obsessive tester

The 20 Absolute Best Drugstore Mascaras

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the Retailers

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While it’s tempting to splurge on a fancy mascara, any makeup artist will tell you that a drugstore version will get the job done. Case in point: these 20 Cut-tested, expert-picked options that lengthen, lift, and thicken lashes, cost just a few dollars, and work for lashes of all types.


Best Drugstore Mascaras

The Most-Loved Mascara on Amazon (That Is Also Great for Asian Lashes)

It’s $5 and does it all — lengthen, separate, and volumize! The Reddit.com before-after pictures particularly inspire awe and immediate purchases. Reviewers claim that it’s particularly great for Asian lashes, which can sometimes be straight, sparse, and stubborn. It also has over 327,000 five-star Amazon reviews.

The Best Viral Drugstore Mascara

At one point this year, this Sky High Mascara from Maybelline was on everybody’s TikTok FYP. Its popularity has not dwindled since, and reviewers love how well it holds and lengthens without becoming clumpy.

The Beyoncé-Approved Mascara

Sir John, Beyoncé’s longtime makeup artist, swears by this mascara. The singer allegedly wore this during her Coachella set in the desert, with nary a drip. But regular people love how this works on them too. Reviewers talk about how it performed miracles in 90-degree heat and frequently call it a dupe to Too Faced’s Better Than Sex.

The Softest Drugstore Mascara

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor

If you’re already blessed with pretty good lashes, but just want a little bit more of everything, you’ll like this one. This is another favorite Amazon-reviewed mascara that people praise for ticking all of the “good mascara” checkboxes — length, volume, and definition, while still feeling soft and non-crunchy.

The One for Sensitive Eyes

Smudgeproof mascaras that stay put throughout the day are often impossible to remove at the end of the night, causing redness and irritation for people with sensitive eyes. This one, however, offers the best of both worlds: It’s smudgeproof and waterproof yet easy to take off. The formula features texturizing waxes that help define and separate each lash for clump-free volume and length.

The Best Drugstore Mascara for Fluttery Lashes

The wand on this ColourPop mascara features a precision tip and tapered brush for maximum length and separation. The buildable formula helps lift the lashes for a fluttery look, plus it’s vegan and cruelty-free.

The Best Drugstore Tubing Mascara

e.l.f. is extremely affordable — even compared to other drugstore makeup brands — and many of its products are on par with high-end favorites. This top-rated tubing mascara is no exception. It dramatically lengthens the lashes and mimics the look for falsies. The tapered brush helps separate and define the lashes without flaking or smudging.

The Most Nourishing Drugstore Mascara

Formulated with essential fatty acids and pro vitamins like keratin, monoi butter, murumuru butter, and cupuaçu butter, this $10 mascara will soften and condition your lashes while you wear it. The round-bristle brush coats each lash from root to tip to create both volume and length.

The Best Washable Mascara

Photo: Courtesy of Maybelline

People praise this mascara for its true “fanned” out effect, but also because it is incredibly easy to remove, with just one swipe of some makeup remover (which is not the case with all mascara). Reviewers also call it a great dupe for Lancôme Hypnose mascara.

The Best Smudgeproof One

If every mascara you’ve ever tried has smudged — drugstore or luxury alike — then this is for you. It’s a wax-free formula that won’t break down over time to give you raccoon eyes and removes easily with water. Plus, it delivers smooth, elongated lashes that hold curl and lift.

The Most Natural-Looking Mascara

If you prefer a more natural look or have sensitive lashes, this is the mascara for you. This mascara nourishes your lashes with every swoop thanks to its ingredients like vitamin E and olive oil.

The Best Dramatic Drugstore Mascara

If you admire an intense, Kardashian-like lash look, try this one. It’s praised for making your lashes look much darker, longer, and fuller, but still separated and curled. Reviewer Jessica Prince Erlich says, “I applied several coats that went on smoothly with zero clumps. I liked the tapered brush, and the formula didn’t get all glopped and cakey on it. The results are definitely dramatic — something I’d pair with a smoky eye for a night out.”

The Classic Waterproof Mascara

If you want an all-around great, waterproof mascara, try this one that even resists actress tears. This is the mascara worn on the tear-jerker show This Is Us. Zoe Hay, the show’s makeup department head, tells us, “This is my go-to mascara on the show for all my leading ladies, because we know at some point throughout the day we will inevitably be shooting an emotional scene. I really like the texture of the product and the way it moves across the lashes, separates them, and coats them without making them clumpy.”

The Best-Smelling Mascara

Prince Erlich loved this mascara, which also has a subtle coconut smell from the coconut oil in the formula. “I have zero complaints about Maybelline’s Total Temptation mascara. My lashes were darker and volumized with an overall plush fullness that allowed me to skip wearing any other eye makeup. Basically, this was enough to give me an eye-opening, rested appearance sans liner or shadow. The formula contains coconut oil, which is perhaps why I was able to go back in for touch-ups later in the day when I wanted to build onto my look. It never got clumpy, flaky, or smudgy. An all-around winner.”

The Sweatproof Drugstore Mascara

This mascara is loved by sweaty spin-class instructor Emma Lovewell of Peloton. She says, “As a fitness professional and former professional dancer, I’ve been using this mascara for years, and love it! I’ve tried all the fancy brands, and I keep coming back to this one. It’s definitely very waterproof, as I use it when I teach class, and it never runs.”

The Japanese Drugstore Mascara That’s Very, Very Black

Technically, this mascara is a Japanese drugstore staple, but you can buy it on Amazon too. Japanese beauty products, particularly mascaras, are lauded for their high quality and value. This particular mascara is praised for being incredibly pigmented, dark, smudgeproof, non-clumpy, lengthening, and so durable that it’s actually impossible to take off without eye-makeup remover. Makeup artists and regular people alike love it.

The One That’s Good For Your Lashes

Rimmel knew what it was doing when it made and named this mascara. Besides the accelerated results, the formula has procapil, which with continued use creates longer and lusher lashes over time. For Sarmiento, this mascara is super-clean and defining, and he “loves that it has good separation and a hint of volume that leaves lashes looking super-polished.”

The Mascara That Comes in Different Shades of Black

One of the newer releases from Maybelline is the lengthening and volumizing Surreal Extensions mascara. It’s clump, smudge, flake, and smear resistant, which are all reasons why Jaikaran loves it. “I often gift clients the mascara I use on them and it gives me such a peace of mind that they won’t have smudges after I’ve left,” she says. “Also, there aren’t many brands doing variations of black. This one carries very black, blackest black, and brownish black.”

The Drugstore Mascara That Holds A Curl

You spend forever lifting your lashes with curlers so use a mascara that actually keeps them in place. This newer version of the cult favorite is just as good as the original but will add some curl and volume to your lashes without clumping, flaking, or smudging.

Another Viral Option

Another #tiktokmademebuyit mascara. The mascara lengthens and separates lashes with its teeny brush, which helps you really separate at the root of your lashes.


How do you determine what makes a good mascara?

There are three main things to look for in a mascara, according to makeup artist Andre Sarmiento (who recently did the makeup for our cover with Ali Wong):

- Pliability (you can comb through the lashes)
- Payoff (how quickly the mascara gives the effect it promises)
- Hold (that it sets without looking dry)

Can a drugstore mascara be good?

Yes, all the criteria mentioned above can be found in a drugstore option. Makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran further explains that while what makes a mascara “good” can be subjective, her rule for determining whether a mascara is good is that “it ultimately should live up to its claims, whether it’s lengthening, volumizing, or being waterproof.”

Why do people overlook drugstore mascaras?

We all know the drill. They can bit hit or miss. Sarmiento emphasizes, however, how it is worth the effort to find one that works for you. “It can be good to find a drugstore mascara that you love simply because it’s easier to find a drugstore than a Sephora, and you never know when you might need a replacement or a backup,” he says.

Our Experts:

The 20 Absolute Best Drugstore Mascaras