11 best waterproof mascaras that won’t smudge, crumble or smear

Here's our favourite formulas with the staying power to see you through tears, thunderstorms and the treadmill

Louise Whitbread
Tuesday 16 June 2020 18:00
The best way to remove one is with a cleansing balm or oil-based cleanser, as this will melt the product down
The best way to remove one is with a cleansing balm or oil-based cleanser, as this will melt the product down

Waterproof mascara can be a godsend if you have watery eyes and find that normal mascaras tend to stream off, or if you’re attending an event that’s likely to set off tears or simply want a product that’s long lasting.

We’ve made it our mission to find wands that curl, lengthen and lift lashes, all without a single smear or smudge.

Putting them to the test, we have worn them through indoor and outdoor workouts, in downpours and even in the shower to examine their effectiveness. Across high-end to budget-friendly options, we measured ease of application and removal too.

Ensuring a waterproof formula won’t budge often means removing it at the end of the day can be difficult. Therefore, we’d recommend using a cleansing balm or oil-based cleanser to melt down mascara and avoid waking up with panda eyes.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Bobbi Brown no smudge waterproof mascara

This silver tube has a fat bristled brush that would be easy to dismiss as being too chunky for precise application. However with a single coat, our reviewer found it made sparse lashes look instantly longer, more defined and voluminous. It lasted from morning to evening without clumping, smudging or smearing, with no crumbled product on the lower lash line either. It will take a thicker cleanser to remove however, as once it’s on, it’s on. Try an eye make-up remover if your usual cleanser doesn’t cut it.

Essence lash princess false lash effect mascara waterproof

As the cheapest product on our list – by a long shot – this mascara is an impressive low cost option that doesn’t scrimp on giving you fluttering lashes that last. The brush has bristles set in a wide to narrow shape that allows for even coverage across your whole lash line, and is buildable too, so applying coat after coat won’t leave you with lashes clumped together. It’s easy to remove, leaving no panda eyes in the morning nor those horrible stringy clumps in the inner corner of your eye the next day. An unbelievable bargain.

L’Oreal Paris bambi eye false lash waterproof

This is the waterproof version of the brand's popular "bambi" mascara, and if you like the original, this one is equally as good. The brush is fat, but the bristles are precise, allowing you to latch onto every strand of eyelash hair before sweeping upwards to coat them. One coat isn’t enough if you like a dramatic look, but it's a lightweight formula that allows you to layer up, so you can make lashes as voluminous or minimal as you prefer. It’s an affordable no-brainer that won’t let you down.

Chanel inimitable waterproof mascara

A worthy investment, Chanel delivers on the higher price tag of this mascara. The bristles are thin and fine, but packed with enough product to coat all your lashes in one sweep. It’s simple to use too, the precise wand allows you to reach those tiny hairs on the inner corner and on the lower lash line. Not to mention, sunbathing in the garden on a hot bank holiday didn’t make a difference to how good this looked and lasted. If you’re willing to splurge, this is worth it.

Maybelline lash sensational lash multiplying mascara waterproof

We had high expectations for this as Maybelline certainly has the monopoly on high street mascaras that don’t break the bank. It’s inexpensive but doesn’t compromise on delivering clump-free, dramatic lashes. The curved brush is key to this as it follows the natural shape of your lashes, meaning minimal coats are required to give a big and bold effect. There were no problems removing it with a balm cleanser and warm flannel either. A big thumbs up from us.

Estee Lauder sumptuous extreme waterproof

This weighty tube certainly feels luxurious and impressed us with its staying power. We found it to be especially effective at lifting lashes to give the effect of being wide-awake, even on a bad night’s sleep. It doesn’t clump at all from application to the end of the day and the wand is shaped with a slight narrowing at the top, allowing you to reach every lash from root to tip. Removing it was no bother, it left no smudges and slid right off with a balm cleanser.

Lancome monsieur big waterproof mascara

If you’re after thicker-looking lashes, then opt for this formula. The brush on this mascara is shorter than most but we found that to be helpful for coating lashes in sections, rather than in one sweep. It did clump initially but it's buildable enough that we could separate hairs without looking like we had spider legs hanging off our eyes. It lasted throughout a HIIT workout in our living room and the shower we had after, so this is definitely one to shop if you have naturally watery eyes and find that non-waterproof formulas tend to stream off.

Eyeko yoga waterproof mascara

This has an odd shaped brush, which the brand describes as a “lotus”, with fat and wide bottom bristles that narrow into thinner, shorter bristles on top. Application isn’t the easiest – we ended up with a blotch on our eyelids – and it doesn’t coat every lash on the first go. However, as we put it to the test through an at-home yoga class, it held its own, with not a scrap of fallout or smudging to be found, despite a rather sweaty workout. This level of staying power meant that we could put up with a tricker application.

Too Faced better than sex waterproof mascara

This is the waterproof counterpart of Too Faced’s original cult favourite, better than sex mascara. The name alone is a bold claim and the weighty tube makes it the most luxurious feeling on our list. The hourglass brush is designed to cover your lashes from root to tip, but as the middle section of the brush is thinner, we found that some hairs can get left out in the first coat. While it does allow you to build up coverage with multiple coats, it does take a spot of awkwardly maneuvering to avoid lashes becoming clumpy. That said, it did last impressively well through a downpour and removed as easily as non-waterproof mascaras.

Diego Dalla Palma sub-aqueo mascara

It took some getting used to the unique wand shape, which is fatter on top and thinner on the bottom, but we found it to be an underdog among the other mascaras we tried. Once you work out how to apply it without accidentally poking your eye, it delivers an intense jet-black colour that nothing short of an eye make-up remover will shift. This suits an environment where tears are likely all day, such as a wedding, as it lasts incredibly well – not even a sweaty run in the rain budged it. But does take longer to remove than the others we tried.

e.l.f waterproof length and volume mascara

Budget-friendly brand e.l.f (standing for eyes, lips, face) has created an affordable, simple mascara that’s cheap and cheerful. Not only that, but it’s vegan and cruelty-free too. The wand is very short, almost like a stretched oval shape, which is ideal if you have shorter lashes, however it does mean covering all lash hairs takes some interesting manoeuvres to ensure you don’t get it elsewhere. That said, it lasted throughout the day well, even during a long nap (don’t judge us) and caused no bother when it came to removal.

The verdict: Waterproof mascaras

We can’t fault the Bobbi Brown no smudge waterproof mascara for its ability to transform fair, sparse hairs into fluttery, lengthened and voluminous lashes that lasted all day. However if you’re on a budget, the Essence lash princess false lash effect mascara waterproof won’t let you down on price or performance.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.