If you’ve ever walked into a drugstore with the intent to buy makeup, you know how overwhelming it is. Whether you're looking for liquid lipsticks or liquid eyeliners, hundreds of products line the shelves—all with similar claims at similar price points. Because choosing a quality drugstore mascara feels a lot like picking a needle out of a haystack, we tested the 10 of the top-rated options to find the best of the best.
After so many days of testing, we landed on Covergirl Lash Blast Volume(available at Amazon for $5.22), a highly effective mascara that goes on smoothly, doesn’t clump, and separates lashes beautifully.
It’s worth noting that, during testing, we were largely satisfied with most of the top-rated drugstore mascaras and found the majority of the products yielded similarly impressive results, especially for their affordable price points.
These are the best drugstore mascaras we tested ranked, in order:
Covergirl Lash Blast Volume
Maybelline Full ‘n Soft Thick and Healthy
Double Extend Lash Extension Effect
Maybelline Lash Sensational Full Fan Effect
Maybelline Great Lash
L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly
Maybelline Volum’express: The Colossal
L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black
L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise
Essence Lash Princess
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The bottom line: A reliable mascara that goes on smooth, with noticeable results in just one coat.
The details: The plastic, spiky wand is shorter and stubbier than a classic wand but easier to maneuver. It didn’t pick up too much formula, making a smooth and clump-free application a breeze. This hypoallergenic formula promises 10 times the volume and was also one of the only mascaras tested that really only required one coat to achieve noticeable results. And although it was relatively easy to remove, this mascara had serious staying power. It didn’t flake or smudge at all—despite how many times this tired mom rubbed her eyes.
I'm Brigitt Earley. Having worked as a lifestyle editor for nearly 10 years, I have extensive experience testing beauty products. I am also an expectant mom with a very busy toddler, so I need a product that delivers great, long-lasting results with minimal effort and a reasonable price tag.
We scoured best-seller lists across retailers, beauty blogs, social media, and any best-of lists we could find to round up the best drugstore mascaras on the market, all with price tags below $12. Then, we glammed it up, pitting the top-rated brands against one another other to find a winner.
Like a lot of beauty products, what makes a good mascara is rather subjective, depending on what your goals are: Do you want a dramatic look? A smooth application? Or maybe you care more about staying power? That being said, many of the products I tested held their own in all of the most important areas. In fact, these tasks made me question why I generally spend $24 on the Make Up For Ever Smoky Stretch Lengthening and Defining Mascara, a luxury-brand product—the majority of the drugstore versions are just as effective.
I tested the mascara the same way you might: I applied the product during my normally frenzied morning rush, wore each one all day without touching up, and removed the mascara with StriVectin Multi-Action Bi-Phase R&R eye makeup remover while getting ready for bed. Unlike the way you might test, though, I also teamed up with Reviewed’s senior scientist to score and weight results on a scientifically calibrated rubric. I also swatched each mascara on my arm to measure drying time and execute durability tests.
But to find which drugstore mascara really is best, I answered weighted questions like:
Application: Does the wand hold enough mascara to easily apply it in one stroke? Does the mascara go on smoothly? How well does the mascara separate your lashes? How many coats do you need to apply before you’re satisfied with your look?
Wear: Does the mascara achieve its stated claim? Does the mascara flake, transfer, or smudge throughout the day? Compared to a fresh application, how does the mascara look at the end of the day?
When I ran the results from each mascara test through the scoring rubric, the results weren’t dramatic. The scoring reflected my instincts during testing—the majority of these drugstore mascaras were perfectly suitable products, with less than a half-point margin between the highest-scoring product and the lowest-scoring product.
What You Should Know About Drugstore Mascara
Though our tests show it’s hard to go wrong with a top-rated drugstore mascara, there are a few things you should know that may help influence your purchasing decision:
Wand shape: Tests show you don’t need a fancy wand shape to achieve a flawless finish. In fact, the more "unique" wand shapes felt gimmicky—they were more difficult to use and led to more mistakes and smudges during application. Stick with what you know and are comfortable with.
Performance: Though every tube of mascara tested had grand claims (ten times the volume! Eighty percent longer lashes!), there wasn’t a discernible difference among products. Instead, choose a wand shape that looks familiar and easy to maneuver.
Formula: When it comes to choosing the best drugstore mascara, it all boils down to the formula: Is the formula gloopy and thick? Is it so dry that it crumbles when you layer on a second coat? If so, it doesn’t matter what shape wand you have in your hands you're going to end up with clumpy, stiff lashes.
Removal: Though we didn’t test any mascara specifically billed as waterproof, some resisted water better than others. It’s interesting to note that didn’t seem to have any bearing on whether the makeup smudged, flaked, or transferred throughout the day. It did, however, mean some makeup was harder to remove at the end of the day—a deciding factor for some.
Other Drugstore Mascara We Tested
Maybelline Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara
The bottom line: A lightweight mascara that’s perfect for soft, natural-looking lashes or a no-makeup look.
The details: This mascara does exactly what it claims: keeps lashes full and soft all day. The lightweight formula swipes on easily and quickly, without clumps—application is a real breeze. The bristled wand is long and skinny, with a slight taper at the end, making it easy to maneuver—even in the tiny corners of my lashes. The downside is that those who want a fuller or more dramatic look will need to apply two or three coats, and because it takes a minute or so to dry, that adds time to your routine. The trade-off is soft, natural-looking lashes that stay full all day long, staying true to its claim.
The bottom line: Best for lengthening, this two-step mascara yields impressive results with just one swipe.
The details: Because it’s double-sided, this mascara technically requires two swipes minimum—but because of its impact, you won’t need more than that. The bristled wands are long and skinny, which makes them easy to wield. Plus, they hold enough formula to get the job done the first time, without clumping. The first-step formula is a primer that’s infused with Ceramide R and D-Panthenol—ingredients that promise to protect and strengthen lashes, while the second-step formula (the actual mascara) promises to lengthen. The two-step process definitely adds length to lashes, but applying two formulas makes lashes feel a bit crunchy when they dry—something that bothered me a bit. And though the mascara held up throughout the day, with little-to-no flaking, you'll have to consider if it’s worth the extra time.
The bottom line: This longest-lasting mascara is tricky to apply but has impressive staying power.
The details: The plastic wand isn't very intuitive to use—it’s sort of a crescent moon shape, with longer bristles on the top and shorter ones on the bottom. Because of this, there’s definitely a learning curve, and it takes some precision and patience at first. (I’m still not 100 percent sure I’m doing it right!) Despite that, there’s enough formula on the wand to leave your lashes looking polished at one swipe. The trouble is most will crave that second swipe for a more defined look. And because this mascara was one of the slowest to dry, that’ll cost you time. Perhaps it’s worth the extra effort though: This mascara held up remarkably well during an extremely long day—from 6:45 a.m. to 11 p.m.—with no touch-ups.
The bottom line: The best value you can find, this reliable mascara is great for newbies.
The details: Like so many people, this cult-favorite mascara was the first one I was ever introduced to. All these years later, it’s still a strong contender. At just $4.44, this is the most inexpensive mascara we tested, but it held its own among other great drugstore mascaras. It has a small brush that makes application really easy (even for beginners)—it goes on smooth, separating and lifting lashes in just one swipe. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great choice for anyone who prefers volume or a bold look, as you will begin to see clumping with more than one swipe. Overall, though, it’s a very reliable choice, especially at the price point.
The bottom line: A tough-to-maneuver wand that's slightly gimmicky, but effective enough.
The details: I wasn’t sure whether to love or hate the shape of this mascara’s plastic wand: The “wing tip brush” claims to stretch lashes, prevent clumping, and elongate, but because each side of the wand is dramatically different, it’s not clear where to begin to get the best results—or even how to hold the wand in the first place! The results suggest it does help, but it’s not easy to maneuver—especially if you’re a beginner. The formula is also a bit clumpy, though that could be a result of improper use. Besides the initial challenges, this mascara didn’t stand out in a good or a bad way—it delivered satisfactory results, lasted well throughout the day, and was relatively easy to remove.
Maybelline Volum' Express The Colossal Washable Mascara
The bottom line: A lightweight, smooth formula that’s exceedingly easy to apply.
The details: This mascara promises nine times the volume due to its collagen-infused formula. The wand doesn’t hold much mascara, which can be both a good and bad thing: On the negative side, there’s not much coverage until the second or third swipe. On the positive side, the formula doesn’t clump—even with multiple coats. The brush has very long bristles and is also slightly tapered at the end, making it easier than most to get into the tight corners of your eyelid without smudging. Despite being lightweight, the formula boasts staying power—even through a midday nap. Unfortunately, I paid the price for this when it was time to remove the mascara—there was still some residue on my lashes even after washing my face and using makeup remover.
The bottom line: This seemingly solid choice tanked because it’s not as long-lasting as other mascaras.
The details: This inexpensive product has all the makings of the best mascara—it goes on very smooth and doesn’t clump; it fans lashes nicely, and it has great coverage on the first swipe. The only noticeable drawback during application is the fact that formula sticks to the tip of the wand, making it easy to smudge the corners of your lids with makeup. But with a little precision, I was very happy with the results. I wondered if this could be a strong contender, but this mascara plummeted in rankings because it just didn’t last the way other formulas did—it was the only mascara that flaked noticeably throughout the day.
L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Washable Mascara
The bottom line: A frustrating application reveals this mascara is not much more than a pretty tube.
The details: This rose-colored tube is widely known as a dupe for the cult favorite Better Than Sex mascara by Too Faced. The hourglass brush is rather fat and is attached to a short wand, so swiping doesn't feel effortless and natural, and because the formula is very thick, lashes clump and tangle during application. Because of this, it’s tempting to apply more coats to even things out—but this exacerbates the problem, increases drying time, and creates a caked-on feel that bothered me throughout the day. This was also one of the only formulas to flake periodically throughout the day, likely because I had applied so much formula to my lashes. Despite that, this mascara was incredibly difficult to remove. After washing my face, using makeup remover, and washing my face again in the morning, I still noticed some residue.
The bottom line: A budget mascara that delivers dark pigmentation and great volume—but is incredibly difficult to apply.
The details: This mascara exploded in popularity on Reddit, but the combination of the wand’s short bristles and the thick formula makes application challenging. The formula gets stuck on the end of the brush, which easily transfers to your eyelid during application, requiring touch-ups as you go. The formula also tends to clump a bit, making it extra important to be slow and precise—not a good thing for anyone who wants to streamline their beauty routine. The upside is that all that formula really does deliver impressive results that last all day. Overall, there are better options.
Brigitt Earley is a freelance writer and editor based in NJ. Her work has appeared in a number of lifestyle publications, including Real Simple and Apartment Therapy. She’s a new mom, runs an Instagram account full of the most delicious food she can find, and loves to hate a good barre class.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.