These 12 Drugstore Mascaras Are So Good You'll Ditch Your False Lashes

We like L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara for its versatility in creating natural and dramatic looks.

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Strolling down the makeup aisle in the drugstore can be seriously overwhelming. Not only are there dozens upon dozens of products staring back at you underneath harsh fluorescent lighting, but you also have to make your decision without testing anything out. And while the aisles offer a treasure trove of mascaras to choose from, having so many options at your fingertips can make it difficult to find one that is best suited for your needs.

To help narrow down your search, we found makeup artist-approved drugstore mascaras for every kind of lash, plus tips on how to create sky-high lashes sans clumping. L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara took the best overall slot, because of its buildable, clump-free formula.

Here are the best drugstore mascaras for every brush, look, or formula preference.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara

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What We Love: This mascara is buildable, allowing you to create natural and dramatic lash looks with ease.
What We Don't Love: The formula goes on wet and takes longer to dry than other mascaras.

This classic mascara from L'Oréal Paris is great for a lot of reasons, not least of which because it comes in a variety of bold hues, including burgundy and cobalt blue. Plus, there are no raccoon eyes here—it wears for a very long time and is clump-free and smudge-resistant, says makeup artist Mary Winkenwerder. "I love that I can use it to create natural-looking lashes or use it to build volume for a statement-making look."

Look: Natural to Dramatic|Color Range: 6|Size: 0.28 fl oz

Also available at Target.

Best Volumizing: e.l.f. Big Mood Mega Volume & Lifting Mascara

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What We Love: Its butterfly-shaped applicator wand gives lashes lift and volume.
What We Don't Love: If too much mascara is applied, it can transfer easily to your lower lashes.

"This mascara coats every single little lash with product, leaving them looking super fluffy and full," says makeup artist Jenny Patinkin "I also like the butterfly shape of the applicator because it gives a natural shape to the lashes."

Look: Natural to Dramatic |Color Range: 3|Size: 0.36 fl oz

Also available at Amazon.

Best Lengthening: Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Lash Mascara

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What We Love: The applicator wand lengthens lashes and allows the product to go on smoothly and evenly.
What We Don't Love: The wand can pick up a lot of product, so be careful not to apply too much.

The brush on Maybelline's Lash Sensational Mascara has a supposed ten layers of bristle to visibly lengthen and feather lashes with just a single coat — but the formula is also meant to be buildable, so you can amp up the drama as much as your heart desires. "Because of its silicone brush, this is easily one of the best drugstore mascaras for lengthening," pro makeup artist Shandy Ross tells InStyle. "It works to extend every single lash while separating them at the same time for maximum definition."

Look: Dramatic|Color Range: 3|Size: 0.24 oz

Also available at Target.

Best Thickening: Physicians Formula Eye Booster Instant Lash Extension Kit

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What We Love: It creates thicker, fuller, and more voluminous-looking lashes with every sweep.
What We Don't Love: This two-step mascara kit can be confusing for those who prefer a single, straightforward mascara product.

A little makeup history lesson: Cake mascara—sold in a tin with a separate brush—was the original mascara. It deposited a thick coat of product and the brush was easy to clean. "Finding a cake or pan mascara right now is tricky, but this thickening lash duo is the closest thing to it," Winkenwerder tells InStyle. "The application is a little different but is the most similar to an original pan mascara than any other product on the scene." You start by applying the mascara, then brush on the extension fibers, and seal with another coat of mascara. This duo will give you long, full lashes instantly, so you can collect compliments wherever you go!

Look: Dramatic|Color Range: 1| Size: 1.0 oz fl each

Also available at Amazon.

Best Waterproof: essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Waterproof Mascara

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What We Love: This waterproof mascara stays on for hours and is available at a steal of a price point.
What We Don't Love: It can be stubborn to take off at the end of the day.

"Good luck trying to get her off even after a long day at work and an even longer night out," says San Antonio-based professional makeup artist Analisa Rodriguez. You'll need a good cleansing oil or balm to get the job done. "It doesn't flake throughout the day, stays super pigmented with added volume, and lasts through copious tears (bridal party approved)."

Look: Dramatic|Color Range: 1|Size: 0.42 fl oz

Also available at Amazon.

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Almay Length & Lift Mascara

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What We Love: It creates a beautiful, natural lash look without flaking.
What We Don't Love: It is not waterproof and fades quickly.

"While our eyes are resilient to so many free radicals, life happens, and sometimes we need a sensitive eye mascara to help us look fantastic through the uncomfortable moments," explains Winkenwerder. If you absolutely need mascara during sensitive times of the year, this is the best one on the market. And if you are not a cosmetic wearer, and want to start wearing mascara in a safe zone, start with this product.

Look: Natural|Color Range: 4|Size: 0.24 fl oz

Also available at Walmart.

Best Tinted: Honest Beauty Honestly Healthy Serum-Infused Lash Tint with Castor Oil

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What We Love: It tints, conditions, and strengthens lashes thanks to added castor oil.
What We Don't Love: The applicator wand can cause clumping.

"On days when you want to opt for a super natural look, a lash tint might be all you need," says Los Angeles-based makeup artist Abby Wren. "I love this product because it's a serum and tint all in one, and the castor oil in the formula works to strengthen and condition the lashes while you're wearing it. Perfect for someone on the go who needs a multitasking product!

Look: Natural|Color Range: 3|Size: 0.27 fl oz

Also available at Honest.

Best Non-Clumping: essence Maximum Definition Waterproof Volume Mascara

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What We Love: It is a cruelty-free and vegan formula that defines lashes without clumping.
What We Don't Love: The formula may be too irritating for more sensitive eyes.

"I absolutely love this essence mascara," says makeup artist Bina Khan. "It literally coats each and every lash and the build-up is totally even. All-in-all it makes every lash count!"

Look: Natural|Color Range: 4|Size: 0.24 fl oz

Best Mascara Wand: Maybelline Lash Discovery

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What We Love: The mascara wand builds up lashes nicely and is great to use on upper and lower lashes.
What We Don't Love: It is very buildable, but doesn't add as much volume or length as other products.

"The Maybelline Lash Discovery has been a staple in my kit for almost two decades because it offers a precision wand that lets me find and define each lash," says celebrity makeup artist Suzy Gerstein. "The tiny shape allows you to get into the corners to coat each and every little lash."

Look: Natural|Color Range: 1|Size: 0.16 fl oz

Also available at Amazon.

Best Vegan Mascara: NYX Professional Makeup On The Rise Liftscara Volumizing Mascara, Clean and Vegan Formula

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What We Love: It boasts a vegan formula and gives lashes an extension-like appearance.
What We Don't Love: The mascara texture is on the dry side, which can cause flaking.

Vegans rejoice—this mascara enhances lashes while staying true to your personal lifestyle convictions. "It applies beautifully, wears a long time, and looks great through it all!," says Winkenwerder.

Look: Dramatic|Color Range: 1|Size: 0.33 fl oz

Also available at Target.

Best Lash Primer: PUR The Complexion Authority Fully Charged Lash Primer

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What We Love: It boosts the performance of your mascara, creating full and lifted lashes as a result.
What We Don't Love: It can require several coats to build a voluminous, dramatic lash look.

"This primer is a staple in my kit because it not only adds volume and curl as a base to your mascara but nourishes them with vitamin B5," says celebrity makeup artist Nydia Figueroa. It is very important to treat your lashes with the same care as the hair on your head, the skincare-infused products are a plus when it comes to this primer.

Look: Natural to Dramatic|Color Range: 1|Size: 0.42 fl oz

Also available at Ulta.

Best Smudge-Proof: CoverGirl LashBlast Waterproof Mascara

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What We Love: It holds a curl well.
What We Don't Love: The applicator may be too bulky for those who prefer something thinner and easier to maneuver.

The orange tube is iconic and synonymous with a lifted, curled look thanks to its spiky bristles. "Not only is it smudge-proof, but it truly won't move all day long—even through a rainstorm," explains Wren. "It's also under $10, so it really doesn't get any better than that."

Look: Natural to Dramatic | Color Range: 3 | Size: 0.44 fl oz

What To Keep In Mind

Formula

Since mascara is worn on your eyes and they can often be sensitive, Winkenwerder says you'll want to pay particular attention to the formula of the product you're interested in. "If someone has an allergy to a certain ingredient in one or many brands of mascara, a consumer will want to look for a formula that does not have that irritating ingredient," she explains. No wants to deal with watery, itchy eyes!

Brush

Yes, a formula has a big job too, but the brush applies the formula in all the right ways. "If someone wants to achieve a certain lash look, then it's best to pick a wand best suited for the job. A product that claims its for volumizing or lengthening will have a brush that matches that goal. The brush creates a special connection with the product," says Winkenwerder. You may also have a personal preference for fluffier brushes or spiky wands and should look for a mascara that has that.

Your Questions, Answered

What is the best way to apply mascara?

The best way to apply mascara is with a technique that gives you the look you're after. Holding a brush horizontally at the roots and wiggling it up to the tips of your lashes is the classic technique. However, consider also holding your brush vertically and using windshield wiper motions to gently swipe through lashes. This helps to ensure all angles of your lashes have product and helps to break up clumps. "Some people are afraid of having the wand end up in their eyes, so practice makes perfect here. Relax into mascara application moments," says Winkenwerder. The only true rule of thumb: Apply mascara last, after all other eye makeup like eyeshadow and eyeliner.

How can I prevent mascara from clumping?

The first step to avoiding clumpy mascara is making sure your product isn't expired. Mascaras should be tossed every three months or so months to avoid it drying out or accumulating bacteria. Then, don't pump your wand. Pull the wand out of the tube in one motion and wipe any excess on the edge before coating your lashes. If you need another layer, then dip back into the tube before repeating. Overloading your brush is one way to get clumps in your lashes. You can also go in with a little eye comb to separate lashes and take out any clumps after your formula has dried.

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