When it comes to summer makeup, waterproof mascara tops the list of essentials. But it can be hard to find one that adds length, doesn’t smudge, looks natural, and wipes off without pulling out half your lash line. Plus, waterproof formulas dry fast, sometimes leaving lashes stiff and clumpy rather than soft and fluffy.
To find the best waterproof mascara out there, I tested many options (both luxury and drugstore), swiping and scrutinizing their performance. I recorded notes on wand shape and bristle quality, formula texture, staying power, and the ability to volumize, lengthen, and curl my lashes without looking like stubby little sticks. Read on for my findings.
The Best Drugstore Waterproof Mascara
Like L’Oréal Paris’s Lash Paradise, this drugstore option offers a good bang for your buck. Two coats darkened and volumized my lashes, leaving them only slightly clumpy (a good clumpy — it made them look thicker.) The effect wasn’t messy but deliberate, like a lash “look” you’d see on the runway.
The No-Mascara Mascara One
I can’t say this one did much for my lashes. I tried a shade called Black Brown and the color barely showed. Yes, my lashes appeared defined, and no, they didn’t clump or smudge. But there wasn’t much by way of volume or lengthening. It’s a good option for makeup minimalists.
The Most Dramatic Waterproof Mascara
Dior’s waterproof version of the Pump ‘n’ Volume mascara features a pliable, squeezable tube that allows you to warm up the formula using heat from your hands and prevents it from drying out. The fat brush contains ultra-soft bristles that only luxury brands at this price point can provide, and other than very minor smudging under my eyes, I loved the dramatic, doll-like effect this mascara provided. While it goes on smoothly, it’s a little messy, so plan for a few extra seconds with a cotton swab to clean up your lids post-application.
The Silky One
The medium-sized wand features rows of microfiber bristles and a rounded tip that fattened up every lash on my lids. The formula is whipped and silky — especially by waterproof standards — so it glided on smoothly coat after coat (I did at least three or four). I found my lashes to be curled, long, and defined. It was also fairly easy to remove, but at the same time didn’t flake or smudge throughout the day.
The Best Waterproof Mascara for the Pool
My lashes didn’t get much drama from Mary Kay’s Lash Love, but it went on without clumps and provided decent lengthening. As far as the removal process, it maintained an impressive resilience. My lashes clumped up slightly in the shower, but the mascara didn’t budge. I swiped them with micellar water and makeup remover afterward, but I could still feel the formula clinging to my lashes the next morning. If you like wearing eye makeup to the beach or pool, I’d consider this one.
The Fast-Acting One
This one dries quickly, so you need to work fast. My lashes hardened within seconds, making it tough to build upon once it set. I achieved some noticeable volume and length, but there was slight clumping. The wand is good at coating the bottom lashes, too, but overall, I prefer the non-waterproof version of this mascara, even if that means a little smudging.
The Luxurious One
Like all things Chanel, this mascara made my lashes look expensive. The stiff brush combines short and long bristles that work together to really lift lashes up, leaving mine curled with a fanned-out appearance. After three coats, I noticed significant impact — my lashes looked long, plump, and dense.
The Great Drugstore One
This silky formula wasn’t too thick or too wet, which meant the soft, wavy bristles delivered a clump-free coating without any messy globs. My lashes looked fanned out, longer, fuller, and darker over the course of the day, without any running or flaking. If you’re a fan of Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara (the non-waterproof one), this is a close second — and almost three times cheaper.
It’s also one of the few waterproof options out there that doesn’t make lashes feel hard within ten seconds of using it. After applying, my eyes had a softness and lifted appearance that made my tired lids look wide-eyed and awake. I even skipped eyeliner. The only downside is that it smells like a Sharpie marker.
The Transformative One
For anyone who doesn’t want to invest in an entirely new waterproof mascara, there’s Clarins’s water-proofing top coat. The clear formula promises to form a “watertight seal” around each lash (I didn’t experience any major smudging). However, the brush shape, which resembles a small brow spoolie, is awkward to use on your lashes. Given how tiny the tube is, my mascara stayed in place. But since it’s not inexpensive, I might consider spending the money on a separate waterproof option after all.
The Instagram-Ready one
True to its name, YSL’s mascara yielded false-looking lashes — separated, long, and volumized. The nylon brush coated my lashes evenly and the non-drying formula was buildable and easy to layer, too. There were no smudges for the entire day. The removal process was simple, too: the color wiped away without all my lashes clumping together. It’s expensive, yes. But when I took a photo of myself wearing the mascara, I didn’t have to do any sort of editing — my lashes look completely perfect.
The Durable One
I didn’t experience any major drama, but my lashes were separated, defined, and most importantly not stiff or stubby. I swiped it on early in the morning and 12-plus hours later it hadn’t moved. In fact, it’s not super easy to take off. Luckily, Lancôme Bi-Facial eye makeup remover does the trick.
The Least Favorite One
You can decide for yourself if this mascara is better than sex, but what it’s not is sweat- or waterproof. On an early spring day that was no more than 60 degrees, it smudged, giving me raccoon eyes by noon. And all I did was run errands! I didn’t even work out. I can’t imagine what I’d look like in the height of summer.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the stiff bristles or the hourglass-shaped brush — I found it clunky and hard to maneuver at times. While my lashes appeared darker and longer, the formula is wet and gloppy, and seemed to have weighed them down more than it lifted them up.
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