The 10 Best Drugstore Mascaras, Tested and Reviewed By Editors

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Updated May 8, 2024: This article on the best drugstore mascaras was updated with new editor-tested product picks and expert insights into selecting the right formula. We are currently testing additional drugstore mascaras from brands like Maybelline and Elf Cosmetics for consideration in this expert-approved guide.

We’re certainly not afraid of a splurge-worthy beauty buy, but true makeup lovers know that the best drugstore mascaras are the heavy-weight champions of affordable beauty products. As the summer months grow closer, it’s important to swap in new, long-lasting formulas that won’t drip tears of black onto your full beat, or that can stay put upon a refreshing dip in the pool or an extra-humid day. Our team of editors tested 26 drugstore mascaras — including decades-old icons, TikTok-viral discoveries, and hot new releases — to identify the most impressive players in lash length, volume, color payoff, wear time, and lift.

It’s assumed that you get what you pay for when shopping for makeup, whether in terms of ingredients, pigmentation, formulation, and preference selections. Mascara, however, is an anomaly. The best drugstore mascaras, which start as low as $4 and top off around $15, come in an abundance of cutting-edge formulas that lengthen, curl, and lift the lashes, as well as wands that range from fluffy brushes to spindly silicone bristles, and waterproof, tubing, an ultra-sensitive formulas. On top of the lower price, a drugstore mascara is a cost-savvy purchase for essential restocking as the temps spike in summer — and since the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends replacing eye makeup every three months.

The best drugstore mascaras can instantly widen, define, and add drama to the eye, but not all tubes are created equal. As you browse through the drugstore mascara aisle, “think about what you want the finish to look like, and what your goals are for your lashes,” says celebrity makeup artist Katie Mellinger, who’s painted the faces of Sofia Coppola, Chloë Sevigny, and Emma Watson. “For example, L’Oreal Paris’ Voluminous Original Mascara is going to build a lot of volume and make them look thicker, whereas Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara is going to focus more on lengthening the lash.” Mascaras vary in quality regardless of their price tag, and in most cases, you don’t have to invest upwards of $30 for eye-opening results. “I don’t find any difference between a drugstore mascara and prestige brands as far as wearability and longevity,” notes Mellinger.

To select the best drugstore mascaras for different results, we enlisted a panel of five testers to conduct hands-on evaluations of 26 top-rated options. Our testers sleuthed local drugstores, studied up on ingredients, swiped on — and swiped off! — multiple mascaras to narrow down the 10 best drugstore mascaras of 2024.

Top Drugstore Mascaras of 2024

Testing Verdict: Top 3 Drugstore Mascaras of 2024

To compile the best-of-the-best drugstore mascaras money can buy, several WWD Shop editors and product testers swiped on and compared dozens of affordable formulas — sometimes even applying a different mascara on each eye. We consulted with a celebrity makeup artist for her must-try recommendations, while also combing the internet for standout customer reviews and bestsellers worth trying.

We’ve conducted a second of round of testing since our first assessment in September 2023 in order to review our top picks and try additional products for spring and summer, many of which we’ve seen trending on TikTok or have come recommended by Mellinger. Many of our original favorites remained on our master list, while we bumped off others that were outperformed by new discoveries.

Choosing the best mascara for your eyes is dependent on personal preference — whether you need a waterproof formula, prefer a volumized or lengthened look, and if you have sensitivities to certain ingredients. Because of the variation within the mascara category, our testers selected the top three formulas for different results, rather than one best overall. The below passed our key criteria with flying colors, as we considered their volumizing and lengthening, as well as their separating and long-wear capabilities.

  • L’Oreal Paris’ Voluminous Original Mascara: Whether you’re a tapped-in beauty insider or a casual mascara-wearer, you’ve likely tried this top volumizing mascara. Our testers note that it exemplifies everything a winning mascara should be: volumizing, thickening, lengthening, and long-lasting. Its buildable application bodes well for natural to high-glam makeup looks, which makes it a reliable and endlessly versatile addition to any makeup bag.
  • Maybelline The Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara: We’ve been testing this new release for over seven months, and we’re happy to report that it blows any other drugstore tubing mascara out of the water. We’re impressed with its lightweight feel, seamless application, and wispy finish, which lives up to its claims of falsies-level effects. It’s a top choice for those who love a lengthening formula that washes off easily at the end of the day.
  • Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara: If you’re looking for major drama that won’t cut deep into your beauty budget, this viral sensation is a stellar option. At just under $5, this formula deposits and impressively rich black pigment, and delivers on buildable thickness and volume that’ll rival your favorite falsies.

black and gold mascara tube

Editor’s Choice

L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.9/5 rating
Formula type: Volumizing, thickening
Shade range: Blackest Black, Black, Black/Brown, Cobalt Blue, Deep Burgundy, Deep Violet, Deep Green
Luxury alternative: Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effect Faux Cils Volumizing Mascara
Special features: Formulated with Panthenol and ceramide-R
Amazon’s Choice
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
CVS Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars



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“There’s a reason why the L’Oreal Paris’ Voluminous Original Mascara has been a makeup artist favorite for years,” says Mellinger. Since launching in 1991, this matte gray tube has made appearances in the makeup bags of esteemed artists like Mario Dedivanovic. Although it’s a volumizing formula, Voluminous Original Mascara is unique in its ability to create a soft daytime look with one coat, and high-drama density with two to three passes.

Its classic wand shape slightly tapers to a point to evenly coat the lash line with product, and smoothly extends lashes to a falsies-level length. Not only is the Voluminous Original Mascara one of the best drugstore volumizing mascaras, but it also comes with the added benefit of conditioning ingredients like panthenol and ceramides. It results in soft lashes that flutter (and don’t flake!), and the formula also works long-term to support the health of natural lashes.

Editor testing and review notes: “Of all the volumizing formulas we tested, L’Oréal’s Original Voluminous Mascara was the clear winner. The formula is richly pigmented, requiring fewer coats to achieve a dramatic lash look, but it’s the wand and bristles that this tester adored. Ultra-soft, densely-packed bristles grab lashes without too much handiwork required, and the slim wand makes it simple to target lashes on the inner and outer corners of your lash line. Because the bristles are so dense, we recommend wiggling the wand close to the lash line for an even, fully-fanned out result. Throughout an eight-hour testing period, this mascara didn’t flake or smudge. It also removed cleanly with a cleansing balm and makeup remover, leaving no raccoon eyes in its wake.”

Volume: 5/5 rating | Length: 4.8/5 rating | Definition: 4.8/5 rating | Long-wear: 5/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $8.98

black and gold mascara tube with product swatch


purple mascara tube

Editor’s Choice

Maybelline The Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.9/5 rating
Formula type: Lengthening an volumizing
Shade range: Meta Black, Blackest Black, Very Black, Brownish Black, Very Black Waterproof
Luxury alternative: Milk Makeup Kush High Volumizing Mascara
Special features: Extension fibers
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars
CVS Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

Maybelline’s The Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara is one of the newest mascaras to drop at the drugstore — and it’s already making positive impressions. It’s a tubing mascara, which means it’s designed to deliver on extreme length, thanks to tiny fibers that wrap around each lash. This mascara diverts from other options on the market because Maybelline’s Hybrid Fiber technology employs fibers of all different sizes. The exaggerated helix brush shape melds the extensions from root to tip to amplify lash volume by 10 times and increase length by a whopping 36 percent, according to the brand.

The Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara is also formulated with plant-based oils that condition the lashes for a soft, not stiff, feel. This breakout star is clump-, smudge-, flake-, and smear-resistant. It’s also ophthalmologist tested, safe for sensitive eyes, and contains no animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

Editor testing and review notes: “This mascara goes on like a dream. While I’ve been a fan of the Maybelline Volum’ Express The Falsies Mascara in the past, the Surreal Extensions Mascara is my new favorite from Maybelline. The large bristle wand evenly coats the lashes in the same ultra-black formula the brand is known for, while extending them to eye-popping lengths without any clumps. Other tubing mascaras I’ve tried have applied extension fibers haphazardly, where the fibers sit in jagged angles at the tips of the lashes like appendages, however this mascara smoothly fuses them to the natural lash as seamless augmentation. I found this mascara to be very buildable, as three coats beautifully applied to increase volume and length, without approaching spider-lash territory. The finished product appears wispy, feels lightweight, and aptly holds a curl. Despite the large size of the wand, I had no issues with the mascara transferring to my eyelid upon application, which is a common concern in my mascara routine.”

Volume: 5/5 rating | Length: 5/5 rating | Definition: 4.6/5 rating | Long-wear: 5/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $9.99

purple mascara tube with product swatch


black and green mascara tube

Editor’s Choice

Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.8/5 rating
Formula type: Lengthening, volumizing
Shade range: Black
Luxury alternative: Fenty Beauty Hella Thicc Volumizing Mascara
Special features: PETA-certified cruelty-free
Amazon #1 Bestseller in Mascara
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

The Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara is one of the most popular TikTok beauty products, with over 80 million views on the app. It also reigns as the number one bestselling mascara on Amazon, with over 340,000 five-star ratings, and constantly sells out for its affordable price — and even more impressive effect.

Whether you’re an avid false eyelash or magnetic lash lover or choose to opt out of all the fuss, this mascara will cut both your lash routine and mascara budget in half. It features a conic fiber brush that resists clumping and builds up for intense volume. While there a several iterations in Essence’s Lash Princess line, the False Lash Effect mascara offers an ultra-dark black formula, which is free from silicones, parabens, and fragrance, resulting in a dramatic mascara you can trust for day-to-night wear.

Editor testing and review notes: “This tester initially tried the Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara when she initially caught wind of its TikTok hype, and its remained a routine Amazon purchase and makeup bag staple ever since. The mascara’s undoubtable standout features are its super dark, dramatic color payoff and instant thickening effect. You really only need a maximum of two coats with this mascara, unless you prefer a chunkier lash look, because just one coat will provide substantial volume and length. As the product name suggests, the tapered wand aptly reaches each corner of the eye to fan out the lashes and create a cat-eye, false lash effect. Notably, two coats of this mascara does feel heavier on the eyes compared to other drugstore mascaras we tested. If you use an eyelash curler before applying mascara, keep in mind that the lift may slightly fall.”

Volume: 4.9/5 rating | Length: 4.9/5 rating | Definition: 4.8/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.8/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $4.99

black and green mascara tube with product swatch


pink mascara tube

L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.7/5 rating
Formula type: Volumizing, lengthening
Shade range: Blackest Black, Black, Mystic Black, Black Brown, Millennial Pink, and additional waterproof options
Luxury alternative: Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Universal Volumizing Mascara
Amazon’s Choice
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
CVS Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars



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L’Oréal Paris is a drugstore mascara authority, with dozens of award-winning formulas to choose from. One of the most popular options in its lineup is the Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara, which makeup artists like Mary Phillips and Ariel Tejeda regularly use on their A-list clients. With 47 million views on TikTok and over 50,000 five-star Amazon ratings, this mascara is a must-try.

It’s the brands first mascara to promise both dramatic volume and length, with a maximum hold formula and a fluttery, feathery finish. The hourglass wand is ideal for those who like a doe-eyed look, as the bristles deposit the long-lasting pigments evenly across the inner and outer lashes.

Editor testing and review notes: “As someone who particularly favors mascaras that volumize and add thickness, the Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara gets an A-plus. Its medium-large, slight hourglass wand fits snugly under the lash line to deposit product from root to tip, which works to grip, comb, define, and satisfyingly elongate each individual lash. The formula of the mascara is wet but not too watery, which aids in its ability to build thickness and avoid pesky clumping. I found that it wears well over a long day, with no running or smudging, holds a curl, and is effortless to wipe away with a makeup removing cloth. If you have smaller eyes, the wand may overwhelm your lash line, but it’s otherwise a top contender amongst the wide landscape of mascaras at the drugstore.”

Volume: 5/5 rating | Length: 4.6/5 rating | Definition: 4.6/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.9/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $9.97

LOreal Lash Paradise Best Drugstore Mascara 1


blue mascara tube

Covergirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.75/5 rating
Formula type: Volumizing
Shade range: Pitch Black, Very Black, Black, Black Brown, and additional waterproof options
Luxury alternative: Freck Beauty Lashrocket Mascara
Special features: Vegan, cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny Certified, packaging is made from 80% recycled paper from well-managed forests
Amazon’s Choice
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
CVS Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars



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Selecting a clean mascara is the best bet for those with sensitive eyes that are prone to irritation, contact lens wearers, or those who simply want to steer clear of ingredients like sulfates. Covergirl’s Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara specifically omits concerning ingredient such as parabens, sulfates, talc, and mineral oil, making it the best drugstore mascara for sensitive eyes. It’s infused with lash serum-inspired ingredients like argan and marula oils to leave the lashes healthier than they started upon application, all while building the natural lashes up to 10 times their volume and length.

The tapered wand expertly separates the lash line to create the appearance of fuller lashes, without overloading them with product or weighing them down. Covergirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara is both vegan and cruelty-free and designed with recycled packaging, making it a sound choice for intentional beauty shoppers.

Editor testing and review notes: “Covergirl’s Lash Blast mascara line has been a tried-and-true drugstore favorite of mine for well over a decade, so I was curious to see if the clean iteration held up against the rest. Spoiler alert — it provides the same effect as the original orange tube. What I love about the Lash Blast formulation is its dryer feel, which works to define the lashes without causing smudging throughout the day. It combs the natural lashes with a light-to-medium amount of product to create buildable, soft volume. This mascara also extends the lashes to a flexible length, which creates a more feathery appearance. If you like a rounded, bright-eye effect, Lash Blast is your ticket to a doll-eye lashes.”

Volume: 4.6/5 rating | Length: 4.6/5 rating | Definition: 5/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.8/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $9.49

blue mascara tube with product swatch


brown mascara tube with product swatch

Colourpop BFF Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.7 rating
Formula type: Volumizing, lengthening, lifting
Shade range: Brownie Points, Black on Black, Wood Spirit, Sugar Pie, Blue Ya Mind, Left on Red, and more
Luxury alternative: Too Faced Better Than Sex Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara in Chocolate Brown
Special features: Cruelty-free
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Colourpop Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.7/5 stars

Colourpop is an affordable cosmetics brand that you can find at choice drugstores, depending on your location. It’s best known for its punchy color cosmetics, like technicolor eyeshadow palettes and statement lipsticks, that pack powerful pigmentation and a luxury feel. BFF Mascara is no exception, as it offers the rainbow of mascara colors to spice up your day to day or allow an editorial look come to life.

The comb-like, twisted wand, which is uniquely made of nylon fiber, boosts the lash line in a lift and reinforces a curl with each coat. The mascara adds both pronounced volume and precise length upon instant application, while delegating all the buildable to control to your hand and avoiding bulky product deposits that would otherwise overwhelm the lash line.

Editor testing and review notes: “This tester is a long-time lover of Colourpop’s color cosmetics line and was curious to try the brand’s take on mascara. Unsurprisingly, the product comes in a range of playful and opaque color options, including cobalt blue, baby pink, ruby red, classic black, and a standout brown. Each option passed with flying colors, but the Brownie Points shade was particularly impressive in comparison to other brown mascaras we tested. As a brunette, its deep, warm brown color appeared natural but not too soft, while still creating a transformative lash effect. Aside from the color, BFF is one of the best mascara formulas we tested because it hits the sweet spot between not too wet and not too dry, meaning it delivers on length without clumping, and allows for building up to three coats. The hourglass wand deposits just the right amount of product to coat the lashes and grips well onto nearly the entire lash line in one swipe.”

Volume: 4.8/5 rating | Length: 4.6/5 rating | Definition: 4.7/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.6/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $9

brown mascara tube with product swatch


blue and black mascara tube

E.l.f. Lash it Loud Waterproof Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.9 rating
Formula type: Volumizing, waterproof
Shade range: Black
Luxury alternative: Buxom Lash Waterproof Volumizing Mascara
Special features: Vegan, cruelty-free
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars




Buy Now at e.l.f. cosmetics

On our hunt for the best drugstore mascaras, we surveyed shelves and noted that of all makeup brands, E.l.f. Cosmetics’ mascaras were most sold out across all formulas — which checks out, since #elfmascara has 6.4 million views on TikTok. The brand’s mascaras are among the most affordable at drugstores.

The Lash It Loud Waterproof is our top pick for its volumizing and defining effect, and also ranks as the best drugstore mascara for short lashes that we tried. That’s all thanks to its flexible silicone wand applicator that separates and lengthens each and every lash, with long bristles that run both vertically and horizontally. The bristles form a spiky ball tip at the end of the wand, which allows for easy access to fine lashes at the inner and outer corner. Its rich black pigment creates a bold lash look, without the risk of running.

Editor testing and review notes: “The E.l.f Cosmetics Lash It Loud Waterproof mascara is one of the most affordable drugstore mascaras we tested and it proved to be a front-runner upon the first swipe. Its silicone brush did an impressive job at combing each lash — and notably fits nicely in the small corners of the eye — to create defined volume. Despite its wet formula, it is successful in building thickness while extending the length of the lash line for a dramatic transformation that ticks every box. Lash It Loud is particularly stellar at extending the length of the fine bottom lashes with a single swipe. As for its waterproof power, this mascara was tested in the shower, at the beach, and throughout several hot sunny days, and it successfully resisted flaking, smudging, running, or budging. When you’re ready to wash it away, a makeup removing cloth or simple eye-safe face wash will do the trick, without any harsh rubbing or risk of losing any lashes in the process.”

Volume: 4.8/5 rating | Length: 4.8/5 rating | Definition: 5/5 rating | Long-wear: 5/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $6

blue and black mascara tube with product swatch


pink mascara tube

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.6/5 rating
Formula type: Volumizing, defining
Shade range: Blackest Black, Midnight Black, Very Black, Brownish Black, and additional waterproof options
Luxury alternative: Lancôme Lash Idôle Lash-Lifting & Volumizing Mascara
Special features: Infused with rosehip oil
CVS Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

When Sofia Richie retraced her wedding beauty look on TikTok, she revealed that she specifically requested her makeup artist, Pati Dubroff, pack Maybelline’s Lash Sensational Mascara. Ever since, it’s become a viral sensation and top seller, with over 24 million TikTok views. (It was also low in stock at WWD’s local Duane Reade drugstore in midtown Manhattan, particularly in the waterproof formula that Richie shouted out.)

The magic of this mascara lies in its curved, curl-boosting wand that boasts ten layers of lash-separating bristles for a fanned-out flair. It’s infused with conditioning rosehip oil for soft wear and colored with rich pigments to neatly define and shape the lash line. The liquid formula not only allows for controlled volume, but also makes this mascara especially effortless to melt away after a long day of wear. It’s ophthalmologist approved, contact lens safe, and happy-tear tested.

Editor testing and review notes: “At first glance, I loved how this mascara’s brush had two bristle lengths: the inner curve reaches the roots of the lash and the outer curve with longer bristles helps fan out every hair. This handy wand deposits formula all around each lash, which is great for those, like myself, who prefer just one quick coat of mascara. I experienced a few light flakes throughout my 10-hour testing period, however the curled, lengthened effect makes up for that shortcoming. If you’re interested in a celeb-approved drugstore mascara with maximum volume and length and don’t mind a heavier lash, this is the tube for you.” 

Volume: 4.8/5 rating | Length: 4.6/5 rating | Definition: 4.9/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.3/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $9.98

blue mascara tube with pink brush

L’Oreal Paris Telescopic Waterproof Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.8/5 rating
Formula type: Lengthening
Shade range: Black, Carbon Black, Blackest Black, and Waterpoof Black
Luxury alternative: Glossier Lash Slick Lift and Lengthening Mascara
Special features: Precision brush
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars



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This cult-favorite from the early aughts still rings true as a reliable length-builder. The L’Oreal Paris Telescopic Waterproof Mascara has a whopping 47,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and an internet following of 168 million TikTok views. So what’s all the hype about? For one, its super slim precision brush that latches at the base of the lashes to fully extend their length. Its long, no-frills shape also makes it easy to grab tiny lashes in the inner and outer corners of the eye, or clinging to the whole lash line in one swipe. This waterproof formulation has earned the praise of shoppers for its budge-proof wear that never flakes or results in “panda eyes.”

Editor testing and review notes: “Hear me out: My lash line doesn’t love wet or emollient formulas like this one, but my lower lashes absolutely do. While those with fine lashes will love the texture of the product for their entire eye, this waterproof formulation has made its way into my makeup bag as a holy grail lower lash mascara from the drugstore. The narrow wand makes it so quick to swipe a light coat on my lower lash line without leaving behind smudge spots I have to clean up later. Plus, unlike other waterproof mascaras, this one stays put, even when I wear a hefty layer of eye cream or under eye concealer.”

Volume: 4.3/5 rating | Length: 5/5 rating | Definition: 5/5 rating | Long-wear: 5/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $10.99

leaf-printed white mascara tube

Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Blowout Mascara

Editor testing review rating: 4.7/5 rating
Formula type: Volumizing
Shade range: Black
Luxury alternative: Grande Cosmetics Conditioning Peptide Mascara
Special features: Infused with keratin, murumuru butter, cupuaçu butter, tucuma butter, and monoi butter
Target Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.6/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

When Mellinger made mention of the Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Blowout Mascara as a conditioning drugstore lash-lengthener, we had to test it for ourselves. The unique formula is blended with a mix of fatty acids, vitamins, and keratin to strengthen lashes and leave them soft to the touch. Its creamy formula applies smooth for controlled, buildable volume and definition, while the tradition-shaped wand works to flair and lift the lash line. It’s earned over 13,00 five-star reviews at Ulta, and we haven’t tested a mascara quite like this one that can compete with prestige ingredient lists, at such an affordable price. “[Conditioning formulations] are not something that I’ve heard a lot about in the drugstore sector of mascaras,” adds Mellinger.

Editor testing and review notes: “I had never used an eye makeup product from Physicians Formula but the brand’s Butter line always leaves me impressed so I was excited to take this one for a whirl. It gives the lashes a fluttery and natural look that I find ideal for daily wear. The texture of the product leans dry, which works best for building volume and separating sparse lash lines, and I’m happy to report that the conditioning ingredients worked their magic — the mascara washed off cleanly and left my lashes feeling so soft at the end of the day. If you put your lashes through the ringer, like routinely curling them or regularly wearing false lashes, this mascara may work well as a wearable restorative treatment.”

Volume: 4.8/5 rating | Length: 4.6/5 rating | Definition: 4.8/5 rating | Long-wear: 4.7/5 rating

Price upon publish date of this article: $10.48

What to Look for in the Best Drugstore Mascaras

Wand type: Mascara wands come in a wide variety of options for different lash effects. There are bristle wands, which are reminiscent in texture to boar hair brushes and coat eyelashes with a dense amount of product. These can be thick and oversized, dip in the middle like an hourglass, curve in a “C” shape, or look long and skinny with separated teeth. Mascara wands may also be plastic or silicone, which have stiffer bristles that separate lashes from the root while depositing a controlled amount of product. Other mascara wand variations include conic shapes that taper to a tip or spike ball-ended wands that allow you to coat fine lashes in the inner and outer corner of the eye.

Formula type: When you’re selecting a drugstore mascara, it’s important to pay attention to your lash type and intended effect. For example, short lash types will see the most transformation from a lengthening mascara, while thin lashes will benefit from a thickening formula. If your lashes grow straight out, opt for a curling mascara. Lengthening mascaras often come in wet formulas, while volumizing mascaras are developed with thick or dry textures. Many mascaras are designed to perform two or more of these lash effects, such as lengthen and thicken at the same time, which is often due a winning combination of its formulation and wand type.” If you want your mascara to wear longer, you should probably look into tubing or waterproof mascara,” suggests Mellinger. “If you want something that looks super natural, then you might want to look for a mascara that claims to separate.”

Flexible hold vs. waterproof formulas: “In general, any sort of waterproof mascara tends to wear longer and smudge less,” says Mellinger. It’s a particularly good option for those who prefer to wear mascara on their lower lash line, because ingredients in other under eye products you may wear may cause the mascara to smudge. If this tends to occur, Mellinger offers a quick solution: “You absolutely need to set your concealer under your eye,” she says. “If you don’t set your concealer and you wear mascara on your bottom lash (even if it’s just your top lash), there will be a transfer. Use a fluffy brush to apply a very light dusting of setting powder underneath the eye after you’ve applied concealer and before you apply mascara.” She also recommends to avoid applying eye cream close to the lash line during the day. “The more that emollient area is, the more transfer you’re going to get.” If you have oily skin, you’ll want to select a mascara that promises a smudge-proof formulation. A flexible hold or conditioning mascara is best for those who wear glasses or have a tendency to rub their eyes to ensure it won’t flake onto your cheeks throughout the day.

Ingredients: Mascara formulas may appear as a confusing jumble of chemical names, but many mascaras share the same common ingredients, depending on their intended lash effect. Some thickening agents in popular mascara formulas include beeswax, lanolin (derived from sheep wool), castor oil, and mineral oil, which work as stiffening agents for long-wear holds and voluminous effects. Glycerin, along with a variety waxes, such as paraffin and plant-based carnauba wax, are used to moisturize and protect the lashes and create a smooth yet sticky consistency for pigments to adhere to natural hair. Black and brown mascara pigments are commonly blended with ingredients like iron oxide and carbon black. Tubing or fiber mascaras use nylon, rayon, and silk microfibers as tiny lash extensions. Waterproof formulations include higher amounts of waxes and silicones, such as isododecane, dimethicone copolyol, and cyclopentasiloxane. There are potentially irritating ingredients that may be included in mascara formulations to look out for, like shellac or thimerosal, so those with sensitive eyes will be safest selecting a mascara that is marked paraben-free or vegan.

Where to Shop Drugstore Mascaras Online

While there may be a drugstore located just a few miles from your home, shopping drugstore mascaras online will likely get you better bang for your buck. If you live in a major city, ordering mascara online is especially savvy, as drugstore beauty product prices can vary from block to block. For instance, the average drugstore mascara cost in New York City drugstores ranges from $12 to $16, whereas the same mascaras are priced well under $10 at online retailers like Amazon, CVS, Target, and Walmart. Shopping drugstore mascaras online will also allow you to browse the full stock of a mascara’s formula, whether in different color options or waterproof versions, along with bundle or variety packs at bargain prices. 

  • Amazon has become a one-stop-shop for beauty lovers, artists, and experts in recent years. The e-commerce storefront boasts an incredible assortment of vetted beauty essentials, including drugstore mascara, women’s perfume, skin-care tools, makeup gift sets, and makeup kits, that have thousands of honest customer reviews you can review before you click “add to cart.” One of the major benefits of shopping for affordable and quick-shipping beauty products on Amazon is that you have access to exclusive discounts all throughout the year.
  • Ordering drugstore beauty products from comes with tons of deals and perks you’d miss out on when shopping in-store. Year-round, online orders can receive free shipping on eligible products and earn you ExtraBucks with a CVS ExtraCare card. Also, with a free ExtraCare BeautyClub membership, shoppers can score totally free beauty products and 10 percent off CVS’s entire cosmetics selection.
  • Target not only offers their own exclusive beauty brands on top of primary drugstore options, but also supplies a portion of Ulta’s offerings, including Pixi Beauty, Honest Beauty, Juvia’s Place, Makeup Revolution, W3ll People, and many more. The retailer’s online beauty aisle features flash deals on top-rated beauty products and brands, as well as free gift cards purchase rewards you can put toward your next order. Target offers same-day pickup and curbside delivery, easy beauty returns even after the product’s been opened, and express or two-day shipping options.
  • The beauty section on Walmart’s website presents a wealth of drugstore mascara options to browse. (Just make sure you’re shopping verified products by navigating through Walmart’s beauty home page instead of searching via Google.) As you scroll through the product selection, you’ll discover surprising discounts on brand new, bestselling, and viral beauty products you wouldn’t be able to shop in-store or from any other retailer. Walmart provides super speedy next-day, two-day, or standard shipping methods, with the opportunity to order directly from your local store at a preferred arrival time. Big time beauty lovers can sign up for the Walmart+ membership, which includes a 30-day free trial and offers free local delivery, free shipping with no minimums, early access to product releases and price drops, and easy-peasy returns from your doorstep.
  • Ulta Beauty offers the widest range of brands at affordable prices. On top of beloved drugstore brands such as Maybelline and Covergirl, it’s one of the only places you can shop the wealth of indie beauty brands including Colourpop. Ordering from Ulta grants access to extra perks for beauty-lovers, such as website-exclusive beauty deals, rewards programs, and bonus samples.

How We Chose The Best Drugstore Mascaras

In order to select the best drugstore mascaras, we delved into extensive research across the beauty market, tapped a beauty expert for additional insight, and conducted our own comprehensive editor-approved product testing. Our WWD Shop editors also did field research at our local drugstores in New York City, checking inventory across different brands and specific formulas to see which items are selling quickly among city residents and visitors.

We tested new product releases, TikTok-viral formulations, and bestselling mascaras that have been customer and makeup artist favorites for decades. We also sifted through and compared hundreds of customer review quotes to roundup superlative mascaras that available at the most common drugstores. Of the 26 we tested over the course of seven months and two testing periods, the below didn’t make the cut.

  • Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Lengthening Mascara: One of our testers consistently enjoys almost every mascara from Maybelline’s lineup, but this one simply didn’t live up to the brand’s high standards. The formulation is too slick to separate and define the lashes to create volume. It does extend the length of lash strands in a rich black pigment, but the plastic wand delivers far too much product in one swipe, resulting in clumpy, spider-like lashes.
  • L’Oreal Bambi Eye Washable Mascara: Our testers loved the lengthening powers of this mascara, as well as its chubby packaging that makes it easy to grip and apply on the go. However, we experienced some smudging during the eight hour testing period. The formula requires three coats for a more defined look, where others on our list achieved this effect with fewer passes.
  • Neutrogena Healthy Lengths Mascara: Neutrogena’s mascara exhibited a common issue among many other length-focused formulas. It applied too wet, which caused the lashes to stick or clump together before any extension could be achieved. Naturally long lashes may respond well to this product, however those with short lashes may not experience any added volume or length upon application. The mascara also noticeably smudged throughout wear and stained the skin upon removal.
  • Honest Beauty 2-in-1 Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer: While this mascara is EWG-certified and has a clean formula that delivers noteworthy pigment, the product immediately makes the eyelashes club and stick together.
  • Flower Beauty Lash Warrior Mascara: Flower Beauty offers a wide range of impressive color cosmetics, across powder blushes, lip liners, and complexion products. However, the Lash Warrior mascara left much to be desired. Despite its large wand, far too little product is effectively deposited to the lashes, which prompts several coats until a minimal transformation is achieved. While the product is fairly buildable, this mascara’s application is time-consuming.
  • Milani Highly Rated Lash Extensions Tubing Mascara: Tubing mascaras elicit high expectations for their lengthening and volumizing effects. Milani’s take on the innovative mascara did not compare to others we tested — its plastic wand bodes well for lash separation, but its overall wet formula weighed too heavy on the lashes to build drama or defined augmentation.
  • Wet n Wild Mega Lash Length Mascara: Compared to other lengthening formulas, Wet n Wild’s fell short. The wand was overly flexible, which made it tricky to wiggle into the lash line. Our testers also needed three coats for a lengthened result, where others, like Maybelline’s Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara, required just one pass.

How We Tested & Reviewed the Best Drugstore Mascaras

A total of 26 mascara formulations were tested among four WWD editors and product testers for this best drugstore mascara shopping guide. These affordable mascaras were put to the test for a duration of eight to 18 hours per day in order to determine the pros and cons of each formula. Since our initial round of testing in September 2023, we conducted a second round of testing to revisit our original recommendations and examine whether they still left editors impressed, as well as to investigate new discoveries that come recommended by beauty insiders and our TikTok FYP.

We assessed key factors of the mascaras throughout our tests, including lash effect claims, overall formulation, color payoff, wear time, application efficiency, wand function, packaging, and ease of removal. We also made sure to compare special features in formulation to determine the highest quality options available, such as waterproof mascara, tubing mascara, and brown mascara. The drugstore mascaras included in this article were tested across a variety of eye lash types, occasions, and functions, so you can feel confident about your next drugstore mascara beauty buy. 

Below are the criteria our panel of testers considered while trying out drugstore mascara formulas:

  • Packaging: The formulation of a product is paramount, but its packaging largely impacts its usability. We evaluated each mascara tube in terms of weight, grip comfortability, wand length, and wand flexibility to determine its application function efficiency and overall experience. We also assessed the amount of product each wand deposits, whether product builds up on the neck of the tube, and if the formula is prone to leaking out of its packaging.
  • Application: We judged the application of a drugstore mascara based on its ability to live up to its lash effect claims with easy use. We counted the number of coats necessary to deliver ample intensity, examined whether the wand fit comfortably under the lash line, and analyzed the ability of its bristles’ to comb and grip each lash. We took note of any clumping, smudging, flaking, or drooping that occurred in the process, and whether the formulas were buildable in a reasonable time frame.
  • Wear time: The staying power of a mascara refers to how long its shape will hold or whether it runs or transforms throughout the day. We tested these drugstore mascaras in 8 to 18 hour time frames in a variety of settings, including different climates, outdoor activities, regular days at the office, and even red-eye flights. These trials were also combined with different types of face serums, moisturizers, and concealers to asses whether they smudged, flaked, or transferred throughout their wear. Any mascaras that did so were removed from our list.
  • Ease of removal: After each testing period, our testers removed mascaras with makeup remover wipes, microfiber makeup removing cloths, face wash for oily skin and dry skin, and micellar water to pinpoint the product’s ability to cleanly wipe away or dissolve. Any formulas that required more than one wash, extra scrubbing, or left pesky smudging or residue behind were cut from our list.

Before you go, check out our list of the best mascaras:

Best Mascaras Gallery

Why Trust WWD?

Since 1910, WWD — often referred to as “the fashion bible” — has been the leading industry voice of authority for senior executives in the global women’s and men’s fashion, retail and beauty communities, while also informing the consumer media that cover the market. Today, WWD’s breaking news and trend coverage continues to be a trustworthy resource for both fashion insiders and consumers alike. Our shopping editors continue to uphold WWD’s editorial standards and values with quality, expert-backed product selections. Learn more about us here.

Meet the Testers

A panel of five testers assessed a large assortment of mascara formulas for this shopping guide to the best drugstore mascaras. Our testers include Olivia Cigliano, the Commerce Writer & Producer at Footwear News and WWD and the author of this story, Claire Sullivan, the Senior Beauty and Lifestyle Commerce Editor for WWD and Footwear News, and three additional testers. Our beauty test team represents a range of needs and preferences, including varying lash textures and lengths, different glam preferences, and specific sensitives like those with allergies or who wear contact lenses. Each mascara was tested alone and with false lashes, as well as for different activity levels, from a typical day at the office to a sweaty cardio workout, in order to nail down universally satisfactory formulas that flatter the eye and stay put all day.

Meet the Expert

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Katie Mellinger is a bicoastal makeup artist who specializes in flawless skin. She has worked with clients such as Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson, Chloë Sevigny, AnnaSophia Robb, and more. Her work has been featured in major publications including W, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and i-D, to name a few.

Meet the Author

Olivia Cigliano is a Commerce Writer & Producer at Footwear News and WWD where she writes and edits shopping content across fashion, beauty, footwear, TikTok style trends, and more. Cigliano received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Emerson College, and her byline can be found in publications including Elite Daily and CR Fashion Book. She is currently based in New York City. At WWD, she regularly tests and reviews top-rated and TikTok-famous products like drugstore mascaras. She updated this shopping guide in May 2024 with new releases and additional editor-tested mascara reviews.

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