By Marissa DeSantis
Like most makeup choices, finding the right mascara has a lot to do with personal preference. Some of us concentrate on adding length to shorter lashes, while others need more lift and curl. But one benefit we can all get behind is a volumizing formula that makes it look like you were born with the kind of fuller, thicker lashes so many people pay for when they turn to extensions.
We asked makeup artist Molly R. Stern to weigh in on what makes a wand better at building maximum volume on lashes. “You want a formulation that is geared towards adding weight to lashes, which is what gives the lashes the appearance of volume,” explains Stern, whose work includes red carpet glam with celebrities like Cara Delevingne, Reese Witherspoon, and Anne Hathaway. “Also, the brush needs to deposit a good amount of product onto the lashes,” she adds of the all-important formula-brush combo.
As for applying your mascara, Stern confirms our suspicion that how you layer on your formulation of choice makes a major impact. “I love to wiggle the brush at the base of the lash line before pulling it through,” she says of creating the illusion of fullness at the lash line. “Another way to complete a voluminous lash look is to take a small fan brush and paint color on the top of the lashes.”
Ahead are our favorite volumizing mascaras, including Stern’s pick.
Stern’s go-to for creating more volume on her clients’ lashes is the Armani Beauty Eccentrico Mascara. The elastomer brush is the key to its high-volume results, which actually helps to separate each lash as it builds color and intensity. “It doesn’t flake and the brush allows you to layer the mascara without it getting clumpy,” she says, adding, “It wears amazingly well.”
Maybe you’ve already found a pretty perfect day-to-day mascara, but you like a volumized boost for special occasions. Or, you’re of the firm belief that lashes can never be big enough. That’s where this Grande Cosmetics GrandePrimer Pre-Mascara Lengthener & Thickener comes in. The water-resistant mascara primer is formulated with mini fibers and peptides that grab onto lashes and boost the effects of your traditional mascara (which yes, you still need, since the primer shows up white).
YSL has always made some of the best mascaras, in my opinion (remember the iconic Baby Doll Mascara?), so it’s no surprise that their latest Radical Volumizing Mascara has quickly become my new favorite. The brush generously coats lashes in a rich black color that bulks up even the thinnest lashes (aka mine) for a finish that’s as close to false lashes as you can get without actually having false lashes. It also doesn’t clump up if, like me, you prefer to curl and coat your lashes twice.
My only complaint is that because it’s not a waterproof formula, I have noticed it smudging under my eyes on NYC’s most humid summer days (but full disclosure, most of my makeup ends up melted when the temperature surpasses 90 degrees).
This Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara is definitely a splurge, but it’s also a foolproof mascara that delivers every time. The wand features a non-clumping double helix brush, which defines every lash without creating that clumped together, spidery effect, even after layering on multiple coats. It even boasts a peptide ingredient that’s meant to lengthen and thicken your lashes with continued use, as well as rose oil, which conditions the lashes (and gives the mascara a powdery rose scent).
Sometimes you need your mascara to withstand pretty extreme conditions like swimming, crying, or standing on the subway platform when it’s hot outside. That’s when it’s time to switch to a good waterproof formula like Lancôme Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara. If the name wasn’t enticing enough, the mascara gives lashes volume that won’t sweat, smudge, or flake away for 24 hours. Waterproof formulas also hold a curl better for anyone with super-straight lashes that tend to fall flat faster.
For contact lens wearers or those with sensitive eyes, this new Ilia Beauty Fullest Volumizing Mascara gets the ophthalmologist seal of approval, so you don’t have to worry about any redness or irritation. The brush’s wavy shape is what helps thicken lashes (see makeup artist Katey Denno’s how-to for proof), while the formula includes good-for-lash ingredients like arginine and provitamin B5.
It comes in a mini size option, too, which is great for traveling or even just testing out a new mascara without the long-term commitment.
I’ve tried my fair share of drugstore mascaras (yes, even the ones that go viral on TikTok), but the only one I’ve come back to is the L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara. The brush is packed with more than 200 bristles that ensure every lash gets coated as the mascara adds both length and volume. It also gets bonus points for helping to hold a curl (anyone with straighter lashes knows how game-changing this is), and for being available in a waterproof option on those days when you need something longer-lasting.