My personal 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
Marc Jacobs O!Mega Lash
Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara
Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara
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
This mascara got a lot of buzz when it first launched, and I'm happy to report it lives up to the hype. The formula is super inky, which can make it a little tricky to control until you get used to it, but the length and volume payoff is worth it. Of all the mascaras I tested, this was the only one that actually got me compliments from other people.
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions
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
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
Glossier Lash Slick
Peter Thomas Roth Lashes To Die For
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
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
Buxom Lash Volumizing Mascara
MAC Haute & Naughty Too Black Lash
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
L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original
Avon True Color Love At 1st Lash Mascara
Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara
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
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.