perfect mascara is one that does it all: lengthens, volumizes, curls... basically, I find applying false lashes nearly impossible, so I'm always on the hunt for a mascara that gets me essentially the same look without all the glue. "A really good mascara" is one of the products I get asked to recommend most often, and although I've tried plenty throughout my years as a beauty editor, I had never really compared them side by side — plus, I knew there were plenty on the market I hadn't ever put on my lashes.
So, I set out to test as many as possible to reconfirm that my favorites really were my favorites, and find some great new mascaras to add to my rotation. Some parameters: I would only test black mascara, and I skipped testing waterproof versions of a formula that was otherwise the same. I was mainly looking for a good balance of volume and length — something that would give me a dramatic before-and-after effect, rather than something that lasted all day (although that seems to be standard in formulation at this point — pretty much every one I tried didn't budge).
Out of the 94
mascaras I tried, these were the ones that worked best for me. Dior Diorshow Mascara Dior Diorshow Mascara, $29.50, Sephora
Clearly, there's a reason Diorshow has reached cult status among mascara lovers. It lifted and separated my lashes while adding plenty of volume without getting clumpy.
Marc Jacobs O!Mega Lash Marc Jacobs O!Mega Lash Volumizing Mascara, $26, Sephora
This one instantly lifted my lashes, and added a bunch of volume. Bonus: I happened to have a bit of a cry the day I tested this one, and it
still stayed on until I used makeup remover at night. Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara, $9.49, Ulta
Sadly for my wallet, there were only a few mascaras under $10 that I really liked during this experiment, and Maybelline's Total Temptation was one. It has a nice, big, fluffy brush that delivers a ton of volume.
Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara, $24, Sephora
I'm always a little wary of a gimmick, but this cannabis-infused mascara with heart-shaped fibers really did live up to its volumizing promise. It builds up super nicely, so you can layer up the formula to get your ideal lash effect. Also, it smells
very good. Benefit BadGal BANG Mascara Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions, $24, Thrive Causemetics
This wasn't the most volumizing mascara I tried, but the length was really dramatic. It also contains an orchid stem cell complex that's supposed to encourage lash growth — perfect for this moment in my life, when a chunk of lashes had just fallen out of my right eye.
Tarte Lights Camera Flashes Statement Mascara Tarte Lights Camera Flashes Statement Mascara, $23, Sephora
This was one of my first favorite mascaras as a beauty editor, and I was glad to see it still held up to my now much higher standards. The formula is super black and, because the brush has two different sized bristles, creates a great combination of length, volume, and curl.
No7 Lash Impact Ultra No7 Lash Impact Ultra, $10.99, Target
This mascara brush tapers in on the top
and bottom, which (I think) made it easy to hit both the inner and outer corners without having to turn the brush sideways. It also has a ton of bristles, which really separated my lashes. Glossier Lash Slick Lash Slick, $16, Glossier
This lived up to its pre-launch hype of being a very good everyday mascara. Just like the rest of Glossier's product range, Lash Slick creates a more natural look. I was a big fan of the brush, which is flexible and tapers off so you can get into the corners.
Peter Thomas Roth Lashes To Die For $22 Peter Thomas Roth Lashes To Die For, , Sephora
Peter Thomas Roth is certainly not known for makeup (Sephora sells six PTR makeup products, compared to 69 in the skin care category) so I was pleasantly surprised when the brand's mascara turned out to be one of my faves. In addition to looking great, it has macadamia nut oil, bamboo extract, and pro vitamin B5 to help strengthen and nourish lashes.
MAC False Lashes Extreme Black False Lashes Extreme Black Mascara, $24, MAC Cosmetics
My notes from the day I tried this one started off with "LOVED this mascara!" It was really easy to apply (something I thought was true of all mascaras before I started this experiment — turns out, it's not) and adds my ideal amount of length and volume. I wore it to a dancing-heavy wedding, and it didn't budge all night.
Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill Mascara Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill Mascara, $32, Sephora
Wowow, talk about
really good mascara. In addition to giving me excellent length, volume, and separation, it withstood the ultimate test: After I cried my way through cutting onions, the formula was still completely intact. Buxom Lash Volumizing Mascara MAC Haute & Naughty Too Black Lash MAC Haute & Naughty Too Black Lash, $24, MAC Cosmetics
I have to disagree with the name of this one: I thought it was the perfect amount of black. Also, it's a 2-in-1 mascara, because it comes with two brushes nestled into each other. Cool! I used the volumizing brush (which worked really well, especially at the roots of my lashes) in this photo, but it also comes with a defining brush to separate.
No7 Lash Extender Mascara Rodial Glamolash Mascara XXL Rodial Glamolash Mascara XXL, $28, Blue Mercury
By this point in the testing, I was realizing I really like big, fluffy brushes with bristles that go in a bunch of different directions. Rodial's mascara has that, and therefore gives loads of volume.
Diorshow Pump'N'Volume Diorshow Pump'N'Volume, $29.50, Sephora
With the help of this super black mascara, my lashes stayed volumized and lifted all day. Also, I really like the rubberized texture of the tube — it made the mascara much easier to hold.
L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original, $7.99, Ulta
Another under-$10 fave! I loved how dark the formula was, and that it gave me results almost identical to some of the $30 mascaras I tried.
Avon True Color Love At 1st Lash Mascara Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara, $29, Sephora
The fancy gold tube is what initially drew me to this luxe mascara, but I was excited to see that the formula inside was just as good. Its biggest strength is definitely how much the brush separates the lashes, but it adds some solid volume at the roots, too.
Rimmel ScandalEyes Volume Flash Mascara Benefit Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara Benefit Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara, $25, Ulta
I've tried plenty of "curling" mascaras in my day, but this is the only one that actually makes me consider ditching a lash curler. It's less dramatic than BADGal BANG! but still offers tons of length and separation.
Ciate Wonderwand Intensely Volumizing Mascara