Best mascara – lengthen, define and volumise your lashes with our favourite formulas

Aleesha Badkar
·15-min read
 Best mascara tube with wand out
Best mascara tube with wand out

Who would have thought we’d ever get to a point in life where the best mascara, along with reusable face masks, would supersede bras (even the best bras) as an essential part to every outfit?

Not only have the (admittedly increasingly stylish) face coverings transformed us all back to our teenage selves with bouts of acne, but they also have us all scouting out the best mascara buys on the market in an effort to draw attention to our peepers now that they’re our only features on show.

Finding the best mascara isn’t as simple as just picking the one with the prettiest packaging and hoping for the best. Of course, there are those that suit everyone, but with factors like short lashes and eye sensitivity, as well as the different looks we all strive to achieve, it’s worth doing some research and considering your options. 

We think Too Faced Better Than Sex makes a great all-rounder, thanks to its multi-functional brush that delivers a natural defined and lengthened flutter, with the potential for dramatic layering when volume is needed. We also love the luxe look and feel of Chanel Le Volume Stretch, which comes with a snazzy flexible 3D-printed brush. And for those who’d rather not splash their cash, Maybelline Lash Sensational does a fantastic job at competing with the big guns without requiring you to fork out a small fortune.

How to choose the best mascara

The first thing to take into consideration when trying to choose the best mascara is your lash type, as different formulas work better with certain types of lashes.

“If you have fine lashes, you want a volumising, buildable formula that will give a fuller look that you can customise,” says Bobbi Brown senior pro artist Warren Dowdall. “If you have fuller, thick lashes, go for a good all-rounder mascara, as going for heavier, false-lash formulas can weigh down the lashes and make them drop.

“When lashes are shorter, using two mascara types can be beneficial sometimes. Apply a lengthening formula first and then build up the volume and thickness with a coat or two of a more volumising formula.”

It can also be beneficial to layer up your favourite formulas. If you find something that gives you the length you’ve spent years looking for but doesn’t pack on the volume, or vice versa, swipe on a coat of the lengthening formula before loading them up with the more dramatic pick. Bonus points if the top layer is waterproof, as you’ll nix smudging and flaking in the bud!

How we tested the best mascaras

We all know that the best mascaras should be able to make it through any unexpected inconvenience that hits you throughout the day – a sweaty dash for the supermarket till, an all-too-common unpredicted downpour, that sudden onset of watery eyes when a This Morning guest shares their story. And not that we advocate wearing makeup while you’re exercising, but if it can make it through a workout, it goes straight in the “keep” pile.

So, to be sure that our favourites really did go the distance when testing, we wore them for about 12-14 hours a day to see how they stood up against each other. We gave them a little smudge here and there to sort the real flake-free claims from the bogus, and not to blow our own trumpet but we even made it back to the gym once or twice (and, being our first jaunt post-lockdown, it was a real sweat fest).

The best mascaras you can buy right now

best mascara: Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara
best mascara: Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara

1. Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara

Best mascara for most people

Waterproof version available: Yes | Shades: Black | Mini version available: Yes | Extra features: Hourglass-shaped brush, Nourishing acacia senegal gum extract | RRP: £22

Mess-free and easy-to-use brush

Silky formula that lifts and holds lashes

Dramatic length, volume and curl without clumping

Staying power

Brush is slightly thick for short lashes

When a product comes with endorsements like this attention-grabbing name as well as its one-time position as the top-selling mascara in the world, you know Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara has something special about it. And if the striking tube doesn’t give away the talent of the robust formula inside, perhaps the plump curvy brush will give you an idea of just how remarkable this long-lasting, compliment-inducing creation is.

Its multi-functioning but uncomplicated brush lets you create a lengthened, separated and bedroom-worthy flutter with just one swipe, while each subsequent layer packs on a mega dose of volume, so you can create diverse looks with just one product. The long-lasting and non-budging formula also cares for lashes with its infusion of acacia senegal gum extract, leaving them soft and nourished after use. It definitely lives up to the name, no matter how thrilling your dalliances...

Read more: Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara review

best mascara: Chanel Le Volume Stretch
best mascara: Chanel Le Volume Stretch

2. Chanel Le Volume Stretch

Best premium mascara

Waterproof version available: No | Shades: Black | Mini version available: No | Extra features: Flexible 3D-printed comb wand, nourishing jojoba extracts | RRP: £28

Easy to apply

Delivers fluttery length, volume and curl

Hold doesn’t last all day

If there’s any premium brand that’s sure to deliver the goods, it’s Chanel – and Chanel Le Volume Stretch offering definitely doesn’t let the high-end side down. With a super-luxe look and feel, thanks to the chic black matte tube with a silky thread-like woven texture, this makes you feel like you’re using something special from the moment you pick it up.

A unique hollow convex 3D-printed brush catches all lashes – even the pesky corner areas – and has a flexibility to it that allows for seamless application without any mess.

What’s more, it does what it says on the tin, when it comes to the formula. With jojoba extracts to nourish, it stretches lashes to the max. The sky-high hold doesn’t last all day, though, so a quick midday top-up with an eyelash curler wouldn’t go amiss.

best mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational
best mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational

3. Maybelline Lash Sensational

Best budget mascara

Waterproof version available: Yes | Shades: Black, Intense Black | Mini version available: No | Extra features: Layer-Reveal brush | RRP: £8.99

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Wide, curved and flexible comb wand

Lash-multiplying look

Feathery finish

Cheap packaging

Not much volume

Minimal drooping and flaking

Maybelline Lash Sensational is a sub-£10 mascara that has made its name as one of Amazon’s bestselling beauty products, gaining the moniker of Britain’s No1 Mascara for its market-topping sales. 

With a lash-multiplying effect that hinges on its signature Layer-Reveal brush, the budget buy will give you lashes worthy of most high-end favourites. The purse-friendly purchase gives you a feathery, lengthened and defined fanned-out look with a delicate curl, which could almost pass for a natural flutter from the very first swipe. And with each further coat, it just cements the pretty fluttery look, with a micro dose of volume added with each layer.

It doesn’t have the most luxe packaging, hence the low price, and you don’t get the biggest hit of drama, but pair it with one of our best mascaras for adding length and volume and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

Read more: Maybelline Lash Sensational review

best mascara: Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara
best mascara: Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara

4. Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara

Best waterproof mascara

Mini version available: No | Shades: Black | RRP: £25

Good definition and length without any clumping

Strong curl hold

No smudging or flaking

Very waterproof

Could be more volumising

We were expecting a lot from Bobbi Brown No Smudge mascara, a high-end star that claims to be a “raincoat for lashes” – and boy did it deliver!

Not only did it define and lengthen lashes, it was one of the best picks when it came to holding curl in place, thanks to the impenetrable waterproof barrier. We saw no smudging or flaking even after a long day of wear – in fact, it was almost too resilient when it came to bedtime. It wasn’t the most volumising, but would make a great top coat to layer over one of our more dramatic picks. Just make sure you know exactly how to remove waterproof mascara properly...

best mascara: L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise
best mascara: L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise

5. L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise

Best mascara for sensitive eyes

Waterproof version available: Yes | Shades: Black | Mini version available: No | Extra features: Suitable for sensitive eyes, infused with lash-loving castor oil | RRP: £11.99

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Gentle formula suitable for sensitive eyes

Soft brush that doesn’t cause irritation

Lifts lashes and holds curl

Pretty, fanned-out look

Some under-eye smudging and flaking after a few hours

Tip of brush is awkwardly bulky

This budget buy has famously been compared to our favourite Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara – and we can see the resemblance.  L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise not only looks the part but it plays the part, too – easy application, staggering volume and a fanned-out finish.

This purse-friendly option will give you it all – length, definition and volume, and sometimes a little bit of curl thrown in for good measure. It lifts lashes and holds curl relatively well, while giving you the kind of even definition that you would expect to achieve with a comb wand, without having to actually endure using one of the tricky things.

We also love the fanned-out and volumised look that came without any clumping, no matter how many layers you slap on. Definitely one of the best mascaras for sensitive eyes we've come across. Volume, definition and feathering all in a sensitive formula.

Read more: L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise review

best mascara: Benefit They’re Real!
best mascara: Benefit They’re Real!

6. Benefit They’re Real!

Best smudge-proof mascara

Waterproof version available: No | Shades: Black, brown | Mini version available: Yes | Extra features: Unique crown tip | RRP: £22.50

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Length and definition

Fluttery outer lashes

Flake-free and very resilient

Tough and awkward comb wand

Not as much lift and volume as we’d expect

Not only does Benefit They’re Real boast eye-catching packaging that stands out in our makeup bags, but it has an almost excessively long-wearing formula that leaves lashes soft and springy without drying them out and takes some serious elbow grease to remove.

If it’s length, definition and flutter you’re after, then They’re Real! is a winner. It’s impactful, drawing attention to even the shortest and stubbiest of lashes, leaving you guaranteed to get friends quizzing you on where you get your lashes done.

It’s not the most volumising, even after applying a few layers, so probably not one if you’re looking for drama. And it doesn’t quite lift inner lashes as much as we would have liked – even after using an eyelash curler, they do droop slightly after applying the product. So, this would be an instance where you could maybe do with having a top-up with an eyelash curler after application. But just make sure to wait until lashes have properly dried first, so you don’t get stuck in a bit of a bind with this long-lasting bestseller that you may well have to chisel off. 

Read more: Benefit They’re Real! review

best mascara: Benefit BADgal Bang!
best mascara: Benefit BADgal Bang!

7. Benefit BADgal Bang!

Best mascara for length

Waterproof version available: Yes | Mini version available: Yes | Shades: Black, blue | Extra features: Tapered comb wand | RRP: £22.50

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Unique wand for straightforward and painless application

Sexy, fanned-out and fluttery look

Long-lasting and smudge-free

Vitamin-infused for lash health

Not as much volume as we would like

Pretty stubborn to remove

Boasting a jet-black formula that contains super-light aero particles for mega volume with zero heaviness, Benefit BADgal Bang is everything we love about cult favourite They’re Real! but with the volume turned up.

Unlike many other mascaras that see lashes droop under the weight of a heavy formula, the BADgal BANG!’s aero particles give lashes truly gravity-defying powers with a lift even the Apollo 11 would be jealous of.

This stretches every millimetre out of lashes with its gravity-defying formula. Lashes are even, defined and fanned out, with a fluttery look worthy of a Disney character, and the length definitely gives the famous They’re Real! a run for its money. One thing we would say is that it doesn’t give the voluminous effect that we were expecting, even after piling on a couple of layers. So, if it's volume you’re looking for, we would suggest applying this as a first layer underneath something a bit thicker, or just saving it for days when you want a sultry effect.

Read more: Benefit BADgal Bang! review

best mascara: Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!
best mascara: Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!

8. Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes!

Best mascara for volume

Waterproof version available: No | Shades: Black | Mini version available: Yes | Extra features: Strengthening keratin | RRP: £23

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Gorgeous packaging

Lots of volume

Length, definition and curl

Slightly awkward brush

Not as much lift as we’d like

Charlotte Tilbury has made a name on the back of her cult Pillow Talk range, so we were expecting big things from Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes - and, we have to say, it ended up being one of our favourites of the bunch.

It delivered a length, definition, curl and a big hit of clump-free volume in just a couple of coats, thanks to its stretch formula that uses natural waxes to create layers of lightweight volume. We also love how it nourishes lashes during wear with strengthening keratin and the intense black colour that leaves you with an eyeliner effect.

The brush was slightly tricky to use; however, after a couple of uses (and digging out the instructions), you can get the knack of it. With its “push up” claims, we did expect it to give a little more lift, but a midday eyelash curler top-up managed to fix this.

best mascara: Diorshow Iconic Overcurl
best mascara: Diorshow Iconic Overcurl

9. Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl

Best mascara for curl

Waterproof version available: Yes | Mini version available: No | Shades: Black, brown, blue | RRP: £28

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Easy-to-use and comfortable brush

Stretches and defines lashes while delivering clump-free volume

Holds curl all day

Smudge- and flake-free

Pricey

We almost can’t think of anything negative to say about Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl. A pleasure to apply, it comes with a lovely soft brush that doesn’t scratch or bother at all, with a pliable formula that graces the wand with just the right amount to coat lashes without creating a mess.

It lifted and lengthened lashes, holding curl in place seamlessly, while depositing an enviable dose of volume on each lash. And, for extra drama, it layered smoothly without any clumps, leaving us making any excuse to go to the loo just so we could take over the mirror and admire the advert-worthy flutter. Curl is just the icing on the cake with this all-round superstar.

best mascara: Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara
best mascara: Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

10. Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

Best mascara for short lashes

Waterproof version available: No | Shades: Black | Mini version available: No | Extra features: Thin brush, hydrating jojoba oil | RRP: £22

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Small brush makes for easy application

Smudge- and flake-free

Nourishes for soft lashes

Some clumping when layering

Living with short lashes can make it a bit of a trial to find a quality mascara that will give you the length you need, along with some drama, all the while actually allowing you to work from the root of your lashes. Enter: Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara. This volumising marvel comes with the tiniest brush that will give those with shorter lashes more control over their styling, while bestowing length and drama on your peepers.

The glossy formula glides on to lashes right from the roots without leaving any mess and just a couple of swipes will give all of your lashes a feathery, fanned-out look. We did notice a little bit of clumping when layering, so we wouldn’t pack on too many coats, but the formula is long-lasting and you won’t notice any smudging or flaking at the end of the day. But beware – don’t opt for any fancy cleansers when trying to remove this one, as it does scrape off in clumps when you try to dissolve away (not ideal for the fancy bedding). All you need is a little bit of warm water and it should wash away painlessly. 

best mascara: Glossier Lash Slick
best mascara: Glossier Lash Slick

11. Glossier Lash Slick

Best mascara for a natural look

Mini version available: No | Shades: Black | Extra features: Water-resistant, suitable for sensitive eyes, tapered comb wand, biotin-infused | RRP: £14

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Super lengthening

Defines and separates for a natural flutter

Smudge- and flake-free but removes easily

Minimal volume

Anything released by Glossier is somehow immediately swept up and devoured by beauty fans – and it was no different with this Glossier Lash Slick. A product that makeup experts keep going back for again and again, this sculpting mascara comes with a tapered wand that reaches even the peskiest of roots on the lashline without leaving any mess behind.

In just one swipe, it gives a false-lash look with the stretching length, subtle curl and gravity-defying lift that actually does last all day. Rather than being waterproof, the formula is water-resistant, meaning that it can easily wash off with a good cleanser, but still manages to make it through wear without any flaking or smudging. It’s also infused with vegan biotin, which helps strengthen lashes, making it like a serum and mascara all in one.

It’s not one for anyone who wants volume, but whatever your lash type this will give a gorgeous natural-looking flutter worthy of any high-end salon.