A great waterproof mascara is a holy grail make-up product. Long, voluminous lashes are the fastest way to look more awake and to finish off your eyeshadow work, but panda eyes are never far from normal formulas.
Waterproof options are well known and loved for their staying power, and since the weather is heating up and we’re still wearing face masks, finding one that won’t smudge, clump, smear or flake is essential to keeping your make-up intact.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been putting waterproof products to the test and have narrowed it down to the top nine, rating each on staying power, ease of application, types of wands and bristles, along with how easy they are to remove.
As they are designed to resist water, we’d recommend using a specific eye make-up remover or a cleanser with a rich texture, such as a balm or oil, to remove every scrap and avoid the dreaded panda eyes.
Spanning luxurious brands and budget beauty buys, we tested these products during downpours, facials, sunny days and even in the shower to find the very best waterproof mascara money can buy.
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.
The best waterproof mascara for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Bobbi Brown no smudge waterproof mascara: £25.50, Bobbibrown.co.uk
- Best for lengthening – Byredo mascara tears in rain: £35, Byredo.com
- Best for adding volume – Milk Makeup kush waterproof mascara: £24, Cultbeauty.co.uk
- Best for holding a curl – Maybelline lash sensational waterproof mascara: £9.99, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for sensitive eyes – Clinique high impact waterproof mascara: £21, Boots.com
- Best for short lashes – L'Oreal Paris air volume mega mascara waterproof: £10.99, Superdrug.com
- Best budget option – Rimmel London scandaleyes volume on demand waterproof mascara: £8.49, Boots.com
- Best for weddings – Chanel le volume de Chanel waterproof mascara: £30, Johnlewis.com
- Best for every day – The Body Shop lash sport waterproof mascara: £11, Thebodyshop.com
Bobbi Brown no smudge waterproof mascara
Giving lashings of volume with just a couple of coats, this small but mighty mascara is well worth the splurge. The brush picks up an even coat of product without overloading it, and even when worn in the shower it doesn’t budge. It’s a hot weather essential if you can’t do without long, fluttery lashes, as this didn’t disappoint, and we found it was brilliantly buildable – it allowed you to add coat after coat without leaving lashes looking clumpy. Despite being the brand’s smallest mascara, with a compact tube that’s 5.5ml, it has lasted our reviewer well over six months.
Byredo mascara tears in rain
Best: For lengthening
While indie fragrance house Byredo is well loved for its pioneering unisex scents, in 2020 it dipped its toes into the make-up world, slowly expanding its debut collection to feature products for your face, lids, lips and lashes. Don’t be put off by the slim, short wand with even shorter bristles – this is the best lengthening mascara we’ve tried. It instantly made us look wide awake and the brush was easy to navigate around smaller hairs on the inner corner of our eyeliner. If you’re shopping with a bigger budget, this is well worth it. The formula is on the wet side, so make sure to wait a few seconds before heavy blinking or touching hair to avoid smudging your careful work. A soaked cotton pad with eye make-up remover takes it off in seconds too.
Milk Makeup kush waterproof mascara
Best: For adding volume
This has quite a chunky, weighty tube with an oval-shaped brush that we found worked best for adding volume and thickness to lashes. The weight of the wand makes it feel sturdy to apply and the formula is vegan too. It’s rich in a plant-derived oil to nourish lashes and we saw no flaking or clumping. Not only that, it’s easy to remove too, so if you want the staying power of a waterproof mascara, but don’t want to spend ages taking it off, this is a worthwhile option.
Maybelline lash sensational waterproof mascara
Best: For holding a curl
Maybelline has plenty of different mascaras that give luxury brands a run for their money. The curved brush and fine bristles on the wand allow it to easily follow the natural shape of your lashes, coating each one evenly. As a result you need less product for a dramatic, fanned out look with zero clumps. While it won’t thicken hairs, it does a great job of giving lashes a lifted, fluttery look for just less than a tenner.
Clinique high impact waterproof mascara
Best: For sensitive eyes
For defined, lengthened lashes, Clinique’s mascara is hard to beat, and is one of the brand’s most popular make-up products thanks to its staying power. It didn’t smudge, smear, flake or crumble on a sweaty tube carriage, while wearing a face covering, or during drinks in the park in 25C heat. The brush is full of evenly spaced bristles, but not so jam-packed that it’ll leave you with flecks of product on your eyelids, and the wand is easy to navigate into the corner of your inner lash to coat each hair without them looking clumpy. It’s not the easiest to remove, so we recommend using a cleansing balm or eye make-up remover to ensure it’s all off before you hit the hay.
L'Oreal Paris air volume mega mascara waterproof
Best: For short lashes
One of L’Oreal Paris’s newest mascara launches, this product has a thick brush but small bristles, so it works quite nicely on short lashes. It’s very lightweight and even immediately after application it barely feels like you’re wearing any. Lashes are surprisingly soft throughout the day too, instead of feeling spiky. The only downside is the formula is quite wet, so be sure to let it fully dry before you touch it to avoid any smudging. It’s not as dramatic as the other mascaras we tried, but is an excellent everyday staple.
Rimmel London scandaleyes volume on demand waterproof mascara
Best: Budget option
This chunky, hourglass-esque wand works well to elongate the lash hairs on the outer corner of your eye, without leaving you with longer bits in the middle of your lash. It builds well too, so you can layer up as many coats as you like while keeping lashes separated and free from clumps. Removal is a fuss-free process too – our usual balm cleanser was able to break it down within seconds, so we didn’t wake up with panda eyes.
Chanel le volume de Chanel waterproof mascara
Best: For weddings
If you’re looking to splurge, Chanel’s waterproof mascara is one of the best we’ve tried. It didn’t move an inch throughout the day, even during a facial or while wearing a face covering on the tube and in and out of shops. The tube is neat and compact too, making it easy to travel with. It adds length, volume and thickness to even the sparsest of lashes, and has brilliant staying power. There was no clumping on our reviewer's lashes and it remained free from flakes. Worth every penny.
The Body Shop lash sport waterproof mascara
Best: For everyday
We loved the firm but short bristles on this wand, which meant separating lashes was easy, despite applying multiple layers. It’s great for everyday use as it won’t give you that false-lash effect, but has more staying power than a non-waterproof formula. And we had no excess product under our eyes after eight hours of wear. A solid option from The Body Shop, the formula is completely vegan and enriched with sustainably sourced marula oil from Namibia.
The verdict: Waterproof mascaras
Coming out on top is undoubtedly the Bobbi Brown no smudge waterproof mascara, which gave us lashes with ample volume, thickness and drama without smudging or clumping. Easy to layer up with multiple coats without budging even after hours of wear, it’s fast become an everyday essential in our make-up kit.
For the latest discounts on makeup and other beauty buys, try the link below:
We put Victoria Beckham’s new future lash mascara to the test – here’s what we thought
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.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in