The beauty world has a tendency to make a lot of outsize promises, from shrinking pores to diminishing fine lines, but nowhere are they more hysterical than when referencing volumizing mascara. Longest, thickest lashes ever! Up to 12x more impact instantly! 400 percent corner to corner volume!
These are actual phrases seemingly plucked out of a meme generator and placed on the packaging of very real mascaras you’ll find at the drugstore—the ones I personally tested and reviewed over the course of several weeks, in fact, and I have a lot to say about their nebulous claims.
One thing you should know about me before we get things started: I’m a bona fide mascara hoarder. We’re talking a lash-extending army that’s creeping close to triple digits, stashed away in bins, drawers, and cosmetic cases for a thousand rainy days. I’m not a brand loyalist or snob, and happily vacillate from prestige picks (hat tip to Too Faced’s Better Than Sex) to budget basics, as long as it does a decent job of plumping up my lashes without making a mess of my face.
So, yes, I firmly believe that it is possible to find a great volumizing mascara under $10—it just takes some trial and error. Luckily, I did that part for you, so all you need to do is keep scrolling to see which drugstore version’s worth your money and time.
I had high hopes for this one based on its promising full tapered brush and pedigree (I’ve found most L’Oreal mascaras to be pretty solid—notably, the brand’s outer-lash-extending Voluminous Butterfly mascara, which opens up the eyes like no other), but it, sadly, underdelivered.
The bushy bristles didn’t provide much tension, so I felt I needed to retrace my steps a few times to really get a good deposit. Even then, my lashes looked a bit anemic, and I had to concentrate my efforts on the tips for any sort of noticeable boost. On the plus side, the formula didn’t clump, flake, or smudge.
What makes this mascara memorably unique—a skinny, curved “lash styler” comb wand—also makes it somewhat difficult. Proper usage requires that you twirl the brush as you apply (like Beyoncé on her haters, I imagine) and that you possess the hand-eye coordination of an MLB baseball player.
Also, CoverGirl is not fooling around when it says this mascara is waterproof—apocalypse-proof would be more accurate. Sure, it’ll stay put all day long with zero flaking, but it also stays through several rounds of micellar water, makeup remover, face wash … thing is iron clad, although I did wake up with some residual ash beneath my eyes.
Despite these two shortcomings, this mascara actually delivers on its claim of full, fanned-out lashes.
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one: Using the round, barrel-style plastic wand is like applying mascara with a club. There’s not much room for finesse, and I smudged the inky black formula all over my upper lash line.
And yet! I found myself reaching for this mascara more than any other I’ve discussed thus far, probably because it deposited enough product to define and plump my lashes with the least amount of effort. Even though it had a tendency to flake faster than most friends on a rainy Friday night.
You might think the key to a truly great mascara boils down to the brush, but this one is here to remind you that the applicator is only one part of the equation. It may have a textbook-perfect spoolie wand that allows you to get into the corners easily, but that’s rendered useless when the formula is drier than Donald Trump’s leathery skin.
After just one use, I had to wonder if this mascara was actually depositing anything on my lashes or just brushing them into place. With some teasing, you can get a decent lift, but I wouldn’t necessarily call the resulting feathery effect “voluminous.”
The first thing I noticed when I whipped the tapered wand out of the tube was the chemical smell, but my initial alarm quickly dissipated after I saw how effectively the mascara stretched and curled my lashes. There was no smudging, flaking, clumping, or struggling to speak of, and it stayed on until I physically removed it with a gentle cleanser—pretty much all a girl can ask for from a mascara. As such, it’s earned a spot in my daily rotation, and I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing it again when I run out of mascara—if and when that ever happens.
WINNER: Maybelline Volum’Express Pumped Up! Colossal Mascara