Hunting for the best mascara is tricky business—and not a task we take lightly as beauty editors. For starters, there's so much to be considered: our budget, for one, and then our specific needs and goals when it comes to transforming our lashes into their longest, densest, most fluttery selves.
The good news, however, is that there are tons of amazing tubes of mascara out there specifically formulated for different purposes (volumizing, separation, etc.), all coming in at a variety of price points. FYI: celebrity makeup artists say mascaras probably aren't one of the products you actually need to splurge on. That said, we all pick our poison differently.
We're in the business of testing and critiquing every single mascara formula that comes our way, so believe us when we say we've tried our fair share of expensive and inexpensive mascaras that have impressed and disappointed. We have high standards, and we want a mascara so good it extinguishes the need for false lashes or extensions.
And believe it or not, we've found 16 best-of-the-best mascaras that not only meet our nit-picky standards, but have also gone above and beyond. To make our research more user-friendly, we've split our finds up into three different categories: volume, length, and definition. Then we took it up a notch by labeling each product with $, $$, or $$$ so you can better sift through our editor-approved assortment with your budget's bandwidth in mind.
Ahead, see the 16 best mascaras to replace your lash strips and extensions with.
If you followed me over on Byrdie, you already know this O.G. heaven-sent orange tube is quite possibly the only product I've used steadily since, oh, about middle school. Mascara is kind of my thing, and this budget-friendly formula is one of the few to boost my long, straight lashes with mega-watt volume without weighing them down. No, it's not a shiny new launch, but it actually works (which is what we're after!).
A tad newer than my CoverGirl fave, this pretty pink tube is probably the next best thing coming in at a budget-friendly price. It layers beautifully so you get lustrous volume and won't smudge or flake as the day or evening wears on.
It'd be easy to label this cannabis oil–laden mascara formula as pure gimmick, except for the fact that this heavy-duty formula (seriously, the packaging is like a heavy silver bullet, in a chic way) truly works. It's by far one of the most fattening mascaras I've ever tried, but doesn't make your lashes look product-piled and clumpy. It's kind of magical.
A true cult classic, we spot this hot pink–and-black number in the kits and cases of makeup artists, celebs, and editors, alike. With just a few strategic swipes, lashes are coated in the most plush volume, and the impact lasts for an impressive 24 hours.
So in all honesty, this mascara is another one I've worn and sworn by since high school. And even though I've probably tried at least 50 different formulas in the interim, I find myself coming back to this one. Plus it's YSL, so you know the packaging is on point and perfect for pulling out of your bag wherever, whenever. (Because yes, we're sometimes superficial like that.)
We're usually skeptical when it comes to overwhelming product murmur (we've been left jaded after too many letdowns), but Grande Cosmetics lives up to the hype. Their mascara is one of the best for length—and volume—we've ever swiped on. Plus, thanks to the helpful hit of peptides and vitamins, your natural lashes will get longer and healthier in due time.
For those who truly crave length, this iconic mascara from Benefit will be your BFF. Despite the fact that the brand has released numerous buzzy mascara formulas following this guy, we're still obsessed with length and curl the pretty little wand never fails to bless us with. The formula is also supremely inky (our weakness), and never smudges, clumps, or flakes.
If you want to up the drama, this super volumizing mascara from Marc Jacobs is for you. The wand is specially designed to coat from lash line to tip, equalling maximum thickness and length. Plus, it's smudge proof. Bat away!
Charlotte Tilbury is the queen of glamour, and this tube of lash-lengthening wonder might just be one of the best formulas in her arsenal (which is saying a lot). With loads of premium ingredients (like tamanu oil and marine glycogen), the carbon-black concoction features a variety of waxes and botanicals to grant maximum length and 13 times the volume with just three coats.
Yes, this mascara duo is an investment, but yes, it will also give you—I kid you not—the best lashes of your entire life. Whenever I use it people kind of freak out and assume I have extensions. I've never loved a two-part fiber formula, but this one from under-the-radar Australian brand ModelCo is truly lash-changing. You basically just apply them like a sandwich—the black extension mascara first, then the fibers, and then another coat (or five) of the extension mascara. Remarkably, it's supremely hard to O.D. on the stuff.
I love a natural alternative as much as the next girl, but was hard pressed to find a good green mascara until I came across this one from Ilia. It lengthens, separates and curls just as well, if not better than your usual formula. To boot, it's ingredient list includes shea butter which moisturizes and keeps any fears of flaking at bay.
Fact: You won't find a better mascara when it comes to separation and definition than this super-skinny mascara from Wet n Wild. Not only does it cost less than your morning coffee order, it precisely layers each and every lash (even those tiny hard to reach ones) with a jet-black coating.
Apart from offering your lashes luster and shine, this mascara from Estee Lauder makes your eyes look brighter and more awake. In other words, it's your best friend after too little sleep or too much merrymaking.
I use this mascara almost every day. It boasts one of the most natural finishes in the mascara market, and lightly fans, separates, and elongates your lashes in the most flattering and fluttering of ways. If you're after a super-believable your-lashes-but-better vibe, you've found your baby-pink ticket.
I've complimented multiple people in my life about their lashes—and been told multiple times that this was the mascara they were wearing. Of course, I put it the test myself and have concluded that it is indeed one of the best mascaras out there if you're in want of definition, volume, and length. Thanks to its unique water-resistant tube strategy, lashes look flawless all day long and with just few quick strokes.
In all honesty, I'm actually surprised this game-changing mascara formula seems to fall to the wayside (in terms of industry buzz) compared to the far more well-known O.G. Diorshow mascara. However, having tried every single mascara from the brand, I dub this one the best for curl, hold, precision, length, and definition. It's not the most volumizing, but if you're after curl and separation, there's no formula better.
Next up, 20 of the best drugstore mascaras that rival their designer counterparts.
This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.