If You Hate Removing Mascara, These Water-Based Formulas Will Change Your Life

As a beauty editor, I spend countless hours every day attempting to understand the scientific sides of the products I'm testing, reviewing, and hopefully recommending to my readers. To completely understand a product, it's imperative that I'm able to break down the ingredients; in hopes of eventually coming to an appreciation for the unique qualities that set it apart from all others. This process (what I've affectionately dubbed the "deep dive") is especially beneficial when comparing several similar products with a similar feature. This time, I'm looking at 13 of the highest-rated mascaras using water-based formulas to deliver length and volume.

When it comes to mascara, there are two main types: oil-based and water-based. Oil-based mascaras are typically crafted with natural oils such as mineral oil, castor oil, and carnauba wax, in addition to petroleum distillate which can contribute to skin irritation. While oil-based mascaras are often celebrated for being waterproof, long-lasting, and smudge-resistant, they're not ideal for individuals with sensitive skin or eyes. While not waterproof, water-based mascaras are somewhat water-resistant and chemical-free, making them the best option for people with sensitive skin or allergies. Water-based formulas are also easy to remove with minimal effort.


(Image credit: @amaka.hamelijnck)

Shopping for Your Water-Based Mascara

To help find the best water-based mascara, I turned to Charlie Riddle, celebrity makeup artist and global head of artistry at Stila Cosmetics. Riddle, who's created looks for everyone from Winnie Harlow and Chloe Bailey to Dove Cameron and Charlie D'Amelio, is no stranger to endless mascara options. "Aqua (water) will always be the main/first ingredient to look out for. What to avoid would be any mascaras that have oils," he says. The makeup artist mainly uses two water-based mascaras on his celebrity clientele: Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara and Lancôme's Lash Idôle Lash-Lifting Volumizing Mascara. "This is my go-to mascara! I love the volume it gives, and each coat gives a significant increase in volume. It wears so well throughout the day and doesn't get flakey," Riddle says of the former.

Now that you know what ingredients to look for in your water-based mascara formulas, you can shop confidently equipped with knowledge. Below, you'll find a selection of products that are Who What Wear beauty editor-approved (complete with helpful pros and cons). If this story is enough to encourage switching from team oil-based to team water-based, I will have done my job well. Happy scrolling!

Best Overall: Dèfinicils High Definition Lengthening Mascara


(Image credit: @itsmayalala; Pictured: YSL Volume Effect Faux Cils)


(Image credit: @itsmayalala; Pictured: Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara)
Maya Thomas
Assistant Beauty Editor
Maya Thomas is Who What Wear's assistant beauty editor based just outside of Seattle, Washington. Her strong love for all things beauty and fashion stems from a strong childhood interest in the fine arts. During a gap year spent in Paris studying the history of French fashion, she shifted her focus to English literature and journalism as a student at Loyola Marymount University with the goal of one day pursuing a career in fashion. After graduating in May 2021, Maya began freelancing for Parade.com as a contributing commerce writer while also building a following on her lifestyle blog, Itsmayalala.com. When she's not writing, Maya spends her free time catching up on reading, perusing art galleries, and enjoying a night out at the ballet every now and then.