These proven picks promise beautiful lashes with just a few swipes.

By Jennifer Aldrich
November 10, 2020
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This is part of our weekly series Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, and explore new techniques IRL.

As someone who has fine, blond eyelashes paired with small eyes, good mascara is a must. Even for those blessed with nice lashes, a couple of coats of mascara can help you instantly look wide awake. (Pair it with a tinted moisturizer and a lip balm, and you have a pretty, natural look.) The nice thing about mascara, unlike a lot of makeup and skincare products, is that the formulas aren't usually geared toward younger or older eyes, which means there are plenty that will work for you. However, that makes it tough to decide which product deserves a place in your makeup bag.

I tried a handful of popular and lesser-known products and came up with my top picks. For consistency, I curled my eyelashes with an eyelash curler ($16, Sephora), but didn't use any primer. These options address different goals, including lengthening and volumizing. There's also a waterproof option and a mascara primer on this list. They come at a variety of price points to fit your budget.

Especially during a pandemic, when face masks leave only our eyes visible, these mascaras ensure your lashes look their best.

Credit: Courtesy of Target

If you've heard of this option from L'Oreal, then you probably know it as a dupe for the ultra-popular Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara. As someone who used the Too Faced best-seller for years (and still do on occasion), I can report that it's just as effective, but at a fraction of the price. The mascara, which comes in six shades and a waterproof version, pumps up lashes thanks to the thick, fluffy brush. After just a few coats, my thin lashes had significant volume.

Buy It: L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara ($10, Target)

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

I honestly haven't tried many double-ended mascaras, but now that I have, I'm not sure what took me so long. This fiber-filled option has one side for curl and length with spiny bristles and another for volume with a thicker brush. The former side is excellent for lengthening lashes and showing off each individual strand. The other side adds volume with just a couple of swipes. It's a great option because you can get a few different looks with just one product.

Buy It: HUDA BEAUTY Legit Lashes Double-Ended Mascara ($27, Sephora)

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

My favorite beauty guru/YouTuber/influencer is Bailey Sarian, who is known for her murder mystery and makeup videos. As someone who uses different products in just about every video she makes, Sarian knows her stuff, and she says that one of her favorite mascaras of all time is this one from Essence. This option gives you everything you could possibly want in a mascara: It holds curl while giving your lashes volume and length. It's not a spiny brush, and it's not super fluffy; it's right in between. It reminds me of Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara, but way more affordable. (You cannot beat this price.)

Buy It: Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara ($5, Ulta)

Credit: Courtesy of Chanel

Once you try this mascara, you won't find another one that compares. The brush, which Chanel calls "snowflakes," grips every individual lash and manages to lengthen and add volume with one swipe. I've been using it for years, along with the primer, and have tried many other options, and still always come back to this one. Although it's pricier, it really is worth it.

Buy It: Le Volume De Chanel ($32, Chanel)

Credit: Courtesy of ILIA BEAUTY

I like reaping the benefits of natural products, and I've had success with a handful of ILIA BEAUTY'S offerings, including this mascara. It has a spiny, double-sided brush that adds tons of length. (If you have super short lashes, give this one a try.) The formula goes on super smooth and doesn't flake. If you'd like a barely-there look, do one swipe per eye.

Buy It: Limitless Lash Mascara ($28, ILIA BEAUTY)

Credit: Courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue

This waterproof mascara is ideal for your next virtual wedding or romantic movie. The super big brush made me nervous, but it actually does a great job of separating lashes and adding length. If you'd like more volume, I recommend letting your first few coats dry, waiting 30 seconds to a minute, and then adding more. After it had dried completely, I applied water on my eyes and gently rubbed my lashes, and the mascara, which comes in blue, black, and brown, stayed put. The only thing that got it off was my favorite makeup cleansing balm.

Buy It: Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara ($30, Saks Fifth Avenue)

Credit: Courtesy of e.l.f. cosmetics

I've never thought of using clear mascara before, but I really liked this one. First off, it comes at a great price for a two-in-one product. It makes my lashes shiny and holds the curl from my eyelash curler. The brow side is what really sold me. Just one swipe on my brows to comb them out and lift them up, and they stayed in place. (Almost like brow lamination at home.)

Buy It: Clear Brow & Lash Mascara ($2, e.l.f. Cosmetics)

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

Behind every great mascara is an excellent primer. The purpose of a primer is to nourish your lashes, hold the curl, increase the effectiveness of your mascara, and help it last all day long. And this one does all of that. The spiralized brush separates and lifts your lashes while the Vitamin E formula conditions them. I apply a coat, wait about 10 to 15 seconds, and go in with my mascara.

Buy It: Lancôme Cils Booster XL Super-Enhancing Mascara Primer ($27, Sephora)

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