Love it or Leave It: The Best Mascaras and The Worst Mascaras
Big, bad lashes have been the hallmark of sex appeal since women in the early 1900s began amping up their lashes with homemade concoctions crafted from hot beads of wax. If that sounds dangerous, consider that some women today are opting for Eyelash Transplants. The procedure, which can run upwards of $3,000, is done by harvesting hair from the scalp and implanting it into the lash line.
And then there are eyelash extensions, semi-permanent add-ons that cost $150 to $300 and serve up faux, fluttery lashes that can last up to three months… sans the use of mascara. (More on Lash Extensions here.)
But for the vast majority of women, mascara is still the quickest and cheapest way to achieve ooh-la-la lashes for day-to-day beauty. So we put mascaras to the test, trying over 100 varieties in our search for the best of the best. Along the way, we found a few that no woman should shell out her hard earned cash for and a few that stood out as stunningly effective, regardless of price.
Love it! Mirenesse’s Instant Lash Transplant ($49.95), is a two step lash extension system that the company claims will “add up to 10X the volume or lengthen lashes by up to 200% for over 24hrs.”
The system includes a transplant gel which is applied prior to applying a lash fiber product. Next, the transplant gel is applied once more. This one may take some practice, but once you get proficient at application, Mirenesse’s Instant Lash Transplant really delivers.
Love It! NYX Doll Eye Mascara is a fabulous lengthening mascara for those looking for strictly lengthening minus curl. The applicator is unique, thick in the middle and wider at the ends, but it's tiny fibers in the mascara that serve up that long lashed, doll-eyed look. This mascara works especially well on lower lashes. Choose from lengthening, volumizing or waterproof versions, all of which are $9 each at nyxcosmetics.com.
Love it! Lush Eyes Right Mascara is not the very best mascara we have ever tried. But, it is a very good mascara that calls upon a fresh wheatgrass base, only one preservative (versus the four to six that many other mascaras contain), and it is absolutely, positively animal cruelty-free. Get a five gram bottle for $18.95 at Lush stores and at lushusa.com.
Leave it. L'oreal Double Extend Mascara is half good, which, of course, means it's also half bad. The dual ended mascara goes on in two steps. Step one is the nourishing base coat, and this is the part of the product we love. Step two, the "Ultra Lengthening Tube Top Coat," is where the product falls short. The second step lends a thick, clumpy appearance to lashes and creates large flakes that fall from lashes throughout the day, landing with a proverbial thud all around the lower eye lids.
Love it! Rimmel’s Glam’Eyes Lash Flirt Mascara boasts a thin, easy-to-maneuver wand that makes lengthening and separating lashes a breeze. And this affordably priced mascara doesn’t disappoint, offering long, lush lashes that fit within any beauty budget at less than $8 at local drugstores.
Leave it. Avon's Daring Definition Mousse Mascara embodies all the traits that a mascara should not be. It flakes, it runs, it smears easily. It applies thickly, tends to clump and yet doesn't noticeably lengthen lashes. We love a lot of things about Avon, Avon's Foundation for Women being one of them, but this product is a definite "leave it."
Love it! Shiseido's Perfect Mascara Full Definition is, as the name promises, simply perfect. This rich formula does an excellent job of coating each and every lash in thick, rich color without clumping. The dual-textured brush adds volume to tiny lashes, while separating and lengthening thicker lashes (and conditioning lashes with Camellia Oil Complex too boot). Perfect Mascara is ultra-buildable, so you can apply more than one coat, and reasonably priced at $24 at department stores or online at shiseido.com.
Love it! Maybelline XXL Pro Volume
We raved below about a pricey – but worth it – mascara and primer duo from Kanebo and now we’ve discovered the bargain bin alternative for drugstore divas. Maybelline’s new XXL Pro Volume Mascara, available in washable and waterproof formulas, promises to amp up volume thanks to a dual sided applicator that builds lashes with a primer like product and then adds color with the mascara itself. The microfiber base coat delivers on its promise to increase volume while the topcoat serves up intense color that is oh-so-buildable. Best of all, this affordable mascara actually lasts; grab a tube for $7.29 at Target stores.
Leave it: Givenchy’s Phenomen'Eyes Mascara
They say “revolutionary,” we say “ridiculous,” and you’ll say “thank you” when you heed our advice and avoid wasting $29 on this disappointing mascara. The wand, which closely resembles a medieval weapon, is intriguing at first glance. Plus, with a reputable brand like Givenchy in its corner, we thought perhaps there was in fact some genius in the strange looking, purportedly patented apparatus. Not so; the odd wand, round with pointed brushes that appear almost barb like, is in fact unwieldy. It left us with no more than a poke in the eye and clumpy lashes for our troubles. (Not to worry, Givenchy, we still adore your Lip Gloss Interdit.)
Love it! Napoleon Perdis Glamorista Mascara
We have to admit, we’re sick to death of words such as “fashionista,” “thriftista” and “recessionista," but Glamorista from Set by Napoleon Perdis makes our heart go pitter patter. It wasn’t love at first sight; the hard, skinny brush really isn’t our “type” but we decided to flirt with a mascara outside of our comfort zones. Thanks to a fabulous multi-faced wand that plumps and lengthens as well as working on short lower lashes or long upper lashes, we quickly became committed to Glamorista. The formula is ultra buildable, meaning you can apply coat after coat of the black stuff without sticking or clumping. This relationship could have what it takes to make our lashes go the distance; get it for $15 at Target.com.
Leave it. CoverGirl Exact Eyelights Mascara
Clearly we women are confused about our makeup. That is the only thing that explains why we would fall for the old makeup that enhances your eye color trick. True, one of our editors has brown eyes, but so does Kim Kardashian, Gwen Stefani and Janet Jackson. Surely other factors, such as hair color, skin tone, etc., affect which makeup hues would best suit each of these women, right? Not surprisingly, this mascara didn’t deliver on its promise to “brighten” those brown eyes but it did serve up a side of flaking with a touch of glitter that may be mildly irritating to sensitive eyes. Leave this gimmicky mascara at the counter -- or trade it for the CoverGirl Lash Blast below-- and remember what Momma taught you: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Love it! Sue Devitt’s Amplifying Mascara
When we think of the Sue Devitt Studio collection, we think of vibrant hues, such as the “blue waters” and “green isles” of Devitt’s Destination Eye Palettes. So, we weren’t sure what to expect from the black as night Amplifying Mascara housed in a non-descript tube with the name Sue Devitt in simple script on the side. Shame on us! Not cheap — $28 at suedevittbeauty.com – but worth every penny, the mascara is designed to take the place of false lashes, serving up length and thickness, thanks to a proprietary formula featuring Beeswax, and a special brush that the Devitt website says lengthens and lifts lashes at the root (oh, yes it does). Strangely, after a few uses, our lashes appear nourished, soft and malleable yet surprisingly long and luxe with never, ever a flake in sight.
Leave it: CoverGirl’s Fantastic Lash
At first, we were happily surprised with this mascara. It went on smoothly and appeared to lengthen our lashes (but didn't thicken lashes at all). In the ultimate stroke of irony, we discovered that the mascara flaked as the day wore on and yet was difficult to remove at bed time. We'll take a pass. (You should do the same.)
Love it! CoverGirl’s Lash Blast
We’re eternally skeptical about inexpensive mascaras so we have to give full credit to a close friend who insisted that we spend $8.49 on CoverGirl’s Lash Blast. Housed in a thick orange container, we were even more cynical when we pulled out the product’s bulky applicator — normally a dead giveaway that the mascara will end up on our eye lids, not our eyelashes. But Lash Blast defied all of our preconceived notions, serving up surprisingly thick and full lashes.
Turns out the oversized applicator works brilliantly, in fact the CoverGirl calls it a “volumizing brush” designed to amp up lashes thanks to 50% more bristles than the leading blush. Smudge-proof, smear-proof and hypoallergenic, the volumizing mascara is also available in a waterproof formula. Get it for $8.49 at Walgreens.
Leave it: Max Factor's Vivid Impact
Retailing at about $12, this product earned a definitive spot on our "leave it" list. Perhaps it's because we're out of grade school, but we just don't get the appeal of sporting pink and blue lashes.
That's right, this dual ended mascara features a blue base coat meant to be "highlighted" by a pink topcoat. We tried several times because, surely, the experts at Max Factor must know something we don't. Turns out, everyone makes mistakes. This products completely misses the mark.
Love it: Sensai by Kanebo's Mascara 38˚C
We're the first to admit that this is some pricey mascara. The problem is, we think it's worth every penny.
We're obsessed with, Mascara 38˚C Eyelash Base ($28) and Mascara 38˚C ($32) from Sensai by Kanebo. Apply the base coat first followed by the mascara for long and lush lashes that left one friend inquiring where we’d gotten our lash extensions (touch ‘em—they’re real).
Order the duo by phone at 866.271.6815.
Leave it: Cargo's Blue Ray Mascara
We're big fans of the Cargo brand but believe us, dolls, don't waste your dollars on this mascara.
The comb applicator has very short teeth that are meant to keep the mascara from clumping. As a side effect, this mascara is awkward to apply. Yes, with some practice application became a bit easier, but, with a price tag of about $20, we can't afford to waste the time (or money) on this product.
Love it! Eyelash Lab Max 2 Special Mascara Gold
We happened across this obscure boutique brand mascara after an eyelash extension treatment at a favorite local salon. Natural ingredients, such as royal jelly and herbal extracts, make this formula ideal for lash extensions. (Lash extensions don't need mascara but some habits are hard to break.)
What we discovered post lash extensions is that this mascara works wonders when applied to real lashes, giving our lashes extreme length and thickness that we've yet to duplicate with other products. Retails for $25 at upscale salons and spas or online at Amazon.com.
Leave it: Intense I-Color Lengthening Mascara from Almay
We’ve tested our fair share of beauty products but we just couldn’t seem to get Almay’s Intense I-Color Lengthening Mascara on without applying color to both our lashes and upper eyelids. The formula is fine but the thick, bulky applicator is awkward, making precision application impossible. This product left us $7.99 poorer and in need of a good eye makeup remover.
Love it: Lights, Camera, Lashes! by Tarte Cosmetics
Promising movie-star worthy lashes, Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes! came through, delivering long and lush lashes that did not flake. In fact, at our monthly facial the esthetician commented about how fabulous our lashes were. “It’s not our lashes, it’s the mascara,” we replied. Lights, Camera, Lashes! by Tarte Cosmetics; $18 at tartecosmetics.com.
Leave it: Volume Couture by Max Factor
At about seven bucks, the price is right for Max Factor’s Volume Couture Mascara. Touted as the Official Mascara of Milan Fashion Week, the product is said to serve up “extreme volume without clumping.” At first application, this promise seemed true; our lashes were instantly long, dark and defined. Unfortunately, Max Factor’s Volume Couture Mascara ultimately failed us by flaking off throughout the day, leaving our lower eyelids dusted with black bits of mascara. Unless your style icon is a raccoon, leave this one at the counter.
Love it: Boots No7 Mascara
Available in a variety of formulas from Maximum Volume to Sensitive to Water Proof, we were was impressed with the entire Boots No7 Mascara Collection. Affordably priced at about $7 to $9 and available locally at Target stores and online at Target.com, Boots No7 Mascaras serve up wearability, staying power and ease of use in black, brown or navy hues.
Leave it: 2000 Calorie Extreme Lash Plumper by Max Factor
Max Factor's $11.49 2000 calorie extreme lash plumper is an extremely poor product. From the bulky wand to the mascara that ended up flaking as the day went on; this product truly misses the mark.
Leave it. Revlon DoubleTwist Mascara
Epic fail for Revlon with this DoubleTwist Mascara that delivers a double serving of disappointment via a bulky, awkward applicator that's among the worst we've tried. And with a retail price of nearly $9, fairly pricey by drugstore standards, we just saved you some serious dough.
Leave it. L'oreal Extra Volume Collagen Mascara
Promising to deliver volume, L'oreal's Extra Volume Collagen delivered a clumpy, gooey mess directly to our lashes, setting a new record for the messiest mascara we've tried.
Friends recommended we wipe off the wand before applying but we recommend opting for a mascara that's lower maintenance.