I wear glasses, so wearing mascara is always a delicate balance for me. Too much length without enough curl, and I get black smudges on the inside of my lenses. Too little drama, and my lashes don’t show up well (and neither do my eyes). So I’m picky about my mascara. I strongly prefer getting minis or deluxe samples wherever possible, because the shelf life on a mascara is so very short. Seriously, if you’ve had it open for more than a few months, THROW IT OUT. I wear multiple coats of mascara almost every day, and I NEVER make it to the end of a tube before it expires. This is a cream formula with a brush that doesn’t get cleaned, that you use close to your eyes. Never share it, never leave it sitting open, and never let it get old. That said, not all mascaras are created equal. I wear it every day–my bare minimum makeup is concealer, mascara, brow pomade, and lip color–so I’m picky about the ones I use. Here’s a rundown of the ones I currently have in my stash, and a brief review of each. (I swear this is in no way a sponsored post. I just take my mascara very seriously. All of these are ones that I have either purchased with my own money or received as points/membership perks from retailers I frequent.)
Urban Decay Perversion Mascara ($10 for the mini, Ulta) is one of my favorites. I opened this one almost two months ago, and I have reached for it so often that the lettering has worn off the tube. If you want your lashes as black as you can get them, this is the one–the pigment in it is amazing. To get the full payout from it, you need a primer, but the super-dark formula means you get enough coverage not to worry about the primer showing through like with some mascaras. Urban Decay also makes a lash primer called Subversion that is designed to work with this mascara, but I have also used it with primers from Ulta, L’Oreal, and Lancome without issue. (Primers will be another post, once I work through my to-try list.)
IT Cosmetics Superhero Elastic Stretch Volumizing Mascara ($12 for the mini, Ulta) is billed as an anti-aging mascara, and it contains a number of exciting ingredients to nourish and pamper the lashes. There isn’t much evidence to suggest that collagen does much to replace lost collagen in brittle hair and undernourished skin, but it is an excellent moisturizer. The formula also contains peptides to stimulate cell growth and biotin to strengthen the individual lashes and promote growth over time. The product description calls it “super buildable,” but I would disagree. I get some clumping with a second coat. However, with this formula, one coat is generally enough.
I purchased Sephora LashCraft Length + Volume mascara ($7 for the mini, Sephora) on a whim, because I felt bad wasting a salesperson’s time matching a foundation if I was going to leave empty-handed. The flat paddle-shaped brush is interesting and gives an even application from root to tip rather than clumping up at the ends, but I do prefer a brush that gives a little more curl. Much like in hairstyling, a paddle brush straightens, where a round brush curls. If you are willing to use a lash curler, it’s certainly not a bad formula–the olive oil esters keep it from drying out and flaking, which is a major factor for me. However, I prefer a more dramatic look.
Tarte Lights Camera Lashes doesn’t come in a mini by itself, as far as I can tell. I got it as part of this set because I wanted the eyelash curler–it’s hard to find one that doesn’t require me to slide my fingers into a scissor-style handle, but the one in the set has flat paddle grips that are easier to operate on days when my hands aren’t at their best. It is also available in the Sephora Lash Stash to Go kit, as is the Urban Decay Perversion, but I’m waiting until I work through some of the mascaras I have before buying more! The wand with this mascara is nice, and the formula gives beautiful volume without too much length. However, this is another that really needs a primer for maximum wear time.
This mascara, right here, is the reason it was so important to me to get the eyelash curler I mentioned above. Tarte Maneater gives incredible length and volume, but very little curl. If I don’t use a lash curler, it has a tendency to leave flecks on the inside of my glasses, simply because it builds out the length so far. Once I curl the living crap out of my lashes, this gives an almost doll-like effect. It’s the next best thing to false lashes. I got this mini as a promotional sample at the time that the mascara launched; it’s not available by itself, but you can get it in this set with false lashes, adhesive, and lip gloss, or you can get it in full size.
Too Faced Better Than Sex ($12 for the mini, Ulta) is one of those so-called “cult favorites” that could have been amazing, but just missed it. The hourglass-shaped wand head is perfection itself, depositing the ideal amount of product and leaving lashes beautifully curled and separated. The formula is ultra-pigmented and creates amazing length and volume. There’s just one problem: it flakes horribly. Even with a primer underneath, it only lasts a couple of hours. My usual work shifts are only 5 hours, and I can’t even get this to last through a shift without leaving my undereye area speckled with flakes. I’ve tried the waterproof as well, and while that formula doesn’t flake, it also has very little separation (read: clumpy-ass spider lashes, nope nope nope). If they could figure out a way to make a mascara that goes on as beautifully as the original and stays put like the waterproof, I would repurchase that one over and over. As an interesting side note, I found out from an Instagrammer in Dubai that in more conservative countries, this product is marketed under the name Better Than Love.
I got Ulta Voluptuous Volume Mascara on clearance a few months ago. It was discontinued and dirt cheap, I was broke, and I needed something to cheer me up. Let’s just say…it missed the mark. Reminds me of the old formulas of CoverGirl mascara that I grew up with, complete with disappointing results.
Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir ($14 for the mini, Sephora) is the most expensive mascara in my stash, but it’s also the one that makes me go WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE. Bold and dark, volumizing without being clumpy, lengthening without being flaky, with that curved brush like Better than Sex that gives amazing curl. I get better results with this mascara by itself than I do from some of the others with primer underneath. The one I have is the sample size that was given as a 100-point reward at Sephora, but the one available for purchase has a unique hexagonal shape to the tube, making it easier for aching hands to grip. I cannot recommend it enough.
Between the proximity to delicate eye tissue and the variation in performance, mascara is one of the makeup products for which it really is worth paying attention and getting a good one. In fact, my rule is, when I can’t afford nice makeup for my whole face, I buy a high-quality foundation and a high-quality mascara, and then go cheap on the rest. A good mascara makes all the difference, I promise.