We tested the 12 best drugstore mascaras for fat, fluttery lashes on a budget

These are the best drugstore mascaras that rival high-end buys

Three of the best drugstore mascaras by L'Oreal in a collage background.
(Image credit: Future)

Our picks of the best drugstore mascaras will give your lashes the length, curl, volume, and strength you desire, just like luxury brands. The only difference is their budget-friendly price tag.

It's safe to say that no other beauty product comes close to being a desert island must-have 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 designer buys will help you achieve all of those results, the drugstore is also brimming with winning formulas. 

So why might someone want to buy a drugstore mascara over luxury brands? Because mascara is one of those products that you don't have to spend big bucks on to reap noteworthy results. Just like choosing the best drugstore concealer, as long as you pick the right mascara brush types and know how to apply mascara, you have so many options when it comes to excellent, affordable mascara, that will look just as good as pricier picks. To help you get one step closer to finding your 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.

Eight of the best drugstore mascaras laying on a white fur background

A selection of the drugstore mascaras we tested for this guide

(Image credit: Kenedee Fowler)

To help you find the best mascara at an affordable price we tested over a dozen of budget mascaras for this guide. We put each to the test, from wearing them in extreme winter weather that brings on teary eyes to warm and sunny days when we can't help but sweat. During the testing process, we narrowed down the 12 best drugstore mascaras by the following factors:

  • How well does the mascara lengthen, add volume, and curl
  • Color options offered 
  • If the mascara is smudge and clump-free 
  • Mascara wand shape and bristles
  • Ingredients and formula 
  • How does the mascara wear throughout the day

The best drugstore mascaras, chosen by our beauty team

1. L'Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara

Best drugstore mascara overall

Specifications

RRP: $9.99 / £6.74
Shades: Blackest Black, Black, Black Brown, Mystic Black
Extra features: Floral oil infused, parabens and fragrance free, sensitive eyes friendly

Reasons to buy

+
Adds volume and length to lashes
+
Non-clumping, buildable formula
+
Curls lashes
+
Conditions lashes
+
Buttery and silky formula

Reasons to avoid

-
May experience flaking by the end of the day

The L'Oreal Lash Paradise has a high-end mascara formula with a drugstore price tag, making it our overall top pick. It's widely dubbed as a dupe of the iconic Too Faced Better Than Sex Volumizing mascara and while it may not completely rival its premium counterpart, for its price tag, it truly delivers. 

Thanks to its wavy brush, we could easily lift and catch every lash, getting longer, fuller, and thicker lashes. And if you're big on nourishing ingredients in your makeup, you'll be excited to know this silky, buttery formula consists of floral oil, leaving your lashes soft and full of length and volume. We also loved the rose-gold packaging - no garish neon tubes in sight (which are regrettably a common feature of many budget mascaras)! Our lashes looked fluttery, defined and full of volume. Our only small gripe? We did experience some flaking by the end of the day. 

CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara

(Image credit: CoverGirl)

2. CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara

The best drugstore mascara for volume

Specifications

RRP: $11.49 / £3.77
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
-
Doesn't lengthen very short lashes 

If you're looking for a mascara that volumizes each lash and doesn't clump your lashes together, this OG CoverGirl mascara deserves a spot in your beauty bag asap. The iconic orange tube has earned its stripes for its ability to make your lashes appear thicker and fuller with just a few swipes, however, according to our shopping writer it's not the best for lengthening short eyelashes. After a few passes, we definitely saw the volume-boosting effect the brand promises but we didn't get the 'wow' factor when it came to length. On the plus side, the mascara is lightweight and doesn't clump or smudge.

There are three shade options to choose from (more than any other mascara on our list). You can pick between brown vs black mascara and customize your lashes. The formula has 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 your 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)

3. 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' 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 can 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 prefer an oil-based formula. Not to mention, we found with two coats or more it delivered enviable fullness and thickness that even the sparsest of lashes will benefit from.

Essence Double Trouble Mascara

(Image credit: Essence)

4. Essence Double Trouble Mascara

The best budget drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $5.99 / £3.80
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 the 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.

5. Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara

The best drugstore mascara for curling

Specifications

RRP: From $7.99 / £6.53
Shades: Blackest Black, Very Black
Extra features: Memory curl formula, has a waterproof option

Reasons to buy

+
Long-wearing
+
Doesn't flake or smudge
+
Dries quickly
+
Lengthens short eyelashes
+
Curled/angled brush to curl lashes

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to clumping

This Maybelline mascara has earned its place here because of its amazing lengthening and curl factor, long-wear formula, and easy-to-grip packaging. One of our favorite features of Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara is its curved, easy-to-use brush. This means in addition to coating our lashes from root to tip, we were able to achieve bouncy volume and a long-lasting curl after just two coats.

We found that multiple coats are needed to get the full effect - especially if you have lashes that droop down. After loading on the formula, we did notice a bit of clumping together. But the end result is worth it if sky-high lashes are the goal. This mascara is definitely long-wearing, so if you're looking for a mascara to last you throughout a whole workday or night out, this is a great choice. But because of its long-lasting formula, it was a pretty difficult removal process.

6. L’Oreal Voluminous Noir Balm

The best drugstore mascara for fullness

Specifications

RRP: From $9.97 / £8.73
Shades: Black, Brown
Extra feautures: 97% natural origin ingredients

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to flaking
-
Doesn't give extreme length

If va-va-voom lashes are what you want, this option from L'Oreal should be the first choice that comes to mind. It's one of the best L'Oreal mascaras that'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? 

Let's just say we didn't have to dip into the tube multiple times to get the desired results. The formula was quick to provide fullness and definition, all while separating our lashes, which are prone to sticking together. If you have light-colored lashes, the brown hue could be one of the best brown mascara options for you, as it gives an impressively good false lash effect. We did get a more voluminous effect with CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara, but loved the way the L'Oreal Noir Balm Mascara nourished our eyelashes with its natural ingredients while adding fullness. 

To achieve maximum volume, make sure you're letting each coat dry before you apply the next. We promise the wait is worth it.

See our full L'Oreal Voluminous Noir Balm Mascara review

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara

(Image credit: Neutrogena)

7. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara

The best waterproof drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $9.99 (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

-
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 lashes appear longer all while dousing them with healthy ingredients, and this one delivers on both fronts. Like most waterproof formulas, we found that this was difficult to dissolve, so read up on how to remove waterproof mascara gently. 

8. Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Best drugstore mascara primer duo

Specifications

RRP: From $17.99 / £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
-
Can be pricey

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. After applying the primer, we instantly noticed how much longer and fuller our short eyelashes were. And topping it off with extreme-length mascara made it even better. We love that the duo is conveniently packaged in one tube because it makes for easy traveling, too. 

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, beyond the fact that this mascara is free of over 3,500 of Honest Beauty's 'No List' ingredients (including parabens, mineral oil, silicones, and synthetic fragrances), it also features moisturizing jojoba esters that will condition and hydrate the lashes.

See our full Honest Beauty Extreme Length + Lash Primer review

9. Rimmel Kind & Free Mascara

Best long-wearing drugstore mascara

Specifications

RRP: $7.88 / £5.15
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
+
Thin brush that reaches every lash

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires multiple coats

If you're considering Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Mascara for its long-wearing and conditioning formula, but don't want the fuss with the removal process, Rimmel Kind & Free Mascara is a solid option. Its thin brush allowed us to lengthen every eyelash, from hard-to-reach inner corner lashes to short bottom lashes. With ingredients like shea butter and biotin, our eyelashes immediately felt conditioned and looked shiny after we finished applying, which isn't something we felt with most of the mascaras we tested in this guide.

According to the brand, it has a 36-hour wear time – and while we didn't test this to its absolute limit, we found this formula does stay put once it dries, all while still feeling healthy and hydrated. We didn't experience any flaking or smudging at any point during testing this, even on a hot day. We did have to apply multiple coats to get intense volume and length, but this will actually be a check in the positive column if you prefer buildable formulas that allow you to customize your lash look depending on the occasion.

10. No7 Lash Extender Mascara Fiber

Best drugstore mascara for separated and stretched lashes

Specifications

RRP: $8.39 / £14.95
Shades: Black
Extra features: Bamboo fiber formula

Reasons to buy

+
Smudge-resistant
+
Soft brush
+
Offers separation
+
Lengthens lashes

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't add much volume

Say hello to No7 Lash Extender Fiber mascara. This improved formula is packed with vegan bamboo fibers to build even more length than the much-loved original No7 Lash Extender mascara. It's pretty in pink on the outside and full of amazing ingredients on the inside, such as algae and Italian fruit extract, all to give you more conditioned lashes. 

Does this mascara deliver what it promises? Yes, we did see the lash extension effect on our naturally short eyelashes, but it lacks a little volume like the original No7 Lash Extender mascara. Still, with length being ours and the brand's main focus, this mascara has earned its place here, and thanks to its thin wand, we were able to lift and coat each eyelash. Removal was pleasingly simple, with just a few passes with makeup remover our eyes were mascara free. If you're looking for a subtle everyday option that'll enhance your natural lashes with an under $12/£15 price tag, we'd say it's well worth a try.

Pixi Lower Lash Mascara

(Image credit: Pixi)

11. 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 onto those teeny tiny to lower lashes can be a tricky task, but with Pixi's Lower Lash Mascara, the process 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 also 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 the 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. 

12. L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara

Best drugstore mascara for extreme length

Specifications

RRP: $10.99 / £12
Shades: Black, Carbon Black, Blackest Black, Black Noir, Black Brown
Extra features: Ultra-thin wand, waterproof, suitable for sensitive eyes

Reasons to buy

+
Slim mascara wand that lifts and lengthens every lash
+
Sensitive-eye friendly
+
Buildable formula 
+
Brown mascara shade
+
Clump and smudge free

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best at volumizing lashes

The L'Oreal Telescopic mascara has one of the slimmest wands we've ever seen. Whether it was our short inner lashes that usually never receive much love or our bottom eyelashes, we loved being able to coat and lift each lash without being left with product residue on our eyelids or our under-eyes. When you combine an ultra-slim wand and a clump-free buildable formula, you end up with the best lengthening mascara.

This cult-favorite mascara is sensitive-eye friendly and has a formula on the thicker, buttery side, so you won't have to worry about any watery mascara and irritated eyes. Although it's a 10 in the lengthening department, no matter how many coats we applied, we saw no change in our lash's volume. So, if volume and extreme length are a lash must, we highly recommend the L'Oreal Lash Paradise mascara, instead.


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 explains 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 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.