Best mascara 2020: add length, curl and volume to your lashes
We've reviewed the best mascara around - from Clarins, Too Faced, Max Factor and more.
Having the best mascara is essential for anyone that wears make-up. It's one of the most popular make-up products your money can buy and it's not hard to see why. It's one of the few products that can make a huge impact on the way you look, and therefore the way you feel, in seconds.
With just a few swipes you're left looking immediately more awake, sparkly and attentive - although some may argue that having the best hair straighteners are equally valuable when it comes to looking the part.
However, finding the best mascara for you, the one that offers fuller, longer-looking lashes, which also doesn’t clump or smudge, is actually really hard to do – especially considering there's just so much choice these days.
UPDATE: The popular Boots beauty brand has a new mascara called The Full 360. According to stats from Boots, the hype around the new mascara was so big that a tube of The Full 360 was flying off the shelves every three seconds for the first three days. That's impressive, but we're keen to see whether the demand is as good as the results – we'll be trying out The Full 360 and will let you know whether it's worthy of our best mascara of 2020 list soon.
We've also added a number of make-up products to our best vegan gifts guide - here you will find make-up that is not only great to wear but sustainable.
- Buy the The Full 360 mascara now.
This is especially the case if you have shorter or flatter lashes, because you'll need serious curling and volumising power to transform them. Having said that, not everyone wants the false lash effect, so it's worth shopping around to find the best mascara for you, whether you want curling power, definition or just a little bit more oomph.
We’ve done all the hard lash work for you by scouring bestseller sections and beauty polls, as well as asking everyone except our uncle for their top tips.
We then collated a list of the 50 best mascaras available in the UK and, after trying out each one, we whittled the number down to around 15 and tested them over a five-week period.
Below you can read what we liked and disliked with all the mascaras we tested but, for clarity, the best mascara for value we tested was the Maybelline The Falsies Volum’ Express. The best mascara overall was the Clarins Supra Volume.
- Need eyeshadow? Head to our best eyeshadow guide
Best mascara for value and best overall
The ideal solution for sleepy heads that need a pick-me-up or two. This mascara creates a perfectly separated lash, which opens up the eyes and injects life into your face. The waterproof formula can also withstand exercise or tear-jerking onions but is still easy to remove. Plus, you can buy it twice and still have change from the cost of most of the competition. A winner for sure.
This is everything you want in a mascara – it curls, it gives volume, and it doesn’t clump, smudge or spit. It’s also a busy girl’s dream, taking just seconds to create a high-impact effect that isn’t too over the top. You can even skip using an eyelash curler, as the result is very similar when used with or without.
Upvote or downvote to have your say, or scroll down for the expert's view.
- When you've finished with your face, these are the best hair straighteners to buy right now.
The mascara shortlist
1. Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara
Has an S-shaped brush that can be used in two ways –the curved side promotes volume and, once flipped over, the other side helps to create length and separation, giving the effect of thicker and longer-looking lashes. Criss-cross soft bristles stroke through hairs and help with lift. Will suit individuals who crave a dramatic-looking lash and is perfect for evenings when you want a more impactful look.
2. Diorshow Iconic Mascara
Comes with a soft elastomer brush (a type of plastic that has the properties of natural rubber) that gently moves through the hairs. The angled bristle rows aid lift and curl for extra volume and length.
3. Nars Climax Mascara
Quick-drying mascara with an intense black pigment and a matte-like finish. Comes with a big fluffy brush with a tapered tip and ribbed bristles that really grip to the root and create lift. Produces a thicker-looking lash that’s more suited to the evening.
4. Clarins Supra Volume Mascara
Comes with a natural bristle brush which is thick and fluffy and features fibres that add volume to your hairs without being too obvious. Curls straight lashes, so you can skip the step of an eyelash curler. Doesn’t flake off or smudge and has strong staying power. Wearable for day and night and can be built on in the evening.
5. Maybelline New York The Falsies Volum Express Mascara
Has a flexible wand that gently bends and adapts as you apply more pressure to the lash. Plus a gentle bristle brush which softly latches onto the hairs. This enables the brush to tightly hug the hairs and create a deeper curve and curl. A highly-pigmented dark black shade that produces the effect of extra length.
6. La Roche Posay Toleriane Volume Mascara
Paraben- and fragrance-free, this mascara is suitable for individuals who have sensitive eyes. Clog-free formula coats each lash and offers noticeable lift and length with no fallout or product transfer onto the skin.
7. Too Faced Damn Girl Mascara
There's been a lot of hype about Too Faced's new mascara, Damn Girl, and we can finally reveal it's all true. This mousse-like formula manages to bring your lashes a whole load of volume without weighing them down. It's also buildable, meaning if you don't want drama you can just apply one coat, but if the false lash effect is for you two, three and even four applications also look grea. We're not sure we buy the claims it'll stay put for a whole 24-hours, but it did last well throughout a day of walking around in the sun and a picnic, which is no small feat.
Another great thing about this product is that a few retailers, Cult Beauty included, are selling the smaller travel-sized version of Damn Girl. Although we'd recommend you buy the full-sized one because it's better value, the travel-sized one is great if you're going on holiday soon, don't know whether to commit to a brand new mascara or don't wear it much and just want a small amount to swipe on for special occasions.
8. By Terry Lash Expert Mascara
A dark black pigment two-in-one mascara with an innovative design that enables the brush to alter shape and lets you change the volume and length. Contains nourishing oils to care for your lashes. Comes with a large wand and good stay-put power with no falloff.
9. Max Factor Rise & Shine Mascara
Comes with a large bubble brush that gives a fluffy-like lash. Elongates the lashes and provides instant life but offers more volume than it does length. No flakiness or droopiness and would suit those with a sparse lash line.
10. Hourglass Caution Extreme Last Mascara
Ask any of the biggest beauty bloggers and vloggers what their favourite mascara is and many will point to the Caution Mascara from Hourglass. It's not the cheapest mascara on the list at £25, but it ticks so many boxes. It's glossy black, makes your lashes look voluminous but not false and, importantly, it's very buildable. That means you can apply one coat for a boost or two to three for a more dramatic effect.
11. Armani Black Ecstasy
Instant-drying fibre-based formula that increases the volume of your lashes and gives a darker effect at the lash line, which imitates eyeliner. There’s a streamline brush that makes application easy and fans upwards to get product right to the root.
12. Tom Ford Ultra Length Mascara
This quick-drying mascara is formulated to withstand humidity and high temperatures, which means it won’t melt. The tapered slimline brush gives lashes extreme length with a daytime-friendly look that’s not overly dramatic. It’s smudge-resistant, long-wearing and offers easy removal.
13. L'Oreal Paris Bambi Mascara
The newest mascara from L'Oreal is designed for those who like the big, bouncy Bambi effect. It's not the most flexible mascara on the market, but it doesn't dry crispy – you can just 'feel' it. Ideal for those who like drama, probably not the best option for those who want a light and natural look.
The Expert's View
Against some incredible opposition, Clarins Supra Volume, clinched the top spot as our best overall winner due to its superior results. It offers an enviable curl, feathery thickness and doesn’t flake on your face.
At under £10, Maybelline The Falsies Volum’ Express had to be our best value choice, and not just because it’s the cheapest. This high-impact mascara has the magical ability to make your eyes seem instantly wide awake, and it stays in place for as long as you’d like.
How to buy the best mascara
When it comes to make-up, mascara is probably the one thing most of us couldn’t live without. It can give us a real boost when we need it, make us feel more alive, and can also completely transform our face, It’s a lot to ask from one product, but we have to remember that as with all beauty products, the type of mascara you like is entirely down to your own preference.
Why? Well, we don’t all have the same eye shape, nor do we have the same lash line, type, or length. What works for one person may not be suitable for another.
We also need to take into account that where, when and how we apply our mascara can affect results. It’s definitely not a case of one mascara fits all.
When compiling our list we considered different types of lashes, as well as everyday needs, such as application speed, mess and design, and we tried to focus mainly on the mascaras that worked easily, like Clarins Supra Volume and Diorshow Iconic, and those that made us feel good when we applied them, such as Nars Climax and By Terry Lash Expert.
We also looked for formulations that kept their promise, like Lancome Hypnose Drama, which really does offer dramatic lashes, and products that lasted longer than others, such as Tom Ford Ultra Length and Maybelline Falsies. We even considered the style and shape of each wand and how it might easily knock onto your face and leave marks.
We appreciated the differences we saw between mascaras and created a ranking that encapsulates all of these requirements. So, whether you’re after volume, curl, length or thickness, there will be a wand in this list that is suited to you.
How we tested the mascaras
First impressions count. Just a few swishes of mascara will instantly tell you if you like it or not, which is why whittling down our list from 50 to around 15 was actually very easy.
Getting it down to ten, however, well that was very hard. One of our biggest bugbears was mascara flaking or flicking upon application – if too much of this went on, or if it crumbled after a few hours, then the product was ditched instantly.
When a mascara offers thickness the formula tends to be full of fibres, which helps to build up the volume. As smart as they are, these pastes can form little bobbles on the ends of your lashes, which can easily drop down onto your face.
How do you fix it? Get in there early, and gently use your fingertips to remove them at the tip, brushing away any that flake onto your face.
Wet flicks that usually come with lengthening mascaras are a whole different ball game and these need to be removed with care, otherwise you can end up with black smears around your eyes. We found the best way to eradicate them was to use either a wet cotton bud or one dipped in concealer or foundation (dependent on the size of the mark) and quickly whip it off.
Other factors we assessed were how long it took to perfect the look and if we actually enjoyed using the tool – elements like the weight and style of the wand were considered and even the overall packaging and design.
Just like Marie Kondo’s meticulous methods, if the mascara didn’t ‘spark any joy’, or it irritated us in any way, then it was gone.
We also looked at how the product wore throughout the day – if any drops had fallen onto the face, if the mascara had disappeared or smudged, or if the curl had wilted.
If the effect had diminished, we considered how easy it was to apply more mascara. When the formulation was waterproof, we exposed it to sweat, rain and even the odd tear.
Of course, one of the main aspects we assessed was how easy the mascara was to remove. How easily did it come off, did it make much mess and did it sting our eyes? Thankfully, none of them did that.
All of the mascaras were tested on the same eye, using the same eyelash curler in preparation. Each was removed with a small amount of cleansing oil on a damp cotton pad which was pressed onto the lash for a minute before gently wiping the mascara away.
You might prefer to use a specific eye make-up removing product, but this was the most effective method for us.
Best Mascara: the test results
One thing we learned from testing over 50 mascaras is the importance of eyelash curlers. They make such a massive difference to how the product looks on the lash and only our test winner, the Clarins Supra Volumemanaged to mimic the same curl. However, the pre-curled lash still seemed more evenly fanned out, and it took a lot less mascara to lift it. We also found that the lash was far more likely to clump when not using a curler.
Choosing an overall winner was relatively difficult – we tested so many incredible mascaras and we wanted our top pick to be a product that would please everyone.
The showy mascaras like Armani Black Ecstasy and Lancome Hypnose Drama wouldn’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste, and products that offered mainly length such as Tom Ford Ultra Length wouldn’t work for those lacking in volume, which is why our overall winner is one that could be worn on all occasions and is by far the easiest and quickest to apply.
The best mascara reviewed:
Clarins Supra Volume Mascara review, £22
Something of a surprise winner, it’s not a product that crops up regularly on top ten lists, and you won’t find it in that many bestseller sections.
It came to us after we received recommendations from make-up artists and beauty editors, so could this be an industry secret? Well, we certainly agreed about its effectiveness, as this mascara completely blew us away.
Not fussy or here to create a spectacle, it’s aim is to give you those fluffy and feathery lashes that you never thought were possible. The fibre-based formulation latches onto your existing hairs to fake the effect of real volume without overcoating.
It is incredibly quick to apply and gives you a full effect within seconds. You don’t even really need eyelash curlers with this mascara, yes you get a more even result after using them, but they’re not essential. Which is very rare, especially if you have short, straight and sparse-looking lashes.
Perfect for the time poor as this is so speedy to put on, it’s also incredibly quick to remove – one swipe of a pre-soaked cotton pad and it’s off.
But how good is it at lasting? It’s excellent at that, too, staying lifted throughout the day. And unlike many fibre-based mascaras you don’t get any flaking.
Yes, a few little bobbles form after application, but these easily ping off if they’re a bother. Just use your fingertips to pluck them away gently. Plus, because you don’t need to apply a lot, if you want to up the drama later on in the day the softly feathered lash lets you add another layer without any hassle.
The best mascara for value tested:
Maybelline New York The Falsies Volum Express Mascara review, £8.99
Just WOW! Despite the bargain price this mascara gives you the most amazing fanned-out lashes and seems to increase your length tenfold. Lifting up the hairs and opening up the eyes, it brings instant life to your face.
It’s quick and effortless to apply, and you’d be hard pressed to make a mess with the wand as its curve follows the shape of your lashes. Plus, if you do make any marks as the hairs are lifted it’s straightforward to tidy up.
One thing it doesn’t really do, though, is add any volume to your hairs, and the effect is very separated. But because the application is bobble-free, you can afford to layer it on.
We also tested the waterproof version and are happy to report that the effect on the eyes was the same – it managed to withstand both a run in the rain and chopping onions.
Usually, the only downside to waterproof formulations is that they’re difficult to take off with water, but with the correct oil cleanser this was easily overcome.
The Maybelline New York The Falsies Volum Express Mascara is by far the best everyday mascara that you can buy repeatedly – and still have cash left over for a more expensive product that you use as a treat.
The rest on test
The one that nearly won it! Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara, £25, is by far the best tool for thickness. It is very dramatic, so possibly not to everyone’s taste for daytime use, and it does have a tendency to clump. But those niggles aside, we absolutely love this mascara.
It has a fine brush that is curved and fluffy which grips your lashes with ease. It does flick a little onto your skin – however, it manages to combine both fibre-building technology with an original lengthening formulation, and the innovative design gives you an enticingly fanned out bold and black lash.
You get a lot of product with one pump, so go easy, but with a single swish your lashes are the exact mirror image of this beautiful brush. Even though there is a bit of mess to tidy up the effect is similar to wearing falsies, so all is forgiven. It also managed to keep its curl throughout long days in the office. And it wasn’t unhappy when we wanted to quickly enhance the look for after-work drinks.
If full-on thickness isn’t for you, and you’re a fan of mascaras like Benefit They’re Real then you might want to consider upgrading to Diorshow Iconic Mascara, £28, as it gives your lashes the most even, elegant and natural-looking fan.
Almost delicate but still offering length and volume, it is the mascara that improves your lashes without being overtly obvious. It’s also buildable, so even though we preferred the subtle look after one or two coats, if you’re after a more dynamic style, you can keep applying and increase the volume.
If you’re getting married, or just looking for a mascara that gives you pretty and ladylike lashes, then Diorshow Iconic is the one for you.
One thing to note is that on one of the days we wore it, we noticed a little smudging on the bottom lash line, so if staying power is an issue for you we suggest opting for the waterproof version.
If you’re planning a big night out then you should consider the next wand on our list. Nars Climax Mascara, £21, gives your lashes gorgeous volume and is so black it almost cheats the effect of applying eyeliner.
It is very similar to Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Lashes and Hourglass Cosmetics Caution Extreme Lash, in that it gives you a really bold and full-looking lash. But in our opinion it pips them to the post, firstly because we couldn’t stop staring after we’d applied it, and secondly it slides off your eyes when it comes to removal (unlike Tilbury and Hourglass, which are quite messy).
This is definitely one for special occasions as it takes a little patience, and after some accidental clumping we needed to use a clean spoolie brush to comb the product through. But the design and packaging ensure that the mascara glides on and the end result is more than worth it.
Want another high-impact mascara that’s maybe not so fiddly? Armani Black Ecstasy, £30, will give you the punch you’re after. Granted, it’s not as bold as Nars Climax, but the beautiful brush isn’t too thick, so it’s handy if you’re applying on-the-go, and unlike Nars we reckon you could easily wear this during the day.
It’s a more fibre-based formulation, which gives you a thicker lash and will suit those who don’t have many hairs.
It does clump a little if you use too much, so be careful with your coats, but it doesn’t flake at all, even though it dries really quickly. We wore it on long days where we were running in and out of the office (we even road-tested it in a yoga class) and there was no smudging.
Removal is very easy and the product comes off your lashes without irritation. The only downside, really, is the price, so if cost is a consideration we suggest either La Roche Posay Toleriane Volume Mascara, £16, which is next on our list, or Max Factor Rise & Shine. Both offer great volume and are suitable for either day and nighttime use.
Not just good value, La Roche Posay Toleriane is also very special as it is paraben- and fragrance-free and has been formulated especially for people who are prone to sensitivity around the eyes.
But that aside, it also gives your lashes great lift and length, and it doesn’t clog as you brush it on. It also manages to capture more lashes, so the volume is upped, too. Another bonus is that, as it’s been so heavily tested, removal should never sting your eyes.
Not sure what you want from a mascara, or you like to change up your look from day to day? Then you may want to have a play around with By Terry Lash Expert Mascara, £25. Incredibly clever, this product manages to tick off two different styles of lash in one whizz-kid tube.
One twist and the brush shape completely transforms, from a design made to create length or one to inject volume. The effects can be used together or, if you prefer, on their own.
We road tested both and, although we liked each option, we favoured using them together. However, it takes longer to apply and, after our initial joy at twisting and swishing, we were a tad over it on day three or four.
If you’re looking to get a full and elongated effect quickly and don’t want the pfaff, we suggest trying Clarins Supra Volume. Just like Clarins, this lasted the day and didn’t smudge or flake, but due to the large By Terry brush we knocked our face a few times and caused marks that we had to then clear up.
Speaking of clear ups, Max Factor Rise & Shine Mascara, £12.99 is admittedly a little messy to use. However, just like the Maybelline Falsies, this mascara opens up your eyes and lifts up your lashes quickly. The difference between the two is that you lose quite a bit of length but, with that, you gain a whole load of volume.
It doesn’t droop or flake so has excellent staying power. And because it builds onto your lashes it will suit those who are lacking in that area.
If length is the thing you’re after and you’re sick and tired of your mascara smudging, you might want to splash out on Tom Ford Ultra Length Mascara, £38.
It’s specially formulated to withstand humid and hot temperatures, making it ideal for Summer holidays or sweaty gym sessions. It even managed to keep us feeling awake after a six-hour flight and zero sleep.
A few layers will suit you for day, as it is excellent at giving your lashes extreme length without being too shouty. And, if you wait a little for it to dry, layer three and four will give you added volume that will set you up for night.
One sad thing about this, though, is its price. If it seems unduly expensive try Maybelline Falsies (£8.99) or Glossier Lash Slick (£14), which are more affordable and similar options.
Any mascaras to avoid?
All of the products we tested came from recommendations or best-selling lists, so they all have their own fan base somewhere, be it large or small.
That said, we found the formula of The Body Shop Big And Curvy, £10, extremely sticky and hard to use. As you pull out the wand, the bristles lay flat and squish together, almost mimicking a mascara that has hung around for a little too long. Once applied to the lashes, nothing really happens – you get a light coating of black, but not much else.
A few of the mascaras tested needed help with separation – sticky lashes usually arrived because of overzealous application, but Urban Decay Perversion, £21, sadly clumped all on its own. After two light coats the lashes started to group together, and the product didn’t seem very happy about us trying to fix things.
This could be its USP, as some people actually love a spidery-looking lash, but seeing as you can achieve this effect with lots of mascaras, by merely pushing the lashes together with the tip, we don’t really see the point.
Wetter formulations tend to offer longer length, and usually come with a darker pigment which will equal the blackest black lash, however, they do tend to splatter during application.
So, if you’re not a fan of this kind of behaviour you may want to steer clear of best-selling mascaras Chanel Inimitable, £28, and Benefit’s BADgal Lash, £20, as both tend to spit.
On the flip side of things, it is worth noting that once worn in, both of these mascaras tend to improve with age, as the formulation dries slightly. It also means they last a little longer than thicker pastes as they tend to be slower at drying out.
The decision to purchase these lies with you.