obsessive tester

The 16 Best Drugstore Mascaras

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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 sixteen Cut-tested options that lengthen, lift, and thicken lashes for just a few dollars.

The Nourishing One

L’Oréal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes Lash Extension Effect Mascara
$10 at Amazon

At one end is a base coat infused with nourishing agents to strengthen and protect. At the other, a top coat that covers lashes in inky black pigment. After combing both wands from root to tip, my lashes looked lengthy and defined. The mascara didn’t clump, smudge, or flake, and it washed off with warm water — no makeup remover necessary.

The Lifting One

Avon Mega Effects Mascara
$8 at Avon

The “Wonderbrush” is curved like the natural bend of your lashes, making it easy to get right to the roots, and promises 40 percent more product applied compared to traditional wands. Each bristle varies in size to ensure every lash is wrapped in the glossy black formula. Lashes looked noticeably lifted, for the price of a latte.

The Volumizing One

Maybelline New York Express the Falsies Push-up Drama Mascara
$7 at Amazon

This mascara’s genius lies in the cup-shaped bristles, which scoop and saturate every lash in a creamy black formula. My lashes looked visibly longer and thicker, and the formula even darkened my blonde roots — an impressive payoff. The formula has a wet consistency that made layering consecutive, clump-free coats a cinch. Ideal for creating buildable volume that won’t smudge or flake.

The False-Lash One

Physicians Formula Eye Boost Instant Lash Extensions Kit
$15 at Ulta

This mascara is ideal for those who love the look of false lashes but lack the patience for them. The kit comes with two tubes — one contains a lash-boosting mascara and the other contains cotton fibers that attach to natural lashes adding length and fullness. After curling (don’t skip this step — it makes lashes pop), apply two coats of mascara before wiggling the fiber-laden wand from root to tip. Finish with another coat of mascara to seal and set.

The Anti-Clump One

Covergirl LashBlast Volume Mascara
$9 at Ulta

Spidery lashes may work on the runway, but in real life, they just look sloppy. This clever, hypoallergenic mascara works to define and separate with each stroke, thanks to the wand’s ultrafine bristles. Made from flexible rubber, they glide from root to tip without catching, combing though lashes to prevent clumping.

The Lash-Lengthening One

Almay One Coat Extreme Length Mascara
$8 at Amazon

This serum-mascara hybrid covers each lash with an opaque pigment to add depth and drama — lashes appear longer and more defined. A cocktail of vitamins B5, C, and E defends against damage, prevents breakage, and conditions.

The Lash-Tinting One

L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara
$6 at Bed Bath & Beyond

The rich formula is one of the darkest I’ve found, akin to a professional lash tint. It transformed sparse lashes into a voluptuous set. Fortified with pro-vitamin B5 and ceramides, it also conditions lashes with each application. The brush is on the larger side, but left just the right amount of mascara and separated lashes for a fanned-out effect.

The French Waterproof One

La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Mascara
$24 at Amazon

This mascara is on the pricier side for a drugstore find, but like many French drugstore buys, it’s a great value. If you like Chanel Inimitable, you’ll like this. It really does a great job of defining each individual lash so that they fan out, rather than splay out in a big clump. It lengthens beautifully, and it’s waterproof too.

The Mermaid-Approved One

L’Oréal Voluminous Volume Building Waterproof Mascara
$6 at Target

Professional mermaid Linden Wolbert, who spends her time under water, swears by this waterproof version of the favorite among all others — but in a specific color. Of it, she says, “I’ve tried just about every waterproof mascara brand out there, from the most to the least expensive. And the best is L’Oréal Paris’s Voluminous Waterproof Building Mascara in Black Brown. And oddly, the Carbon Black color of this brand totally runs and smears in water. The Black Brown does not! It’s the only one that stays on and doesn’t do crazy clumping; and it lengthens incredibly.”

The Sweatproof One

MAYBELLINE Volum’ Express The Colossal Mascara
$7 at Ulta

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 Amazon-Loved One

Maybelline Makeup Lash Sensational Mascara
Photo: Courtesy of Maybelline
Maybelline Makeup Lash Sensational Mascara
$7 at Amazon

One of the best-reviewed mascaras on Amazon with over 1,000, close to five-star reviews. If you found Maybelline Great Lash to be disappointing, don’t let this cousin from the same family deter you. The before/after pictures from reviewers will make you think it’s almost too good to be true.

The Surprising One

Catrice Prêt-à-Volume Smokey Velvet Black Mascara
$7 at Ulta

This mascara was a surprising addition to the Cut’s 2017 Best Beauty list. But it really works! Senior editor Ashley Weatherford called it a “shooting star.” She says it makes her lashes look almost too good to be true and is particularly great for curly lash types.

The Least Expensive But Still Effective One

essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
$5 at Amazon

It’s $5! And reviewers praise that it intensifies lashes “in every single way.” It’s particularly great for Asian lashes.

The Blackest One

COVERGIRL Full Lash Bloom by LashBlast Mascara
Photo: Courtesy of CoverGirl
COVERGIRL Full Lash Bloom by LashBlast Mascara
$6 at Amazon

Makeup artists talk all the time about finding the “blackest mascara,” which to non-professionals sounds sort of like the “most pregnant.” You’re already there! But crazy as it sounds, this drugstore mascara looks deeper, darker, and blacker than the others on this list, giving you a sooty, lengthening, Audrey Hepburn–like fringe.

The Soft One

Maybelline New York Full n’ Soft Washable Mascara
Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor
Maybelline New York Full n’ Soft Washable Mascara
$7 at Amazon

Another favorite Amazon-reviewed mascaras that people praise for ticking all of the “good mascara” checkboxes — length, volume, and definition, while still feeling soft and non-crunchy.

The Loved One

L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise
Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor
L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise
$7 at Amazon

Reviewers talk about miracles in 90-degree heat and use the word “love” four times, when talking about this mascara.

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The 16 Best Drugstore Mascaras