Benefit ‘they’re real’ mascara review: A decade on, is it still one of the best in beauty?

·4-min read
The top-seller has inspired a whole range of products  (iStock/The Independent)
The top-seller has inspired a whole range of products (iStock/The Independent)

Among the thousands of mascaras that exist, there’s a handful that remain popular as trends – and brands – come and go.

One cult beauty favourite is the Benefit “they’re real” lengthening mascara, which has a notably unique wand with a ball-shaped tip covered in bristles.

It’s so popular in fact, that since its launch in 2011, Benefit has expanded its range of products in the “they’re real” range, which now offers travel travel-size minis, a tinted eyelash primer, duo-shade lipsticks, eye make-up remover and eyeliner.

In 2020, the brand revealed a new “they’re real” magnet mascara, with a “magnetically charged core” that evolved the coveted collection even further. We’ve reviewed that one too if you’re keen to know the difference between the newbie and the original.

Having been a market leader for the last decade, we wanted to find out whether the OG formula and brush design still lives up to the hype, so we put it to the test. Read on for everything you need to know.

How we tested

We used this mascara every day for a month, examining the formula, brush applicator, ease of use and how simple it was to remove – nobody wants panda eyes after all. Here’s our verdict.

Read more:

Benefit ‘they’re real’ lengthening mascara: £23.50,


The brush and formula

While this isn’t the only mascara with a ball tip, it was certainly the first to gain such mainstream success. As the name suggests, the brush is specifically designed to allow you to coat every single lash with the product, and mimic the voluminous effect of false eyelashes. The bristles on the ball tip can be used to curl and separate individual lashes and deliver a fanned out lash look.

On the main body of the wand the bristles are all the same length and evenly spaced apart, which ensures you can coat each lash evenly for a uniform finish. We were expecting the ball tip to get in the way of application, potentially smudging our carefully applied product, but the wand is long enough not to allow that to happen.

For us, the ball tip was useful to separate lashes that became stuck together naturally, and add definition, but when used vertically to curl, it was a bit too messy and meant our lashes were overloaded with product.

The formula is very buildable (Louise Whitbread)
The formula is very buildable (Louise Whitbread)

That said, the formula is very buildable, two coats worked well for us during daytime wear, and in the evening we were able to layer it up until we had the voluminous finish we desired.

It didn’t clump, smudge or smear, and while we can’t quite say the finished result was similar to false lashes, it did add volume, length and definition brilliantly, looking just as good after eight hours as it did immediately after applying.


The true test of a mascara is how well it can be removed, spending ages taking it off and waking up with panda eyes the next day is the fastest way to know that it’s not worth your money.

For Benefit’s “they’re real” mascara, we would have liked to have found it a speedier process. This isn’t a mascara that breaks down well with a gel or milk-based cleanser, instead, we found an oil-based balm – a favourite of ours is Beauty Bay butter cup cleansing balm (£8, – was most effective, massaged into the skin and removed with a lukewarm flannel.

It took longer than our new go-to mascara (Rimmel London scandaleyes reloaded mascara, £8.49, and did take a bit of rubbing, leaving our eyes feeling a tad sore.

The verdict: Benefit ‘they’re real’ lengthening mascara

We were pleasantly reminded of how well Benefit’s bestselling mascara adds oodles of volume to our lashes which are naturally pretty short, and plenty of length, that instantly makes us look more awake. The buildable formula also meant it didn’t clump together and you could layer it up for a more dramatic finish.

Our only gripe is it’s not as fast to remove as we would like, but that does also speak to its starting power. It’s easy to see its appeal, it does everything you want from a mascara. Our lashes remained fluttery, light and fanned out and left us impressed.

If a slightly longer removal process doesn’t bother you, then this is a worthy contender in the mascara hall of fame and if you’re looking for definition, length and volume, it’s still a lot better than many other mascaras on the market.

Benefit they're real lengthening mascara

Buy now £23.50,

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