Eyelashes have the impressive ability to transform your face. The Everything Guide to Eyelashes is a week of stories on the Cut about lashes, from all the mascaras we’ve obsessively tested to our personal feelings about why eyelashes matter.
Ask any woman if there’s one makeup product she always wears, and she’ll most likely say mascara. But finding the right one isn’t always easy. Over the past eight years, the Cut has obsessively tested and researched the best mascaras, from drugstore bargains to luxury finds. We’ve looked into the best ways to get natural-looking lashes, colored lashes, even clumpy lashes — because, yes, clumpy lashes were a trend.
Click or scroll through this round-up of the best mascaras we’ve ever written about, helpfully sorted by type: waterproof, tubular, smudge-proof, organic, lengthening, volumizing, curling, drugstore, colored, bottom lash, cult favorite, clumping, and conditioning.
The Best Waterproof Mascaras
If you listen to no one else, heed professional mermaid Linden Wolbert’s advice and try the L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Volume Waterproof Building Mascara, which she says stays on through her 100-foot dives and underwater photo shoots.
This mascara has gotten a redesign since we reviewed it, but the wand remains thin in case you just want a hint of waterproof mascara on your lashes.
If you don’t mind layering up, Clinique’s waterproof mascara can hold a curl all day.
One swipe is all you need for intense length; just don’t hop on the elliptical wearing this formula or it’ll end up running down your cheeks. This mascara is better suited for wearing to a movie where you’re not sure whether you’ll tear up or not.
If you can get over the fact that this mascara comes in a quilted leather case, it’ll become a trusty volumizing option in your arsenal.
This one will give you lashes that look like falsies, though it’s not the best at staying put throughout the day.
Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist recommended this one for its dramatic curling, lengthening, and volumizing effect after just one coat.
This mascara stays on through runs, rainstorms, and endless humid summer days, all while being one of the easiest waterproof formulas to remove.
If Diorshow is your go-to mascara, this one has a brush as fluffy with bristles as plentiful as its luxury counterpart.
A drugstore formula that’s almost comparable to Chanel’s.
The cool kids in Tokyo, Japan swear by this Über-black mascara that doesn’t run … ever.
The Best Tubular Mascaras
Tubular mascaras are similar to waterproof ones, but they wrap tiny tubes around each lash, giving them a protective coating that keeps them from smudging but is also easy to wash off. The first brand to invent the tube technology was Blinc, and its classic mascara requires nothing but warm water to make the tubes gently slide off your lashes and into your hand.
The microfibers in this mascara help lengthen lashes while the tube technology keeps it on even in the most humid cities.
Even though Solange tends to let loose onstage and in the desert heat at Coachella, her makeup artist always recommends using this tube formula instead of a waterproof mascara.
This one comes with a lash primer to add extra oomph to eyes.
The Best Smudge-Proof Mascaras
If you wear glasses or have oily skin — or both — you know it can be hard to keep your mascara in place. How do you solve a makeup problem like eyeglasses? Celebrity makeup artist Walter Obal favors false lashes, but you could also try Horika Horika’s Magic Pole mascara, which won’t budge even if your lashes get too close to your lenses.
You officially have permission to rub your eyes if you’re wearing this long-lasting formula.
The Best Organic Mascaras
Even non-hippies can learn to love organic mascaras, which are gentle on your eyes and don’t have a crunching, drying effect. After trying a few tubes, we found that the best was the conditioning Josie Maran Argan Black Oil Mascara.
For a conversely artificial and bold effect, Physicians Formula has you covered.
The Best Lengthening Mascaras
We’ve been singing the praises of Benefit’s They’re Real Mascara since before it became one of the most popular mascaras on the market. Back then, it was a cult favorite, but now it’s a classic for its ability to give lashes a naturally enhanced look (you can also build it up for a doe-eyed effect.)
Eyeko’s ultra-slim wand combs through lashes to lengthen and separate, and the tube makes it easy to squeeze out more product.
Similarly, the pink squishy middle on this bottle provides total control over how much product goes on the brush.
The castor oil in this formula makes it easy to apply multiple coats for bold lashes that won’t flake.
For eyelashes as long as your favorite bunny filter, Charlotte Tilbury’s Legendary Lashes Volume 2 from her Beauty Filters collection will do the trick.
If you’ve never been asked if you’re wearing falsies, then you need to try this mascara.
Here’s a mascara that will give you lashes so long you’ll see them when you blink.
The Best Volumizing Mascaras
This buildable mascara was modeled after paint tubes to make it easier to hold.
The Giorgio Armani Beauty Eccentrico Mascara also adds maximum volume to lashes — just don’t add another layer during the middle of the day because, sadly, it will clump. If lashes do clump, Dior’s creative and image director Peter Philips suggests taking a small comb to separate them until they’re fluttery. (Tip: Go to the Clinique section at Sephora and collect a few of their free combs and spoolies.)
While the white straight brush applies a priming formula, the black curved brush lifts and adds volume to lashes.
For lashes that would make Twiggy do a double take.
Who doesn’t want to have eyelashes like feathers? If you want to live the life of a woman whose lashes do all the talking, get this IT Cosmetics mascara.
This one’s a favorite of makeup artist Peter Philips, and for good reason. This mascara coats lashes in a sooty, rich formula and gives the volume that Diorshow is known for.
The Italian drugstore brand Kiko Milano’s mascara is popular among those in the know and is an affordable alternative to Lancôme mascaras.
If excess oil around your eye is a problem, Elizabeth Mott’s It’s So Big Volumizing Mascara might be your best bet for voluminous lashes that don’t fade as the day goes on. One writer enthusiastically described it as a “GODSEND.”
This one’s thick, cheap, and doesn’t clump. No wonder one writer called it the “bomb diggity.”
Most volumizing mascaras deliver on their claims, but usually at the cost of crunchy lashes. This one keeps them soft, fluttery, and natural-looking.
After using this duo, you may never feel the need to apply falsies ever again.
The tiny side of this wand grabs each and every last lash while the bigger brush adds volume. If you take the time and coat each of your lashes, you’ll look like you got 14 hours of sleep last ngiht.
After curling, the next step to getting enviable lashes is applying a primer. The L’Oréal primer won’t make it look like you’ve been on a steady diet of Latisse, but it will make those with a barely-there look like they actually have some.
Now this Dior primer, on the other hand, can definitely make lashes visible and even exaggerated.
The Best Curling Mascaras
While this one does tend to clump and doesn’t offer that much in the curl department, it does actually stay on for 24 hours, which is a feat in itself.
Padma Laskshmi’s makeup artist uses Eyeko’s curved wand to lift lashes from the roots to emphasize the curl.
If using an eyelash curler is less than ideal for you, the polymers in Clinique’s formula add a subtle curl.
The Best Drugstore Mascaras
For a mascara that stays on as long as you can sleep in on Saturdays, reach for the CoverGirl Bombshell Volume LashBlast Mascara. But, please, don’t actually sleep with your makeup on. We all know better than that!
This mascara has a serumlike formula that’s infused with vitamins B5, C, and E to promote lash growth.
The classic pink-and-green and always accessible Maybelline Great Lash mascara was the one virtually everyone owned when they were 15, and is a safe choice for anyone who wants a subtle enhancement that might belong in a Glossier ad.
This brush uses ten layers of bristles to fan out lashes to give them a wide-eyed and winged effect.
This heavy formula might hamper curls, but it delivers length and volume, which sort of makes up for it.
Anyone with blonde lashes can benefit from this brush that completely coats lashes from roots to tips, so there’s no ombré effect.
This looks like an intimidating apparatus, but it’s actually a brush that’s curved to fit your lash line so every lash gets some attention.
While there’s probably a technological reason this brush is shaped this way, all you need to know is if you use a rolling motion when applying the mascara, it’ll make your lashes look like a butterfly.
Maybelline’s Falsies works best on those who already have thick lashes and takes them to falsie-territory.
The Best Colored Mascaras
Mullets weren’t cool until Rihanna made the case for them, and the saying goes for colored mascara. During her Fenty fall 2017 fashion show, Rihanna and Pat McGrath sent models down the runway with orange mascara and proved it’s not childish or clownish. Like all things Rihanna touches, it became a trend, and brands like Tom Ford are rolling out their own versions for the masses.
For a more affordable alternative to a trend that, let’s face it, you probably won’t wear that often, Maybelline’s Great Lash comes in a variety of colors.
Like the Maybelline mascara, NYX’s have been out for a while, but the pink hue is a standout among other colored mascaras on the market.
The Best Bottom Lash Mascaras
There’s a mascara for every concern. Straight lashes? Get the Essence Lash Princess mascara. Limp lashes? Use a vibrating one that wiggles them into shape. Darn near invisible bottom lashes? Use this tiny Clinique one that’s made specifically for the neglected sisters.
This CoverGirl mascara brush was made for tiny upper lashes, but works best on the bottom.
To just tint lower lashes, use Surratt Beauty’s mascara to keep them from looking spidery.
The Best Cult Favorites
You’ve probably never heard of this next mascara what with the hype surrounding Benefit’s They’re Real and Too Faced’s Better Than Sex, but Trish McEvoy’s Lash-Curling Mascara has 24-hour wear and quashes any concerns of raccoon eyes.
For baby-fine lashes, this classic mascara lives up to the hype and can stand up to any modern mascara innovation.
The Best Clumping Mascaras
Even though New York Fashion Week in February 2014 had us worried mascara was “out,” the Milan shows proved otherwise and ushered in the trend of clumpy lashes. The best mascara that lends itself to a flattering clump is the Maybelline Colossal mascara.