Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for Best drugstore mascaras

It has been said that the eyes provide a window to a person’s soul. If that’s true, there are few cosmetics that open those windows as wide as a coat or two of good mascara. But there’s no reason to pay big bucks for a tube of this makeup necessity when the cosmetics aisle of your favorite drugstore or discount store offers a wide range of excellent quality mascaras for far less than you’d pay for big-name brands.

As a matter of fact, many drugstore brands are owned by the same companies that make the luxury makeup lines, and that means you can get the same great results, just without the fancy packaging — or the fancy price. There are many drugstore mascaras out there, which can make choosing one a bit confusing.

drugstore mascaras
Mascara is the most effective cosmetic for creating a dramatic, wide-eyed appearance.

Key considerations

Choosing a mascara isn’t rocket science, but there are considerations to keep in mind if you want to end up with the best product for your needs. The two most important factors are the mascara’s formula and the shape of the wand.

Formula

When it comes right down to it, all mascaras have pretty much the same formula, which is a blend of pigments for color, waxes for thickness, polymers to keep the cosmetic in place on the lashes, and a preservative to prevent the buildup of germs and mold in the liquid. But many mascaras go beyond the basics, offering products that go even further to enhance your eyes.

Lengthening and thickening formulas often contain tiny nylon fibers that adhere to your lashes to create the appearance of thicker, longer lashes. The formula of lengthening mascaras is also a little thicker than that of regular mascaras, providing even more of a boost to your own lash volume. Just about everyone can benefit from a mascara that adds length and volume, particularly those with thinning lashes, which often happens as we age.

Curling mascaras generally have some type of resin or wax that tightens slightly as it dries, lifting the lashes to create a “curled” look. If you have straight lashes with a slight downward angle, try a curling mascara to create a more open-eyed look.

Natural mascaras are perfect for daytime looks or for use anytime if you prefer a “no makeup” style but still want to give your eyes a little boost. These mascaras generally don’t have a lot of extra fibers or resins, so they coat the lashes without adding volume.

Wand

The real player when it comes to mascara magic is the wand. Here are some of the most common you’ll find on drugstore shelves.

Thick, full wands deliver equally thick, full lashes. Look for this type of wand if you want to pump your lash volume to the maximum.

Skinny wands are designed to deposit fibers that stretch your lash length, creating the illusion of longer lashes. These wands are also less likely to clump your lashes than many other shapes.

Curved wands make it easier to apply mascara evenly and encourage your lashes to lift and curl.

Tapered wands are thicker at one end than at the tip. These wands help separate your lashes for a clump-free, thicker appearance.

Micro wands are tiny, straight mascara tools that make it easy to coat your lower lashes without smears or clumps. They are also good for applying a light coat of mascara to your upper lashes for a natural finish.

Hourglass wands are bigger at either end and thinner in the middle. This gives your eyes a wide-open look, with extra lash-boosting volume at the corners of your eyes.

Corkscrew or twisted wands have bristles that swirl around the wand, helping to boost lash volume and length.

Ball-tip wands have extra bristles on the tip of the wand. Use the ball to coat bottom lashes or add extra oomph to individual sections of lashes.

Comb wands are thin wands with fewer, more rigid bristles that add thickness without the risk of clumps, making them a great choice if you want to enhance the beauty of your eyes without looking too dramatic.

Use blue, green, or purple mascara to add an unexpected touch of color to an otherwise neutral eye look.

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Features

Waterproof formula

If you plan on wearing mascara while swimming, you sweat a lot, you’ll be out in inclement weather, you’re attending a wedding or funeral and expect to cry, or you just want to avoid the risk of mascara streaking down your cheeks, a waterproof formula is right for you. These mascaras have extra waxes and silicones that are impervious to water, keeping the makeup on your lashes even when your lashes get wet.

On the downside, it can be more difficult to remove waterproof mascara — you’ll generally need an oil-based or micellar makeup remover specifically formulated to remove waterproof makeup. Also, waterproof mascara formulas can be irritating to those with sensitive eyes.

Color

Basic black is the staple of the mascara world, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s your only option. In fact, there are many different colors of mascara on the drugstore shelves, and it’s worth your while to own more than one.

Many brands offer more than one choice of black, which can be a little confusing. As a general rule, “black” means there can be a very slight undertone of brown, purple, gray, or blue, while “blackest black” means black without any undertones, just pure black pigment. “Soft black” is typically black with a tiny touch of white pigment, softening the color just a little bit. Any one of these black mascaras is flattering to everyone, but you’ll get the most drama from blackest black and the most natural look from soft black.

Brown mascara is flattering to people who have fair skin and blond hair, or anyone who prefers a soft, natural look. You’ll find brown mascaras that range from auburn to light brown to black-brown, so choose the hue that best suits your hair color.

Blue mascara is a fun way to add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral eye look. Go with navy blue for a subtle touch of color or bright blue if you prefer bold and unusual. Blue mascara is especially flattering to gray or blue eyes. A few of the major drugstore mascara brands regularly offer blue mascara.

Green mascara isn’t easy to find, but some drugstore brands offer it on occasion. Green mascara is generally subtler than blue, but it still adds a bit of color to liven up hazel, brown, or gray eyes.

Purple mascara is very flattering to green eyes, but it’s an unexpected and fun look for anybody who wants to liven up their makeup style. Like green mascara, it isn’t easy to find in the drugstore, but there are a few brands that offer it occasionally.

drugstore mascaras
DID YOU KNOW?
There’s no need to spend a lot on mascara when the drugstore makeup aisles have so many excellent and reasonably priced choices.
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Accessories

Drugstore eye liner: Complete your eye look with an inexpensive eye liner from the drugstore. 

Drugstore eyeshadow: Add color and draw attention to your eyes with an affordable eyeshadow palette. 

Pricing

While you’ll typically pay $20 to $30 for a luxury brand of mascara, the drugstore offers big savings on cosmetics. The least expensive brands cost around $5, but don’t expect the best performance from these mascaras. As a general rule, the drugstore brands with the best formulas, wands, and colors cost between $6 and $12.

Black mascara flatters every eye color and skin tone.

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Tips

  • Wash your hands. Do this before applying any makeup. Clean hands are less likely to spread germs onto your cosmetics or your eyelids.
  • Curl your lashes with an eyelash curler first. This is an optional step to give your lashes a little bit of extra eye-opening lift and curl.
  • Pull the wand straight out of the tube. Pumping it in and out dries out the mascara. Scrape the wand lightly against the mascara tube to remove excess mascara that might otherwise clump your lashes.
  • Apply the mascara to the lashes correctly. Looking straight ahead into a mirror, position the wand at the base of your eyelashes and gently wiggle it a bit to work it into the lashes. Draw the wand up through your lashes with a slight wiggling motion to separate the lashes and reduce clumping. Use the same process to coat the lashes at the corners (outer and inner) of your eyes. Work with the tip of the brush at the very corners of your eyes to avoid smears. Tilt your head down slightly to apply mascara to your bottom lashes. Use the same gentle wiggling motion, working carefully to avoid transferring makeup onto your cheeks. Using the tip of the wand makes it easier to avoid smears.
  • Apply more if desired. Apply two or three coats of mascara for a more dramatic look. If you want a natural daytime look, stick with just one or two coats. Don’t let the mascara dry between coats.
  • Clean away any smudges. Use a cotton swab to carefully wipe away any errant smudges of mascara.
  • Pack drugstore mascara for vacation. Small things can easily get lost when we travel, and the affordable price of drugstore beauty products will be less of a blow than losing an expensive product.
drugstore mascaras
Apply mascara with a slight wiggle to remove clumps and lengthen your lashes.

FAQ

Q. How often should I replace my mascara?

A. As a general rule, you should toss out mascara three months after opening the tube. This is because, even with preservatives, mascara is easily contaminated with germs, which could potentially cause an eye infection or irritation, particularly if you accidentally scrape your eye with the wand.

Q. What’s the best way to keep my mascara fresh?

A. When not using your mascara, keep it tightly capped and stored in a drawer, bag, or box where it won’t be exposed to temperature extremes or moisture. Never pump the wand in and out of the tube, which dries out the mascara, and never add water or any type of liquid to the tube, which can break down the formula or encourage the growth of bacteria.

Q. How do I remove mascara?

A. Most mascaras remove easily with your regular facial cleanser and water or any type of makeup remover. If you applied waterproof mascara, however, you’ll need to use a makeup remover specifically formulated to remove it. Most oil-based makeup removers or micellar water products can take off waterproof cosmetics without excessive rubbing or tugging at your delicate lashes and eyelids.

 

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