Lately, I’ve been on a mascara mission. For me, not only does the perfect mascara have to look great, and add the perfect amount of volume to my lashes, but it can’t run; I have deep set eyes and often end up with black mascara under my eyes as the day progresses. As a professional makeup artist, that is definitely not going to work.
Every time I visit a drugstore or department store, I grab another tube hoping this will be the one I’ve been searching for: The perfect mascara. But it’s been hard to find. So if you’re having the same issues — and again, I’m a pro — I totally get it. So I’m here to help.
Now, I’m not sure that I can tell you there is any one ultimate perfect mascara, but I have, after many months of searching, narrowed my picks down to my favorite mascaras at this moment, in each of four categories. I alternate among them depending on the occasion.
Related: 7 drugstore beauty products that are better than the expensive stuff
A few things to keep in mind:
Every woman has a different eye shape and with that, comes preference for different wands and features. Also, I personally aim for lash volume over length so I prefer mascaras that deliver on that front. If you want to add length as well, you can use any of these mascaras, but additionally, I recommend you give your lashes a few squeezes with an eyelash curler first, then twist the brush up while you apply.
With that, here are the best mascaras that have worked for me, and also for my clients. Enjoy!
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1) The Best Drugstore Mascaras
L’Oréal Voluminous $8.49
This mascara is a cult classic and for good reason. Length is nice but, as I mentioned above, I like my lashes to look thicker and darker. Voluminous goes on smooth and silky with no breakage or flaking that I’ve noticed, and I’m always happy with the way it comes out. And the price is a major bonus — plus the convenience of being able to grab it in nearly any drugstore in town. For me, that time saver is worth so much!
L’Oréal Voluminous Butterfly Intenza $8.99
Even though this mascara is newer to me, I want to make sure to give it a mention. I’ve been using it for about a month now and I’m really happy with the results so far. The formula is amazing but it’s the brush that really takes the cake for me. It has a unique shape designed to provide a winged-out look for your lashes; I find I can use the flat end to wiggle the brush back and forth for volume and then switch to the skinny side for some curl of my lashes, while adding length and separation.
2) The Best High-end Mascara
MAC Extreme Dimension 3D Black Lash Mascara $23
When I want to go glam with my lashes, I reach for this terrific mascara from MAC, which is the whole package. It provides both volume and length, without flaking throughout the day. As I mentioned, I have deep set eyes which creates more opportunity for smudging under my eyes than the average person. Yet I’ve only had one day in two months of using Extreme Dimension 3D where I noticed any smudging — and even then, it was minimal.
The one slight negative I want to mention is that it’s a “wet” formula coupled with a big brush, so you really have to wait for it to dry or the mascara can get a little messy. I don’t mind though, because it’s that very combo that also makes it work so well.
Related: 7 favorite beauty product splurges that are absolutely worth it
3) The Best Waterproof Mascara
MAC Extreme Dimension 3D Black Lash Waterproof Mascara $23
While some women like to wear waterproof mascara every day, I don’t recommend it because it can really dry out your lashes over time, leading to breakage. (Yikes.) However there are times when having a great waterproof mascara is necessary — a trip the beach, a high humidity day, or a wedding (or movie date!) where shedding a few tears is guaranteed. But for those times, you do want one that works and that makes MAC’s outstanding waterproof formula worth the splurge.
As a makeup artist I always keep this waterproof mascara in my makeup kit for bridal makeup since it really provides all the benefits of the regular formula I love.
4) The Best Smudge-proof Mascara
Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Smudge Proof Mascara $28
Back before Henri Bendel was in every mall and still sold cosmetics at their flagship 5th Avenue Manhattan store, I worked at one of the makeup counters. I learned about Kevyn Aucoin mascara then and it’s been a staple in my personal makeup bag ever since. Women would come in from all over the world and buy 10 at a time!
Now if you look at reviews, this is definitely a different kind of mascara making it one of those products that women either love or hate. Me? I love it. I find it makes your lashes look great but the real magic with this mascara is that it is completely smudge and flake-proof — but not waterproof. In fact, you can take it off with just warm water.
I should warn you that it’s a little strange at first because unlike traditional mascaras, the formula is actually made of fibers that form tubes around your lashes; when you rub the fibers off with warm water, it kind looks like the fibers are lashes. So don’t freak when you look in your sink! I feel it strengthens my lashes (though I can’t prove it) and in fact I even sleep in this mascara and wait until I’m in the shower in the morning to wash it off; the steam just makes them glide right off with a little rub of my finger or a cotton pad. And even while removing it, I don’t end up with black under my eyes. The tiny brush is great to wiggle back-and-forth to really create the most volume, too.
However there is one negative aspect, which is that despite the high price, the formula dries up quickly in the tube — so make sure you close it extra tight after each use.
(Also a note: There seems to have been a bad shipment back in April looking at some consumer reviews, and that seems to have been rectified. I can only say having used this for years, I remain a fan.)
Have a make-up question for Kristyn? Want to book her for an event or makeup bag intervention? You can visit her at her site, Shimmer and Spice.