end of the day thanks to its quick dissolve system that’s activated with makeup remover. Plus, this feature helps to prevent the loss of hairs since you don’t have to tug and rub your eye area to get it off. It’s also hypoallergenic making it safe for people who wear contact lenses.