Best mascara: lengthen, define, and volumize your lashes with our favorite formulas

Get your fluffiest, most defined lashes yet with our roundup of the best mascara formulas, from curling to waterproof and much more

best mascara
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best mascara isn’t as simple as just picking the one with the prettiest packaging and hoping for the best. Of course there are those that work for most people, but with factors like short lashes and eye sensitivity to consider, as well as the different looks you might wish to achieve, it’s worth doing some research and considering your options. 

We all know that the best mascaras should be able to make it through any unexpected inconvenience that hits you throughout the day—from sweaty midday errands, an unpredicted city storm, that sudden onset of the waterworks during an all-too-emotional TV commercial... the list goes on. And not that we advocate wearing makeup while you’re exercising, but hey, you do you; and bonus, if it can make it through a workout, then it's a definite must-have.

So, to be sure that our favorites really did go the distance during testing, we wore each for about 12-14 hours a day to see how they stood up against each other. We also gave them a little smudge here and there to determine the real flake-free claims from the bogus, and not to blow our own horns here, but we even made it to the gym once or twice. (Ed's note: Twice is a strong word.)

Much like the best foundation, the best mascaras should do a little bit of everything —and do it well. We think Too Faced Better Than Sex makes a great all-rounder, thanks to its multi-functional brush that delivers a naturally defined, lengthened flutter with the potential for dramatic layering when volume is desired. We also love the luxe look and feel of Chanel Le Volume Stretch, which comes with a fancy flexible 3D-printed brush. And for those all about bang for their buck, Maybelline Lash Sensational does an amazing job at competing with the big guns without breaking the bank.

How to choose the best mascara

The first thing to take into consideration when trying to choose the best mascara is your lash type, as different formulas work better with certain types of lashes.

"If you have fine lashes, you want a volumizing, buildable formula that will give a fuller look that you can customize," says Bobbi Brown senior pro artist Warren Dowdall. "If you have fuller, thick lashes, go for a good all-rounder mascara, as going for heavier, false-lash formulas can weigh down the lashes and make them drop. When lashes are shorter, using two mascara types can be beneficial sometimes. Apply a lengthening formula first and then build up the volume and thickness with a coat or two of a more volumizing formula."

It can also be beneficial to layer up your favorite formulas. If you find something that gives you the length you’ve spent years looking for but doesn’t pack on the volume, (or vice versa), swipe on a coat of the lengthening formula before loading them up with the more dramatic pick. Bonus points if the top layer is waterproof!

The best mascara formulas, as reviewed by our experts

best mascara: Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara


(Image credit: Too Faced)

1. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

Best mascara for volume, length, and care in one

Specifications
RRP: $26/£19
Waterproof version available: Yes
Shades: Black
Mini version available: Yes
Extra features: Hourglass-shaped brush, nourishing acacia extract
Reasons to buy
+Mess-free and easy-to-use brush+Silky formula+Dramatic length, volume, and curl without clumping+Staying power
Reasons to avoid
-Brush is slightly thick

When a product comes with endorsements like this attention-grabbing name as well as its one-time position as the top-selling mascara in the world, you know Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara indeed boasts of something special. And if the striking tube doesn’t give convince you of the robust formula inside, perhaps the plump, curvy brush will give you an idea of just how remarkable this long-lasting, compliment-inducing formulation is.

Its multi-functioning but uncomplicated brush lets you create a lengthened, separated, and bedroom-worthy flutter with just one swipe, while each additional coat packs on a mega dose of volume, so you can create diverse looks with just one product. The long-lasting and non-budging formula also cares for lashes with its infusion of acacia senegal gum extract, leaving lashes soft and nourished after use. It definitely lives up to the name, no matter how thrilling your dalliances.

See our full Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara review

best mascara: Chanel Le Volume Stretch

(Image credit: Chanel)

2. Chanel Le Volume Stretch

Best luxury mascara

Specifications
RRP: $35/£25
Waterproof version available: No
Shades: Black
Mini version available: No
Extra features: Flexible 3D-printed comb wand, nourishing jojoba extracts
Reasons to buy
+Easy to apply+Fluttery length, volume, and curl
Reasons to avoid
-Hold doesn’t last 

If there’s any premium brand sure to deliver the goods, it’s Chanel—and the Chanel Le Volume Stretch offering definitely doesn’t disappoint. With a super-luxe look and feel thanks to the chic black matte tube with a silky thread-like woven texture, this makes you feel like you’re using something special from the moment you pick it up.

A unique hollow convex 3D-printed brush catches all lashes—even the tricky corner areas—and has a flexibility to it that allows for seamless application without any mess.

What’s more, it does what it says when it comes to the formula: With jojoba extracts to nourish, it stretches lashes to the max. The sky-high hold doesn’t last all day, though, so a quick midday touch-up definitely helps stretch out results.

best mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational

(Image credit: Maybelline)

3. Maybelline Lash Sensational

Best budget mascara

Specifications
RRP: $9.99/£7
Waterproof version available: Yes
Shades: Midnight Black, Blackest Black, Very Black, Brown Black,
Mini version available: No
Extra features: Layer-Reveal brush
Reasons to buy
+Wide, curved, and flexible comb wand+Lash-multiplying look+Feathery finish
Reasons to avoid
-Cheap packaging-Not much volume-Minimal drooping and flaking

Maybelline Lash Sensational is a budget mascara that has made its name as one of Amazon’s bestselling beauty products, so it's no wonder that it's one of our best cheap mascaras .

With a lash-multiplying effect that hinges on its signature Layer-Reveal brush, this drugstore buy will give you lashes worthy of most high-end picks. It gives you a feathery, lengthened, and defined fanned-out look with a delicate curl, which could almost pass for a natural flutter from the very first swipe. And with each further coat, it just cements the pretty fluttery look, with a microdose of volume added with each coating.

This best mascara pick doesn’t have the most luxe packaging (hence the low price) and you don’t get the biggest hit of drama, but if the latter is what you're after, you could pair it with a volumizing lash primer and you’ll definitely have a winner on your hands.

See our full Maybelline Lash Sensational review

best mascara: Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

4. Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara

Best waterproof mascara

Specifications
RRP: $32/£23
Mini version available: No
Waterproof version available: Yes
Shades: Black
Extra features: No-clump brush, kaolin clay
Reasons to buy
+Good definition and length without any clumping+Strong curl hold+No smudging or flaking+Very waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-Could be more volumizing

We were expecting a lot from Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara, a high-end contender that claims to be a “raincoat for lashes”—and wow, did it deliver!

Not only did it define and lengthen lashes, it was one of the best mascara picks when it came to holding a curl in place, thanks to the impenetrable waterproof barrier. We saw no smudging or flaking even after a long day of wear—in fact, it was almost too resilient when it came to bedtime. It wasn’t the most volumizing, but would make a great top coat to layer over one of our more dramatic picks. Just make sure you know how to remove waterproof mascara properly, and you're golden.

best mascara: L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise

(Image credit: L'Oreal Paris)

5. L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise

Best mascara for sensitive eyes

Specifications
RRP: $10.95/£8
Waterproof version available: Yes
Shades: Blackest Black, Black, Black Brown
Mini version available: No
Extra features: Suitable for sensitive eyes, infused with castor oil
Reasons to buy
+Gentle formula +Soft brush that doesn’t cause irritation+Lifts lashes, holds curl+Pretty, fanned-out look
Reasons to avoid
-Some under-eye smudging and flaking -Tip of brush is awkwardly bulky

This budget buy has famously been compared to our favorite Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara, and we can see the resemblance. L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise not only looks the part but it plays the part too: easy application, staggering volume, and a fanned-out finish.

This purse-friendly option will give you it all—length, definition, and volume, and sometimes a little bit of curl thrown in for good measure. It lifts lashes and holds curl relatively well, while giving you the kind of consistent definition you would expect to achieve with a comb wand, without having to actually endure using one.

We also love the thick, fanned-out look that came without any clumping, no matter how many layers you slap on. It's definitely one of the best mascaras for sensitive eyes we've come across, as it imparts volume, definition, and feathering all in one gentler, sensitive formula.

See our full L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise review

best mascara: Benefit They’re Real!

(Image credit: Benefit)

6. Benefit They’re Real!

Best smudge-proof mascara

Specifications
RRP: $26/£19
Waterproof version available: No
Shades: Black
Mini version available: Yes
Extra features: Unique crown tip
Reasons to buy
+Length and definition+Fluttery outer lashes+Flake-free and very resilient
Reasons to avoid
-Tough and awkward comb wand-Not as much lift and volume as expected

Not only does Benefit They’re Real! boast eye-catching packaging that stands out in our makeup bags, but it has an almost excessively long-wearing formula that leaves lashes soft and springy without drying them out (and honestly, takes some serious elbow grease to remove.).

If it’s length, definition, and flutter you’re after, then They’re Real! is a winner. It’s impactful, drawing attention to even the shortest and stubbiest of lashes, guaranteed to get friends asking you the 411 on where you get your lashes done.

It’s not the most volumizing, even after applying a few layers, so probably not one if you’re looking for drama. And it doesn’t quite lift inner lashes as much as we would have liked—even after using an eyelash curler, they do droop slightly after applying the product, so you could maybe do with having to touch-up with an eyelash curler after application. But just make sure to wait until lashes have properly dried first to avoid any clumping, sticking, or breakage; after all, this long-lasting bestseller does have quite the staying power!

See our full Benefit They’re Real! review

best mascara: Benefit BADgal Bang!

(Image credit: Benefit)

7. Benefit BADgal Bang!

Best mascara for length

Specifications
RRP: $26/£19
Waterproof version available: Yes
Mini version available: Yes
Shades: Black, Blue
Extra features: Tapered comb wand
Reasons to buy
+Unique wand for straightforward and painless application+Sexy, fanned-out, and fluttery look+Long-lasting, smudge-free+Vitamin-infused for lash health
Reasons to avoid
-Not as much volume as we would like-Pretty stubborn to remove

Boasting a jet-black formula that contains super-light, aero-particles for mega volume with zero heaviness, Benefit BADgal Bang! is everything we love about cult favorite They’re Real! but with the volume turned way up.

Unlike many other mascaras that see lashes droop under the weight of a heavy formula, BADgal BANG!’s aero-particles give lashes truly gravity-defying powers with a lift to write home about.

This stretches every millimeter out of your natural lashes with a gravity-defying formula. Lashes are even, defined, and fanned out, with a fluttery look worthy of a Disney princess, with the length definitely giving the famous They’re Real! a run for its money. One thing, though, is that it doesn’t give the voluminous effect we were expecting, even after a few coats. So while it's one of the best lengthening mascaras, if it's volume you’re looking for, we would suggest applying this as a first layer underneath something a bit thicker, or just saving it for days when you want a sultry, bedroom-eye effect.

See our full Benefit BADgal Bang! review

best mascara: Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!

(Image credit: Charlotte Tilbury)

8. Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!

Best mascara for volume

Specifications
RRP: $29/£21
Waterproof version available: No
Shades: Black
Mini version available: Yes
Extra features: Strengthening keratin
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous packaging+Lots of volume+Length, definition, and curl
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly awkward brush-Not as much lift as we’d like

Charlotte Tilbury has made a name on the back of her cult Pillow Talk range, so we were expecting big things from Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!—and, we have to say, it ended up being one of our favorites of the bunch.

It delivered length, definition, curl, and a big dose of clump-free volume in just a couple of coats, thanks to its stretch formula that uses natural waxes to create layers of lightweight volume. We also love how it nourishes lashes during wear with strengthening keratin, and how the intense black color leaves you with an eyeliner effect.

The brush was slightly tricky to use; however, after a couple of uses (and digging out the instructions), you'll get the hang of it. With its “push-up” claims, we did expect it to give a little more lift, but a midday eyelash curler touch-up managed to fix this.

best mascara: Diorshow Iconic Overcurl

(Image credit: Dior)

9. Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl

Best mascara for curl

Specifications
RRP: $29.50/£21
Waterproof version available: Yes
Mini version available: No
Shades: Black, Brown, Blue, Iconic Sequins (limited edition glitter finish)
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use and comfortable brush+Stretches and defines lashes while delivering clump-free volume+Holds curl all day+Smudge- and flake-free
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

We almost can’t think of anything negative to say about Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl. A pleasure to apply, it comes with a lovely soft brush that doesn’t scratch or hold awkwardly at all, with a pliable formula that graces the wand with just the right amount to coat lashes without creating a big, goopy mess.

It lifted and lengthened lashes, holding the curl in place seamlessly, while depositing an enviable dose of volume on each lash. And, for extra drama, it layered smoothly without any clumps, leaving us with more than one excuse to use the front-facing cameras on our phones just so we could check out the flutter! Curl is just the icing on the cake with this all-around superstar.

best mascara: Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

(Image credit: Kevyn Aucoin)

10. Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

Best mascara for short lashes

Specifications
RRP: $28/£20
Waterproof version available: No
Shades: Black
Mini version available: No
Extra features: Thin brush, hydrating jojoba oil
Reasons to buy
+Small brush makes for easy application+Smudge- and flake-free+Nourishes for soft lashes
Reasons to avoid
-Some clumping when layering

Living with short lashes can make it a bit of a challenge to find a quality mascara that gives you the length you need, along with some drama, all the while actually allowing you to work from the root of your lashes. Enter: Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara. This volumizing marvel comes with the tiniest brush that will give those with shorter lashes more control over their styling, while bestowing length and drama onto your peepers.

The glossy formula glides onto lashes right from the roots without leaving any mess; just a couple of swipes will give all of your lashes a feathery, fanned-out look. We did notice a little bit of clumping between layers so we wouldn’t do too many coats, but the formula is long-lasting and you won’t notice any smudging or flaking at the end of the day. But beware: Don’t opt for any fancy cleansers when trying to remove this one, as it does scrape off in clumps when you try to dissolve it (not ideal for those fancy pillowcases). All you need is a little bit of warm water and it should wash away painlessly. 

best mascara: Glossier Lash Slick

(Image credit: Glossier)

11. Glossier Lash Slick

Best mascara for a natural look

Specifications
RRP: $16/£12
Mini version available: No
Shades: Black
Extra features: Water-resistant, suitable for sensitive eyes, tapered comb wand, biotin-infused
Reasons to buy
+Super lengthening+Defines and separates for a natural flutter+Smudge- and flake-free but removes easily
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal volume

Anything released by Glossier is somehow immediately swept up and devoured by beauty fans—and it was no different with this Glossier Lash Slick. A product that makeup experts keep going back for again and again, this sculpting mascara comes with a tapered wand that reaches even the most stubborn of roots on the lashline without leaving any mess behind.

In just one swipe, it gives a false-lash look with the stretching length, subtle curl, and gravity-defying lift that actually does last all day. Rather than being waterproof, the formula is water-resistant, meaning that it can easily wash off with a good cleanser, but still manages to make it through a full day without any flaking or smudging. It’s also infused with vegan biotin which helps strengthen lashes, making it like a serum and mascara all in one.

It’s not one for anyone who wants volume, but whatever your lash type, this will give a gorgeous, natural-looking flutter.

woman&home thanks Warren Dowdall of Bobbi Brown for his time and expertise.