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.
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
Available in three natural-looking shades, Lancôme's best-selling mascara creates the look of fuller lashes with a flake-free, non-clumping formula that lifts and lengthens the lashes. Its brush dispenses the perfect amount of formula while separating for a natural yet defined eyelash look.
Pros: Does not transfer or smudge
If it's a mascara and length primer combo you're after, look no further than this cult-classic multipurpose mascara duo by Honest Beauty. Made with Jojoba esters and without mineral oil, parabens, silicones, or paraffins, this mascara delivers both length and staying powder with the help of a primer to enhance the mascara's performance.
Pros: Applies smoothly and evenly to the lashes
Zero clumps, clean definition, and length are the three descriptors that come to mind when using this mascara. In addition to delivering major definition and volume for longer looking lashes (thanks to its flexible lash accentuating brush), the product can be removed without any discomfort using soap and water.
Pros: Brush separates the lashes for definition
Cons: Leaves some flakes with reapplication
Yves Saint Laurent's buildable, volumizing mascara is enriched with ingredients that nurture, strengthen, and lengthen the lashes for a long-lasting false eyelash effect. While its formula is infused with moroccan argan oil and pro-vitamin B5, its described by the brand as being majority water-based, lending to conditioned lashes that appear fuller overtime.
Pros: Offers intense pigment and length
Cons: Highest price point
Although I rarely where falsies, when I do, I absolutely live for this mascara since it adds the ideal amount of buildable volume to the lashes. Offered in 13 shades and finishes, the Voluminous Original Mascara builds the lashes up to 5x their natural thickness while keeping them incredibly soft and resistant to clumping.
Pros: Removes easily with soap and water
Cons: Slight smudging by end of day
Maybelline's Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara uses a unique advanced thickening formula using nourishing Vitamin E for softer and fuller looking lashes. Like many of the other mascaras included on this list, it removes easily with soap and water to prevent lash loss and is suitable for sensitive eyes and skin as well as contact lens wearers.
Pros: Creates full, healthy-looking lashes
The Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara (offered in four natural-looking shades) is made from a clean, vegan formula infused with argan and marula oil to provide 10 times the volume of bare lashes. Its applicator brush also separates and defines for visibly longer and fuller lashes.
Pros: No smudging or clumping
Cons: Flakes over a day
Does your mascara dissipate by the end of the day? It's time to update your makeup routine with one that lasts. This long-lasting mascara by Xtreme Lashes is formulated specifically for semi-permanent lash extensions for dramatic definition and length. Its formula features vitamin B5 to define and nourish your natural lashes.
Pros: Waterproof and non-clumping
Cons: Smudges with all-day wear
This is my best kept secret to achieving longer, healthy-looking eyelashes in seconds. Neutrogena's Healthy Lengths Mascara helps your natural lashes grow using a formula that features rice protein, vitamin E, and olive oil to keep them nourished and looking noticeably longer.
Pros: Affordable price point
Cons: Minimal flaking and clumping
Achieving long, voluminous lashes shouldn't lead to them feeling weighed down. Benefit Cosmetic's volumizing mascara offers a solution with a smudge-proof, water-resistant formula that instantly lifts and lengthens the lashes using aero-particles (one of the lightest known materials derived from space technology).
Pros: Instantly delivers length and volume
Cons: Formula dries quickly
I've been using this mascara non-stop for years and can't imagine a day when I won't reach for it to complete my everyday makeup routine. It conditions and thickens the lashes using a hypoallergenic formula that's ophthalmologist tested and safe for contact lens wearers. I love how smoothly it glides onto the lashes without unsightly clumps or flaking.
Pros: Long-lasting and easy to remove
Cons: Dries slowly after application
This mascara is infused with bamboo extract and fibers for long and full lashes without any flaking or smudging. Its flexible mascara brush coats every lash evenly with product, extending each one from root to tip. It's also ophthalmologist-approved, allergy-tested, and safe for sensitive eyes.
Pros: Easy to apply and remove
Perricone MD's No Makeup Mascara is a two-in-one lash treatment and mascara clinically proven to produce the appearance of lengthened, lifted, and thick lashes. Its formula is full of nourishing ingredients, while its dual-faced brush ensures precise application.
Pros: Natural-looking finish
Cons: Somewhat flakey
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