My Eyelashes Are My Most Prized Possession & I Only Trust These 7 Mascaras Under $20

My Eyelashes Are My Most Prized Possession & I Only Trust These 7 Mascaras Under $20
Photo: Image: Adobe. Illustration: Sasha Purdy/ StyleCaster.

Scroll To See More Images

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, STYLECASTER may receive an affiliate commission.

Some people couldn’t live without their favorite breakfast food or heirloom ring that’s been handed down for generations. Me? I’d be lost without my eyelashes. I’m so eyelash-obsessed, that I have routine nightmares where mine fall out or disappear all together. It’s safe to say I’ve been on the hunt for the best mascaras to use since birth—or at least since eighth grade when my mom finally let me wear it.

Since then I’ve tried just about every type on the market; a journey that’s spanned a few decades now. I’ve tried the cheap ones, the trendy ones and everything in-between. And I have to let you in on a little secret: more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better mascara. Some of the most expensive mascaras I’ve ever tried are the ones that left the most flake-age down my face at the end of a long workday.

To make things easier on you in your mascara hunt, I’ve narrowed down the seven best mascaras for the eyelash-obsessed like me. If I can offer one major piece of advice, it’s this: look for brush shapes, not expensive formulas. But first, a few tips and tricks of the trade.

My Best Mascara Tips:

1. Find Your Brush Shape

When choosing a mascara, always look for a fuller fluffy-shaped brush. I find that brushes that are fuller on the bottom and turn skinny on the end don’t work as well as those that maintain their shape throughout. I’m also not a fan of brushes that curve in a C shape. Some brands promise that this will help curl and define the lash shape, but IMO you need to build the shape yourself before applying mascara.

2. Use An Eyelash Curler *Before* Mascara

I’m terrified of using an eyelash curler after I’ve applied mascara because it can get stuck to lashes and increase the risk of snapping them off (aka my biggest fear). Plus, I’ve found that when I use a curler after I’ve applied mascara, the bottoms of my lashes stick together more which results in a funky look. Set the shape and make sure your lashes are lifted in the right direction before adding your mascara to accentuate them. Just like mascaras, you don’t need to purchase an expensive curler to get it to work either. Anything around $5, like this top-rated one from Amazon , will work wonders.

3. Keep A Second Mascara On Deck for Touch Ups

If I want to give my lashes some umph after I’ve applied the original coat, I like to use a less fluffy brush for touchups. Why? Because more product attaches to a fluffier brush. I like to use the super skinny rubber brushes for mascara touchups throughout the day.

4. Don’t Wear Waterproof Mascara Daily

If you have trouble with flaking or smudging under your eyes no matter what formula you use, don’t worry! I have oily skin, too, so I’ve definitely been through this. Waterproof mascara is not the answer, my friends. I avoid waterproof mascara at all costs because it requires being way rougher on your eyes when you remove it. Even if you use a makeup remover that strips it, you’ll still have to rub more than you usually would, which can result in losing eyelashes. Try a lash primer if you struggle with smudging and add your mascara on top of it before it fully dries. I especially love Lancome’s $14 primer.

Best Mascaras Under $20

Now, for the good part. Out of the hundreds (thousands? millions?) of mascaras I’ve tried out over the years, these are the seven absolute best. Whether you’re looking for an understated look you can wear to the office or something a bit bolder for nights out, there’s a mascara for you. Check out my picks below.

No7 The full 360 ultra mascara

Courtesy of Target.

No.7 The Full 360 Ultra

If you’re looking for a one-stop mascara that will never disappoint, this is the formula to choose. It has an hour-glass-shaped fluffy brush that truly leaves no lash behind. My favorite part of this formula is that it promises 12-day flake-free wear and actually delivers. It doesn’t require more than a few coats to get the look you’re after, either. At under $9 it’s literally a steal and sometimes I stock up on three at a time so I always have one ready to go if I run out. If I had to choose just one mascara to use for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam Mascara

Courtesy of Amazon.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Retroglam

I first discovered Rimmel as a dupe for Maybelline because even though they’re both sold at drugstores, Rimmel is a few bucks cheaper. Again, look for the fluffy brush options from Rimmel. This one has an hourglass shape that mimics the No7 one I talked about above and the formula is *chef’s kiss*.

Lancome mini monsieur big mascara

Courtesy of Sephora.

Lancome Monsieur Big

I love traveling with this mini (you can of course purchase it in full size as well). There’s a bristle on every square inch of this brush, versus them being in a straight line. This way, the product catches every lash.

Benefit they're real mascara

Courtesy of Sephora.

Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Lengthening Mascara

This is one of those mascaras that does the job in just one or two coats. It also comes in blue which is so fun and an easy way to get a ~wild~ makeup look without having to put in much effort.  Once the product runs out, I actually keep this brush around to separate lashes if another mascara makes them look too clumpy, it’s that good.

Maybelline New York Volum' Express The Colossal

Courtesy of Amazon.

Maybelline Volum’ Express The Colossal Big Shot

May I invite you again to look at the brush shape? This was the mascara that started it all for me, back in the day when I first started adding love to my lashes. This one does require more than two coats (seriously I have burned memories of going at each eye for about 5 minutes), but it won’t flake off during the day, and your eyelashes will be separated, curled, and wide awake.

Urban Decay Perversion Volumizing Mascara

Courtesy of Amazon.

Urban Decay Perversion Volumizing Mascara

This is such a good bang for your buck, just look at the size of the tube . This fluffy brush does what it promises and lifts and separates each lash. It even has a matching optional primer you can pair it with. Again, if under-eye smudging is an issue for you, pick up a primer for your bottom lashes.

L'Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara

Courtesy of Ulta.

L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara

Building mascaras like this L’Oreal one are great for touchups throughout the day and for going at each eye for as long as possible to get your lashes sky-high. If this is your vibe, make sure to look for a mascara that says it’s buildable in the product description, as it’ll have a more lightweight formula. Otherwise, the reason your lashes aren’t lifting how you want them to could be because they’re weighed down by too much product.