A drugstore mascara is one of those makeup products that I can say with certainty can rival a high-end one. In fact, I don’t think it’s easy to justify buying anything but drugstore mascaras, since they can deliver the same volume, length, and curl as more expensive ones, and they will last you just as long. Mascaras are notorious for expiring very quickly and needing to be replaced often, so you might as well pick up one of the best drugstore mascara options to give your lashes that doe-eyed appearance.
We’ve selected 21 of the best drugstore mascaras, with each one giving a slightly different effect – after all, there is an option out there for every person to love. Then we go over the different effects one might want out of a drugstore mascara to make it easier for you to pinpoint the features you would prefer!
Your Drugstore Mascara Guide: Contents
21 Best Drugstore Mascaras to Volumize, Lengthen & Curl
From volumizing to lengthening to holding that curl perfectly, find the best drugstore mascara for your lash needs below!
This is a classic that we’re thrilled to share! The green and pink tube of Maybelline’s Great Lash is iconic, and the formula is an easy winner on a whole bunch of fronts. The nylon wand gives surprisingly great separation and length, and while it does volumize, it doesn’t give over the top volume. It is fairly long-lasting, although since it’s washable, it might leave a bit of a residue on the lid if you work up a sweat. Pick it up from Amazon!
With an extra-black formula and flexible plastic bristles, this is the best drugstore mascara for simultaneously volumizing the lashes while also separating them. It thoroughly coats each lash with a lengthening and thickening formulation that makes the lashes look big and present. It’s also a cruelty-free option, which we greatly appreciate. The only potential con to this CoverGirl mascara is that it does have a very thick wand, which can be a little messy and unwieldy to deal with. Get it on Amazon!
When you want your lashes to look unreal, this is the best drugstore mascara to try. It comes from Essence, a German brand that is cruelty-free, high-quality, and affordable. It has a traditional spoolie wand that is easy to control and manipulate, and offers a lot of volume and length, with just the right amount of separation. You can really amp up the drama with this mascara, but be careful because it’s easy to overdo and end up with overly thick, spidery lashes. It’s available on Amazon.
Many have compared Lash Paradise to Too Faced’s Better Than Sex, so if you’ve tried that mascara and liked it, this could be the best drugstore mascara for you. It gives incredible volume and length, but sometimes at the price of a bit of clumpiness if you’re not careful. This waterproof version of it is one of our L’Oréal favorites because it can hold up to nearly anything, so definitely pack it along for your next beach-side vacation. You can find it on Amazon.
There is something about Lash Sensational’s pink, metallic tube that we are simply obsessed with. It’s the very definition of drugstore mascara luxury design. It’s a lovely mascara that gives nice definition length with a curved plastic brush that fans out the lashes beautifully. The best thing about it is that it’s washable, making it very easy to remove for those with sensitive eyes, although it also means that it won’t hold through a workout session or a rainstorm. Order it online from Amazon!
This is the best drugstore mascara out there for those with very straight or downward angled lashes. It was formulated to give the blackness and volume one would expect out of a good mascara, along with maximum lift regardless of whether you’ve curled your lashes beforehand. As with all NYX products, it is cruelty-free and even vegan. Since it’s not waterproof, it may start to wear away on very long days, and if you are not very careful while applying, it can get a little clumpy. Pick it up at Ulta!
This unique mascara is a cult-favorite for a reason. It combines natural beeswax with tubing polymers to give a lot of length as well as some volume. The tubes it forms around the lashes give a great extension that is very oil-resistant but will come off with just a wipe of warm water. It has a corset-shaped brush that works well with smaller lashes, but might be hard to control with a wider eye. It is the best drugstore mascara with a very long-lasting and water-resistant formula, and as a bonus, it is certified by PETA as cruelty-free. Shop for it on Amazon!
This awesome drugstore mascara comes with a lash primer on one end and a tubing formula on the other. As a result, it gives a really nice volume to the lashes along with the unique length that you can only get out of a tubing mascara. The only drawback to this mascara is that sometimes the primer will show through a little bit, so the lashes don’t look completely black unless you apply enough coats. It is sold on Amazon.
Sometimes you want an easy mascara that will make your lashes pop without looking over the top and will be easy to take off at the end of the day. Well, this is the best drugstore mascara for you! It keeps the lashes looking soft and natural but still voluminous and includes vitamin E to fortify them. Once it’s time to remove it, it will just wash off without damaging the lashes. With all that said, while it does last well throughout the day, it won’t hold up against water, rain, or sweat. Buy it from Amazon!
This new mascara from ColourPop has caused a bit of controversy, but because it’s so unique, we think it deserves a spot here. First, it comes in 7 colors, from traditional black and brown to some wild colors like lavender and teal, and unlike many other colored mascaras, it is very pigmented. It gives a nice coating of color and volume, although some find it to be a little clumpy and difficult to work with. Grab it from Ulta!
This amazing Japanese drugstore mascara has also become a huge hit in the West, thanks to its incredibly lengthening effect. It’s one of the best tubing mascaras around, with the ability to hold a curl and just, in general, look amazing all day long. It is even infused with fibers that make it extra-lengthening. Find it on Amazon!
To date, Clump Crusher is still a personal favorite – a wonderfully separating mascara that holds on remarkably well and gives a great balance of volume and length without compromising definition at all. Its curved plastic brush is one of the best we’ve seen for giving the lashes total separation without any clumps (hence the name!). This variation on it is infused with fibers that give a boost to this mascara’s lengthening abilities. Get it on Amazon!
Just because you prefer an easily washable, non-waterproof mascara, it doesn’t mean that you don’t want drama! This is the best drugstore mascara that gives really exceptional volume and lift to the lashes for a false-lash effect enhanced by fibers. It can get clumpy if you’re not careful applying it, but that’s sometimes the price to pay for an extreme look. The brush is slightly curved and hinged, which makes it easier to get into the corners of the eye and to reach every last lash. It’s available in 4 colors through Amazon.
Whether you buy into the clean beauty trend or not, it is undeniable that this mascara from Honest Beauty does the trick and even rivals mainstream drugstore mascaras. This formulation is free of paraffin, silicones, parabens, and many synthetic ingredients, but it still delivers long, lush-looking lashes. This mascara comes with a conditioning primer on one end and the actual mascara on the other end, so it helps to strengthen the lashes while making them look amazing. Order it from Amazon!
This is another fantastically dramatic, volumizing, and lash-lifting mascara. It’s a real one-and-done since with a single coat, you get the same effects as you would from a single coat of another mascara. It comes with a nylon wand, which is great for traditionalists who are sick of the rise of plastic mascara wands. The only potential drawback to this drugstore mascara is that when it’s fresh, it takes a little longer than usual to dry on the lashes. Grab it from Ulta!
L’Oréal Voluminous has been around for decades, and while the brand has released many fancy new mascaras over the years, this one remains a best-seller. It gives the lashes reliable volume without clumpiness and has a classic medium-sized brush that works for both the top and bottom lashes. These days, this best-selling drugstore mascara is also available in a wide range of colors, including blue, burgundy, and green. Pick it up on Amazon!
This is another best-selling drugstore mascara for fans of intense lashes. It has a curved plastic wand, similar to Clump Crusher, so it guarantees separation and helps hold a curl nicely, but with a formula that is quick, thick and dark for really amazing volume. It is a non-waterproof mascara, and it comes off quite easily, which can be a benefit or a drawback depending on your preferences. Shop for it through Amazon!
Maybe this mascara should win for the cutest name because we love “volumazing.” It’s the best drugstore mascara for volume and definition, which makes it an easy crowd-pleaser. Where it really stands out to us is in its long-lasting capabilities, which rival many waterproof mascaras, even though it’s a washable formula. Throughout the day, it stays put incredibly well, without smudging or flaking, and it’s shockingly oil-resistant despite not being a tubing mascara. Purchase it from Ulta!
Ultra-thin mascara wands are not universally popular, but sometimes you need that exact definition and extreme control that it can offer. Whether you’re trying to keep the lashes separate or to apply mascara to the bottom lashes, this one is the best drugstore mascara to try. It manages to capture every lash, including the tiniest ones, and to coat it with an even layer of mascara to add length and volume without overdoing it. If your main concern is to avoid a messy application or smudged mascara, this is the one to try. It is sold on Amazon.
While we’re primarily on the lookout for instant results with our drugstore mascara, it can be nice to know that your makeup is also helping your lashes grow fuller and longer. This lengthening mascara includes Procapil, which is intended to help condition the lashes and increase their growth. Beyond this, it also works in the short term to make lashes look longer and more defined, with a bit of volume as well. You can get it on Amazon.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to pile on the coats of mascara, then this one might be the best drugstore mascara for you. It gives both length and volume easily, and it never gets spidery or thick, even as you add on the layers. It does so because it dries down quickly, so the liquid doesn’t get gloopy or clumpy. The brush is a little on the large side, so it might be unwieldy for some. You can find it on Amazon.
What to Consider When Shopping for the Best Drugstore Mascara
As you saw from our long list, drugstore mascaras come in a massive variety, with a ton of different elements that change up their effects. The best drugstore mascara for you will be totally different from the best one for someone else, with different lashes and preferences. Here are our tips for figuring out which will be the best drugstore mascara for you.
If You Want Volume
What’s the fun of a mascara that doesn’t give volume? One of the primary purposes of mascara is to add bulk around the lashes to make them look fuller and lusher. Most mascaras are designed to help volumize the lashes, but some do a better job than others.
In general, look for drugstore mascaras with wands that are densely covered in longer bristles, as those do a better job of thoroughly covering the entirety of the lashes. Nylon bristles, in particular, can give a really impressive effect.
The best drugstore mascara formulas for volume are creamy and slightly thicker – if your mascara is super wet initially, you might find that after a week or so, it dries out a bit and can become more volumizing than when it was fresh. Some mascaras also have micro-fibers embedded in them, which also help to thicken and volumize the lashes.
However, volumizing mascaras are also often the ones most likely to clump up the lashes, making them look overly thick, spidery, and even like there are fewer of them by making them stick to one another. Long plastic bristles will usually still give volume while also helping to separate the lashes, although you can also rely on a clean mascara wand or eyelash brush to help you undo any clumpiness.
If You Want Length
Almost all of us want longer lashes, no matter what kind of eyelash length we start out with. Almost all drugstore mascaras will help to lengthen lashes to a certain extent, although some do a better job than others. Creamy formulas will give you length very quickly, while wetter formulas are going to be easier for building up the length steadily.
All kinds of wands should do a good job of lengthening your lashes, in both the nylon and plastic categories. The important part is that the bristles are dense and long enough to get in between the lashes adequately.
Tubing mascaras are another great option if you want added length. Some of them also include fibers, which add even more length and a touch of volume, although in general, these formulas aren’t very volumizing on their own.
If You Want Curl
First things first, if what you want is a mascara that gives your lashes a curl and a lift, it’s important that you first put in the effort actually to curl your lashes. When it comes to the best drugstore mascara that will then keep that curl in place, look for a lightweight formula with a thicker texture.
Mascaras that are advertised as “curling” or “lifting” should also help give your lashes that glamorous, lifted effect.
Some find that curved mascara wands or hourglass mascara wands do a better job of lifting their lashes, as well, although that hasn’t been our personal experience.
If You Want Separation
Some people don’t mind the drama of extra-voluminous and slightly clumpy lashes, but for us, it takes away some of the fantasy. Mascaras that offer separation can also help to fan out the lashes, giving an impactful look that is also more natural-looking while still retaining glamour.
Plastic mascara wands are generally better for separation, although there are nylon wands out there that can also do the trick. The key is that the wand is densely populated with bristles so that they can get in between each individual lash and apply mascara while adding separation.
Larger wands, even if they are made of plastic, are often likely to cause clumpiness, while slimmer wands with longer bristles usually work best.
If You Want Longevity
These days, even washable mascaras are designed to stay in place all throughout the day, but if you have more unique needs, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the best long-lasting drugstore mascara.
If your main concern is finding a drugstore mascara that will hold on even in bad weather or if you work up a sweat, then naturally, you should choose a waterproof mascara. We’ve highlighted a few excellent waterproof mascaras on our list, but a lot of the washable formulas we recommend also come in a waterproof version.
If you also struggle with oily eyelids, then a waterproof mascara might not do the trick. This is where tubing formulas shine! Tubing mascaras create polymer tubes around the lashes, which hold up really well against oils and water. They will only come off with the combination of warm water and a bit of friction and will otherwise stay put.
If You Want a Natural Look
Whether you have extra-long lashes that look extra with most mascaras or you just prefer a subtler look, a natural-looking mascara like Maybelline’s Full and Soft will do the trick. You will want a drugstore mascara with an average side wand and dense, separating bristles, and a lightweight formula that will keep the lashes looking soft and fluffy without adding bulk.
Most average mascaras could work quite well, but you want to be careful to wipe the brush down with a tissue first to remove any excess mascara and to restrict yourself to only one layer.
Photos via Instagram