16 Best Mascaras 2023, tried and tested by Marie Claire UK
In every make-up bag up and down the country you will find mascara. It is arguably the most used make-up product in our collective beauty kit. Think about it: you have tonnes of base choices—the very best foundation (opens in new tab), five-star eye creams (opens in new tab), the best eyeliners (opens in new tab) and plenty of blushers to add depth to your complexion.
The only constant? Mascara. In fact, as a beauty editor, there is not a day that goes by that I leave the house without it. But what actually makes a mascara the best? We’ve been finding out.
What makes the best mascara?
When it comes to mascara, everyone has their own preference in what they are searching for. Personally, I love a full and voluminous lash look, combined with a formula that doesn’t flake throughout the day and won’t transfer onto my eyelid. A lot to ask for, I know. Long, lengthy lashes are usually a favourite. My go-to is Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara (opens in new tab), but I am always testing new releases to find the very best out there, because who doesn’t want to find the best mascara?
If you’re shopping for a new formula, there’s plenty of things to consider. For starters, the look you’re after: defined, natural-looking lashes, or big volume to add drama to your look? Once you’ve decided on your top lash-enhancing priority, this will help you choose the right wand and mascara for you. Plastic combs and brushes are better at defining and elongating lashes as they’re often thinner and less chunky in size. Traditional bristles are key to adding volume and fullness, as they’re plumper and apply more product to the lashes.
Colour is also important. Black has long been the most popular, but it can wash paler skin tones out, so it might be worth considering a brown or navy for your beauty arsenal if you fall into that category.
Brown and blue mascara is certainly having a moment. If you really want your eye colour to stand out? Pick a colour that will accentuate it. Purple and blues make blue and green eyes pop, while browns highlight hazel.
And then of course, the next decision is do you need a long-wearing, hardy waterproof formula? If you have watery eyes or are prone to smudginess, you may want to opt to shop a waterproof (or at the very least water-resistant) buy.
The best tips for applying mascara
No matter which formula you eventually choose, here’s a tip from legendary make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury (opens in new tab) on the best application technique: “As you drag the brush up from the base of your lashes, zig-zag the wand from side to side. This creates more volume as you are depositing more product onto your eyelashes.”
As for your bottom lashes, turn the brush vertically. “The thinner end will help you control your application with more precision,” Charlotte adds.
And of course, to magnify the results, always go in with a second coat. But resist the urge to pump the wand up and down in the tube. “Your mascara will dry out quicker as you’re pushing too much air inside. Slowly twist the brush around the tube instead,” Tilbury explains.
How we test the best mascara formulas
We’ve trialled and tested so many mascaras over the years that we’ve genuinely lost count. From Bobbi Brown’s Smokey Eye Mascara (opens in new tab) – a cult classic – to Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes, (opens in new tab) which has taken the industry by storm, we’ve done our fieldwork. And what we can definitively say is that the best mascaras really do have transformative effects.
So how do we test? There are certain things that we look out for when testing any new mascara that lands in our laps. We’re interested in things like the wand – bristle type and shape; the effect on lashes – whether it adds volume or length (or both?!); the formula – can you feel it on your lashes or does it nourish those tiny hairs? and finally the price.
Keep on scrolling for the best mascaras the industry has to offer. You’re sure to find your new favourite…
The best mascaras of 2023
1. Jones Road The Mascara
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Marie Claire UK‘s Shopping Writer, Grace Lindsay (opens in new tab), swears by this mascara from Jones Road for buildable lashes. One coat creates the most natural look, that stays all day and doesn’t transfer under the eyes. However, if you’re looking for more impact, simply add one or two more coats and you’ve got some serious length and volume. The curved wand makes it easy to apply and separates the lashes nicely.
2. Lancôme Lash Idôle Mascara
Goodness, we are slightly obsessed with this mascara at MCHQ. The plastic bristles manage to separate lashes to create the perfect fanned look, whilst the curved wand lifts and coats them in the darkest black formula. It is our favourite everyday mascara that makes eye sings without the need for anything else. “This has become my new favourite mascara,” says Senior Beauty Editor, Katie Thomas (opens in new tab). “I love the way the curved wand coats each lash with jet black and fans them out beautifully.”
3. Maybelline Colossal Curl Bounce Mascara
The latest addition to the Maybelline mascara family, Colossal Curl Bounce is so powerful you won’t need to use a lash curler. Thanks to its curved brush and memory curl technology that holds for up to 24 hours, it lifts and separates for the ultimate curve with a volumising formula that creates stand-out lashes. If you have stubbornly straight lashes, this is the buy for you. “This is such a clever mascara and does exactly what it promises,” Katie says. “As someone who doesn’t leave the house without curling my eyelashes I was so impressed that I was able to skip that step with this. Hands down one of the best Maybelline mascaras.”
4. Rare Beauty Perfect Strokes Volumizing Mascara
Selena Gomez’s brand Rare Beauty has finally touched down on UK soil and, take it from us, the mascara is one of the must-try buys. Not only does it lengthen and volumise, it also nourishes your lashes with castor oil for a soft, velvety finish. It’s great for people who like volume, but not *too* much volume. And we all know how great Selena’s lashes look… “You have full control over how you want your lashes to look with this mascara,” Grace explains. “During the day, you only need one coat for that fluttery lash effect, however, I tend to layer it up at night for added volume. Considering how straight my natural lashes are, it also manages to hold a curl all day long.”
5. MAC Extended Play Lash Mascara
MAC’s Extended Play Lash Mascara is a waterproof, long-wearing formula that can last up to 16 hours thanks to its thermal-sensitive technology. It defines, lengthens and curls your lashes, with a rich black finish.
6. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
Mascara is only ever as good as the brush you apply it with. In this case, an hourglass shape is designed to coat every single lash. The formula is just as magnificent, film-forming polymers and collagen lift and beef up spindly lashes. Win-win.
7. Maybelline Falsies Very Black Mascara
A single swipe of the wand creates length, while the tip of brush hits those hard-to-reach lashes on the inner and outer corners. One thing I did note, is this runs out a lot quicker, so it may be worth investing in a higher price point when you have to keep on stocking up.
8. Bobbi Brown Smokey Eye Mascara
This is it. A mascara that creates oodles of length and volume, with a seriously black pigment to smoke out the eyes. However, it does all of that very subtly. This isn’t one of those full-on mascaras, it does the job and does the job well. Never too little, never too much.
9. Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara
Bottom lashes are incredibly tricky to do, but this mini brush makes even the teeniest tiniest hair on the lower lash come to life. It’s nimble, so easy to use and small enough that you won’t make any mistakes. “Not to be dramatic, but this mascara changed my whole make-up routine for the better,” exclaims Grace. “I used to avoid putting mascara on my bottom lashes as I could never find a product that wouldn’t leave me with that panda eye effect. However, after trying this out I was fully converted.”
10. Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara
Weightless fibres in this mascara attach to each baby lash for a fanned-out effect. This is an amazing mascara for short lashes; it does all the hard work for you by adding volume where you need it most. Consider this the equivalent of mini lash extensions, minus the glue or irritation.
11. Urban Decay Perversion Mascara
This is perfect for mascara maximalists who love a dramatic look. What’s more, it never makes lashes look spidery – just full-bodied and defined. The wand is designed so that you don’t need to do anything but swipe – no need to wiggle it at the base or go in at strange angles. Plus the formula also contains growth-boosting proteins. Clever.
12. Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes
The paddle brush features a flat area that you use to layer mascara onto the lashes. You then twist the wand so that the tiny plastic bristles comb it through each hair. There’s zero clumping, just beautifully separated, beefed up and lifted lashes from root to tip.
13. Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara
Designed for all types of lashes, the Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara has a curved mascara brush, to define, coat and fan out lashes and help to curve them upwards. It’s also available in more shades than just your standard black, with a softer brown and more fun blue on offer too.
14. Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero-Smudge Lengthening Mascara
We call this a serious mascara. It knows what its role is in the make-up routine and it commands respect. It knows that you want every lash to stand to attention, so it does just that. It knows that you want to add a touch of drama to the eye (but not too much), so it does just that. It knows that you don’t want to look at yourself in the mirror halfway through the day to see dark smudges on the tops of your cheeks, so it most certainly does not do that. It’s serious about its responsibilities. “I have used this mascara for years,” says Katie. “And most recently I recommended it to a friend who was struggling to find a formula that wouldn’t transfer onto her oily under eyes. She has now become a convert too.”
15. NARS Climax Extreme Mascara
The high-shine latex finish is especially pleasing for those who have stick straight or very stubby lashes. Said XXL finish is also highly pigmented, so with just a single swipe lashes appear longer, fuller and jet black. Divine.
16. benefit They’re Real Lengthening Mascara
We couldn’t have a line-up of the best on the market and not include one from benefit. For years and years the brand has featured at the very top of the UK’s bestselling mascara list, so it’s not surprise they invest so much in coming up with the best wands. The Roller Lash brush features a ‘hook and roll’ effect that grabs and separates each lash, then curls them upwards for a lifted look.