Skip to content

12 Best Drugstore Mascaras, According to Makeup Pros

They'll transform your lashes in just a few swipes!

The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

Mascara is probably one of your top-used makeup products. Even if you don't wear a full beat every day, you likely make time for a quick swipe to make your eyes look more defined, open, and awake. To keep our budget in check, we're always looking for the best drugstore mascaras that toe the line between quality and affordability. Keep reading to learn professional makeup artists' favorite picks for all sorts of affordable mascara categories, like lengthening, volumizing, curling, and more. These mascaras might be cheap, but they'll give you lashes for days.

RELATED: Makeup Expert Shares the Affordable Dollar Tree Products She Buys "Over and Over Again."

The Best Drugstore Mascaras

1. Best Drugstore Mascara Overall: L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara

L'Oreal Paris Makeup Voluminous Original Volume Building Mascara, black and gold tube and wand
L'Oreal Paris
    • Price: $8.53-$9.99
    • Where to Buy: Amazon, L'Oreal Paris, Ulta, Walmart, Target
    • Positive Customer Review: "I got the waterproof, and have found it stays on, doesn't smudge, and comes off easily. Add to all of that, you can't beat the price!"

    Don't be surprised if you see this cheap L'Oreal Paris mascara in Carbon Black in a celebrity makeup artist's bag. It may cost less than $10, but it's widely regarded as one of the best.

    "You get an easy application, a deep, rich black, and it won't smudge or flake on you," says Mariah Nicole, an award-winning celebrity makeup artist in Los Angeles.

    The formula was made to pump up lashes to five times their natural thickness, and the brush separates each lash for a wide-eyed look.

    "A huge brush with gobs of mascara, as so many products are, just makes a mess," writes one reviewer. "This wonderful brush allows you to actually start at the base and work your way to the tips easily and effectively."

    2. Best Lengthening Mascara: L'Oreal Paris Telescopic Lengthening Mascara

    L'Oreal Paris Telescopic Lengthening Mascara, gold tube and wand
    L'Oreal Paris
    • Price: $10.99-$11.99
    • Where to Buy: Amazon, L'Oreal Paris, Ulta, Target
    • Positive Customer Review: "I've tried several high-end mascaras and always come back to this one!"

    Say so long to short stubby lashes. The L'Oreal Paris Telescopic Original Lengthening Mascara will make whatever hairs you're working with look a little bit longer.

    "The 'flexible precision elastomer' brush visibly lengthens lashes," says Elaina Badro, celebrity and high-fashion makeup artist. "Also, the precision of the comb brush separates lashes for a clump-free result."

    It comes in five colors and is easily washable, which makes it a great option for sensitive eyes, too.

    3. Best Drugstore Mascara for Sensitive Eyes: e.l.f Big Mood Mascara

    e.l.f.'s Big Mood Mascara; metallic purple tube and wand on white background
    • Price: $8
    • Where to Buy: e.l.f., Amazon, Target, Ulta
    • Positive Customer Review: "This mascara is great for achieving a smooth yet long lashes look. The mascara doesn't get very clumpy and can also be used for a more natural look!"

    There's no need to suffer itchy, irritated eyes in the name of lash length—some versions are made just for people with sensitivities.

    "My favorite drugstore mascara for sensitive eyes is e.l.f. Big Mood Mascara," says Nicole. "The brand is known for keeping out harsh chemicals from their products, so sensitive eyes can rely on this brand."

    It's free from phthalates, parabens, nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban, and hydroquinone. Plus, it boosts volume and has a lifting and lengthening effect.

    4. Best Clean Drugstore Mascara: Rimmel KIND & FREE Clean Mascara

    Rimmel Kind & Free Clean Mascara, light blue tube and wand on white background
    • Price: $7.88
    • Where to Buy: Walmart, Amazon, Walgreens, Rimmel London
    • Positive Customer Review: "Finally, a mascara with no hazardous additives, and it goes on beautifully! I wore it yesterday all day to an event and didn't even have any under-eye smudging!"

    The Rimmel KIND & FREE Mascara is another great option for those looking for minimal ingredient lists.

    "Its clean formula contains 99 percent naturally derived ingredients—and it's even waterproof and proven to have a 36-hour wear!" says Badro.

    The affordable mascara comes in black and black brown and is infused with organic certified shea butter and biotin to nourish lashes while showing them off.

    5. Best Waterproof Mascara Overall: Maybelline Great Lash Mascara Waterproof

    Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in its pink and green tube on white background
      • Price: $8.49
      • Where to Buy: Maybelline, Amazon, Walmart, Ulta
      • Positive Customer Review: "I have used this product for years and don't see myself changing anytime soon. It goes on very smoothly and is easy to apply."

      This green and pink mascara is a total classic—you may remember it from your own middle school or high school days. Celebrity makeup artists say it's stuck around for a reason: it's really that good.

      "Maybelline Great Lash Mascara was one of the first to be 'water-based,'" says Badro. "This allows for easy removal of the mascara."

      That's helpful for a waterproof formula, which can sometimes be difficult to remove. The affordable mascara is also buildable, so you can add length and volume with every swipe.

      6. Best Drugstore Mascara for Curling: L'Oreal Paris Bambi Eye Mascara

      L'Oreal Paris Bambi Eye Mascara; silver tube and wand
      L'Oreal Paris
      • Price: $9-$11.99
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, L'Oreal Paris, Ulta, Target
      • Positive Customer Review: "As advertised, this mascara gives a nice amount of curl to your lashes. No clumping and removes easily with eye makeup remover."

      It takes a special mascara wand to get your lashes super curled.

      "The best curling mascara at a drugstore is L'Oreal Paris Bambi Eye Mascara," says Nicole. "The silicone tip gently combs and flares your lashes for length and curl, enhancing the eye shape."

      However, she says you'll want to curl your lashes before applying the makeup to get the ultimate curl. The mascara comes in a few shades of washable colors, including black and black brown, and the formula doesn't flake.

      RELATED: 9 Eye Makeup Trends You Should Never Try, Doctor Says.

      7. Best Affordable Mascara for Volume: L'Oreal Paris Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara

      L'Oreal Paris Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara; Teal tube and wand
      L'Oreal Paris
      • Price: $11.99
      • Where to Buy: L'Oreal Paris, Amazon, Ulta, Target, Walmart
      • Positive Customer Review: "I tried it for the first time about a month ago and that's all I use now. It makes my lashes look super full and it doesn't clump at all!"

      Getting great volume requires a dual effort from both a mascara's formula and the brush.

      "The L'Oreal Paris Volumizing Lash Paradise mascara is great for a volumized lash look," says Badro. "It has a soft wavy brush that catches every lash and allows for dense, fuller-looking lashes."

      The formula is waterproof, clump-free, and lasts up to 36 hours. It's even infused with floral oil for extra nourishment.

      8. Best Drugstore Tubing Mascara: Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes Tubing Mascara

      Black tube and wand of Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes mascara on white background
      • Price: $4.99
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, essence
      • Positive Customer Review: "The 'tubing' action appears to lengthen my eyelashes slightly and the brush shape separates the lashes and gives them a bit of lift."

      A tubing mascara wraps each lash in an extension-like polymer that adds length to your lashes.

      "For a tubing mascara at the drugstore, one of my latest go-to's is Essence's Bye Bye Panda Eyes mascara, which is a great value for its worth," says celebrity makeup artist Neil Scibelli. "It helps to thicken and volumize the lashes without flaking."

      Not to mention, at $4.99, this is a downright cheap mascara, with one of the best price tags you'll find on the market.

      9. Best Viral Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara – Waterproof

      Metallic pale pink tube and wand of Maybelline Sensational Sky-High Mascara on white background
      • Price: $9.48-$12.99
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, Maybelline, Ulta, Target, Walmart
      • Positive Customer Review: "I have tried every mascara out there. Expensive brands and drugstore brands and I have always come back to this one."

      The Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara is a true viral hit—and it's a favorite of celebrity makeup artists with or without the digital hype.

      Dresher likes the waterproof version for a curly result. "Waterproof mascaras are ideal for curling lashes because the waterproof formula seals in the curl," she says. "This one lengthens your lashes too!"

      There's a reason TikTokers are loving this one!

      10. Best Smudge Proof Affordable Mascara: CoverGirl Lash Blast Cleantopia Mascara

      CoverGirl's Lash Blast Cleantopia mascara in light teal tube on white background
      • Price: $10.48-$15.49
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, CoverGirl, Ulta, Walmart, Target
      • Positive Customer Review: "Great product, easy to apply. Nice color that looks great and my lashes look really good! Wore it during a hot day and it never smudged or ran."

      Is there anything worse than having a non-stop day only to look in the mirror and see that your mascara has smudged down your face? The CoverGirl Lash Blast Cleantopia Mascara aims to make that a thing of the past. It's a clean formula that's infused with good-for-lashes ingredients like aloe extract and maracuja oil.

      While many reviewers of "smudge-proof" mascaras seem to take issue with the claim, people who have used this one agree it lives up to the claim: "My lashes are so much longer, smudge-free," wrote one customer. "Finally, a real smudge-proof mascara," wrote another.

      11. Best Cruelty-Free Drugstore Mascara: Pixi Beauty Large Lash Mascara

      Pale green tubes of Pixi Large Lash mascara on white background
      • Price: $14.99-$16.00
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, Pixi Beauty, Ulta, Target
      • Positive Customer Review: "This is a great mascara, it really makes your lashes look longer and fuller."

      It's hard to find cruelty-free brands. However, Pixi does not test on animals and doesn't work with any suppliers that conduct testing on its behalf. So, you can feel good about swiping the Pixi Large Lash Mascara, which is one of Badro's favorites.

      "This is a great mascara for both lengthening and volumizing," she says. "It's even smudge-proof and water-resistant."

      The formula is buildable, with a large brush that gets the job done in a few swipes.

      "I felt that it didn't go on as thick as advertised or mentioned in the comments, but it did widen my lashes and make them look longer," commented one reviewer. "I put on an extra coat to get the thickness that I wanted."

      12. Best Washable Drugstore Mascara: Maybelline Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara

      Purple tube and wand of Maybelline's The Falsies mascara on white background
      • Price: $9.99
      • Where to Buy: Amazon, Maybelline, Ulta, Target
      • Positive Customer Review: "Stays on nice and washes off easy!"

      Maybelline's The Falsies Surreal Extensions Mascara is a false lash effect mascara that's also easily washable. It promises 36 percent more length and 10 times more volume than your usual lash.

      "The price is great, and the product looks fantastic and washes off with a regular remover," writes one reviewer.

      To make the removal process even easier, saturate a cotton pad in micellar water and apply it to the area for a few seconds.

      RELATED: 12 Best High-End Makeup Dupes at Walmart, According to a Beauty Pro.

      Drugstore Mascara vs. High-End Mascara: What's the Difference, Really?

      When purchasing a new drugstore mascara, you might be wondering how it's so different from a luxury brand.

      "The main differences lie in a few areas: ingredient quality and sourcing (where and how it is grown/made), location of the manufacturing facility (country of origin) and quantity made, brand identity, cost of packaging and design materials for the wand, head, and tube," says Nicole.

      So, there are a few differences that may impact the quality of the item as well as ones that won't. (As far as we know, our lashes don't know the difference between a mascara with a strong brand identity and one without.) You can likely find a formula that works for your unique lashes at either price point.


      The best drugstore mascara for you depends on what you're looking for, whether that's volume, color, length, or curl. Tailor your search to your needs, and you'll find the formula for you. For more beauty advice, visit Best Life again soon.

      Juliana LaBianca
      Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
      Filed Under