Out of all the makeup products I’m asked to recommend, mascara comes up the most. It makes sense: Even the least enthusiastic makeup consumers wear mascara, and there are so many of them on the market, but finding one that lengthens and volumizes but doesn’t flake, smudge, clump, or irritate your eyeballs is trickier than it seems. We all want our lashes to look luscious and lifted (it’s an easy way to look instantly more awake and put-together), and while lash extensions and lifts are a way to achieve that naturally bright-eyed effect without having to apply makeup every day, they’re costly and not super convenient for everyone.
So what mascaras available these days can create a lifted, healthy lash look without it seeming like you’re wearing a ton of makeup? That’s where this list comes in. Scroll along to shop my 12 favorite mascaras for faking an extension effect (plus a few mind-blowing application tips I’ve learned over the years that will seriously change your life).
This mascara truly does it all, and the secret lies in the soft, wavy brush. It helps that the waterproof formula easily glides on, but the 200+ bristles are especially important: They’re able to coat every single lash, giving you the voluptuous volume and length of your dreams. The formula also offers serious curl (that holds!), and will have people spend some serious time contemplating whether you’re wearing extensions or not.
Looking for a major curling effect? This sleeper hit won a 2017 Allure Best of Beauty Award, yet somehow no one ever talks about it. I've seen this in a number of makeup artists' kits and am impressed by the results every time: super-full, glossy, curled lashes that make you look healthy and awake (sans smudges, flakes, and clumps, of course). The product also contains a special conditioning formula, making it actively good for your lashes.
Pro Tip #1: Use a small fan brush instead of the included mascara spoolie.
If clumps of any kind drive you absolutely batty, or if you’re afraid of tugging too hard on your lashes and risking taking them out, follow this clever piece of advice I learned from celebrity makeup artist Robin Black: Find a small fan brush or lash separator brush, then swipe some mascara onto the back of your hand, dip the lash brush into the product, and carefully apply it to your lashes that way. Fun fact: This is how women applied mascara for decades and decades until the modern mascara tube was invented.
One of the first and only CBD cosmetics I truly support, this formula is my go-to when I want my lashes to look almost scarily long. The CBD in the formula has also been shown to foster lash growth, so that's a plus. Not to mention I love how sturdy the tube is. So chic!
More into natural formulas? Chill. This vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and sulfate-free find is a tubing mascara—that means it coats your lashes in these little fibers to make them seriously look extension-esque (but not chunky or cakey). Nontoxic ingredients like Korean plant extracts and orchid stem cell complex encourage lash growth, while vitamin B5 and sodium hyaluronate hydrate for that healthy, shiny lash look.
This best-selling mascara was designed with the help of makeup artists who work backstage at fashion week—that means it's both easy to use and produces runway-worthy results quick. Microfibers create a lash-extension effect, while a patented "airlock" technology keeps your lashes looking like you just applied your makeup for hours and hours.
Pro Tip #2: Don't forget the topside of your lashes.
I learned this from a fellow beauty editor a few years ago, and my brain exploded on the spot: An instant way to make your lashes look twice as full is to apply your mascara not only to the underside of your lashes as you normally do but also to the topside. In other words, take the lash applicator of your choosing and brush product on top of your upper lashes after your regular application on the underside. You’ll be stunned at what a difference in volume you’ll find.
Pro Tip #3: Apply the most product to the tip of your lashes.
Here’s a trick I learned on YouTube: To make your lashes look thick and long, but not chunky and covered in product, apply thicker globs of product on the very tips of your lashes, then with a separate spoolie or brush (or a side of the mascara applicator that isn’t covered in product) brush your lashes from the base upward. We normally apply the most product to the base of our lashes, which makes them look weighed-down and shorter. By having a lighter base and thicker tips, you’ll ool everyone into thinking your lashes are several millimeters longer.
When I first saw the brush on this Covergirl mascara, I thought it had to be a gimmick. But it is genuinely really cool how you can use the different angles and shapes to isolate each individual lash and be super meticulous in your application. The result? A super-bold, dark, voluminous look. This one maybe isn't for the mascara wearer who wants to apply one quick coat and run out the door, but if you're a perfectionist, I'd strongly recommend putting down the $7.
In contrast to the Covergirl pick above, here is a mascara for anyone interested in a super-low-maintenance lash routine. It's no wonder that this pick, which creates major (clump-free) volume and separation after just a coat or two, is by one of our favorite French beauty brand's, La Roche-Posay.
Want more product recommendations? Don't miss 18 miracle British beauty products American women don't know about.
This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.