10 Top-Selling Mascaras Get Put to the Test


Since high school, I’ve been a hardcore devotee to two mascara brands: Max Factor and L’Oreal. It’s not that I have anything against the others — it’s just that when I find something that works, I stick to it.

So when a friend of mine recently gave me the Sephora LashStash Deluxe Sampler as a gift, my first thought was, “Um, I don’t need this.” But upon deeper introspection, I realized that perhaps it was time to lash out, if you will, and try something new. So I did, and was pleasantly surprised to find some keepers in the bunch.

On a scale of 1-5 (5 being lovely, and 1 being lame), this is how Sephora’s top-selling contenders weighed in. Prime those peepers and get ready to rumble.

1. Benefit BADgal Mascara, $19, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says:
“The BADgal line of mascaras from Benefit are full of ‘BAD-itude!’ The rich, sexy formula and oversized brush build thick, beautiful, and bodacious lashes.”

My take: “Bodacious” might be pushing it, but BADgal did give my lashes a bit of a boost, even if it was just along the lash line. The plump brush added some volume (though not as much as one would expect, given the size of it), and the mascara itself held lash shape without drooping, even when additional layers were added. It didn’t provide much lengthening, but it stayed on for most of the day and didn’t smudge or flake, which are major pluses in my book.

When all is said and done, BADgal’s not bad, but it’s still not the best; I’d try out some others before taking on some Bad-itude.

Overall rating: 3.5

2. Cargo Lash Activator, $17.50, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A unique primer and/or mascara that is proven to boost the appearance of lashes in just 30 days!”

My take: I didn’t use it for 30 days, but was pleasantly surprised by Cargo’s lasting power and ability to maintain the curl in my lashes (I’m a slave to my Shu Uemura curler, if truth be told). The slightly curved, rubber bristled brush makes for clean application, and separates and lengthens lashes without making them too over-the-top. One coat gives a natural, lasting finish; two makes lashes a bit spidery (especially toward the ends), but it was something I was willing to work with.

This one is definitely a keeper for daytime use — though it might not pack enough punch for night.

Overall rating: 4

3. Fresh Supernova Mascara, $25, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “An ultra-conditioning mascara that creates dramatic, diva-worthy lashes in one swipe.”

My take: I could take it or leave it. The first coat yields a pretty natural effect, but two or three coats are needed to create anything close to “diva-worthy.” The wand had to be rotated slightly during application in order to reduce clumping, and the formula itself was a bit heavy and weighed down the outer edges of my lashes.

I’d thoroughly sample it or check out Walgreen’s before throwing down the dough — at $25 a pop, this one’s an investment you’d want to think twice about.

Overall rating: 3

4. Hourglass Superficial Lash, $26, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A lengthening, volumizing mascara.”

My take: I usually like my mascara wands to have a little meat on them, and this one’s pretty slim. But to my surprise, the super-short bristles covered hard-to-reach places — like the inner lash line — with precision and minimal clumping, and delivered a clean and natural finish. It lasted all day, provided surprisingly good coverage, and didn’t flake or smudge. It even spooled out a bit of length, as promised.

New makeup bag addition? Yes, please.

Overall rating: 5

5. Korres Abyssinia Oil Volumizing Mascara, $20, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A dramatically volumizing mascara that delivers a fantastically fuller set of lashes.”

My take: There seemed to be a lot of product clumped onto very short bristles (Sephora’s site claims it’s an “innovative brush with revolutionary microbristles that are strategically placed to maximize the amount of product that can be lavished onto lashes — sans clumping”), so I was skeptical at first. But, like the Hourglass Superficial Lash,
Korres Abyssinia Oil Mascara went on clean, lengthened without clumping, and separated lashes for a natural look. It didn’t flake or smudge all day, even when my eyes were tearing from the winter chill (which they tend to do on a tri-daily basis — see below). My only complaint was that it went on a bit heavy and made my lashes lose their curl at the outer lash line.

Other than that, it’s a pretty solid pick.

Overall rating: 4.5

6. Laura Mercier Thickening and Building Mascara, $20, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “This luxurious, non-clumping mascara adds volume and fullness. Vitamins A, E, and C moisturize and condition lashes.”

My take: Put that $20 towards a Lotto ticket. Sure, Mercier’s mascara didn’t clump — but that’s because it was so light, you could barely tell I had put anything on. It came off entirely within five minutes after my eyes started watering from the winter wind (I looked like I’d just had a domestic dispute by the time I got to the subway), and I had to reapply four times (yes, four times) over the course of the day to maintain any semblance of doe eyes.

There was nothing thickening or luxurious about this mascara — you’re better off just cleaning up the eye boogies and heading out the door.

Overall rating: 1

7. Sephora Lash Stretcher, $14, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A lengthening and curling mascara, infused with fibers for maximum extension.”

My take: In my experience, Sephora brand cosmetics have been pretty hit-or-miss, and at $14, I’m not convinced this one is a hit. It had moderate staying power and didn’t flake or clump, but it also didn’t add any length, volume, or “wow” factor.

It’s a back-up mascara, if anything, and with so many other options on the market, it doesn’t quite make the grade.

Overall rating: 2

8. Smashbox Lash DNA, $19, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A lengthening and curling mascara.”

My take: The biggest problem with this one was the “double-helix” brush. Although the mascara itself provides stable coverage, the brush was so chunky and oddly constructed that I spent half the time trying to figure out the best way to use it (I found that rotating the wand during application yielded the best results).

It performed well in all other areas, but when comes down to it, I’d rather just stick to a mascara that goes on quickly and easily the first time around.

Overall rating: 3

9. Tarte 4 Day Stay Lash Stain, $18, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “A stain that keeps lashes looking naturally full for four days without reapplying.”

My take: I personally wouldn’t keep any makeup, mascara or otherwise, on for four days straight, but I’ll take Sephora’s word on this one and say it could last if you wanted it to. Although it had a very liquid texture going on (be careful not to blink too much before it dries, or else you’ll have some spats and streaks). Tarte’s Lash Stain has incredible staying power and provided volumizing coverage as promised.

I’d take a chance on it, for one day — or four.

Overall rating: 4.5

10. Urban Decay Skyscraper Multi-Benefit Mascara, $22, at Sephora.com
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Sephora says: “An innovative, multitasking mascara.”

My take on it: This one’s worth the $22. The “state-of-the-art brush” really does saturate the lashes from root to tip, and delivers clean, long lashes that look feathery and natural. Additional coats don’t flake, clump, or weigh down curled lashes.

This one gets gold stars all around.

Overall rating: 5

Larkin Clark is an actress and writer based in New York. To read more or contact Larkin, visit larkinclark.com.

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