obsessive tester

The Absolute Best Mascaras of All Time

Photo: Courtesy of the Retailers

There are so many mascaras out there. Possibly too many. Thankfully, we’ve tried them all, and below, we round up our 22 favorites. These lash paints truly shine in a variety of situations, whether you want to look like you’re wearing faux lashes, look like you’re wearing lash extensions, look like you were born with long lashes, cry without looking like a Kardashian, or simply look bright-eyed when having to interact with people in public. Don’t fall into the black hole of choices; regardless of what kind of lashes you have, there’s something here for you.

The All-Around Crowd Pleaser

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

The jury’s still out on whether this best-selling product is truly better than sex, but it’s definitely better than a lot of other mascaras. The hourglass-shaped brush ensures that you can coat every single lash from every single angle, so you can build and enhance to your heart’s desire.

The Best Vegan Mascara

Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara

Made from vegan ingredients, most notably hemp-derived cannabis seed oil, this mascara may sound “crunchy” in the metaphorical granola sense, but it leaves lashes anything but. The nourishing formula never gets crispy or stiff; instead, it gives you lashes that are long, soft, and pliable, like a leave-in conditioner for your eye hair.

The Best Mascara for Volume

Pat McGrath Labs FetishEyes Mascara

Leave it to Pat McGrath — a.k.a. Mother Makeup — to basically bottle Twiggy’s lashes in a tube. This mascara has no intention of tricking people into thinking you’re born with it. It’s so good at lengthening and plumping that it’s slightly alarming at first swipe, but the creamy formula is so fun to build, it’s hard to stop.

The Best Mascara for Excerise

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor
Eyeko Sport Waterproof Mascara Catch & Curl

Maybe you’re a naturally sweaty person. Maybe you just like putting yourself in sweaty situations. Either way, this is guaranteed to give you thick, defined, non-clumpy lashes that won’t smear. Plus the toothpaste-like packaging is fun.

The Best Drugstore Mascara

Maybelline New York Snapscara Washable Mascara

Mascara is notoriously hard to get off, but this wax-free formula was designed for easy removal without sacrificing your lashes, eyeball comfort, or time. It coats the lashes in tiny wrap-around fibers that stay put all day but wash off at the end of the night without even a double cleanse.

The Best Clean Mascara

Vapour Beauty Mesmerize Mascara

This is for anyone who wants lashes that are long, but not fake-looking. It colors and extends lashes to a reasonable length, without looking like serious makeup — and it’s made without harmful ingredients.

The Well-Rounded One

Urban Decay Perversion Mascara

This horny mascara does it all — lengthens, volumizes, plumps, paints lashes the blackest of blacks — which is why people always end up going back to it. If you don’t know where to start or you’re suffering from current wand-fatigue, hit up Perversion to shake things up or revisit it to remember why you hooked up with in the first place.

The Best Mascara for Lower Lashes

SURRATT BEAUTY Pointilliste Mascara

A lot of mascara attention is given to the upper lashes, but the lower lashes need special care too. This mascara has an itty-bitty brush with fine bristles that perfectly paint the shorter and more delicate lashes below your eyes. The formula is wax-free, coating each baby lash in a tiny tube of black that washes off easily with water and doesn’t smudge.

The One That’s Like a Push-Up Bra

L'Oréal Paris Unlimited Length and Lift Mascara

The bend and snap of mascaras, this one was inspired by the makeup artist hack of bending wands for better control and better access to the lashes. The bent angle gets you way closer to your lashes than usual, which allows you to create much more of a lift, especially on those annoying, hard-to-reach corner lashes.

The Sure Thing

Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara

Ask many people (like, say, the 15,000 people who have reviewed this online) for their favorite mascara and they’ll mention this one. It really is like lash insurance; a few swipes will totally deliver, and it won’t fleck or get everywhere. It’s great for a slightly dressier, fancy occasion day.

The One That’s Like Lash Extensions

IT Cosmetics Superhero mascara

If putting on false lashes is like wearing a lash wig, then swiping on this mascara is like getting lash extensions. The wand separates and lengthens, creating a pretty, feathery effect that doesn’t look over-the-top.

The Japanese Drugstore Favorite

Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Make Mascara

This Japanese mascara is so long-lasting that it’s almost kind of scary. It’s the No. 1 best-selling mascara at multiple Japanese drugstores, and is beloved for its true black color (it’s true, one writer went on a quest to confirm its absolute black pigment), durability, and dramatic effect. It is so long-lasting that it’s often sold in a package deal with its own makeup remover.

The Best Waterproof Mascara (Luxury Edition)

Chanel Inimitable Waterproof

When Kim Kardashian West’s crying face went viral a few years ago and everyone noticed it was smudge-free, it was thanks to this mascara. Her makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic proclaimed this his favorite because it gives you everything you want in one single swipe. “It’s waterproof but also curls, lengthens, and gives volume in just one coat. A lot of waterproof-mascara formulas tend to be drying, but this one feels soft and is conditioning,” he said.

The Best Budget Waterproof Mascara

L’ORÉAL Voluminous Volume Building Waterproof Mascara

Zoe Hay, the makeup head for This Is Us, the show that seems to require at least one actor to cry per episode, told us that this is her favorite waterproof mascara. She praised it for its abilities to hold up during emotional scenes, and its soft texture which beautifully separates and elongates lashes without clumping. Plus, it’s at a great price point.

The One That Will Never Give You Raccoon Eyes

Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara

If you’ve lost faith in mascaras because they all give you big smudges below your eyes, try this. This is another one of those wax-free tubular mascaras, which wraps your lashes in tiny black “straws” that make them look longer and more defined. And miraculously, it washes off with water but is somehow still waterproof.

The Best Mascara for People With Allergies

saie Mascara 101

If you hate compromise and want it all, Goldilocks-style, this is for you. From a new clean beauty brand, it checks the very many boxes that we’ve come to expect from high-performance mascara. It’s eco-friendly, won’t smudge, lengthens, thickens, defines, softens, doesn’t flake, and adds volume. And it works great with sensitive eyes, whether you’re a contact lens wearer, a cold sufferer, or someone with regular allergies.

The Flirty One

LANCÔME Monsieur Big Mascara

Anyone who used to be a huge Sex and the City fan will appreciate the name of this mascara. But even if you weren’t, you’ll like how nicely it darkens and lengthens your lashes so that they look extra coquettish and doe-like.

The Best Budget Mascara

COVERGIRL Super Sizer by LashBlast Mascara

This drugstore mascara (and honestly, most CoverGirl options) works just as well as most luxury brands, at a fifth of the price! If the cruel airline gods ever lose your luggage or you just love a bargain, grab this.

The One That Expands Both Ways

Clarins Supra Volume Mascara

If you prize thiccness in all areas, you’ll love this mascara. This one beefs up both the length and width of your lashes, making them look just that much more impactful and robust.

The Sleek One

Photo: Copyright Richard Pierce. All Rights Reserved.
Chantecaille Faux Cils Mascara, Black

This mascara is like Olivia Chantecaille, the brand’s creative director: elegant, impeccable (no messy gobs of formula!), and tall, if you imagine “tall” lashes to just be very long ones.

The Best Mascara for Asian Lashes

Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara

Asian lashes tend to be fine, thin, sparse, and stick-straight, making them especially prone to smudging. This mascara works staggeringly well on them. If you need more proof, check out the Reddit before/after photos.

The Overall Best Mascara Out There

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor
Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

Drumroll please. This mascara is the universally agreed-upon best of the bunch because it works the best on all types of eyelashes and for all types of people. If, after reading the whole list, you still aren’t sure which one to try, just buy this one. It resides in the center of that perfect mascara Venn diagram of being smudge-proof (thanks to its tubular formula), volumizing, thickening, and lengthening.

If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission. 

The Absolute Best Mascaras of All Time