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

·18-min read
Every product we tried was flake-free and stayed put  (The Independent)
Every product we tried was flake-free and stayed put (The Independent)

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

From the highly anticipated Mac stack mascara that claims to be endlessly buildable (£26, Lookfantastic.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 best.

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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 2022 are:

  • Best for fanned-out lift and volume – Lancôme lash idôle mascara: £24, Lookfantastic.com

  • Best vegan formula – Pacifica vegan collagen fluffy mascara: £20 Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best for beauty obsessives – Patrick Ta major volume mascara: £26, Flannels.com

  • Best for customising – Mac stack mascara: £26, 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, Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best for lash conditioning – L’Oréal Paris volume million lashes balm noir: £10.99, Superdrug.com

  • Best for buildable volume –Guerlain mad eyes mascara: £29, Johnlewis.com

  • Best for daywear – Jones Road the mascara: £24, Jonesroadbeauty.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 eye-rubbers – Clinique high impact zero gravity mascara: £22, Feelunique.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 waterproof mascara – Skin in Motion lift it waterproof mascara: £10.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for definition and volume – Kevyn Aucoin indecent mascara: £22, Spacenk.com

  • Best for a false-lash effect – Too Faced better than sex mascara: £24, Boots.com

  • Best for natural-looking length – Avon legendary lengths mascara: £7, Avon.uk.com

  • Best for day to night – Fenty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara: £23, Boots.com

  • Best for a no make-up, make-up look – Glossier lash slick mascara:£14, Glossier.com

  • 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 fullness – YSL lash clash mascara: £28,Lookfantastic.com

  • Best high street mascara – L’Oreal Paris air volume 30h mega black mascara: £8.99, Boots.com

  • Best all-in-one – Trish McEvoy dramatic lash mascara: £22.50, Harveynichols.com

Lancôme lash idôle mascara

Best: For fanned-out lift and volume

Rating: 10/10

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.

Read the full Lancôme lash idôle mascara review

Buy now £24.00, Lookfantastic.com

Pacifica vegan collagen fluffy mascara

Best: Vegan formula

Rating: 8.5/10

This vegan beauty and wellness brand has just arrived in the UK, and after trying a few products from the collection, we were seriously impressed with this volume and lengthening mascara. It uses tiny plant fibres that adhere to lashes for a more full-bodied effect. The big, hourglass brush makes it easy to layer on for a bolder look with a glossy finish, and the weighty glass tube with the pretty pastel gradient packaging adds to the luxe feel.

Unfortunately, the Pacifica formula is currently out of stock, but you can sign up to be notified when it returns.

Buy now £20.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

Patrick Ta major volume mascara

Best: For beauty obsessives

Rating: 8/10

The celeb go-to make-up artist that all beauty buffs follow on Instagram has added this high-impact mascara to his namesake make-up brand. It’s perfect for those who are looking for everyday drama, as it lifts lashes and builds quick volume without clumping, or with any crispiness that you can get with other intense lash formulations. Expect your flutter to be bigger and bolder, but still lightweight with a rich inky finish.

Buy now £26.00, Flannels.com

Mac stack mascara

Best: For customising

Rating: 9/10

Our favourite mascara from Mac yet is built for layering volume, lift and length. Claiming to be “infinitely buildable”, we put it to the test and got to 40 layers (yes, we counted) before we felt it starting to clump or stick together – that’s some seriously impressive volume building. There’s two petal-shaped brush designs to choose from – this brush is designed for those with longer, fuller lashes but the Mac stack micro brush mascara (£26, Lookfantastic.com) is ideal for those with a naturally short or sparse lashes.

Read our in-depth Mac stack mascara review

Buy now £26.00, Lookfantastic.com

Dior diorshow iconic overcurl mascara

Best: For eye-opening curl

Rating: 9/10

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.

Read the full Dior diorshow iconic overcurl mascara review

Buy now £28.00, Johnlewis.com

Victoria Beckham future lash mascara

Best: For definition and separation

Rating: 9/10

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!

Read the full Victoria Beckham future lash mascara review

Buy now £26.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

L’Oréal Paris volume million lashes balm noir

Best: For lash conditioning

Rating: 8/10

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.

Read more: 9 best waterproof mascaras for lengthened lashes that won’t flake or smudge

Buy now £10.99, Superdrug.com

Guerlain mad eyes mascara

Best: For buildable volume

Rating: 9.5/10

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.

Buy now £29.00, Johnlewis.com

Jones Road the mascara

Best: For daywear

Rating: 8/10

From legendary make-up artist Bobbi Brown’s new beauty brand, this wand sits on the more natural side of the mascara scale. The oversized, curved brush creates beautifully separated thicker lashes with lift after just one coat to create that ‘no make-up, make-up’ look – add a few more strokes to create natural clump-free thicker lashes. Plus, it’s enriched with lash- strengthening vitamin B and conditioning vitamin E to keep your flutter healthy.

Buy now £24.00, Jonesroadbeauty.com

Charlotte Tilbury pillow talk push up lashes mascara

Best: For doing it all

Rating: 9/10

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.

Read the full Charlotte Tilbury pillow talk push up lashes mascara review

Buy now £23.00, Spacenk.com

Pat McGrath labs dark star mascara

Best: For instant volume

Rating: 8/10

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.

Buy now £26.00, Net-a-porter.com

Clinique high impact zero gravity mascara

Best: For eye-rubbers

Rating: 8/10

Those that find mascara smears or flakes underneath their eyes by lunchtime should switch to a tubing formulation, like this lifting, curling and lengthening mascara that delivers a natural-looking finish. Tubing formulas work differently compared to traditional offerings that are made up of waxes, oils and dyes. They wrap polymers around each eyelash, covering each hair to form a tube around them – making dreaded panda-eyes impossible. Best of all, they’re super easy to take off in the evening with just warm water and that includes this first-class formula.

Buy now £22.00, Feelunique.com

Rimmel scandaleyes reloaded mascara

Best: For those on a budget

Rating: 8/10

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!

Read the full Rimmel scandaleyes reloaded mascara review

Buy now £8.49, Superdrug.com

Benefit they're real! magnet extreme lengthening mascara

Best: For lengthening

Rating: 8/10

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.

Read the full Benefit they're real! magnet extreme lengthening mascara review

Buy now £24.00, Lookfantastic.com

Nars climax dramatic volumising mascara

Best: For intense drama

Rating: 8/10

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.

Buy now £22.00, Lookfantastic.com

Bobbi Brown smokey eye mascara

Best: For staying in place all day

Rating: 9/10

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.

Buy now £25.50, Johnlewis.com

Skin in Motion lift it waterproof mascara

Best: Waterproof mascara

Rating: 7.5/10

For make-up designed to keep you looking your best when you exercise, turn to this beauty brand made for active people in mind. The thin, curved brush lifts and lengthens lashes for eye-opening results that stay budge-proof. We put it through its paces, trialling it through numerous classes, gym cardio sessions and even the local pool without any smudging or smearing insight. It’s a top pick for those that eye rub throughout the day too.

Buy now £19.99, Amazon.co.uk

Kevyn Aucoin indecent mascara

Best: For definition and volume

Rating: 9/10

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.

Buy now £22.00, Spacenk.com

Too Faced better than sex mascara

Best: For false-lash effect

Rating: 9/10

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.

Buy now £24.00, Boots.com

Avon legendary lengths mascara

Best: For natural-looking length

Rating: 8/10

Avon mascaras don’t get enough praise in our book. Having designed some brilliant wands over its 135-year history, we can add its latest offering to that. We’ve ignored the fact that it looks like a dupe of a Charlotte Tilbury mascara and have marked it on performance alone. We found the firm, tapered silicone brush makes light work of building eye-opening length with zero-clumping in sight, and were impressed that it lasted a full working day. A brilliant pick for everyday wear.

Buy now £7.00, Avon.com

Fenty full frontal volume, lift and curl mascara

Best: For day to night

Rating: 8/10

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.

Buy now £23.00, Boots.com

Glossier lash slick mascara

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

Rating: 8/10

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.

Buy now £14.00, Glossier.com

Maybelline lash sensational sky high mascara

Best: For Length and volume

Rating: 8/10

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.

Buy now £9.99, Boots.com

Flower Beauty lash warrior mascara

Best: For natural-looking volume

Rating: 8.5/10

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.

Buy now £10.99, Superdrug.com

YSL lash clash mascara

Best: For fullness

Rating: 8.5/10

Everything about this mascara screams big and bold. The oversized brush is one of the biggest we’ve seen; it’s housed in a sizeable, Instagram-ready chic black tube with just the brand’s gold logo and yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s also designed for an intense volumised lash result. Just a few quick zig-zags of this wand from root to tip and the thick formula gives your lashes a full-on, fat-lash effect.

Buy now £28.00, Lookfantastic.com

L’Oreal Paris air volume 30h mega black mascara

Best: High street mascara

Rating: 8.5/10

Loved by Beyoncé’s make-up artist Sir John, L’Oreal has just introduced this new mascara to tits already brilliant “air volume” line-up. Promising day to night wear, the whipped formula creates lightweight volume that doesn’t budge. The big, cushiony brush ensures you can build on the volume in the morning and still look ready for after-work socials – no touch-up required.

Buy now £8.99, Boots.com

Trish McEvoy dramatic lash mascara

Best: All-in-one

Rating: 8.5/10

If your lashes need a little help in every department – we’re talking adding body both in thickness and length, but also creating definition and separation – this is the tube for you. We found one coat looks beautifully natural for the day, but a few strokes create a more glamourous flutter. Plus, the added conditioning ingredients keep lashes light and flexible.

Buy now £22.50, Harveynichols.com

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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