Mascara is one of those products that makes every woman's desert island list. It's an easy way to make you look awake and alert even when you're not.
Over the last few years, beauty companies have introduced some pretty gimmicky brushes, like ones that vibrate and this weird paint brush. But this season, we seem to be back to basics. While there's definitely been some creative engineering, many brands focused on delivering a killer brush/formula combo without a lot of bells and whistles. The result? The best crop of mascara I've seen in a long time.
Read on for reviews of 12 new mascaras, including my choice for best all-around performance.
Giorgio Armani Beauty Black Ecstasy Mascara
Buy: Nordstrom, $32
This is the most elegant product I’ve seen in quite a while. But forget about the lacquered tube and red (yes!) wand for a second. It’s got a traditional straight brush with short, dense bristles and a semi-tapered end. It’s a fantastic everyday mascara -- it coated my lashes in a few swipes without clumps or too much drama.
Lancôme Grandiose Wide-Angle Fan Effect Mascara
Buy: Sephora, $32
This is one of the flashier designs you’ll see in this current crop of mascara. It’s got a curved, swan-neck wand with a synthetic, molded brush featuring short bristles of different lengths. The wand actually is a bit easier to handle than traditional straight wands, and the brush deposits the mascara evenly and thoroughly, though if you love a lot of volume, you may be a bit disappointed.
L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Miss Manga Mascara
Buy: Walgreens, $7.99
This one wins for mascara that’s most like a toy -- a fun, spring-loaded toy. I don’t have enough understanding of physics to explain how or why this flexible head works, but I really like it. (It’s been a divisive mascara in makeup forums, though, so proceed with caution if you’re a traditionalist.) In addition to the springy head, it has a tapered brush for getting into the nooks and crannies. If you apply more than two coats it gets clumpy, but I actually seek that in a mascara once in a while. But you’ve been warned.
Marc Jacobs O!Mega Lash Volumizing Mascara
Buy: Sephora, $26
Marc Jacobs (or rather, his beauty minions) made a big, fat wonderful mascara. This baby has the thick, dense brush that volume-philes crave, and I need only one coat for daily use, or two for when I’m feeling particularly Kardashian-esque.
Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes 5 Star Mascara
Buy: Net-a-Porter, $29
Fashion and celeb-fave makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury launched her namesake makeup line here in the U.S. just a few months ago, and she’s said in interview after interview that mascara changed her life when she was a teenager. So perhaps not surprisingly, her mascara is fantastic. This one wins for my favorite mascara of the season. It has it all: a traditional fat (but not too fat) brush with a tapered end delivers lots of volume and length without a single clump -- even with multiple coats -- and it stays put all day long.
Urban Decay Perversion Mascara
Buy: Macy's, $24
This mascara is not for volume newbies. It’s got the biggest brush of the bunch, and in this case, girth really matters. If your lashes are on the short and skimpy side, it might not be great for you -- I had a hard time getting at the sparse lashes towards my inner eye. But the rest of my eye? BOOM. Big.
Maybelline Pumped Up Colossal Volum' Express Mascara
Buy: Target, $6.29
There are a lot of adjectives on this tube, but don’t be distracted. It’s a great mascara for a fraction of the price of some of the other ones here. Its conical shape with two tapered ends allows a lot of application flexibility for both volume and length.
Surratt Relevée Mascara
Buy: Barneys, $30
Kevyn Aucoin protégé Troy Surratt launched his line last year, so technically this isn’t brand spanking new, but it’s worth discussing. This mascara, which has a runway model-slim wand, was apparently formulated to originally be a lower lash mascara, but thanks to micro-fibers in the formula, it does amazing things on the upper lashes. It provides beautiful length and separation without a trace of clumping. Bonus of micro-fiber over a regular formula? No smudging during workouts.
Dior Addict It-Lash Mascara
Buy: Sephora, $26
Diorshow is one of my favorite mascaras ever, so Dior really needed to impress me with this new launch. And it’s good, though different. Unlike Diorshow, the brush is rubber with short, close-set bristles. The head has a bit of give to it, though it’s nowhere near as springy as L’Oreal Paris's Miss Manga. Thanks to a "gel polymer," the mascara doesn’t budge during the day, yet removes easily at the end of the day.
Avon Big & Daring Volume Mascara
Buy: Avon, $6.99
Thank goodness this fat wand has a bend in it or it would be almost unusable. But it does have a bend, which means you can lay it on super thick and spin it to reach all the little lashes. The volume is impressive, but it gets a little clumpy if you overdo it.
Holika Holika Magic Pole Mascara 2X
Buy: Urban Outfitters, $18
Are you done giggling at the porn-esque name yet? This Korean import, which just hit the U.S. via Urban Outfitters’s expanded beauty site, looks a lot like Givenchy’s globular-tipped Phenomen’Eyes. I didn’t really understand that mascara and I don’t understand this one either. I tried really hard to just use the skinny normal-looking part of the wand, and kept poking myself in the eye with the ball. Then I figured out how to flutter the ball onto my lashes, and that worked better. But magic? Maybe not.
MAC Mineralize Multi-Effect Lash
Buy: Nordstrom, $22
MAC is hyped for its lipstick, its collaborations and its work with makeup artists during fashion week. But the company deserves some credit for its mascara, because the formulations are reliably good. This one has a thinner wand, with packed bristles. It provides moderate volume, but lots of length and separation.