These days, there are plenty of skin gadgets, hair tools, perfumes, and eyeliners that can be used to bring about your best self. Even so, the single most important item in any beauty lover’s arsenal is, arguably, mascara. The best mascaras can work wonders on your look: one swipe will make you look instantly awake, and a few layers (or even a colored option!) can be game-changing.
Choosing one mascara from the hundreds of options on the market is a daunting task, but it really comes down to your personal needs. On a hot and humid day, you may want to opt for a long-lasting waterproof mascara that won’t sweat off. For an easy falsies look, a volumizing mascara will do the trick. Or, if your goal is fluttery long lashes, lengthening mascaras will be your go-to. The best mascara doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, either—there are plenty of gems available at your local drugstore.
Before you spend hours perusing through the makeup aisle in search of the perfect mascara, don't worry—Marie Claire editors beat you to it. We’ve tried just about every mascara from every price point to come up with the best of the best.
- Best Overall Mascara: L'Oreal Paris Lash Paradise Mascara (opens in new tab)
- Bust Budget Mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara (opens in new tab)
- Best Luxury Mascara: Chanel Le Volume De Chanel Mascara (opens in new tab)
- Best Mascara for Lengthening: ILIA Limitless Lash Lengthening Clean Mascara (opens in new tab)
- Best Mascara for Volumizing: Maybelline New York Volum' Express The Colossal Waterproof Mascara (opens in new tab)
- Best Waterproof Mascara: Lancome The Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara (opens in new tab)
What To Look For in Mascara
When it comes to picking a mascara, celebrity makeup artist Shadi Malek keeps a few key factors in mind. “When looking for a good mascara, the most important factors for me are long-lasting; doesn’t have fallout; a user-friendly mascara wand; and that the product does not look too clumpy,” she says.
You’ll also have to decide whether or not to go with a tubing formula. “The main difference between tubing mascara and non-tubing mascara is that tubing mascara encases each eyelash whereas regular mascara uses oils and dyes,” Malek says. But be warned; Malek adds, “I have never been a big fan of tubing mascara as I feel as though it has a ton of fallout!”
Lastly, you should look into a mascara’s ingredients to see if it contains fibers, because if so, it's possible that you'll end up a flaky mess by the end of the day. Malek explains, “Usually formulas that ‘flake’ are those that have fibers in them—therefore a non-flaky formula would be one in which would have no fibers in them.”
The Best Mascaras of All Time
Best Clean Mascara
Finding a mascara that uses clean ingredients, is hypoallergenic, and makes your lashes pop may sound like a pipe dream, but lo and behold this clean mascara from ILIA. This pick lengthens, curls, and lifts lashes and is a favorite among the pros. "ILIA is definitely my favorite mascara," says Shadi Malek. "I recommend it to everyone, its formula is incredible because it makes your lashes thicker and longer but it’s a hypoallergenic product so it won’t irritate your eyes. I just recommended it to my aunt with glaucoma!"
Pros: Lengthening; Clean formula; Hypoallergenic; Contains nourishing ingredients
Cons: May smudge with oily skin; Over $25
Best Luxury Mascara
According to our Editor-in-Chief, Sally Holmes, this Chanel mascara is perfect for those that want buildable volume. "This is my favorite mascara right now because of its perfect stickiness—going on smoothly, but with enough resistance to really let you build up volume," she says. "It also tends to stay put, but if there’s any end-of-day smudge, it’s that subtle, sexy, maybe-rolled-out-of-bed touch." Reviewers especially love this formula's ability to stay soft and clump-free for the entire day.
Pros: Buildable volume; Goes on smoothly; High-pigmented
Cons: Over $25; May smudge under eyes
Best Drugstore Mascara
After trying a few expensive formulas, I've come to realize you don't have to shell out a ton of money for gorgeous lashes. This drugstore mascara is my daily go-to—it makes my lashes as long as can be and gives them a nice touch of volume without looking too dramatic for daytime wear. But if I want to turn up the drama, an extra coat will do the trick. It's also a favorite by makeup artist Billie Gene. "Not only is this product only $12.99 but great for both volume and length," he says. "This mascara is also fragrance-free so perfect for all of my sensitive clients.”
Pros: Lengthening; Voluminizing; Under $15
Cons: Is a bit difficult to remove
Best Conditioning Mascara
"I discovered this mascara sometime in high school and have never looked back. Just like the name promises, it delivers major volume and length but conditions in the process—doing away with brittle, spider-leg-like lashes and leaving you with a 'my lashes but better' look. All at a drugstore price, might I add." — Neha Prakash, Entertainment Director
Pros: Conditioning formula; Volumizing; Delivers soft lashes; Under $10
Cons: Reviewers say it may flake; Only available in one shade
Best Mascara for Glamorous Lashes
"I have been slightly blessed with lashes that take very well to mascara. Unfortunately, my hooded eyes make for an immediate transfer of product on my puffy upper eyelids. However, Dame Pat McGrath has given my lashes (and eyelids) a new look at life with its epic hold and lengthening abilities that cause minimal transferring. Buildability is a must for me, and this formula is light enough to create a fuller lash look, no matter how many layers I put on. Also, the brush itself really helps keep my lashes separated to avoid clumping." — Alexis Gaskin, Freelance Beauty Writer
Pros: Lengthening; Defines lashes; Buildable volume; Contains conditioning peptides
Cons: Has a strong scent; May smudge with oily skin; Over $25
Best False Eyelashes Effect Mascara
According to MC's Style Director, Sara Hozman, "This Chantecaille mascara gives the appearance of falsies, but without the hassle." She adds, "There's zero clumping and it's a breeze to take off after a day of wear. While the price point is a bit steep, the splurge is worth it when you break down the price per wear—this tube will last eons." Along with the sought-after Faux Cils formula, this mascara features lash-growth peptide technology, meaning your lashes will reach new heights even when you're not wearing makeup.
Pros: Contains lash-growing peptides; Falsie-effect; Clump-free formula;
Cons: Over $70
Best Mascara for Larger-Than-Life Lashes
"It feels like I've been searching for the perfect mascara since birth, but I think I've finally landed on a keeper: Maybelline's Volum' Express The Colossal Washable Mascara. This one gives your lashes volumizing thickness with just one coat (yes, including your bottom lashes!) and the bottle has lasted me for months nearly a year (don't tell our beauty editor!). I'm excited to upgrade to the yellow tube once this one runs out." — Rachel Epstein, Former Editor
Pros: Volumizing; Under $15; Long-lasting;
Cons: Formula dries out quickly
Best Tubing Mascara
"This is the only tubing mascara I've ever loved. I like mascaras that are the perfect combination of length and volume, and this somehow does both. It's also very pigmented and has a glossy finish at first application, so it makes me look instantly awake as soon as I apply it. It also never flakes on me throughout the day." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Writer
Pros: Tubing formula; Glossy finish; Volumizing; Lengthening
Cons: Only available in one shade; May smudge easy
Best Clump-Free Mascara
"When it comes to mascara, my ultimate pet peeve is clumping. I've tried formula after formula of thickening and lengthening mascara and have too often been frustrated to find my eyelashes stuck together in a gooey heap, derailing my entire morning routine. This option from Fenty, however, gives me sky-high lashes while keeping each lash delightfully distinct--plus, it's waterproof and recently stood the test when I was caught in a spontaneous summer storm! All in all, 10/10." — Gabrielle Ulubay, E-Commerce Writer
Pros: Lengthening; Defines lashes; Clump-free formula; Vegan
Cons: Only available in one shade;
Best Everyday Mascara
"For years, I was married to Lancôme's Hypnôse mascara (opens in new tab)—the only mascara I'd ever tried that never, ever smudged or clotted my extremely long eyelashes (I know, I know, it's a good problem to have). But it almost worked too well, to the point that people kept asking if my eyelashes were fake. So I switched to Définicils, which is designed to give you defined, natural-looking lashes, and I'll probably never switch to another. I love this mascara: You can layer it depending on how bold you want your look to be; it separates your eyelashes carefully while coating it; and this mascara never smudges. I test-drive a lot of skincare and makeup products, but I've never loved a mascara like I do Défenicils, and at this point I'm done trying anything else." — Jenny Hollander, Director of Content Strategy
Pros: Defines lashes; Smudge-proof; Buildable volume;
Cons: Over $25
Best Mascara Wand
The mascara wand makes a world of difference in getting your dream lashes (see how below), which is why MC's Contributing Morning Editor, Iris Goldsztajn loves Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Mascara. "I’ve tried dozens of mascaras, but I always come back to Benefit’s Roller Lash," she says. "I love the brush’s two modes/sides—one curls the lashes and one adds length, all with very little clumping." The Roller Lash brush features tiny custom-designed hooks to catch, lift, and curl every lash.
Pros: Curls lashes; Lengthening; Long-wearing
Cons: Difficult to remove; Over $25
Best Waterproof Mascara
"One of my eyes is more hooded than the other; most mascaras 1) highlight the difference, and 2) smudge the top of my hooded right eye. This one doesn't overdo it on the volume but instead draws the line of both my eyes upward and outward. With the help of a lash curler, it also makes my eyes look even and awake without making it glaringly obvious that I have two coats of mascara on. It gives just a little extra something but you can't quite tell what. And considering I don't want an obvious makeup look, that's perfect." — Katherine J. Igoe, Contributing Editor
Pros: Volumizing; Eye-opening effect; Smudge-proof
Cons: Difficult to remove; Over $25
Best Mascara for Sensitive Eyes
"My eyes are extremely sensitive and dry easily. And staring at a screen all day only exacerbates this issue. So when it comes to mascara, I need the cleanest ingredients. Thrive's mascara happens to contain castor oil, a key ingredient for strengthening follicles. So, in addition to the lengthening effect, wearing this mascara can actually strengthen your lashes. Bonus is the unique wand, which allows for a clump-free and precise application." — Tanya Klich, Senior Editor
Pros: Tubing formula; Lengthening; Clump-free; Comes in three shades; Clean and vegan formula
Cons: $25; Thick formula
Best Sustainable Mascara
"I've always found myself at a crossroads with mascaras. I have insanely watery eyes, but I'm generally not a fan of waterproof mascaras. This long-lasting formula from Kjaer Weis however doesn't budge, smudge, or slide, but still comes off with ease at the end of the day. As for the formula? I've found that I can add layer upon layer without getting annoying clumps or clusters of lashes. The best part though comes by way of the packaging. Not only is this mascara refillable, but the red case (which trust me, you'll use on repeat) is made from 50 percent recycled plastic and infinitely recyclable aluminum." — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Long-lasting; Smudge-free; Sustainable packaging; Organic ingredients
Cons: Over $25
Best Dramatic Mascara
"Fact: mascara can make or break your look," says Deena Campbell, MC's Beauty Director. "This mascara plays no games for those in need of an intense formula that won’t smudge, fade, or clump. One coat does the trick, but it’s very buildable so apply two or three for extra drama." Over 1,000 Sephora reviewers love this mascara for its dramatic volume-building ability. One reviewer dubbed it the "Holy Grail of mascaras" thanks to the formula's major definition.
Pros: Defines lashes; Buildable volume; Smudge-proof
Cons: Over $25; May be hard to remove
Best Clean Mascara
"This formula by Milk Makeup is famous for giving users sky-high volume. My lashes are stubbornly averse to most lifting and volumizing mascaras, but this product changed the game--to the point that, when I use it, I can even ditch my eyelash curler! I also love that it's clean and vegan and that its beeswax and hemp-derived ingredients provide natural moisture so that I don't have to worry about my eyelashes falling out." — G.U.
Pros: Curls lashes; Volumizing: Makes lashes soft; Vegan formula; Contains conditioning ingredients
Cons: Over $25;
Best Mascara for Short Lashes
“My eyelashes are short and sparse. My eyes are sensitive. So, as you can imagine, tending to my lashes has become one of the more frustrating steps in my makeup routine. Years of chasing the best mascaras of the moment brought me to a point of surrender, and I’m glad I did—because it led me to L’Oreal’s voluminous mascara, a drugstore classic that has since become my staple. It’s volume-boosting and length-enhancing, without irritating my eyes, causing clumps, or resulting in spidery lashes. I like to wipe some of the product off the brush at first, and layer on a few coats for extra volume.” — Lucia Tonelli, Social Media Editor
Pros: Buildable volume; Under $15; Comes in seven shades; Lengthening
Cons: Dries out quickly; May smudge
Best Colored Mascara
"Never did I ever in a million years think I would be on board with the colored mascara trend—I'm loyal to my blackest black formulas. But as a devout Charlotte Tilbury fan, I felt I owed this berry-brown shade the benefit of the doubt. And take it from the ultimate skeptic, it did not disappoint. The shade isn't in-your-face at all. Rather, it's a subtle tone that's perfect for minimal makeup days or as the complement to a pink eyeshadow situation." — S.M.
Pros: Volumizing; Lengthening; Comes in black and berry-brown
Cons: Over $25; May smudge
Best Mascara for Touch-Ups
Another tried-and-true favorite of Julia Marzovilla's is the M.A.C Stack Mascara. "I love this mascara because not only does it not flake throughout the day, but it's actually designed to be layered up," she details. "I can attest to the fact that it never clumps and never leaves my lashes feeling flaky, dry, or spidery. It's great for a light lengthening look in the mornings and can be layered up for more voluminous drama at night."
Pros: Buildable volume; Clump-free; Lengthening;
Cons: Over $25; Lashes may stick together
Best Mascara for Doll Lashes
"TikTok is my stopping point in social media, I have fully embraced being out of touch, and I’m OK with it. That being said, sometimes, the recommendations on that platform pull through. For example, I saw the beauty think pieces about this mascara making the rounds and decided to try it out. I’ve been growing my eyelashes with serums and oils at night (I believe in being high-maintenance so that you can be low-maintenance later). That regimen plus this mascara are a match made in heaven, it gives me the perfect doll lashes, and even if I just put a few coats of this on and a lip, I feel put together and ready for the day." — Brittany Holloway-Brown, Art Director
Pros: Under $10; Lengthening; Comes in four colors;
Cons: May clump with multiple coats
How Do You Apply Mascara?
Applying mascara may sound like an easy job, but the right technique can make a world of difference. “My favorite way to apply mascara is to place the mascara wand at the base of your lash and then wiggle the wand back and forth towards the tip of your lashes,” says Malek. “You can continue to repeat this as many times as you like depending on how thick you like your mascara!”
Meanwhile, if your lashes lack curl, makeup artist Billie Gene suggests gently hitting your lashes with the brush as a final step. “Tapping the lash with the brush adds more volume to the lash, it also helps lift the lashes,” he says.
Additionally, you shouldn’t be afraid to use more than one mascara to achieve your desired look. Gene adds, “Apply a lengthening mascara first, then allow it to dry, and then follow with a mascara that focuses more on volume to add shape to the lashes.”
What Are the Differences Between Mascara Wands?
While all mascaras generally share core ingredients, there are major differences from brand to brand. Mascara brushes come in all different shapes and “each definitely has a different purpose,” Malek says. “The more dense and tighter packed the bristles are the more volume you will get; the more curved the brush is the more of a curl you will achieve. You'll be able to really get in there and coat the shorter lashes with the shorter bristles, and with the longer bristles you will get length.”
When Should I Toss Mascara?
Like most beauty products, mascara sadly doesn’t last forever. After about three months, Gene recommends throwing out your mascara and replacing it. “You should throw it away at that point or prior if the product has dried out and has become less effective,” he explains.