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When it comes to mascara, there’s an infinite amount of formulas out there. Some add extra length, others create curl without the use of a curler, and some separate your lashes for a twiggy, spidery effect. But when we want something truly dramatic? Trust that we’re reaching for a volumizing formula that will thicken and plump our lashes like no other.
Volumizing mascaras are the key to creating a falsies effect without ever having to reach for the lash glue, in addition to several other eye-enhancing effects. “Volumizing formulas are great for everyone,” says makeup artist Tony Tulve. “It’s the quickest way to bring instant attention to the eyes without a lot of effort.”
He goes on to explain that not only are they perfect for the days you want to skip out on the eyeliner, but they can also be a good base for false lashes for when you’re looking to go all out. “A good volumizing formula will also enhance a natural smokiness to the eye, the fuller lashes add a natural shadowing and definition to the eye,” he adds. The best part of all? Many volumizing mascaras have built-in lengthening and curling benefits too, so you really get the most bang for your buck.
Below, we rounded up the best volumizing mascaras on the market for every lash type, desired final look, and price point.
Best Overall: YSL Beauty Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils
This buildable mascara from Yves Saint Laurent gets top honors for its ability to trick others into thinking you’re wearing false lashes—it’s that dramatic. Not only does the intense black formula thicken and lengthen the lashes for insane fanned-out definition, but it’s also infused with Moroccan argan oil and provitamin B5 to nurture and condition your lash hairs. It also won’t budge, smudge, or flake, so you can relax knowing you’ll be raccoon eyes-free all day and night.
Best Budget: Wet n Wild Big Poppa Mascara
If you’re looking to thicken and plump up your lashes without breaking the bank, look no further than Big Poppa. The smooth-glide, buildable formula creates serious volume and length, while its innovative hourglass brush helps to boost and lift the lashes. It’s also infused with castor oil, which nourishes and strengthens stressed-out lashes with omega-6 fatty acids. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it's cruelty-free and vegan, to boot!
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara
When it comes to this drugstore classic from L’Oréal Paris, you can’t go wrong. The 200+ bristle brush captures every single lash to create a full, feathery look with intense volume, while the soft-glide formula ensures the lashes remain soft, not crunchy.
Take it from Tulve, who counts this one as his ultimate mascara. “Not only do I know I can pick up a tube anywhere in an emergency, but no variation of the formula has ever given me a problem,” he says. “I carry a Carbon Black, Black Brown, and a waterproof of this formula in my kit at all times. Plus, they recently introduced four jewel-tone colors that are a perfect pop of color for anyone’s makeup wardrobe.”
What Our Testers Say
"I noticed a change in volume right away from my bare lashes after applying this mascara." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best Splurge: Pat McGrath Labs FetishEyes Mascara
Sure, this mascara might be a little splurgy, trust us when we say it’s worth it. Consider it the ultimate day-to-night mascara: “It’s a luxe, buildable formula that allows for natural thickness for the day, and will effortlessly build up for a dramatic volume for a quick makeup change,” says Tulve. As the name suggests, in addition to defining and thickening the lashes, it provides a pretty impressive lengthening effect, too.
Best Classic: Dior Diorshow Iconic Mascara
This cult-favorite mascara was originally dreamed up for fashion shows and red carpet events, so you just know it’s good. While its extra-hold, smudge-proof formula that provides 24 hours of curl is worth raving about, it’s really all about the brush. The oblique cut shape coats each lash for a lifted and curled fan effect worthy of your own red carpet moment. It provides dramatic volume on its own, but for even more of a thickening effect, you can pre-plump your lashes with the Maximizer 3D Triple Volume Lash Primer.
Best Waterproof: Lancôme Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara
We all know and love Monsieur Big and its ability to create bold, supersized lashes that mimic the look of falsies, but hear us out—its waterproof twin might be even better. Still creamy and buildable, this waterproof, sweat-proof, and smudge-proof formula will provide you with head-turning lashes for up to 24 hours. Rain and humidity don’t stand a chance!
Best Curling: Fenty Beauty Full Frontal Volume, Lift & Curl Mascara
It’s all about the brush when it comes to this volumizing and curling matte black mascara from our queen, Rihanna. Called the flat-to-fat brush, you first swipe your lashes with the flat side to load on the product, lifting the lashes and building up volume, then use the flat side to define, curl, and separate. Plus, it’s long-wear and water-resistant.
Best Lengthening: Bite Beauty Upswing Full Volume Mascara
When you’re craving both volume and added length, get you a formula that can do both. This lightweight, flake-resistant formula from Bite Beauty does it all—it curls, too! It’s formulated with tree berry wax, deeming it both clean and vegan, providing your lashes with buildable thickness and length for a fluttery, full-fan effect.
Best for Fullness: Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes Mascara
Not only does this buildable mascara lengthen, curl, boost volume, and separate, but its five-grooved brush deposits the formula right along the lash line to lift the lashes up and out while its bristles capture every lash from root to tip. The result? A truly eye-opening effect with a gorgeous glossy black finish.
Best for Drama: Uoma Beauty Drama Bomb Extreme Volume Mascara
A lot of waterproof mascaras can be harsh or drying, which is why we love how nourishing this water-resistant and smudge-proof formula is. It’s infused with castor, avocado, and golden jojoba oils that moisturize your lashes while helping to promote future growth. But don’t be fooled, even though it’s good for you, it still creates some serious drama. Formulated with synthetic beeswax and rice wax for that vegan and cruelty-free goodness, it provides extreme volume and length while its hourglass-shaped brush defines and lifts.
Best Brown: Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara
Often overlooked for its inkier, deeper counterparts, brown mascara is a great choice for anyone with light hair or those simply looking for a more natural-looking finish without sacrificing thickness. When it comes to brown shades, Tulve is a big fan of the Deep Cocoa shade from this Maybelline formula. “It’s hands down one of the best warm brown mascaras I’ve found recently,” he says. “This lightweight whipped formula builds up effortlessly to create easy, controllable volume.” The formula is enriched with coconut extract to keep those lashes of yours *extra* soft and hydrated.
Best Color Range: Sephora Collection Volume ON Mascara
Sometimes we’re just feeling a look that’s a bit extreme, and that’s where these playful mascaras from Sephora come in. Not only do they provide perfect volume and curl, but they also add a serious pop of color. Available in four punchy shades, including turquoise and emerald green, we’ll be saving these for when clubbing is a thing again—or maybe a trip to the grocery store, because why not?
Best Innovation: Milk Makeup Kush High Volume Mascara
We’re obsessed with this mascara for two reasons. First, it contains heart-shaped fibers (aw!) that latch onto the lashes, creating insane volume and fullness, and second, it's formulated with a buzzy ingredient of the moment, cannabis! (Not that kind.) This hemp-derived cannabis seed oil not only conditions the lashes but helps to fuse the fibers to them. Plus, the formula contains pure pigments that leave a vibrant black finish for an extra wow factor.
Best Natural : Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara
An extreme volumizing mascara and treatment bundled into one, this clean formula from Kosas is an absolute must. Botanical waxes, intense pigments, and an oversized spiraled brush work together to create full, fluffy lashes that don’t lack in volume, length, or curl. Plus, it’s formulated with hair care actives such as castor oil, provitamin B5, and biotinyl trepeptide-1 that support your lashes’ natural growth and repair.
We’ll go ahead and say that you really can’t go wrong with any of the above, but if we had to pick just one, we'd go with Yves Saint Laurent’s Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara. A mascara so fancy you can get it engraved creates the ultimate false lash effect with no glue or steady hand required. When we’re looking to stay on the budget-friendly end of things, we’re forever faithful to L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara. Serving up intense volume and length, its 200+ bristle brush leaves no lash behind. Plus, we love that we can always find it in a pinch. But when we want a look that brings all the drama, we usually want it to stay put, too. For that, we’re looking to Lancôme’s Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara and its 24-hour wear rainproof, sweat proof, and whatever-else-life-brings-our-way-proof formula.
What to Look For in Volumizing Mascaras
Opt for drier, creamier textures
When it comes to finding a good volumizing mascara, Tulve counts texture as one of the most important factors to keep in mind. “I prefer a drier, almost creamy or whipped texture to my mascaras, as they tend to bulk up easier,” he says. “These formulas are also ideal for doing quick washes of color, as the slightly drier texture grabs the lash nicely without weighing it down.”
Avoid formulas that are too wet
With the above in mind, it’s also best to avoid mascaras with wetter formulas. “Wetter mascaras tend to stick and weigh down the lashes,” says Tulve. These, he points out, won’t build up on the lash in the way you’d want if you’re seeking a thick, voluminous look.
Buildability is key
Tulve also recommends opting for products that are easily buildable to create additional volume. Products that you can layer on without clumping or flaking will allow you to turn up the drama effortlessly. “I like to build in layers, so I’ll start with the brush horizontally in the root of the lash, give it a good wiggle, and pull the brush through,” he says. “I’ll flip the brush vertically to start to sculpt the lash, and flip back and forth between how I’m holding the brush as I build up to the desired effect.”
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Jenna Igneri has been a lifelong makeup enthusiast, playing with makeup (err, usually stealing her mother’s) since early childhood. The first product she ever fell in love with was mascara, which she wore for her first (and only) dance recital at age 5, and since then she’s never looked back. 25 years later, she’ll still take a good mascara over false lashes any day and has tested hundreds over her career as a beauty writer—including many of the products listed above.