Of Course I Can Help You Pick a Mascara

Lately I've been asked in various different ways what my tips are on choosing mascara. I love it when people ask me these things, because truly, I can wax poetic about mascara for at least an hour. The problem is that it's like asking a beer lover what kind of beer to drink. There are thousands out there, what do you like?

When it comes to choosing mascara, there are several things I usually ask: how much do you want to spend, do you prefer a natural or more made up look, and do you want volume or length?

There are great mascaras in every single price point, so I don't want to waste my time recommending a $40 mascara to someone who wouldn't dream of spending more than $10. And I can't say I blame them. I probably have about 20 tubes of mascara priced over $20 that I used precisely once and never used again. That's a couple of hundred dollars that I could put towards the purchase of a new pair of shoes.

Next is your daily makeup usage. Do you go for a natural look? Do you put on a full face of makeup every day? Are you the type to spend no more than 5 minutes on your makeup, or is it your time to experiment with usage of color? Is the mascara for daily use or a special occasion or both?

To make it easy, I've broken the whole issue down into four parts: dramatic look, lower budget; natural look, lower budget; dramatic look, higher budget and natural look, higher budget.

Dramatic Look, Lower Budget

It's getting really, really easy to find excellent drugstore mascaras for a dramatic look. The newer formulas mean that you have far more options than just Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, which was the standard for ages (and for the record, I'm not a fan - I know "beauty editors" everywhere just love it, but I don't). Here are a few I've tried and definitely recommend:

  • Cover Girl Volume Exact Mascara. New plastic brush will give you plenty of volume without lots of clumps. Lasts all day, no flaking and works with sensitive eyes. Three coats will give you a dramatic look, and I recommend the waterproof formula. $6.99 at major retailers.
  • Max Factor Volume Couture WaterProof Mascara. This is the same formula that they use with the Vivid Impact Highlighting mascara that I've been working with lately. Fantastic formulation with no clumping or flaking, and it will stay put all day. It's hard to find in my area, but I understand it's not so bad elsewhere. Figures. About $6.99 at major retailers.
  • Cover Girl Lashblast Mascara. Everyone loves LashBlast. You can't even skim through a beauty blog without reading about it. Great new style brush, lots of volume, no clumping. An absolute steal for $6.99 at major retailers.
  • Loreal Volume Shocking 2-Step Volume Construction Mascara. I was a huge fan of this one for a long time. Includes a primer and a mascara with a tough-to-get-used-to lash comb. With practice, however, you can build up some amazing lashes. About $9.99 at most major retailers. I wonder if this isn't slowly disappearing, though. I haven't been seeing it around as much lately.
Dramatic Look, Higher Budget

Of course it's easy to find great mascaras that cost a fortune, but not all of them are created equal, especially in regards to the dramatic look. Some of them are just impossible to work with and others simply aren't worth the price. Here are a few of my favorites.
  • Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara. My holy grail. I have not yet found a mascara that consistently delivers the results I want besides Diorshow. Plush brush with a formula that many think is a bit drying. I disagree - it goes on perfectly with no clumps and builds to be as dramatic as you'd like. $24 at department store counters and Sephora.
  • Too Faced Lash Injection Extreme Volume Mascara. This one seems to get mixed reviews, but I absolutely love it. It's one of the mascaras that actually forms "tubes" around your lashes (and will come off that way when you use your eye makeup remover later) which makes them full and inky, just the way I like them. $19.50 at specialty stores.
  • Benefit Cosmetics BADgal Lash Mascara. This was my go-to before I found DiorShow. Another super plush brush with a thick formula that volumizes and curls. Buildable, but some people claim that it gives them "raccoon eyes." Never had that problem personally, and the new blue shade is fab. $19 at department store counters and Sephora.
Natural Look, Lower Budget

Lots and lots of options here. Here are my top three.
Natural Look, Higher Budget

With the mineral makeup craze in full force, it's not hard to find natural mascaras at higher price points. Here are a few to consider.

  • CARGO Better - Than - Waterproof Mascara. I got this mascara as part of their Melt-Proof collection, and it is indeed extremely waterproof. It is also a very natural look with no flaking or smudging. $20.
  • LORAC Lotsa Lash Fiber Mascara. I know some might argue with me for putting this in the "natural look" category, but I really think it belongs there. This is one of my favorite mascaras to use when I'm not going anywhere but still want to look presentable. What makes it different is that you can build it using three or four coats to make it look more dramatic. Great for special occasions. $19.50.
  • Tarte 4 Day Stay Lash Stain. This is a relative newcomer on the scene, and is getting some rave reviews. I can tell you that I got about two days out of it, and the natural formulation will make my green girls happy. This is about as natural looking as it gets, although you can't really build it up, it does exactly what it says: gives you great lashes that last. $18 at the usual places. $18.


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Meredith Edwards-Cornwall is the founder of online lifestyle websites RetrodivasBeauty.com and RetrodivasCloset.com. She is also known as @retrodiva on Twitter. She specializes in drinking large amounts of espresso, shopping, and enjoying social media. In all of her free time she writes for StyleBakeryMom.com twice a week, and does various other freelance gigs involving writing, designing, and generally being awesome. While she believes that success is indeed a job in New York, she currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband, two children, and two cats and has hung on to her day job.