Are these the best mascaras of all time?

A new season means a new mascara but don’t go shopping until you’ve read Kelly Gilbert’s hit list 

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By Kelly Gilbert on

Just about everyone loves a good mascara – understandably so. But finding the right one can be a challenge because, unlike lipstick or foundation, it’s tricky to try before you buy. Instead, we often rely on word of mouth, but one person’s fluttery heaven is another’s clumpy hell.

Getting the right balance in one mascara is an alchemy I’ve found is rarely achieved. There are many great brands making wonderful blushes, pencils and bases but, in my opinion, their mascaras are, quite honestly, a bit rubbish – too flakey, too quick to drop, too claggy or too wishy-washy.

That said, after many years in the beauty industry and many years of mascara testing, I have collated a rarefied group of uber mascaras – so awesome they transcend the nuances of “lengthening” and “plumping” to be indisputably flattering on everyone. These mascaras all have the same characteristics: they all build up without clumping, they don’t smudge under your eyes after a few short hours of wearing them and they won’t go on too heavy, giving you the look of a cabaret act about to hit the stage. They don’t crisp up, clog lashes together or weigh them down.

So, without further ado, here is my mascara hall of fame:

The one that costs less than £8

Encouraging curl, this gives a dramatic effect. The dense, bristly wand adds volume and lift. Inky, sexy, sooty lashes are the result of just a few sweeps of this bargainacious mascara.


The one for longer lashes

The name says volume, but what is more striking about this mascara is the length of lashes it can build. The brush tapers into fine, flexible plastic spikes that catch the tiniest inner lashes. This mascara builds up from a very pleasing first coating to a bold, more impactful flourish.


The one for applying on the go

This has a narrow, bristle brush that whips through lashes to add volume and length with ease. You needn't apply multiple coats or exercise careful application – this mascara is a swipe ’n’ go affair that is non-irritating and prettifying.


The one that does both subtle and full-on  

This mascara could be dismissed for gimmickry if it weren’t for the eye-widening effects of the formula. The barrel can be dialled up and down, depending on the impact desired – dial down for something on the subtle side or dial up for full-blown lashes. It has a slim bristle brush that slips across the lashes easily.  


The one to bulk up thin lashes (and look good on the bathroom shelf)

The formula is thickening without the associated flaking, adding lovely volume to delicate lashes. A dense, shapely hourglass bristle brush clings to the lash line, making sure everything gets coated. Soon to be released in the UK, the millennial-pink tube has added shelf appeal.


The one that best does a bit of everything

This comes with a spiky, flexible plastic brush that grabs at the roots and pulls the product through the lashes in a very satisfying way. Not in the least bit “bitty”, the formula is a silky fluid that dries quickly to a tenacious hold.


OK. Now we’ve got the mascara sorted, here are my tips for putting it on:

1. Don’t apply your face oil, serum or moisturiser to your eyelids, otherwise even the most grip-fast mascara will slip.

2. Work quickly to cover the lashes in a couple of initial coats while the mascara is very fluid. This will help to stop things clumping up.

3. Curl your eyelashes before applying mascara to avoid kinking or damage to the lashes. (Using curlers on wet mascara can cause your lashes to stick to the curlers and break or fall out.)

4. Wiggle your mascara wand side to side as you apply your first cost to ensure 360º lash coverage. And make sure you don’t forget the little side lashes, as this instantly makes your eyes look bigger.  

5. Eke out the last bits of a nearly empty, dried-up mascara by warming it under the heat of a hairdryer (or stick it down your top) to loosen the formula before applying.



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