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25 best mascaras for every look: From waterproof to vegan-friendly formulas

Whether you prefer the falsies effect or a more natural finish, it’s time to put your best flutter forward

Sabine Wiesel
Wednesday 04 August 2021 17:05
<p>Every product we tried was flake-free and stayed put </p>

Every product we tried was flake-free and stayed put

If there’s one beauty product that’s seen a rise in a whole host of new launches so far this year, it’s mascara.

From the much anticipated Victoria Beckham Beauty debut (£26, Victoriabeckhambeauty.com) to the social-media hyped Maybelline lash sensational sky high (£9.99, Boots.com), it seems like every make-up brand has a new innovative formula with a game-changing brush that promises to be better than the next.

Mascara is such a transformative beauty staple – even the most low-maintenance of us have one in our beauty kit. A good mascara will darken and define your eyelashes, but a great mascara will be eye-opening, making your peepers look bigger and brighter.

The problem with this is there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. Thick or thin, curly or straight, short or long – love or hate your lashes, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. And when we all crave something different from a wand, the only way to find your perfect match is through trial and error.

With so many to choose from, we’ve done the mammoth task for you. We’ve wiggled our way through the latest launches and tested them against the bestselling formulations to bring you the best of 2021.

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While our winning wands all provided a variety of looks and finishes, they also provided a flake-free, stay-in-place formula. No matter your lashes' needs and wants, or your budget, we’re sure there’s a perfect pick for you here. 

The best mascaras for 2021 are:

  • Best for fanned-out lift and volume –Lancôme lash idôle mascara: £23.50, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for eye-opening curl – Dior diorshow iconic overcurl mascara: £28, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for definition and separation –Victoria Beckham future lash mascara: £26, Victoriabeckhambeauty.com
  • Best for buildable volume –Guerlain mad eyes mascara: £29, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for doing it all – Charlotte Tilbury pillow talk push up lashes mascara: £23, Spacenk.com
  • Best for instant volume –Pat McGrath labs dark star mascara: £26, Net-a-porter.com
  • Best for those on a budget – Rimmel scandaleyes reloaded mascara: £8.49, Superdrug.com
  • Best for lengthening –Benefit they're real! magnet extreme lengthening mascara: £24, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for intense drama – Nars climax dramatic volumising mascara: £22, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for staying in place all day – Bobbi Brown smokey eye mascara: £25.50, Johnlewis.com
  • Best for lash strengthening –BareMinerals strength and length serum-infused mascara: £23, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best for customising –Huda Beauty legit lashes double ended mascara: £24, Feelunique.com
  • Best for waterproof –L’Oreal Paris air volume mega waterproof mascara: £10.99, Superdrug.com
  • Best for definition and volume – Kevyn Aucoin indecent mascara: £22, Spacenk.com
  • Best for a false-lash effect – Too Faced better than sex mascara: £22, Boots.com
  • Best for day to night –Fenty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara: £21, Boots.com
  • Best for a no make-up, make-up look –Glossier lash slick mascara:£14, Glossier.com
  • Best for fullness –Anastasia Beverly Hills lash brag volumising mascara: £26, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for vegans – Milk Makeup kush high volume mascara: £22, Cultbeauty.co.uk
  • Best for length and volume –Maybelline lash sensational sky high mascara: £9.99, Boots.com
  • Best for natural-looking volume – Flower beauty lash warrior mascara: £10.99, Superdrug.com
  • Best for a full-bodied effect –Estée Lauder sumptuous rebel length and lift mascara: £24, Boots.com
  • Best for swapping with your falsies – Mac magic extension mascara: £20, Boots.com
  • Best for lash conditioning – L’Oréal Paris volume million lashes balm noir: £8.99, Superdrug.com
  • Best for lift, curl and strength – Clarins supra lift and curl mascara: £23, Boots.com

Lancôme lash idôle mascara

Best: For fanned-out lift and volume

With such an impressive back catalogue of game-changing mascaras, we can’t believe this brand has outdone itself again with this new offering. The next-level brush makes easy work of coating each and every lash thanks to the 250 different bristle sizes and 360 micro-bristles. Its curved shape fits perfectly into the upper lash line, allowing for root-to-tip coverage. In just one stroke your lashes look volumised and lifted, but the flexible jet black, gel emulsion allows you to add as many clump-free layers as you desire for a more full-on look.

Dior diorshow iconic overcurl mascara

Best: For eye-opening curl

Straight lashes, this one’s for you. Make-up artists will tell you how transformative it is to add an eyelash curler to your routine. While you can get the same effect with advanced mascara formulas, this is the first we’ve found where the curl actually stays in place. A flick of the wand and it thickens lashes beautifully – then set the curl by pressing it against the lashes with the curved brush. It’s simple to use and super effective.

Victoria Beckham future lash mascara

Best: For definition and separation

Finally, Victoria Beckham has turned her attention to lashes with this much anticipated and innovative formulation. A small, thin and slightly curved brush makes it easy to get to the tiniest lashes without any smudging, and its manoeuvrable formula makes it easy to create a naturally defined and well-separated look. This doesn’t budge once in place – not even at the gym, where we tested its sweat-proof claims – but it still washes off with water at the end of the day. It’s effortlessly elegant, just like VB herself!

L’Oréal Paris volume million lashes balm noir

Best: For lash conditioning

Dry, brittle or fragile lashes should reach for this moisturising mascara. Think of it as a leave-in-conditioner for your flutter that leaves each hair soft and supple with its balmy texture. The lash-caring formula was also designed with sensitive eyes in mind, so you’ll find no chance of any irritation. It builds natural volume with a fine and flexible bristle brush and because there’s no stiffness it makes easy work of separating lashes for a fuller clump-free look. We found there’s no running or smudging throughout the day, even though it’s easy to take off at the end of the day with zero rubbing required.

Guerlain mad eyes mascara

Best: For buildable volume

Reach for this volume-boosting formula that thickens and curls lashes in just one coat, but layer on lashings of the clump-free ink and you can create next-level drama that looks like you’ve naturally grown thicker, fuller lashes. The luxe, Instagram-worthy rose-gold tube is also infused with lash conditioning ingredients, so no matter how many layers you add, your lashes stay soft and supple.

Charlotte Tilbury pillow talk push up lashes mascara

Best: For doing it all

Hyped on social media with a huge waiting list when it first launched, the third mascara from the make-up artist’s brand was well worth the wait. What sets it apart is that it promises and delivers on weightless volume, length and lift for the perfect all-rounder mascara. Use the flat side of the paddle-shaped brush to load and lift lashes, and the comb side for even distribution. Expect high-impact lashes with an intense black, glossy finish that holds all day.

Clarins supra lift and curl mascara

Best: For lift, curl and strength

If you rely daily on your eyelash curlers, you’ll do well to replace your existing mascara with this new formulation. The uniquely shaped, curved brush has a hollow core and a rounded tip that’s designed for lift and curl with eye-opening results, and the formulation is also made up of lash-lifting and strengthening ingredients. We found the soft, dense fibres naturally flex to coat each lash with just one stroke that’s easy to layer without clumping for thicker results. Long-wearing and flake-free, even in the summer heat, we predict a new bestseller for the brand

Pat McGrath labs dark star mascara

Best: For instant volume

From the brand created by possibly the most influential make-up artist on the planet, Pat McGrath knows what a brilliant mascara should look like. The large, contoured brush is built for speed, as it delivers slick body in just one stroke – perfect for mornings when you’re short on time. Build up a few more layers for extra intensity that’s perfect for when glamour is called for.

Rimmel scandaleyes reloaded mascara

Best: For those on a budget

For a purse-friendly volumising mascara, try this for a fuller, thicker flutter. Wiggle the oversized brush through lashes for a smooth, even finish that you can layer evenly. No matter how many coats you apply, this stays clump-free, with a natural look. Expect it to stay in place throughout the day too – and all with change from a tenner. A true high street hero!

Benefit they're real! magnet extreme lengthening mascara

Best: For lengthening

With such a well-loved collection of mascaras, Benefit is always ahead of the game and this new launch is no exception. The state-of-the-art brush has a magnetically charged core that pulls the magnetic mineral-enriched formula up and out to the tips of lashes, making them appear longer. We were wowed by how well this lifted and lengthened after just one stroke. And if you layer it, it builds volume with no dreaded clumping.

Nars climax dramatic volumising mascara

Best: For intense drama

For those looking for full-on volume, you’ll love how effortlessly the over-sized brush creates a bigger, bolder finish. Wiggle this formula in – from the roots at the lash line to the tips – with two coats for a bold, wearable look. To really add some va va voom, keep layering on without smudging or clumping. Expect it to feel weightless and soft, with no stiff or crispy lashes in sight.

Bobbi Brown smokey eye mascara

Best: For staying in place all day

Part of the brand’s bestselling line-up, we’ve turned back to this mascara time and time again for its long-wearing, flake- and smudge-free formula. Its true black, kohl-pigmented colour seamlessly glides over and covers each lash from root to tip with just one coating – expect a well-separated and elongated look perfect for daytime. Layer on the workable formula and you’ll create a bolder, fanned-out flutter that’s ideal for a night out.

BareMinerals strength and length serum-infused mascara

Best: For lash strengthening

Lashes in need of a little TLC will love this formula infused with a plant-based serum that’s rich in amino acids and potent peptides for a soft, supple and strong flutter. Once you get the hang of the clever three-in-one brush, you’ll see how easily the flattened part of it lifts lashes – designed to mimic the classic make-up artist trick of using a spoon. A good all-rounder for volume, length and definition too.

Huda Beauty legit lashes double ended mascara

Best: For customising

Seasoned beauty fanatics will love the variety of lash looks you can create with this genius double-ended brush. One side is built for volume, with its larger, slightly curved bristle brush and formula that’s easy to layer on, while the flip side uses a smaller, thinner brush and lengthening fibers to elongate and curve. Use separately depending on the finish you want to achieve, or both for high impact lashes. Just be sure to work the formulas together quickly before it sets.

L’Oréal Paris air volume mega waterproof mascara

Best: For waterproof

Switch to this budge-proof formula if you’re an eye rubber prone to mascara flake, smudging or panda eyes. Expect what they say on the tube – it creates lightweight volume that’s going nowhere. We put this tube through its paces and found it didn’t budge or smudge in a sweaty cardio gym session or after a swim at the local pool. Normally, we need a good cleansing oil to remove a waterproof formula, but all this takes is warm water and a washcloth. Contradictory, but it works!

Kevyn Aucoin indecent mascara

Best: For definition and volume

Make this recently launched formula your go-to if you’re looking for long-lasting length and volume with a natural finish. The cone-shaped bristle brush makes easy work of defining each and every lash, thanks to the thin tip that gets into corners, and it also works lower lashes brilliantly.

We couldn’t get enough of layering this clump-free formula for a fuller look, without the fakeness other mascaras give off. Plus, it’s infused with lash-enhancing ingredients for healthy growth.

Too Faced better than sex mascara

Best: For false-lash effect

What was once a cult classic has become the US’s number-one-selling prestige mascara. This cheekily named formula has a reputation for creating drama that’s still hard to beat. Stay clear if you prefer a neat and natural finish, as this one is all about the false-lash effect. Its large, hourglass-shaped brush covers lashes effortlessly from root to tip: just one coat magnifies, but work through a few times for a fuller, bolder finish with a curl that lasts. Does it live up to its name? Don’t be so silly... but it does try.

Fenty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara

Best: For day to night

Whether you’re looking for a little drama, or a more refined day finish, this wand is great for creating different looks. Once you get to grips with using the two-sided “flat-to-fat” brush, you see how cleverly Fenty’s mascara works. Layer lashes with the fat side of the brush for volume and lift, and the flat side for definition and curl. We love the mini option and the subtle burgundy and forest green shades that make eyes pop.

Glossier lash slick mascara

Best: For no make-up, make-up look

This is our pick for those that like their make-up to look subtle. Think of this as a slight enhancement to your lashes – it darkens and creates cleanly separated lashes, giving a slight lengthening effect. The wand is thin with a fine tip, making it easy to highlight all lashes, and even a few coats will leave the most natural flutter. It also conditions hairs over time with vegan biotin, leaving them soft to the touch. Simply wash off in the evening with warm water.

Anastasia Beverly Hills lash brag volumising mascara

Best: For fullness

When it comes to lashes, if you’re looking for “the bigger the better”, then this one is for you. With a large, hourglass brush designed for creating volume and a thick-consistency formula, one swipe and you’ve got yourself a bolder and fuller look. Carry on applying for an extreme fat-lash effect. Be warned: this isn’t for those that like a natural finish.

Milk Makeup kush high volume mascara

Best: For vegans

Turn to Milk for its vegan and cruelty-free formulations, including its bestselling volume-building mascara. Its oversized brush with criss-cross bristles coats every lash easily with a creamy formula built for layering. It boasts conditioning, hemp-derived cannabis seed oil that keeps lashes light and soft, so you can even add coats for touch-ups throughout the day, if you want to add a little drama come evening.

Maybelline lash sensational sky high mascara

Best: For Length and volume

One Maybelline mascara is sold every seven seconds in the UK, and with such an impressive collection of popular wands, we were surprised to find that the brand’s latest formula outshines the rest, and is our favourite yet. The long, thin and flexible brush head combines a formula of bamboo extract and fibres that builds volume and length with each stroke, but also separates lashes for a fanned-out look.

Flower Beauty lash warrior mascara

Best: For natural-looking volume

From Drew Barrymore’s beauty brand, this wand is seriously impressive at building thicker lashes with only one or two coats – you don’t need any more. The spiked brush effortlessly creates separation, fanning out lashes with added lift. It’s perfect for those looking to build speedy everyday volume that still looks super natural. It’s a purse-friendly option with the performance of a more expensive tube.

Estée Lauder sumptuous rebel length and lift mascara

Best: For a full-bodied effect

A go-to for short lashes, the sleek brush of this mascara makes easy work of getting into the lash line and highlighting even the tiniest of lower hairs. After a few strokes expect thicker, longer and well-lifted lashes giving off the illusion of a fuller set that still look like your own, but better. We were impressed with the staying power too, as the fluttery effect lasts all day. 

Mac magic extension mascara

Best: For swapping with your falsies

If you’re looking for something to compete with your stick-on lashes or favourite lash treatment, this is the mascara for you. The formula contains 5mm-long fibres that adhere to your natural lashes, crosshatching at the stroke of the brush to create a fuller, thicker and curled flutter. You can brush on as much volume as you crave – one stroke boosting length and volume and two or three creating a more full-on dramatic effect. Expect lashes still to feel lightweight and flexible and for the formula to stay in place throughout the day with no flaking.

Read the full Mac magic extension mascara review

Top tips for making the absolute most out of your mascara

The shelf life of an average mascara is two to four months, so to get the most out of it, follow these tips:

  • To avoid dry clumps of mascara, keep your brush clean. The best way to do this is by submerging it in warm water for five minutes. Similarly, if you find a wand you love, clean it and save it
  • Do not pump your mascara – pumping adds more air to the tube, which causes it to dry out
  • If you want your lashes to have full-on drama, we’d advise applying a primer, which helps to really get your mascara working

The verdict: Best mascaras

Our best buy goes to the Lancôme lash idôle mascara because it effortlessly creates a natural-looking volume that’s ideal for daytime wear and is easily buildable for a bolder look. For a high street option with similar effects, try the Maybelline lash sensational sky high mascara.

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For creating maximum impact that lasts, we’ve rounded up the best false eyelashes that stay put

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