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While black may be the go-to when it comes to lashes, brown mascara shouldn’t be underestimated. It can be great for a more natural look on those with lighter hair and can be a more subdued look on bottom lashes for those with dark hair.
Though not every good mascara offers shades in brown, today there are more options than ever. Whether you're looking for length or volume, dramatic or natural, there's a brown mascara that fits the bill. And many of them come with added bonuses, such as lash-boosting ingredients. To help pick out the best formulas, I pulled some of my favorites along with help from celebrity makeup artist Janice Kinjo, who’s painted the faces of celebs like Mindy Kaling and Mary J. Blige.
Keep reading to learn more about our favorite brown mascara formulas.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara in 202 Black Brown
Benefits: Volume and length | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This highly recommended mascara also comes in 202 Black Brown, and the formula is a personal favorite of mine. What makes this mascara a winner? Namely, the way it makes lashes look long, volumized, and lasts all day without flaking and smudging.
Best Budget: Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara in Brownish Black
Benefits: Volume, curl, and length | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This classic mascara is also highly affordable. For less than $5, it’ll transform lashes with curl, length, and volume. It’s available in waterproof, too.
Best Waterproof: CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Waterproof Mascara in 835 - Black Brown
Benefits: Volume and length | Waterproof: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
For a mascara that stays on through beach days, workouts, and weddings, try this option from CoverGirl. It adds mega volume in a deep brown hue that isn’t as extreme as black mascara.
Best Volumizing: Lancôme Hypnôse Custom Volume Mascara in Brown
Key Ingredients: Pro-vitamin B | Benefits: Volume and length | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This mascara makes lashes look thicker thanks to the formula that coats lashes fully and a specialized brush that separates every lash. It’s a good option for a dramatic, volumized look.
Best Lengthening: Benefit Cosmetics They're Real! Lengthening Mascara in Beyond Brown
Benefits: Length and volume | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
It might make lashes look like falsies, but it’s a whole lot easier to apply. While this mascara excels at lengthening lashes, you’ll also get curl and volume that doesn’t smudge or flake.
Best Curling: Dior Diorshow Mascara in 698 Pro Brown
Benefits: Volume and length | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Straight from the runways of Dior, this mascara lifts lashes for curl and a lash extension-like look. The large brush helps coat lashes in the warm brown hue, and the formula builds layers easily.
Best Natural: Eyeko Black Magic Cocoa Edit Mascara in Brown
Key Ingredients: Keratin and shea butter | Benefits: Volume, curl, and moisture | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
If you like your mascara to create your lashes but better, try this mascara from Eyeko. “I love the warm brown tone that this mascara provides. It is great for a very natural look,” said Kinjo.
Best Long-Wearing: Clinique Lash Power Mascara Long-Wearing Formula in Dark Chocolate
Benefits: Length | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This brown mascara stays on for 24 hours without smudging or disappearing so you can look fresh through sweat, tears, and humidity. The skinny wand is easy to use on lower lashes, too.
Best Tubing Mascara: Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara in Crystal (Brown Black)
Key Ingredients: Orchid Stem Cell Complex™ | Benefits: Length and moisture | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Tubing mascaras like this one are unique because it coats lashes for flake-free, all-day wear while washing off easily. Orchid Stem Cell Complex™ makes your lashes longer and stronger over time.
Best Nourishing: No. 7 The Full 360 Mascara (Various Shades) in Black/Brown
Benefits: Volume and curl | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Sometimes, you want your mascara to not only look good but also make your lashes fortified, too. And for that, Kinjo recommends this mascara from No. 7. “The nourishing power of vitamin E and shea butter helps to condition lashes instantly. The more you wear, the more beneficial to your lashes. Who doesn’t want nourished, panoramic, and lush lashes after applying 3 coats of mascara?” said Kinjo. (Note that Kinjo is a No. 7 partner.)
Best for Sensitive Eyes: W3LL People Expressionist Pro Mascara in Brown
Key Ingredients: Organic beeswax, carnauba wax, and sunflower seed oil | Benefits: Length and moisture | Waterproof: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If your eyes tend to get itchy or red from mascara, you’ll appreciate that this one is non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, cruelty-free, and has a long list of ingredients that aren’t in this mascara.
For the best brown mascara, try L'Oréal Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara in 202 Black Brown. It gives lashes length and volume in a long-lasting formula. When your mascara absolutely needs to stay on no matter what it goes through, try CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Waterproof Mascara in 835 - Black Brown (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Brown Mascara
“Brown mascara is used if you want a more natural look. It enhances the lashes but doesn’t bring as much of a dramatic look as a black mascara does,” said Kinjo. That makes it a great way to enhance eyes without looking like you’re wearing makeup, particularly if you're a blonde or redhead. Seek out natural-looking brown tones that can help to complement your hair color, veering warmer or cooler as needed.
According to makeup artist Ricky Wilson, larger mascara brushes are best for creating volume, as they allow a lot of product to be easily layered for maximum impact. On the other hand, small molded brushes allow for ultimate precision, making it easy to cover every single lash. "A small, tighter applicator allows for better separation and length," says makeup artist Denika Bedrossian.
To soften a look, use brown mascara on the bottom lashes. “I apply multiple coats on the top lashes with black mascara, and then I will apply a few more coats of brown mascara on the bottom lashes,” said Kinjo.
Why should I use brown mascara instead of black mascara?
If you're after a very natural, no-makeup look, brown mascara can create a softer, more subtle impression than its inky black counterpart. Brown mascara can also appear less intense against blonde or auburn hair, and can be used to play up any warm tones in your eyes.
What's the best way to apply mascara?
Makeup artist Renée Loiz recommends starting from the outer corners of your eyes, then swiping the brush from root to tip as you work your way towards the inner corners. "I like to do a few coats to make sure it looks nice and full," she says. "Then I use the brush to fan my lashes outward to create more of a winged effect."
How long does mascara last?
You should toss your mascara every three months, and using it any longer than that could cause some serious issues. "When you apply mascara and the wand is dipped back into the tube, anything collected on the lashes (bacteria included) will get in," celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau told us. "This is where possible problems can be created."
Why Trust Byrdie
Joline Buscemi is a Byrdie contributor and a beauty writer for several publications. Mascara is her go-to product even on so-called makeup-free days, and she’s tried many of the products on this list.
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 brown 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.