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The 9 Very Best Mascaras

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

No matter the contents of your makeup bag, no kit is truly complete without a mascara. But just as each person’s eyelashes differ from the next, so too does the formula, brush type and finish of a mascara vary from tube to tube. For example, I have rather average lashes, so I like a volumising mascara, with a brush that really fans my lashes out as if I’m wearing semi-permanent extensions. However, if you have shorter lashes, you might be looking for a lengthening mascara, with a formula that can be built upon without clumping. Either way, sifting through the zillions of options to find a mascara right for you — without wasting any money — can seem a little overwhelming.

So, we asked nine experts — including makeup artists and beauty writers — about the mascaras that they use on themselves, and their clients. Then, I researched the formulations, brush types, and, of course, reviews for each product in order to discover exactly what each option offers. If you already know the type of mascara that you’re looking for (is it waterproof? Volumising?) you can use our guide below to jump straight to that specific section. Otherwise, read on for our pick of the nine very best mascaras, for any type of lash.

Best overall | Best (less expensive) | Best volumising | Best lengthening | Best waterproof | Best vegan | Best clump-proof | Best mascara for inner lashes | Best natural

What we’re looking for:

A noticeable lift: No matter what finish you’re looking for, you want there to be a noticeable lift to the lash: That’s kind of the bread-and-butter of mascara. How this “lift” is achieved is a matter of personal preference. Depending on whether you want a natural enhancement or a dramatic spider-like effect, you’ll want to pay special attention to the kind of lift (lengthening? Volumising?) each mascara promises. This is often achieved through the shape of each brush, and the size of its respective bristles. But no matter your finish of choice, here’s a tip from makeup artist Lauren Aiello on the best technique for generally enhancing thickness, and giving anyone’s lash that extra lift: “After applying a coat to the underside of your lashes,” she says, “look down and apply one to the top, starting from the root and combing through, flicking upward at the ends.” To magnify the results, she recommends that you always go for a second coat.

A long-lasting formula: A good mascara shouldn’t budge: It should be long-wearing. The idea of nipping to the bathroom ten times per day to re-apply is far from appealing, and less appealing still is the resultant flakiness caused by excessive layering of product. In order to avoid an inky blizzard spoiling your look, a mascara that can be applied and almost all but forgotten about is key. As many of these long lasting mascaras can be a pain to remove with conventional methods, you’ll want to invest in a gentle, oil-based remover, like Glossier Milky Oil, a personal favourite of our own Rio Viera-Newton.

True colour payoff: Whether you’re sticking to a classic black, or branching out in hue, you’ll want your formula to deliver whatever it says in the tube. We’ve sifted through reviews, and even pictures of the products in action, to make sure each black is an inky ebony, and to ascertain just how vibrant a green we’re talking about.

Non-clumping: Finally, a good mascara is a mascara that defines each individual lash. Each of the nine vetted options on our list have a clump-free formula. In general though, you should keep in mind that mascaras typically expire after three months (so take note of the date you opened it). And if your mascara does get clumpy before the three-month mark, another tip: Add a few drops of Visine to thin it out again, says MUA Amy Zdunowski-Roeder.

Best overall mascara

Volumising | All-day wear | True Black

As a teenager, I picked up my first miniature tube of They’re Real from the counter in Boots. Years later, it’s the one mascara that I keep coming back to. The uniquely-designed dome brush features staggered bristles that grab lashes from their very root. It also has tips poised on the end, which works with the product to separate and define corner lashes. The formula itself is a rich, long-wear, true-black pigment that keeps your lashes looking long all day. “This product definitely lives up to its name,” says Amy Zdunowski-Roeder, who promises that from the first coat, your lashes will appear dramatically thicker and fuller. “The formula is long-wearing, non-smudging, and won’t dry out.”

Best (less expensive) mascara

Lengthening | Waterproof | True Black

“If you didn’t think a £5 mascara could work, think again,” promises makeup artist Amanda Shackleton. Though it’s cheaper than other brands, she likes that the petite brush can be easily manoeuvred to reach both shorter and harder to reach lashes. Shackleton recommends applying two or three coats of any mascara — including e.l.f.’s — to get a perfectly lengthened lash. One final note — e.l.f.’s inexpensive mascara is also 100 percent vegan. 

For another budget option, we also love Collection Lash Surge — it’s also 100 percent vegan. Originally recommended to me by a makeup artist friend, I used it during university (when my budget for makeup was practically nonexistent). The suitably chubby brush features enough bristles to truly coat your lashes, and the formula is available in both waterproof and non-waterproof. Despite its truly dark pigment, the mascara never causes dreaded “panda eyes” — a virtue heavily praised in its dozens of five-star reviews from Boots customers.

Best volumising mascara

Volumising | All-day wear | True Black

When it comes to selecting a type of brush, Burrell says that, just like blow-drying hair, the fatter the brush, the more volume you get. Due to its chubby shape, the Pat McGrath brush gives considerable volume, but it’s also a good all-rounder. “This one does it all,” says Burrell. “It lengthens, thickens, and curls.” Zdunowski-Roeder agrees, explaining that “the formula is so pigmented, smooth, and creamy, and the product truly lengthens lashes and is completely buildable,” she says. “It stays on all day without fail and the fact that it is non-clumping makes it even more of a winner.”

Best lengthening mascara

Lengthening | All-day wear | Jet Black

When makeup artist Kornelija Slunjski saw how much longer a client’s lashes looked after applying this mascara for the first time, she actually said “Wow” out loud. The formula (which includes lash strengthening marine collagen and honey extract) is creamy, and applies as a “triple” jet black. The brush is also well-reviewed by Slunksi, as it “separates the lashes really nicely and doesn’t make [them] look clumpy.”

For a slightly cheaper option, there’s the Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High mascara — it’s huge on TikTok. Some reviewers have noted, however, that due to the waterproof formula, the Sky High mascara is really pesky to remove, so we don’t think it trumps Urban Decay.

Best waterproof mascara

Volumising | Waterproof | Jet Black

If like me — a contact-lens wearer — your eyes tend to stream wildly with no warning, you’ll want an actually waterproof mascara. Both Shackleton and Amy Marie Wilson rely on this one from L’Oréal: They always have a tube in their kits. “I use it on everyone when there’s even a remote possibility of tears,” like weddings, says Shackleton. Wilson says the mascara is “inexpensive, lasts all day, and doesn’t transfer.” While Shackleton and Wilson told us about the Carbon Black option, L’Oréal also offers a more natural black-brown, and even vibrant options (including blue, green, and red) for those that prefer a splash of colour. One last note, makeup artist Amanda Christan Burran told us that because waterproof mascaras have a tendency to be drier (not to mention tougher to take off), it’s best to use them only for special events or nights out.

Best vegan mascara

Density-enhancing | Vegan | True Black

Although we’ve already mentioned a vegan mascara (from e.l.f..), in addition to being vegan, Kush Mascara is also gluten free, sulphate free, and fragrance free. And it gets the job done: “When I want something that adds volume and length quickly, I use Milk Makeup Kush Mascara,” says Pena. “One coat is a huge difference, but when you add several coats, this mascara gives a faux-lash effect,” due to the heart-shaped fibres that attach to the lash, and then build upon one another. The mascara is also infused with hemp-derived cannabis-seed oil to help condition the lashes and prevent fallout and breakage. And our beauty columnist Rio reaches for this mascara to complete her glam night-on-the-town look because it makes her lashes look “look really big and fluffy.”

Best clump-proof mascara

Buildable | Waterproof | Jet Black

Whilst every mascara on this list has a clump-free formula, Better Than Sex is famed for it. “This one has all the elements needed to get lashes thick, long, and separated,” promises Shackleton. The mascara’s formula is designed to be buildable, but unlike other mascaras, it doesn’t clump as you add additional coats, she adds. With each coat, the curvature of the brush allows each lash, big and small, to get an equal coating. Finally, the mascara is also waterproof, so it really doesn’t budge.

Best mascara for inner lashes

Lengthening | Waterproof | Carbon Black

When we chatted to TikTok star Loren Gray about her favourite things, she told us about this mascara from L’Oréal, hailing it as a “life-changing” product. “It makes your lashes look super long, and you can layer it to have more volume,” she said. “It never flakes off.” Gray also loves that the mascara is a “super affordable” option. Reviewers urge viewers not to be deceived by the thin appearance of the brush. Whilst it does allow for a truly precise application — even on peskier inner-corner lashes — it does leave lashes looking remarkably volumised, despite its skinny shape.

Best natural mascara

Subtle | Water-resistant | True Black

For a less heavy finish, Rio recommends Glossier’s Lash Slick mascara. She says it’s a product that makes her lashes look “subtly lengthened,” and can be worn “day to night without a trace of smudging.” Katy Schneider, a Strategist editor, also echoes Rio’s praise. “This is a remarkable product,” she says. “It simply makes your eyelashes look like better eyelashes.” As the mascara is water-resistant, not waterproof, it won’t budge for up to 12 hours of wear, but then can be soaked off with warm water (without vigorous rubbing).

Some more mascaras we've written about

Our experts:

Lauren Aiello, makeup artist.
Adam Burell, makeup artist.
Loren Gray, TikTok star.
Amy Marie Wilson, makeup artist.
Dillon Peña, makeup artist.
Katy Schneider, Strategist editor.
Amanda Shackleton, makeup artist.
Kornelija Slunjski, makeup artist.
Rio Viera-Newton, resident Strategist beauty writer.
Amy Zdunowski-Roeder, makeup artist.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The 9 Very Best Mascaras