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Found: The BEST Mascara [9 Brands Tested & Compared]

January 7, 2019


Erin Schrader

The Great Mascara Test

It’s the one beauty product I rarely ever leave home without – mascara. There’s just something about those tubes of black goodness that make us go from dead to alive in three coats flat. Without it, I question if eye lashes even exist but with it, our eyes can pop more than your hips after droppin’ and lockin’ [yes, that was a 2007 throwback reference]. While I’ve been an avid mascara wearer since 2000, I’ve never experimented with different brands to actually figure out which mascara actually works best. And we’re talking WORKS. I’m one of those who believes in the power of volume. I don’t want my eyes to stand out just a little bit, but a lot of bit. I’ll take every millimeter of length and width I can get when it comes to my eyes. What I don’t want, however? Clumping. Flaking. Messy. Today, we’re taking you on a mascara journey to figure out exactly which ones are worth swiping up [on your lashes] and which ones you’re better off without. We’ve put 9 different top rated mascaras to the test, wore them each for a day, took before/after photos, compiled notes and are bringing you our top picks along with scores for each!

ps. Interested in other beauty / fashion comparisons? You can see them all here!

The Mascara Brands We Tested

How We Tested

Myself and LIY team member, Lauren, each tried a different brand of mascara from the list above for nine consecutive days. I tested all of the regular formulas of mascara while Lauren tested all of the waterproof versions of mascara. As we used each mascara, we took photos of ourselves in one coat and three coats [no other eye makeup applied] along with writing down notes on how the mascara rated in the following categories:

  • Flaking – Did the mascara flake onto the skin as it was being applied and/or during the course of the day?
  • Clumping – Did the mascara clump when applying?
  • Lengthening – Did the mascara lengthen the lashes?
  • Volume – Did the mascara add volume to the lashes?
  • Spyder Lashes – Did the mascara leave our eyelashes looking like spider legs?
  • Waterproof Mascaras – Did the waterproof formula really work all day long?

Mascara Tips For Applying

When it comes to applying your mascara, I have three simple suggestions for making the most of your lashes:

1. Apply mascara first to the front side of your lashes [the standard side you typically apply]  one to two coats. 

2. Now do one to two coats on the backside of your lashes. This always makes my mascara stand out significantly more. 

3. Finish with doing one to two coats more on the front side along with a coat or two to your bottom lashes as well. 

The Results

It’s time to get to the good, the bad and the BEAUTIFUL. To make things simple, I’m going to go through each mascara sharing both mine and Lauren’s results at the same time. You’ll see how we rated each one [myself on the regular formula and Lauren on the waterproof formula] and notes for each one! Without further ado, I present to you our top rated mascaras……

Maybelline Lash Sensational – Under $10! I’m not going to lie, it was hard to deem one my top pick as I loved several, but this is the one I continue to reach for since this comparison. I love the curved wand of this mascara and that it lengthens super well, adds enough volume without major clumping and I’ve never had one problem with flaking! For under $10, I will be buying this mascara over and over again! 

Waterproof Version: Maybelline Lash Sensational

With one coat it doesn’t have much of an effect, but by adding multiple coats it gets clumpy quickly! The waterproof portion really holds well. No tears [thanks Hallmark movies], shower, or face wash took this off!Lancome Monsieur Big – $25It is no joke that this mascara adds some serious volume and length, probably the most of the group that I tried! It almost felt like fiber lashes to me with how it went on! While I felt a little spider-like in this mascara, Lauren chose this as her favorite and for good reason [you’ll see her photos below and WOW – those lashes]! After reading Lauren’s notes about this mascara and how to apply, I want to try again for better results! I experienced no flaking with this mascara as well which was a huge plus! 

Waterproof Version: Lancome Monsieur Big

Whoa. They’re not joking when they Monsieur BIG! These make my lashes look huge! After one coat they were more noticeable, but nothing to knock my socks off. After two and then three coats they were huge! They did start to get a big clumpy if I let them dry at all between coats, so you’ll want to be quick about that so that doesn’t happen. Covergirl LashBlast Volume – Under $10!On paper, this mascara scored nearly a perfect score for me, however, I don’t know if it would be my daily go-to only because I like volume. While it doesn’t flake, doesn’t clump at all [this was the BEST for not clumping] and lengthens like crazy, I didn’t think it did much for adding some “oomph” to my eyes. Overall though, an excellent mascara for the price! 

Waterproof Version: Covergirl LashBlast Volume

This mascara went on very smooth, with no noticeable clumping. After both one and two coats I didn’t really notice much of an impact, but the third coat seemed to be the real difference maker! Holy smokes, this would not come off. My normal eye makeup remover would not take this off. I had to switch to a more intense “like it was never there” eye makeup remover and scrub.L’oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise – Under $10! I had heard that this mascara has been named the dupe to the oh so popular “Better than Sex” mascara many of us buy, but at a much lower price. I must admit – I would choose this one over Better Than Sex any day! I feel like it does a great job adding volume and length! My only one complaint is that when applying, I felt like it did flake a little bit. I will be using this again! 

Waterproof Version: L’oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise

One coat was good- it made a noticeable difference. Two coats got clumpy FAST. As in, I had to keep putting on more to try to separate the lashes that had all turned into one giant lash. It ended up evening out okay, and I liked the overall finished look, but it would have been a perfect time to try a lash separator. Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes – $23!I was so excited to try this mascara as I’ve heard a lot of great things. First things first, the packaging is quite impressive. I thought it did an amazing job at adding some serious length to my lashes after a few coats and never got that clumpy which was nice. It did take a little while to dry which was a little bit of a downfall. It also flaked a little throughout the day which was a bummer! 

Waterproof Version: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes

With one coat, I was impressed with how much it added! It was a bit clumpy with just one coat, but once I had my next two coats, it seemed to even itself out!. One note on this one- it took awhile to dry. If I would touch it [even an hour later] I could pull it off because it was still gooey.

L’oreal Voluminous Black – Under $10!While this mascara wasn’t my favorite, it did the job. I did notice that it left several marks on my skin while applying as it seemed extra “wet”. It did do a good job lengthening, but I didn’t find it adding the volume that I desire. I wont be using this mascara again!

Waterproof Version: L’oreal Voluminous Black

I was impressed with how it appeared after one application, but even more so after three. It seemed to add both volume and length, without clumping. A workout and shower kept the mascara completely smudge free!

Too Faced Better Than Sex -$24I had purchased this mascara awhile ago after seeing so much about it. While I loved it initially, I have since realized just how much it flakes during the day which can be super annoying when trying to have your makeup last all day. It does do an excellent job lengthening and not clumping, but at the price, I don’t think it’s worth buying. 

Waterproof Version: Too Faced Better Than Sex

It seemed to clump some right away when first pulling it out of the tube. I had to be cautious with even one coat. The second and third coat seemed to just evenly apply the clumping, so maybe this is just a thicker mascara than the others!

Pacifica Aquarian Glaze – Under $10 [vegan]I knew this mascara wasn’t going to win as soon as my husband saw me and said “why does it look like you have darts for eyelashes today?!” I think he said it best. This mascara clumped pretty bad for me and seemed very wet as well. It didn’t lengthen much at all and while I can appreciate that it is vegan, I don’t think it’s the mascara for me. Waterproof Version: Pacifica Aquarian Glaze

I really liked the comb type brush that Pacifica uses. It goes on well, without clumping! I will say, this is not a true waterproof mascara. In the shower it all came off- not partially, but almost completely. It could survive through a workout, but I’m not sure about tears/swimming/etcClinique High Impact Mascara – $19This was my lowest rated mascara of the group. It seemed extra wet and messy to me as I applied and while it did lengthen my lashes some, it didn’t add the desired volume I would like to see. Waterproof Version: Clinique High Impact Mascara

One coat didn’t have a huge impact, BUT it did seem to add length! After three coats it still didn’t add much volume, but it wasn’t clumping AT ALL. By the end of the day, I had a bit of dark eyes and after showering it had gotten even darker

And that’s a mascara wrap! Do you have a brand that you swear by? A new one that you are excited to try? Let the lash games begin… 

share this with your best girlfriends:

  1. Chastity Kennedy says:

    I would love to see how Benefit’s They’re Real mascara compares to your other options. Personally, I love it!

  2. Tara says:

    I really like the Tarte mascaras and the monsieur big, but Benefit They’re Real can’t be beat. Great application without being clumpy or wet, no flakes, lasts all day and through sweat and tears, lengthens and adds volume.

  3. Tia Morrison says:

    I totally agree that the Maybelline Lash Sensational mascara is golden. I stumbled upon it by fluke and chose it randomly. Ever since, people ask me if I’m wearing false eyelashes but I’m not! It’s great.

    Eyebrows and mascara and nothing else is a lovely combo.

  4. Paula says:

    I think your lashes look the most natural in the Too FacedxBetter Than Sex mascara. My personal favorite is Roller Lash by Benefit.

  5. Amanda says:

    I am a complete and total lover of Maybelline full and soft in blackest black. Waterproof formula ???? always gives amazing volume and it’s will give unbelievable length! It doesn’t clump!!! Always a total winning my book. I’ve used other colors in it other than black also but it’s my favorite by far. And the best part is it’s under ten bucks!!!!!! I have tried several brands but like anyone who loves make up, you always go back to the one who has never done me wrong!

  6. Sarah Romans says:

    Do either of you also use any lab lengthening serums?

  7. Lynn says:

    My favorites aren’t here! Love Bad Gal Bang and They’re Real, both by Benefit! Also Younique Epic is a new discovery!

  8. Amber Davis says:

    I am a obsessed with mascara it would always be a desert isle necessity! One that is always overlooked is CoverGirl The Supersizer Fibers. It is amazing and takes a quarter of the time to achieve the look you want as compared to others. Still love my other mascaras but this one I love because when I am in a hurry I can have beautiful lashes very quickly. Thanks for your article.

  9. This was a great idea so show how the different mascaras looked when applied (man, a lot of work though processing allthose photos).

  10. Karla says:

    Save yourself time and money! The only mascara you need is the Benefit badgal bang…. is truly life changing!!!

  11. Kristin says:

    Perversion by Urban Decay does wonders for my lashes

  12. Lisa says:

    I LOVE Benefit They’re Real. Totally worth the price!

  13. Amy says:

    Thanks for this post! Mascara is my must have beauty product! I used to switch between Lights, Camera, Lashes and Better than Sex for the longest time until Lash Paradise came on the scene. I only use this mascara now and LOVE IT. As of recently I’ve been using the Lash Paradise base with the mascara and it’s been a game changer! I love my lashes and it doesn’t flake on me. I feel like using the base gives my lashes even more volume and length. Even when I don’t curl them with a lash curler they look amazing. The set costs around 12.99.

  14. Cindy says:

    I loved this comparison with the photos. I had thin light colored lashes. Nothing really made them “pop”. I used Rodan and Fields Lash Boost Conditioning Serum and the results were phenomenal. My favorite mascara to enhance my lashes is L’Oreal voluminous white primer followed by Lash Paradise or Telescopic both by L’Oreal. Telescopic has a narrow brush and doesn’t clump.

  15. Becky says:

    I have used L’oreal Voluminous Mascara for years. I’ve tried other brands but always come back to this one. Waterproof or not. I’ve found the lengthening feature to be the most natural. We all like what we like, but volume isn’t something I try to produce. It’s so 80s to be all goopied up in mascara…or clumpy as mentioned in the comparisons above. But, like I said, we all have our own preferences about things! Thanks for the hard work for our benefit!!

  16. Jessica says:

    Big fan of BiG Mon Sieur! So glad you included this in your group…I’ll just stay the course with this one. I tried Better than Sex for a few months (as so many bloggers raved about it)but also found it flaked. I did Lancôme Hupnose for years before BIg MS enters the scene

  17. Deena says:

    Mac discontinued my all time favorite Opulash which was one of the ‘tube’ mascaras. No smudging in the morning (when you don’t quite get it all off at night). Wondering if yuh found any new mascaras with this technology

  18. Amy says:

    Love this post! Mascara is my must have beauty product! I used to switch between Lights, Camera, Lashes and Better than Sex until Lash Paradise came on the scene. I now use it daily! I recently bought the Lash Paradise Mascara and Base duo and it has been a game changer for my lashes. It retails for around $12.99 and is worth the extra step. I feel like it gives my lashes that little something extra!

  19. Katie L says:

    You should definitely try Thrive mascara

  20. Sheryl says:

    Where is Beautycounter? So disappointed! People need a safer one that actually works:) http://www.beautycounter.com/sherylmenah

    • erin says:

      We LOVE Beautycounter products, but unfortunately chose not to include it in this comparison! We’ll keep that one in mind for future beauty product tests!

  21. Colleen Allgyer says:

    I have tried several $25 mascara by Benefit that I like such as Roller Lash and BANG but I keep coming back to Carbon Black by L’Oréal for $8.99!!

  22. Amy B says:

    I’m really liking Este Lauder Pure Color Envy Lash Multi Effects right now!

  23. Valerie says:

    Have you ever done an eyeliner comparison? I am looking for a great one but they all smudge off.

  24. Erin says:

    Love this post! I love UD Perversion and Tarte Maneater! Benefit They’re Real is gorgeous on your lashes but tough to get off and was pretty rough on my lashes.

  25. Karen says:

    I also like Thrive but it flaked a little for me. My go to is hourglass film noir. A bit pricy at $28, so I want to try your top rated $10 brand. Thanks for the info

  26. Kim says:

    I’m in love with Buxom mascara!!! I used to use better than sex but it would smudge on my eyelid.
    I know this is a mascara post but can we talk about your sweater for a second?? Where is it from??

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