If I were to choose only one type of makeup product to wear for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be mascara. It's the first product I ever used, and it's truly the makeup item I'm most passionate about. (I have a substantial collection of at least 50.)
Having said that, discovering a mascara that can effectively curl and lift my long, stick-straight lashes is indeed a challenge. While I adore and value the natural length I was born with, this blessing comes with the curse of lashes that tend to droop dramatically. Consequently, even though I appreciate mascaras that promise length, volume, and definition, my primary concern is always achieving a curl. Unfortunately, most mascaras I've experimented with over the years (even prior to being a beauty editor) have fallen disappointingly short. Creating the best curling mascaras involves a significant strategy, and while I'm no expert in terms of chemistry, production, or design, I have noticed consistent patterns in brush design, texture, and ingredients. (For instance, heavy and excessively wet mascaras will never provide the lift and curl you desire from your wand.)
Because I'm so passionate about finding, testing, and recommending the best curling mascaras in the beauty biz, I've put together a list of foolproof options for anyone who's ever been convinced their lashes are resistant to curl. Keep scrolling! Your ultimate lash-curling mascara soul mate is waiting for you just below, along with some of my favorite eye-enhancing products to pair with each.
Essence Lash Princess Curl & Volume Mascara
As a lash-obsessed beauty editor who has experimented with mascaras from nearly every brand available (including both drugstore and prestige options), the highly affordable formulas from Essence rank among the best I've ever encountered. (I apologize for going full-on Drake on you.) Depending on my specific lash requirements, I maintain a collection of its tubes in my makeup bag at all times. (If you're seeking extensive lift, definition, and volume, I also highly recommend its newer Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara for $5, but I digress.) For an unbeatable, enduring curl, this vegan, paraben-free, and cruelty-free choice will undoubtedly serve as your most budget-friendly route to success.
Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
Maybelline's full-fan effect Lash Sensational Washable Mascara is another top-rated, editor-loved curling option in the drugstore circuit. (The effect is so glamorous, which you'd never guess at the $10 price tag). The formula is newly enriched with lash-loving rose-hip oil to encourage optimum lash nutrition, and its exclusive fanning brush really brings the magic. It packs 10 strategic layers of bristles to ensure each and every lash is lacquered with clump-free curl, volume, and definition.
Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara
The first time I ever tried this mascara, I was quite literally dumbfounded. I'd been experimenting with countless clean mascara formulas in order to find a curling-and-lifting option that would be comparable to my non-clean favorites. This one receives a lot of hype, and I immediately understood the second I applied it. This mascara is the antithesis to almost every other nontoxic mascara I've tried. It defines, it curls, it lengthens, and it allows buildable volume with zero smearing or flakiness. The fact that it's enriched with nourishing, clean ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, and arginine is just icing on the cake.
MAC Cosmetics Extended Play Gigablack Lash Mascara
There are so many aspects about my job that I love, but discussing beauty products with other editors—whether it's my WWW co-pilots or editors from other publications—has to reign supreme. One of my favorite fellow beauty lovers is Kirbie Johnson, formerly a senior reporter at Popsugar and the current co-host of beauty podcast Gloss Angeles (a must-listen). Oh, and she also happens to be a total savant when it comes to mascara. This curling number from MAC is one of her consistent standbys. It promises up to 16 hours of waterproof wear, but unlike so many lash-pulling waterproof options on the market, it effortlessly washes off with warm water thanks to the brand's thermal-sensitive technology.
Fenty Beauty Full Frontal Volume, Lift and Curl Mascara
Entrusting your lashes to Rihanna and her team of makeup geniuses is one of the best decisions you can make if you're looking for eye-popping lashes. Although it's especially talented when it comes to curling, it's really a do-it-all lash hero that capably volumizes, lifts, and lengthens as well. The brand's exclusive flat-to-fat brush is key; use the fat side to pile on the volume and lift, and use the flat side to enhance your gaze with maximum curl and definition.
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara
You might be familiar with this mascara already because it is, indeed, all over the ad space on Instagram. But let me just tell you, the jaw-dropping before-and-afters the brand shows off are not dramatizations, and this is by far one of the best mascaras I've ever laid my lashes on—especially when it comes to lift, curl, and length. Thrive Causemetics's signature Flake-Free Tubing Technology and ultra-conditioning Orchid Stem Cell Complex is what separates it from the rest of the mascara market.
Glossier Lash Slick Mascara
Similar to the above mascara from Thrive Causemetics, the curling sorcery of this fan (and personal!) favorite from Glossier is the tubing technology. It's easy to layer and build sans clumping or that dreaded rickety spider-leg effect (you know what I'm talking about, right?), and you'll also benefit from serious length and definition for a fluttery, your-natural-lashes-but-better effect.
Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara
Again, to echo what I mentioned when discussing Ilia's top-selling mascara, the number of truly effective lifting and curling mascaras within the clean-beauty space are few and far between. However, I'm deeply infatuated with how fluffy, fat, and pristinely lifted and curled this wand from clean-beauty brand Kosas leaves my lashes. (It's even specifically formulated to help encourage faster, healthier new lash growth!)
Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Curling and Lifting Mascara
I'm not sure if another beauty brand exists with such a starring lineup of truly effective mascaras. Benefit's lineup is impressive, and each of its cheeky wands caters to specific lash goals. I have a few favorites I regularly recommend, but this one is the absolute best when it comes to curl and lift. Interestingly, it's inspired by hair rollers, and it boasts a patent-pending Hook 'n' Roll brush featuring teeny, custom-designed hooks to catch, lift, and curl every last lash. The hold will last for at least 12 hours, and your lashes will also benefit from the lush effects of provitamin B5.
Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes Volumizing and Lengthening Mascara
Nothing gets my heart beating like a fresh-off-the-presses launch from Charlotte Tilbury, and being the lash fiend that I am, this new mascara pretty much set my pulse into overdrive. It utilizes honed-in ingredients and a hero "Load, Comb, and Lift" technology brush to ensure eye-opening lift, curl, volume, and length.
Dior Diorshow Iconic Mascara
True story: I've been using mascara from Dior since high school, and I actually think this formula does a superior job in the curl department than the brand's (also popular) Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara ($30). At $30, it's most definitely an investment piece within your beauty wardrobe, but I never apply makeup without it. I use it on its own plenty, but I also love using it as a "curl- and lift-setting" mascara of sorts if I'm using another mascara. I always add at least one layer of this tube to my lashes to make sure they stay curled and perky—no smudging or flakes to be seen.
Merit Clean Lash Lengthening Mascara
Merit's Clean Lash Lengthening Mascara truly does it all. It lifts, defines, lengthens, and most importantly, curls like no other. Fatty acids and olive oil in the formula also condition your lashes and add a little extra shine. If that's not your perfect everyday mascara, I truly don't know what is.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.
Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.
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