When I find something I like, I stick with it. At the beginning of each year of high school, for example, I would buy a new pen, and write with that pen only for the entire year. I went so far as to refuse to take notes during a science class because I’d left the blue ballpoint at home. Instead, I chose (after a lengthy argument with my teacher) to copy a friend’s notes the following day. This stickiness applies to many things in my life, including mascara, of which I’ve routinely used three different kinds, even during my years as a beauty editor.
Through high school and university, it was Max Factor False Lash Effect. When I started working full-time, I leveled up to Benefit They’re Real. Eventually, when I left my beauty editor job, I traded it in for Maybelline Lash Sensational. I’ve used this mascara for the last three-ish years, until a couple of weeks ago when I had an epiphany while applying it before work. I was burning through each tube of this mascara fast and though I loved the results, it always took like a week of use for the formula to transition from slippery to perfectly tacky. And then the moment of realization arrived: I don’t have to keep using this mascara, I can find a better one. And so, I began reading pages of reviews, until I narrowed down the recommendations of beauty writers and friends to seven mascaras that apparently all had what I was looking for.
I tested each of the seven mascaras for three very important things:
First impression: My dream mascara is thick and juicy from the very first swipe.
Length and volume: I desire both of these things in equal measure. Even if a mascara extended an entire half-inch to my lashes, if it didn’t also make them dramatically thick, it’s not for me. On the flip side, if a mascara leaves my lashes looking short and chunky, thanks to too much volume, it also gets a thumbs-down.
Staying power: Now, this is where I get fussy. My one great wish is for a mascara that doesn’t budge all day, no matter how sweaty or tired I get, but also washes off easily without excess scrubbing—these are my eyes, after all.
Are my expectations high? Yes. But that’s kind of the point of this experiment. In my lifetime I’ve tried (and written about) a lot of mascaras, so it takes something special to wow me into a new long-term makeup relationship. But—spoiler—after writing this story, I’ve handed out the final rose at my Bachelor-inspired commitment ceremony and am pleased to announce an addition to my makeup bag.
Now, all of these mascaras are top performers, so I’ve ranked them in detail below in case your criteria differs slightly from mine. My new No. 1 pick is at the bottom. Have at it!
The One That Has a Cult Following of “No-Makeup Makeup” Lovers for a Reason
The mascara: Glossier Lash Slick
First impression: This is… not going to go far enough.
Length and volume: Both, but in an extremely chill way. Wearing this mascara is how I imagine my natural lashes might look if I didn’t wear an eye mask/sleep on my face/wear and remove layers of mascara every day.
Staying power: Washing off this mascara feels like… washing off nothing?
You should get this if: You don’t want to wear any makeup but also, you know, want to wear a little makeup.
The One That Seriously Won’t Budge (No Matter What You Do)
The mascara: Benefit They’re Real mascara
First impression: “Huh, I’m starting to remember why I loved this mascara all those years ago.”
Length and volume: All length with a little volume.
Staying power: As anyone who’s ever used They’re Real knows, this mascara is incredibly hard to wash off.
You should get this if: You’re looking for a mascara that won’t run during a workout or torrential downpour, but isn’t a totally waterproof mascara (aka my personal idea of hell).
The One That Makes You Look Like You Have Twice As Many Lashes
The mascara: Milk Kush Mascara
First impression: An exclaimed “Holy shit, so much mascara just came out of this tube!”
Length and volume: Being a fiber mascara, my lashes were very fluffy and feathery, rather than long and dramatic.
Staying power: Super easy to remove, but a little messier than others due to the fiber formula.
You should get this if: Fiber mascaras have made your heart sing in the past or you want a product that’s 100% vegan.
The One for People Who Like a Whole Lot o’ Mascara
The mascara: Dior Diorshow Pump ‘n’ Volume HD mascara in Black Pump
First impression: Good from first swipe but, almost too good. I accidentally applied way too much on my first use.
Length and volume: A+ length but it was a little too chunky for me. It also really curled my lashes, which isn’t part of my personal rubric for success since I have naturally curly lashes.
Staying power: Stayed on all day and was easy to wash off.
You should get this if: You love novelty packaging, want more volume than length, and consider curls an added bonus.
The One That Lived Up to Its Mr. Big Name
The mascara: Lancome Monsieur Big mascara in Big Is the New Black
First impression: A little scratchy to apply and not that impressive until you’re a few layers deep.
Length and volume: Once you invest the time and strokes this mascara has serious pay-off in both length and volume.
Staying power: By the late-afternoon, this mascara was a little crumbly. Granted, it was an especially balmy day, but compared to other mascaras I wore on easily sweaty days, this one didn’t stand up quite as well.
You should get this if: You’re willing to risk some under-eye flakes for the longest lashes of your life.
The One That Was *Almost* My Favorite of the Bunch
The mascara: Urban Decay Perversion mascara
First impression: Though it took a while to build volume, this mascara went on super smoothly and really extended the length of my lashes.
Length and volume: It was definitely stronger in the length department, but it still added pretty substantial volume to my lashes. That said, once I added enough layers to get the volume I really wanted, my lashes started to stick together at the base.
Staying power: Stayed put and washed off easily without any scrubbing or tugging.
You should get this if: You actually don’t mind a few clumps or thick sticky lashes, if it’s for a worthy cause (read: long-ass lashes).
And the One That Was Truly Just the Best
The mascara: Nars Climax mascara in Explicit Black
First impression: The blackest black and softest brush yet.
Length and volume: BOTH VERY MUCH CHECKED OFF. What I really love about this formula and wand is how well they kept my lashes separated, while still extending and thickening them to a really impressive degree.
Staying power: Like most mascaras I tested, I was also pleasantly surprised how easy this was to wash off after staying perfect all day.
You should get this if: You have the exact same mascara dreams as I do, and want all those dreams to come true. And if you want your lashes to quite literally (please see above!) double in length without any fallout or clumps.
Do you have a mascara you’d like to squeal about? If so, I cordially invite you to join me in the comments.
Photographed by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.