There are many inexpensive mascaras on the market, but only an elite few can claim the title as the absolute best drugstore mascara. Let’s be real—at the rate we run through a single tube, it’s far easier on our wallets to favor the pharmacy finds for frequently used makeup (like a great lipstick, eyeliner or foundation) instead of springing for pricier options. And if we’re being honest, these cheap mascaras work just as well as fancy eyelash serums to get you the volume, curl, and lash length of your dreams. From formulas for sensitive eyes, to a time-tested waterproof option—drugstore mascaras can do it all. Don’t believe us? We turned to pro makeup artists for the picks they trust on their clients as well as top-rated products you can shop online.
Volum’ Express The Colossal Mascara
Would you believe Maybelline’s Volum’ Express The Colossal Mascara has been in regular rotation in our associate beauty editor’s makeup bag since high school? After a few even coats, it’s easy to understand why. “The formula delivers all the good stuff—length, volume, and jet black pigment—without any clumping or flaking. Holy Grail status, indeed!” Stovall says.
LashBlast Volume Mascara
Turn it up to 11. A few even coats of CoverGirl’s LashBlast delivers major volume, and the short bristles on the brush allow you to target hard-to-reach areas like your inner corners. “The formula doesn’t clump, and will stay on for hours without smudging,” says Barose.
Looking for a mascara to create major length and take care of all the little details? Reach for the L’Oreal Telescopic formula. “The tiny brush with short bristles lets you comb through lashes quickly with out being messy,” says Barose. “I’ll sometimes use it to get really close to lash lines and darken them instead of using eyeliner.”
MegaSlim Skinny Mascara
“When I want a dramatic, sixties-esque look, this is my go-to,” says O, the Oprah Magazine’s associate beauty editor Erin Stovall. “Its tiny brush makes it easy to coat every single lash and the formula stays put all day.”
Lash Warrior Mascara
According to our associate beauty editor, Flower Beauty’s Lash Warrior Mascara is one that won’t leave lashes feeling stiff, thanks to a secret ingredient. “The castor oil in this volumizing mascara helps keep them soft,” says Stovall.
Hydro Boost Plumping Mascara
Consider Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost formula a lash treatment with a day job. The moisturizing ingredients used in the mix help to keep your lashes in good health. “It actually hydrates and conditions your lashes while you’re wearing it,” says Neil Scibelli. “This mascara formula is almost like a glossy black, and separates the lashes really well. There’s also a waterproof version. Plus, it’s smudge-free and stays on all day.”
So Fierce! Big Bad Lash Mascara
This volumizing mascara doesn’t clump or flake, allowing for a fuss-free, literally eye-opening, application.
Lash Paradise Voluminous Mascara
If it’s good enough for Beyoncé’s go-to guy, we’re sure it will work just fine for us. Makeup artist Sir John, who has worked with Queen Bey for years, loves the L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara and always keeps a tube stocked in his kit. “It is hands down my go-to mascara. I love a fiber wand,” he says. “This one gives you that super feathery lash look we all love.”
Lash Blowout Mascara
While slightly more expensive than the others on this lit, IT’s biotin-infused Drybar collab will lengthen lashes and create volume without the pesky clumps. There’s a reason it’s been favorited 13,000 times by Sephora shoppers.
Snapscara Washable Mascara
The gentle ingredients used in Maybelline’s Snapscara make the formula ideal for skin and eyes that seem to react to just about anything. “It’s wax-free, so it has a more natural ingredient base to it,” Scibelli says. “It’s perfect for someone who’s looking for an effortless, safe, everyday mascara. It also separates the lashes beautifully and leaves a nice shine to the lashes.”
Great Lash Washable Mascara
It was the first mascara to grace our Caboodle, and while we may have since ditched the blue shadow and frosted lipstick we used to pair it with, Maybelline’s Great Lash remains a standard. “It’s still a staple in my kit, all of these years later,” says makeup artist Neil Scibelli. “The brush grips and curls the lashes easily, and the formula dries really quick.” Makeup artist Nick Barose, who works with Amandla Stenberg and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, also agrees. “It adds volume without the clumps or crunchy texture,” he says.
Lash Accelerator Mascara
Thanks to the infusion of the brand’s patented Grow-Lash Complex, Rimmel’s Lash Accelerator creates a dramatic appearance on contact while helping to nourish and grow your natural set. “It separates and builds the most incredible length without clumping,” says makeup artist Jillian Dempsey.