Overwhelmed by the countless options in the pharmacy? These affordable picks are the best of the best.

By Rebecca Dancer
Updated Dec 23, 2019 @ 12:00 pm
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: Stocksy

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.

This can be especially tricky when it comes to mascara — because let’s be honest, words like “bold,” “extreme,” and “glamour” only go so far in describing the actual product.

That’s not to say that drugstore mascara isn’t worth your money — because today’s formulas are better performing than ever before — but it can be tough to find the right drugstore mascara for what you’re trying to achieve. Lengthening, conditioning, volumizing, colored, waterproof, buildable, and sensitivity-proof are just some of the many features to look out for when searching for your next favorite drugstore gem.

To help you find the right drugstore mascara formula for you, we’re breaking down the best of the best, below.

Best Lengthening Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Lash Stiletto

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Billing itself as “the only mascara that does for lashes what stilettos do for legs,” Maybelline’s Lash Stiletto mascara is the go-to for extreme lash lengthening — 70 percent longer-looking lashes, to be exact. The red-bristled brush is designed to grip every last lash, from the root all the way to the tip. Bonus: Vitamin B5 in the formula simultaneously conditions and boosts shine.

Shop now: $11; ulta.com

Best Lash-Conditioning Drugstore Mascara: Almay Get Up & Grow

Infused with pro-vitamins, Almay’s Get Up & Grow mascara gives you all the benefits you expect (lengthening, intensifying), while also helping to strengthen lashes and prevent against future breakage. Per Amazon reviewers, the formula is also suitable for extremely sensitive eyes and is smudge-proof.

Shop now: $6; amazon.com

Best Volumizing Drugstore Mascara: CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Waterproof Mascara

Credit: Courtesy CVS

Perhaps the most desired of all mascara qualities: Volume. We apply mascara to make our lashes appear bigger than they really are, after all, and the patented formula in Covergirl’s LashBlast Volume Waterproof Mascara promises to do just that. The brush’s tiny silicone bristles are designed to provide up to ten times more volume than bare lashes, which is probably why, according to the brand, one is sold every 2.3 seconds(!).

Shop now: $9; ulta.com

Best Thickening Drugstore Mascara: Milani Highly Rated Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Target

Milani’s Highly Rated Mascara is, in fact, quite highly rated — even earning a seal of approval from makeup influencer Jeffree Star. The plant-based formula envelops lashes from root to tip to build serious volume, especially with a few coats.

Shop now: $9; target.com

Best Waterproof Drugstore Mascara: Revlon Volumazing Waterproof Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Target

Whether you’re headed to the beach, an exercise class, or just outside on a humid day, sometimes you need a mascara that just. Won’t. Budge. Enter: Revlon’s Volumazing Waterproof Mascara. Cute pun-y name aside, this mascara will not smudge in the face of sweat, water, or humidity for up to 24 hours. Oh, and it costs less than $5.

Shop now: $4; target.com

Best Double-Wand Drugstore Mascara: L’Oréal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes Lengthening Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

The Double Extend Beauty Tubes Lengthening Mascara by L’Oréal Paris is the two-in-one product you never knew you needed. It’s a primer and mascara in one in an easy-to-transport tube that costs less than ten bucks. First, apply the primer, which is infused with ceramides to nourish and strengthen lashes, and helps create the ideal base coat for step two. Then swipe on the topcoat of mascara, which promises not to run, clump, flake, or smudge.

Shop now: $9; amazon.com

Best All-in-One Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Great Lash Mascara

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This tiny pink and green tube is famous for a reason: It really works. Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara might very well be the most recognizable drugstore mascara of them all — it debuted forty years ago. The smooth, clump-free formula and small, nimble lash-building brush have proven to be a winning combo for decades.

Shop now: $7; cvs.com

Best Washable Drugstore Mascara: L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara

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Another perennial favorite, this volumizing, soft-bristled mascara from L’Oréal Paris washes off as easily and smoothly as it goes on. The soft bristle brush — with more than 200 bristles — catches every lash for a full feathered effect.

Shop now: $11; target.com

Best Drugstore Mascara for Sensitive Eyes: Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara

Dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested, Neutrogena’s Healthy Volume Mascara is ideal for contact lens-wearers and those with sensitive eyes. It’s infused with olive oil and sweet almond to protect lashes naturally, sans irritation.

Shop now: $8; target.com

Best Non-Clumping Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Snapscara

Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg cites this as one of her all-time favorite drugstore mascaras, saying that she loves “a thick, long lash that’s inky.” It delivers all of the thickening, lengthening, and volume-boosting features of a quality mascara in easy on, easy off fashion. That’s thanks to its wax-free formula, which glides on and swipes off in, you guessed it, a snap.

Shop now: $6; target.com

Best Colored Drugstore Mascara: L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Ulta

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. Swipe some on for an instant boost of color.

Shop now: $9; target.com

Best Bargain Drugstore Mascara: e.l.f. Cosmetics Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Wal-Mart

It costs $4 — need we say more? But really, with an oversized brush and a clump-free, quick-drying formula that promises thicker, longer, and fuller-looking lashes, you can’t go wrong with this pick from e.l.f. Cosmetics.

Shop now: $4; ulta.com

Best Dramatic Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational Washable Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Target

The brush on Maybelline’s Lash Sensational Washable 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.

Shop now: $5; amazon.com

Best Buildable Drugstore Mascara: NYX Professional Makeup Worth The Hype Mascara

Sometimes you want to build lash length and fullness on your own, using multiple coats of mascara — but a lot of formulas clump up too quickly, resulting in chunky, spider lashes. Not this one from NYX, which, per its name, is worth the hype. It’s also a steal at under $5.

Shop now: $5; target.com

Best Clear Drugstore Mascara: CoverGirl Professional Natural Lash Mascara

Credit: Courtesy Target

Whether you use clear mascara to set your brows or to prime your lashes for mascara application, it’s always good to have one on hand. We love this version from CoverGirl, which simultaneously conditions while holding hairs in place.

Shop now: $4; target.com

Best Drugstore Mascara with Built-In Primer: Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Credit: Courtesy Target

“Honest is all-natural and comes with built-in primer,” Greenberg explains, adding that it’s another one of her favorites. The mascara formula, in addition to being natural, delivers high-performance lash lengthening and a clump-free finish.

Shop now: $15; target.com