The 10 best drugstore mascaras for fat, fluttery lashes on a budget

We've tried, tested and rounded up the best drugstore mascaras that rival high-end buys

Three of the best drugstore mascaras by maybelline, pixi, w3llpeople
(Image credit: Future)

The beauty of choosing the best drugstore mascara is that one exists for every need – whether you're looking to curl straight lashes, lengthen short ones or even strengthen brittle hairs. Thankfully, mascara is also one of those products that you don't have to spend big bucks on to reap noteworthy results.

It's safe to say that no other beauty product comes close to being a desert island must-have quite like the best mascara (besides SPF, of course). After all, mascara is a product that can open up your eyes, refresh your face, and give you fluttery lashes even if your natural ones are lacking. While luxury buys will help you achieve all of those results, the drugstore mascara aisle is also brimming with winning formulas.

Just like choosing the best drugstore concealer or the best foundation, you have so many options when it comes to mascara that it helps to know exactly what to look for. So, to help you get one step closer to landing on your next holy grail formula, we've tried, tested, and recommended the most noteworthy options below.

How we tested the best drugstore mascaras

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

For every lash-based need, there's the best drugstore mascara to meet it. We tested dozens of budget mascaras for this guide, judging their lash lengthening, volumizing, and curling properties as well as color options offered and nourishing ingredients. We wore each mascara for at least one day, usually several, and paid close attention to how well they lasted, with formulas that stayed soft and flexible without smudging getting top marks. We also assessed wand shape and packaging for any special features, from smudge-proof tubes to high-tech bristles.

The best drugstore mascaras, chosen by our beauty team

CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara

(Image credit: CoverGirl)

1. CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara

The best drugstore mascara overall

Specifications

RRP: $10/£14.99
Shades: Very Black, Black, Black Brown
Extra features: hypoallergenic

Reasons to buy

+
Large brush catches every lash
+
Smudge-proof
+
Mess-free brush
+
Staying power

Reasons to avoid

-
Trickier to remove

If you're looking for volume that lasts, you've found it in this pick from CoverGirl. The iconic orange tube has earned its stripes in the beauty world for its ability to make each lash appear thick, voluminous, and full with just a few swipes. And with three shades to choose from (more than any other formula on our list), you can pick between brown vs black mascara and customize your lashes. Black offers sultry lashes suitable for a night out while the wearable brown offers a more natural makeup look that's perfect for daytime.

The formula has an impressive staying power, which is great if you're looking for an all day option that won't flake come Happy Hour. That being said, when we tested it we did find that this mascara is a little more difficult than others to take off, so make sure you use the best makeup remover or the best micellar water to loosen up the product and ensure gentle removal.

W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Volumizing Mascara

(Image credit: W3LL PEOPLE)

2. W3LL PEOPLE Expressionist Volumizing Mascara

The best luxury drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $20 (US only)
Shades: Black, Brown
Extra features: Hourglass-shaped wand, nourishing castor seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and cellulose plant fiber, cruelty-free

Reasons to buy

+
Gentle, non-irritating formula
+
Gives the appearance of fuller lashes
+
Easy to remove

Reasons to avoid

-
Flakes easily

If you're looking to incorporate more clean beauty or non-toxic beauty products into your routine, this mascara from W3LL PEOPLE is one of our favorites. And although it's a little pricier than some other picks in our guide we think it's well worth the money. It features a plant-based formula and is free of ingredients that often irritate sensitive skin like aluminum, petrolatum, parabens, and fibers. Instead, it uses a medley of lash-nourishing ingredients (think: castor seed oil and sunflower seed oil), and is extremely forgiving when the time comes to remove it. 

Though it doesn't have the longest wear time (we got a few hours maximum before it began to flake), it's certainly a good option if you have sensitive eyes and need a cleaner formula. Not to mention, we found with two coats or more it delivered enviable fullness and thickness even the sparsest of lashes will benefit from.

Essence Double Trouble Mascara

(Image credit: Essence)

3. Essence Double Trouble Mascara

The best budget drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $6/ £3.79
Shades: Extra black
Extra features: Has a waterproof option, double-sided applicator, ophthalmologically approved

Reasons to buy

+
Defines and lengthens
+
Holds a curl
+
Little to no clumping

Reasons to avoid

-
Could add more thickness

For a formula that rivals its higher-end counterparts, look no further than this mascara from Essence. The social media-famous brand has made its viral rounds on TikTok – and we can see why after trying the Double Trouble Mascara.

The double-sided applicator is what makes it such a clever product. One side features an elastomer brush applicator while the other side is a fiber brush applicator. When we tried the dual-applicator we found that it resulted in instantly long, curled lashes that were separated and defined to perfection. You won't find a ton of fluttery thickness with this formula, but with a price point this good, we're confident you won't miss the volume. Stock up on one of the regular formulas and one of the waterproof ones and you'll be set all year-round.

Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara

(Image credit: Maybellie)

4. Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara

The best drugstore mascara for curling

Specifications

RRP: $10
Shades: Blackest Black, Very Black
Extra features: Memory curl formula

Reasons to buy

+
Long-wearing
+
Doesn't flake or smudge
+
Dries quickly
+
24-hour wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs multiple coats

Say no way to stick-straight lashes and hello to remarkable curl all thanks to the Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara. It features a thick, easy-to-use brush that has a curved body, which means in addition to being able to coat your lashes from root to tip, you'll be able to achieve bouncy volume and a long-lasting curl.

We found that multiple coats are needed to get the full effect—especially if like us you have lashes that droop down—but our lashes never clumped or stuck together as we loaded on the formula. Plus, the end result is worth it if sky-high, defined lashes are the goal. Not to mention, the attainable price point means you can stock up during your next drugstore run guilt free.

L’Oreal Voluminous Noir Balm

(Image credit: L'Oreal)

5. L’Oreal Voluminous Noir Balm

The best drugstore mascara for fullness

Specifications

RRP: $9.99 / £9.99
Shades: Black, Brown
Extra feautures: 97% natural origin ingredients

Reasons to buy

+
Goes on smoothly
+
Doesn't require multiple coats
+
Won't clump

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to flaking

If va-va-voom lashes are on the menu, this option from L'Oreal should be the first choice that comes to mind. It's designed to make lashes seven times fuller, according to the brand, and has a vegan formula to boot. 

And how did we find it performed during testing? We didn't have to dip into the tube multiple times to get the desired results—rather, the formula was quick to provide fullness and definition, all while separating our lashes, which are prone to sticking together. And, if you have light-colored lashes, the lighter hue could be one of the best brown mascara options for you, as it gives an impressively good false lash effect. This is probably best used as a fall or winter mascara since we found it prone to flaking when we used it to create summer makeup looks during warmer weather. Also, for true volume, make sure you're letting each coat dry before you apply the next. We promise the wait is worth it.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara

(Image credit: Neutrogena)

6. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara

The best waterproof drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $9 (US only)
Shades: Black, Black/Brown
Extra features: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and keratin

Reasons to buy

+
Contains lash-conditioning ingredients
+
Lengthens
+
Silky formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Could irritate sensitive skin
-
Difficult to remove

Whether you need your makeup to last all day or you're prone to smudging (oily skin problems, anyone?), waterproof mascara is a great product to have in your arsenal. This one from Neutrogena is a fan-favorite, boasting good-for-you ingredients like hyaluronic acid to hydrate, vitamin E to condition, and keratin to restore brittle hairs.

We found that this formula made our lashes look instantly plumper, longer, and more defined with just a few swipes. We're all about mascara formulas that make the lashes appear longer all while dousing them with healthy ingredients, and this one delivers on both fronts. As with most waterproof formulas, we found that this one was more difficult to dissolve, so read up on how to remove waterproof mascara gently. Plus, those with sensitive skin may find it causes mild irritation, so be mindful of this if you're of that skin type.

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

(Image credit: Honest Beauty)

7. Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Best drugstore mascara primer duo

Specifications

RRP: $13/£19
Shades: Black
Extra features: 2-in-1 formula, cruelty-free, jojoba esters

Reasons to buy

+
Delivers extreme lift
+
Long-lasting formula
+
Biodegradable, recyclable, tree-free packaging

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to clumping

If you haven't used a mascara primer before, this duo from Honest Beauty will instantly make you a convert. One end houses a lash-lifting primer, which creates the perfect canvas for mascara application and prolongs the wear of the formula. We love the fact that the duo is conveniently packaged in one tube because it makes for easy traveling and on-the-go touch-ups. 

With a two-step product like this, it's important to apply coats in layers to avoid clumping. We also enjoyed using the primer end with any mascara formula we owned –  not just the one it comes with, and would recommend doing so as a handy tip! And, beyond the fact that this mascara is free of over 3,500 harmful, often irritating ingredients (including parabens, mineral oil, silicones, and synthetic fragrances), it also features moisturizing jojoba esters that will condition and hydrate the lashes.

Rimmel Kind & Free Mascara

(Image credit: Rimmel)

8. Rimmel Kind & Free Mascara

Best long-wearing drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $8/£9.99
Shades: Black, Brown Black
Extra features: Bio-based fiber brush, organic shea butter and biotin, cruelty-free

Reasons to buy

+
36-hour wear
+
99% natural origin ingredients
+
Conditioning formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires multiple coats

If you're looking for a long-wearing mascara but don't want to fuss with the removal process waterproof formulas often come with, Rimmel Kind & Free Mascara is a solid option. According to the brand, it has a 36-hour wear time – and while we didn't test this to its absolute limit we did find this really does stay put once it dries. We didn't experience any flaking or smudging at any point during testing this, even on a hot day.

It's also made with conditioning ingredients like shea butter and biotin, and goes on smoothly for clump-free application. And while we did have to apply multiple coats to get intense volume and length, this will actually be a check in the positive column if you're the type who prefers buildable formulas that allow you to customize your lash look depending on the occasion.

No7 Lash Extender Mascara

(Image credit: No7)

9. No7 Lash Extender Mascara

Best drugstore mascara for lengthening

Specifications

RRP: $9/£13.95
Shades: Black
Extra features: Volumizing spheres

Reasons to buy

+
Smudge-resistant
+
Soft brush
+
Offers separation

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't add much volume

If your lashes have the volume but lack the length, let No7's Lash Extender Mascara can lend you a helping hand. The formula is fiber-free – meaning it won't flake or smudge – and isn't too thick, which meant that we could layer it up without running the risk of clumping. 

We also found it incredibly easy to take off, and we didn't have to worry about accidentally tugging out our lashes once the time came for removal. Because the formula doesn't offer too much volume, this is a great pick if you're looking for a subtle everyday option that'll enhance your natural lashes and add some length. And with an under-$10 price tag, we'd say it's well worth a try.

Pixi Lower Lash Mascara

(Image credit: Pixi)

10. Pixi Lower Lash Mascara

Best drugstore mascara for lower lashes

Specifications

RRP: $11/£11
Shades: Black
Extra features: Slim brush, vitamin E, panthenol

Reasons to buy

+
Water-resistant formula
+
Slim, travel-friendly packaging
+
Offers separation

Reasons to avoid

-
Dry formula

Learning how to apply mascara to lower lashes can be a tricky task, but with Pixi's Lower Lash Mascara, the process of applying mascara onto those teeny tiny lashes is a breeze. The secret sauce lies in not just the mascara's conditioning formula (which consists of nourishing vitamin E and lash-protecting panthenol), but in the slim brush that makes the product effortless to apply. 

Basically, we were able to apply this swiftly without having to worry about ruining our concealer. Plus, its water-resistant formula meant it didn't ever smudge or smear even when we had a hayfever-induced bout of runny eyes. This formula is on the drier side, which meant we could build up layers clump-free (and not have to wait for the product to dry in between coats) however if your lashes are naturally dry or brittle, you may prefer a more flexible texture or nourishing formulation. 

How to pick the best drugstore mascara for you

To help navigate the options, we've narrowed down two of the most important things to look for when on the hunt for the best drugstore mascara, according to experts:

  • Consider the applicator: Makeup artist Margina Dennis (opens in new tab) says that there are three main types of mascara wand: silicone (which offers separation), nylon (which is great for volume and length), and plastic (which are flexible and easy to build upon). "Short bristles offer more control with volume while long bristles offer more control with separation," says Dennis. "To build length, look for a sparse brush, and for volume, go for a denser brush since they deposit more product." Celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek (opens in new tab) explains that a curved wand shape offers a lengthened effect while an hourglass is great for building volume. "Use a ball-shaped brush for the outer and inner corners, and a pointed shape to separate and lengthen," he says.
  • Consider mascara ingredients: Some mascara formulas contain good-for-your-lashes ingredients, allowing for a one-two punch of gorgeous lashes and healthy ones, too. According to Sesnek, you should look for ingredients that are nourishing and conditioning to the lash hairs. This includes natural oils such as jojoba oil, sunflower, and shea butter. If you're looking for a waterproof formula, opt for a mascara that includes isododecane or paraffin wax.