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Finding the best mascara is a very personal thing. After all, there are many variables involved: the shape of your eyes, the quality of your lashes, the look you want to achieve, the mascara formula and the type of wand you prefer. And believe it or not, we see the same mascaras crop up in beauty editors’ makeup bags and best-mascara compilations time and again. That said, we discovered the mascaras that really deliver.
From luxury options to inexpensive go-to's, mascaras don’t have to cost a lot to money. All you want them to do is make your lashes as incredible as possible without having to reach for the falsies (unless you’d like to!).
Here, we’ve narrowed down the best mascaras on the market.
Best Overall: Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl Mascara Waterproof
This Japanese mascara holds curl all day, lengthens, separates and coats lashes in the blackest black we've seen from nearly any mascara, ever. It's also waterproof, so you can expect the formula to stay put all day no matter the climate. No, really—it's quite impressive how little this mascara budges once it's on. Prepare to be seriously wowed.
Best Budget: Maybelline New York Great Lash Mascara
This recognizable (and iconic) pink-and-green tube has been a beauty favorite since it launched 45 years ago (yep, you read that right). It thickens lashes, and the Very Black shade really helps to define the eyes. It’s affordable, too.
Best Budget, Runner-Up: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
This bestselling mascara delivers major volume at an ultra-affordable price point. Its cone-shaped fiber brush helps build thickness and length for all-day wear—no flaking or fading, here. Plus, it's ophthalmologist-tested and certified cruelty-free.
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara
While slightly pricier than other drugstore mascaras, this one from L’Oreal is impressive. 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 mascara that stacks up against higher-end mascaras.
Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Original Volume Building Mascara
Panthenol is the provitamin—a precursor, or substance that the body can convert into a specific vitamin—for B5. It binds to and holds water effectively, moisturizing the skin and helping it maintain softness and elasticity.
We'd be remiss not to mention this tried-and-true volume-building option from L'Oreal Paris, too. Designed to build lashes up to five times their usual thickness, this formula contains panthenol and ceramide-R to protect and condition, while its brush separates lashes to build volume evenly (and sans any clumping).
Best Lengthening: Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Lengthening Mascara
This is Benefit’s best-selling mascara—and for good reason. As a does-it-all option, this mascara lengthens, thickens and separates lashes. The clever wand has bristles on the tip so you can zero in on even the smallest lashes.
Best Lengthening, Runner-Up: 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. It coat lashes in a true black without weighing them down for a fluttery fringe that doesn’t flake or clump. What's more, 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 for Sensitive Eyes: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara
Mineral oil is a colorless and odorless petrolatum derivative; when used in cosmetics, it's highly refined and purified and therefore does not contain the contaminants that unrefined petroleum has been known for. Because it sits on top of the skin, it's quite comedogenic (pore-clogging).
If you have sensitive eyes, this popular vegan mascara is the perfect pick. It’s ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested, as well as hypoallergenic—plus it's free of mineral oil, parabens, and phthalates, and is safe for those who wear contacts. But that's hardly the only reason why it has nearly 4K five-star reviews on Sephora: Its formula curls, lengthens, volumizes, and conditions the lashes, and its 360-degree wand makes application a snap (no flaking or clumping, here).
Best Waterproof: Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Waterproof Mascara
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 Natural: Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara
Sodium hyaluronate is a water-soluble salt that's derived from hyaluronic acid, which can be found naturally in the body. Like hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate binds up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, but this form can penetrate deeper into the skin due to its lower molecular weight and is more stable.
Formulated without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance, this cult-favorite mascara gives your lashes the length and curl of falsies—just with all-natural ingredients. Buildable fibers add volume while Korean flower extracts strengthen, vitamin B5 and sodium hyaluronate moisturize, and castor seed oil and shea butter condition. Also, like all Thrive Causemetics products, this formula vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Volumizing: Pat McGrath Labs Pat McGrath Labs FetishEyes Mascara
The first mascara from legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath is basically like lash extensions in a tube. When Byrdie senior editor Hallie Gould tried it, she immediately fell in love. "While the brush is tightly packed with thick bristles (and packs a punch when it comes to volume), it still lengthens really, really nicely," she said in her review of the product. "I wore it all night long and it didn’t smudge, flake, or run once."
Best Volumizing, Runner-Up: Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara
This is a serious lash-boosting mascara that’s enriched with collagen. One coat will give you volume and length, and by three coats, you’ll look like you’re wearing false lashes. Seriously.
Best Curling: Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara
For long-lasting upturned lashes, try out this curl-forming mascara from Clinique. As the name suggests, the wand’s arched shape 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.
Best Curling, Runner-Up: Fenty Beauty Full Frontal Volume, Lift & Curl Mascara
Rihanna is slowly taking over the world of beauty, one lash at a time. This do it all mascara delivers a fully exposed lash by lifting, lengthening, volumizing and curling. The brush has a unique flat-to-fat brush that leaves lashes with an eye opening look.
Best Wand: IT Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara
When Byrdie associate editor Holly Rhue wore this mascara out in public for the first time, a total stranger actually asked her if she had lash extensions. The reason? This mascara, a collab between IT Cosmetics and the blowout salon chain Drybar. In fact, the applicator is designed using the same technology as a barrel brush (Drybar's Half Pint brush, to be exact) to create lift, separation, and lasting volume for your lashes—just like a round brush would do for your hair. What's more, the formula is made with hair-friendly ingredients like vitamin E, jojoba oil, and biotin to help condition and strengthen lashes over time.
Best Clean: Jones Road Beauty The Mascara
Then there's The Mascara, from Bobbi Brown’s line, which is full of ingredients like vitamin E, moisturizing vitamin B, and sodium hyaluronate (a moisture-boosting humectant). All of which makes this formula clean, cruelty-free and vegan. Aside from the formula, the brand swears by the curved wand that perfectly captures every baby lash, from inner to outer corner.
Best Cruelty-Free: ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara
Byrdie contributor Rebecca Dancer didn't expect her new holy grail mascara to be this cruelty-free (and 99% natural) formula, but that's definitely what happened. In her thorough review, she raves about its dual-sided brush—one side for building, the other for separating lashes—which helped her create a smooth, clump-free finish. The formula itself is no slouch, either: Made with beeswax and shea butter for flexibility and hold, it's lightweight while providing just the right amount of volume and lift. Oh, and the before and after photos speak for themselves.
Best Innovation: Milk Makeup Kush High Volume Mascara
By now, we're used to all CBD everything here at Byrdie HQ, but even we wouldn't have thought of mascara and cannabis as a likely combo—that is, until we met this Milk Makeup mascara. Its formula contains hemp-derived cannabis seed oil, which fuses heart-shaped fibers to your lashes while conditioning them; The result is lots of volume without feeling weighed down. We also love that a little goes a long way and that the packaging is super chic.
Best for Bottom Lashes: Beauty Bakerie Eyelash Icing Mascara
This ink black waterproof mascara is great for lengthening and defining lashes. The signature wand has lash-extending fibers that separate for a clump-free look, and it also extends bottom lashes effortlessly.
Beauty Bakerie founder, Cashmere Nicole, says, "I'm a big proponent of painting bottom lashes. I designed the whisk-inspired want to grip and coat even the tiniest, stubborn lash hairs, without creating a mess under the eyelid."
There are many things to consider when searching for the best mascara: there's the shape of your eyes, wand preferences, eye sensitivities, and of course the look you want to achieve whether that's lengthening, volumizing, or curling. A great everyday choice is Maybelline's Great Lash Mascara. Not only is it affordable, but it's effective too—having stood the test of time. Prefer to amp up your lashes with mega volume? Reviewers swear by Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara, claiming that the lengthening and definition rivals that of falsies with just one sweep.