If I could only wear one type of makeup product for the rest of my life, it would be mascara. It's the first product I ever used, and it's truly the one makeup item I'm most fanatical about. (I have a healthy collection of at least 50.)
That said, it's truly a trick to find a mascara that can successfully curl and lift my long, stick-straight lashes. I love and appreciate the natural length I was born with, but with that blessing comes the curse of profoundly droop-prone fringe. So although I also love mascaras touting length, volume, and definition, my first and foremost concern is always curl. And, unfortunately, most mascaras I've tried over the years (even before I was a beauty editor) fall disastrously flat. There is some serious strategy when it comes to developing the best curling mascaras, and while I'm not an expert in terms of chemistry, production, or design, I've noticed some consistent themes in brush design, consistency, and ingredients. (For instance, heavy, overly wet mascaras will simply never be your friend if you desire satisfying lift and curl from your wand.)
Because I'm so passionate about finding, testing, and recommending the best curling mascaras in the beauty biz, I've compiled a list of 11 fool-proof 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 Super Curl Volume Mascara Eye-Opening Mascara
As a lash-obsessed beauty editor who has tried mascaras from practically every brand on the market (both drugstore and prestige), the ultra-affordable formulas from Essence are some of the best I've ever had. (My apologies for going full-on Drake on you.) I keep a decked-out wardrobe of their tubes in my makeup bag at all times depending on my particular lash need. (If you're after tons of lift, definition, and volume, I also highly recommend their new Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara $5, but I digress.) For unstoppable, long-lasting, smudge-proof curl, this vegan, paraben-, and cruelty-free option will be your most budget-friendly ticket to success.
Maybelline's full-fan effect Lash Sensational Washable Mascara is another top-rated, editor-loved curling option on the drugstore circuit. (Although the effect is so glamorous, 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 the curling magic lines within Maybelline's exclusive fanning brush which packs ten strategic layers of bristles to ensure each and every lash is lacquered with clump-free curl, volume, and definition.
The first time I ever tried this mascara, I was quite literally dumbfounded. I'd been experimenting with countless clean mascara formulas on the hunt 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.
There are so many aspects about my job that I love, but discussing beauty products with other editors—whether it's my WWW co-pilot Courtney Higgs 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 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.
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.
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 by far one of the best mascaras I've ever laid my lashes on—especially when it comes to lift, curl, and length. If anyone is missing their lash-extension appointments due to the pandemic, this pretty turquoise tube is the most worthy of substitutes. 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.
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.
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. Even though this mascara launch from Kosas is brand-spanking-new, I'm deeply infatuated with how fluffy, fat, and pristinely lifted and curled the wand leaves my lashes. (It's even specifically formulated to help encourage faster, healthier new lash growth!)
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 their 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.
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 hero "Load, Comb, and Lift" technology brush to ensure eye-opening lift, curl, volume, and length.
True story: I've been using this curling mascara from Dior since high school, and I actually think it 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 my lashes stay curled and perky—no smudging or flakes to be seen.