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The Absolute Best Mascaras of All Time

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

There are so many mascaras out there. Possibly too many. Thankfully, it’s our job to test them out, and we haven’t grown tired of it (yet).

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 Overall Best Mascara Out There

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor

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 smudgeproof (thanks to its tubular formula), volumizing, thickening, and lengthening.

The TikTok-Famous Mascara

Last year, this newer Maybelline wand went viral on the platform where all the best beauty hacks and product reviews live, and, yes, this one is worth the hype. It’s like a Pilates workout in mascara form that sculpts, defines, lengthens, and lifts limp lashes with just a few swipes.

The Longest-Lasting 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 Non-Flaky Mascara

The YSL Beauty Lash Clash mascara has the seal of approval of our beauty writer, Asia Milia Ware. She points out that not only is the packaging extremely sleek and chic (as you would expect from the French brand) but the formula is just as good. It provides all the length you want without flaking throughout the day.

The Best Luxury Mascara

We’ve invested in multiple tubes of this mascara that brings stubby lashes to life. This is the one you want to grab if you want to add length and volume without flaking or smudging. The XXL brush with a slightly tapered end helps you coat and volumize your lashes without the extra effort. The only caveat: It dries out fast, so keep the top on this closed tight.

The One That’s Like Lash Extensions

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 Best Mascara for Dramatic Volume

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 With a Metal Applicator

Yes, you read that correctly. This K-beauty mascara has a metal applicator that actually works wonders. One initially skeptical TikToker was amazed at how it actually accentuates each lash.

The Best Budget 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 that beautifully separates and elongates lashes without clumping. Plus it’s at a great price point.

The All-Around Crowd Pleaser

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-shape brush seems gimmicky, but reviewers say it ensures you can coat every single lash from every single angle to build and enhance to your heart’s desire.

The Best Waterproof Mascara (Luxury Edition)

When Kim Kardashian’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 Long-Lasting But Easy-to-Remove One

It might sound contradictory, but the Limitless Lash Mascara from Ilia does just that. It lasts all day, and when you go to do your nighttime skin routine it comes off without having to scrub your eyes out.

The Mascara With The Best Packaging

Like the rest of the brand’s very cool makeup, this mascara is housed in an unconventional tube that wouldn’t look out of place at the MoMA. This mascara features a brush that curves to the shape of the eye to help hug every lash, and the short silicone bristles help lift and separate. The vegan formula thickens lashes and adds curl. It’s also humidity resistant, just in time for warmer weather.

The Best for Fluttery, Natural Lashes

Let this do for your lashes what the cult-favorite lip oil does for your lips. It’s your lashes but better, lengthy, and volumized without clumping even after adding a few extra layers. The dense tapered brush helps reach every lash (even the tiny ones) to add volume. The results are fluttery lashes you can pair with fresh, glowing skin like their models.

The Best Mascara for Dramatic Length

If length is your main objective when it comes to lashes, this award-winning tubing mascara is what you seek. It’s excellent at dramatically extending every little hair on your lash line by capping them off with little lengthening polymers that easily wash off at the end of the day.

The One If You Have Straight Lashes

Cut fashion-news writer Danya Issawi swears by this mascara. If you’re in the market for a new lash paint that makes your straight lashes hold a curl so high they’ll almost touch your brows (evidence here), she highly recommends this one from Tarte.

The One That Expands Both Ways

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 Best Buildable Mascara

Gucci’s layer-friendly formula is perfect for customizing your own personal lash look, whether that happens to be demure, smooth, and natural-looking or dramatic, thick, and borderline clumpy. Since the spiky, rubbery brush is super-flexible, it grabs every single lash and coats them with a smudgeproof formula that doesn’t leave them feeling heavy or crispy, even after many, many, many coats.

The Best Mascara for Exercise

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor

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 toothpastelike packaging is fun.

The Best Mascara for Asian Lashes

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-and-after photos.

The Best Vegan 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 Lower Lashes

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 Best Mascara for People With Allergies

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 ecofriendly, 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 Best Clean 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 ingredients such as silicones, parabens, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances. It also doesn’t test on animals.

The Well-Rounded One

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 it in the first place.

The Well-Rounded One (Drugstore Edition)

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 One That’s Like a Push-Up Bra

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 One That Will Never Give You Raccoon Eyes

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 One That’s Perfect in a Pinch

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 Flirtatious One

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 doelike.

The Sure Thing

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 Absolute Best Mascaras of All Time