Few things in this world are as reliably, unquestionably good as mascara. In just one swipe, it can help you look awake, polished, and put together—even if you did reach a new record for hitting the snooze button in a single morning. And it’s delightfully idiot-proof: While there are a few tricks for putting mascara on the right way, it doesn’t require the careful, hold-your-breath application of liquid eyeliner. All you really need to do is swipe, wiggle, and go.
Maybe the best thing about mascara: You can get a good, holy-grail-worthy formula for the price of your average lunch salad, so long as you know where to look—which is where we come in. Our editors have tried them all, from waterproof formulas to those created for sensitive eyes. Here, the best drugstore mascaras to give you out-to-there lashes without squeezing your budget.
I didn’t think it was possible to love a drugstore mascara so much until Maybelline came out with this volumizing one this year. Never has an affordable option packed so much product on a brush without it going on goopy or clumpy. It’s the closest dupe I’ve ever seen to my beloved Diorshow. —Lindsay Schallon, senior beauty editor
I like a lot of definition around my eyes (hence my eyeliner obsession), so when I’m looking for new mascara, I need to see “volumizing,” “thickening,” or some combo of the two under the benefits. This stuff leaves my lashes full and thick but free of clumps—which is a tall order—and surprisingly airy. And anyway, if it’s good enough for Beyoncé, it’s good enough for me. —Deanna Pai, contributing beauty writer
Workout makeup is polarizing, but regardless of whether you’re team full-face or bare-skinned at the gym, you’ll obsess over this mascara. It goes on super smooth and doesn’t flake or run. Plus, unlike others I’ve used, it doesn’t require multiple applications to get that elongated effect I always go for—meaning its great for everyday wear too. —Samantha Leach, assistant editor
I have two criteria for waterproof mascara: ultra definition and unmovable staying power. I check off both boxes with Revlon’s Volume + Length Magnified Mascara, which I restock on every other Target run during the summer. It’s beach-proof, shower-proof, and crying-over-a-breakup-proof (yep, I know from experience), with a brush that carefully defines my lashes as well as premium brand mascaras I’ve tried. While the formula can stay put through just about any splash-zone situation and melting-hot summer commutes to work, it comes off easily with an oil-based eye-makeup remover at the end of the day. —Halie Lesavage, fashion features assistant
This is the best mascara I have ever used, period. Its tiny brush manages to coat every single one of my stubby lashes, and makes them long and fluttery. Although it’s advertised as a lengthening mascara, Telescopic also adds some drama and makes my lashes look full and thick. It’s never flaked or smudged on me, and I will love it forever. —Bella Cacciatore, beauty assistant
So many mascaras leave my lashes looking short and clumpy. But this one is made without wax—a first for Maybelline, actually—so all you get is really intense pigment that makes your lashes look longer and darker. I also really like the curved shape of this mascara brush: It grabs every lash at once, separating them as you swipe. —Marla Goller, senior video producer
You know a waterproof mascara is The Good Stuff when it can last through an entire Nicholas Sparks movie, which is exactly what this drugstore formula did. The thin brush hooks on to every individual lash, giving you really fanned-out lashes. It didn’t even clump when (major spoiler!) James Marsden’s character in The Best of Me dies. —Anna Moeslein, senior editor
“I’m very particular about the mascara that I use. It can’t be too wet or make my eyelashes feel heavy, and the wand can’t be too big where I accidentally stab myself in the eye because of the size. To get the best of both worlds, I usually aim for a mascara with a small wand and wait for the formula to dry out. However, this L’Oréal Unlimited mascara is perfect. Straight out of the box, it has a formula that’s more on the dry side and lightweight on my eyelashes. The shape of the bottle and the small wand also make sure that just the right amount of product coats my lashes. The fact that the handle is bendable is an added bonus.” —Khaliha Hawkins, digital administrative assistant
I cannot emphasize enough how much the wand looks like every other mascara wand on the market, with nary a bell or whistle in sight. One coat seems normal, with some length and darkening, but no more than any other mascara. But if you keep going, it builds and builds, and then you have seriously stunning, eyebrow-grazing results. —Rachel Nussbaum, contributor
Think of this as the at-home answer to professional lash tinting. It’s designed to tint your lashes as your wear it, with full results showing up in about two weeks. I wore it for 14 days straight, and was shocked by what a difference it made. It’s not totally night-and-day, but it definitely made my blond lashes darker—plus, the formula also just looks great on. —Erin Reimel, contributor
It doesn’t take much to make me cry: a viral ‘random act of kindness’ tweet, the first three bars of any song from Les Miserables, a random text from my tween brother, you get the idea. There’s a 50-percent chance that I’m weeping or close to it at all times; thus, strong waterproof mascara is a must in my beauty routine. CoverGirl’s new Exhibitionist mascara is the best of the tear-free bunch I’ve tried this year. Not only is it a waterproof mascara that held up through the final scene of A Star Is Born (twice), but it’s the easiest-to-apply mascara out there. Just two coats give me natural, feathery lashes. —H.L.
Post time: Sep-25-2019