There are two questions you should ask before you buy mascara; what kind of eyelashes do I have and what do I want them to look like? Some people want lots of volume, length and intensity. Others want a more discreet and natural result. It used to be the case that length and volume were always two distinct aspects of mascara. But with recent products it's common to get everything from one product, described as having a "false eyelash effect". The formula of a mascara often consists of colour pigment mixed in a base of wax and water. Thickeners such as powder or talc are also added to volume products, while the extending variants often contain nylon or silk fibres that look like small eyelashes. These then stick to the ends of the eyelashes providing a little more length.
The effect of the mascara depends on both the design of the wand and the formula. Wands have developed a great deal in recent years and are now almost always made of silicone, which gives extremely accurate results. Large, dense wands give the most volume as they pick up the most product. Bow-shaped wands follow the shape of the eyelashes, access everywhere and curve the lashes slightly. Narrow and oblong brushes most often given length and define the lashes. Often black is the only colour available, but sometimes a mascara range has a brown shade too. These are perceived as softer and more natural, and are particularly suitable on people with lighter skin and hair colour.
Before applying mascara, make sure that the area around your eyes is dry and that your eye cream is oil free – otherwise the grease from the cream can cause the mascara to rub off on your eyelid and run under the eye. If you start by curling your lashes with an eyelash curler, it can be easier to access your lashes with the mascara wand and the lashes also get more of a curve, which opens up your eyes. One tip to avoid smudging your eyelids when you brush the mascara on is to hold a mirror below your chin and look downwards. Another tip is to hold a card against the eyelid and then you can apply the mascara with more force and any excess will end up on the card.
Start by placing the brush right in at the root of the lashes and then zigzag it forwards. To increase the false eyelash effect, you can apply a few extra layers of mascara in the outer corner of your eye. You can create really thick volume lashes by waiting for 30 seconds between mascara layers. By brushing on the next layer when the previous one has dried, you can build the volume up. If you work over wet mascara instead you simply wipe off unnecessary mascara, which is perfect for a more natural look.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our tests of mascara, we asked someone who works professionally with makeup to use the mascaras, both in their work and on their own face. We also had two further people of different ages test the mascara, one of whom was a contact lens wearer. In our tests we have focused on examining the following:
Colour, packaging and wand: What does the product promise? How are the tube and wand designed? What colours are available in the range?
Use: What do the wand, brush and formula feel like on the lashes? How easy or difficult is it to apply? Is the product scented?
In addition to this we have also included how much the tube contains together with how economical the mascara is, compared this to the product price and then selected the test winner.
L’Oréal's Million Lashes series contains a number of mascaras that give different amounts of volume and this Fatale version is intended to give both volume and definition – which it definitely succeeds with! Unusually small and neat wand for a volume mascara, accesses everywhere and neatly separates the lashes. Perfect if you want to wear volume mascara every day. We also like the fact that the wand doesn't require any special instructions. You just apply it normally, unlike many other mascaras where you have to move the brush on a particular angle. The result is impressive and definitely comparable with mascaras that are twice as expensive. The tube contains a relatively large quantity which also makes it extremely good value for money. The mascara lasts all day and is then easy to remove.
A mascara that gives really attractive black lashes. Your lashes will be separated and stay like that really well throughout the day, with no deposits under your eyes. The wand is small and easy to get into all the corners with. The slightly thin formula of the mascara makes it tricky to build up volume, but the fantastic durability and the fact that it doesn't clump at all make up for that.
The narrow, curved wand is easy to use and the mascara is easy to apply. The lashes are effectively pressed upwards and simultaneously given a lot more length. One of our testers, who has very straight lashes, was extremely impressed and hardly needed to use an eyelash curler with this mascara. The mascara is available in two shades – an intensive black and a softer dark brown. The result is extremely durable and survived a sudden rain shower without problems. At the same time it was easy to remove later in the evening. It's true that the tube contains relatively little mascara and the price is quite high, but Elizabeth Arden's mascara still gets a high score because it does exactly what it promises and you really won't be disappointed.
The mascara wand has a curved shaft that at first glance feels unnecessarily complicated, but when you've got used to it it's an innovation you won't want to be without. The small wand and curved shaft actually makes it easier to get to each lash and get that "fan effect" that so many other mascara manufacturers emphasise in their marketing but so rarely succeed with. You get instructions with the mascara for how to use it. Also, with just a few layers, your lashes will get good volume and great curl, separation and length. The tube is attractive and feels luxurious and contains a reasonable amount of mascara, which also justifies the high price. The mascara stays on all day and is available in black and brown shades.
Estée Lauder's luxurious Sumptuous mascara succeeds fantastically at combining volume and durability. The mascara contains visible fibres which build up loads of volume on your lashes. You have to be careful to avoid clumps. The wand is neatly cone shaped, which makes it easier to access and create more volume in the outer corner of the eye to get a really good "false eyelash" effect. Nor is humidity a problem as this mascara easily lasts all day. However, it does flake a bit more than other volumising mascaras, but that's balanced by the extra volume it offers.
This mascara from MaxFactor has been around a few years but is still a good product. You can create great volume with just a few layers, without clumping. It also copes with a damp climate effectively without running. The wand is a small, neat rubber brush that makes it easy to access all your lashes. At the end of the day it flakes a little, but for a budget alternative it's really good.
Volume Million Lashes has an easy-to-use consistency and the result is really attractive lashes. The wand is large and requires a little concentration, but it separates and gradually builds up volume on lashes without them becoming heavy. During application the scent of the mascara can be a bit much, but this disappears once it has dried. Cheap and good!
An intensive black result that lasts all day is what you get from this good value for money mascara. However, to build volume with False Lash Effect you need to get to grips with the wand. It has a blunt tip which makes it more difficult to access the innermost eyelashes and the lower lashes without getting mascara everywhere. Once on the lashes, the mascara delivers volume and good durability that works well for both everyday and party makeup. In terms of coping with moisture and flaking it's absolutely fine.
The spiral-shaped wand looks cool but feels more like a gimmick – the effect isn't exactly unique. It also turns out, when we look for more information about the mascara, that the bareMinerals website describes how you should rotate the wand 180 degrees while applying the mascara. There's no mention of this technique on the packaging and it's a really difficult application method. The mascara, which is only available in black, states that it's primarily intended to give volume, but we felt that lashes instead mainly become longer, with hardly any extra volume. However, it gets a major plus point because it doesn't flake at all and gives durable intensity, even in moisture and rain. Because the tube contains so much mascara it's also relatively good value for money compared with other mascaras in the luxury segment.
This mascara, which is only available in black, has a clever cone-shaped wand that makes it easy to get to every tiny lash. Unfortunately, despite its small size it also picks up a lot of liquid, which makes it very difficult to manage. Sometimes we had to dry it off on paper to get the right amount, which is really something the tube should do. The wet formula also takes a long time to dry, which makes it fiddly to build up a decent volume. When the lashes are finally dry you can create both length and volume, but it clumps easily. Unfortunately it's also very difficult to remove from your lashes, even if you use special eye makeup remover. However, this does mean that the mascara lasts really well during the day.
False Lash Epic is available in two colours – black and brown-black, which looks a little softer and more natural. However, unfortunately the wand feels a little complicated. It really needs to come with specific instructions, but instead you have to look these up yourself. The spiky ball on the top of the wand could be a good idea, but instead it just makes it very difficult to use. The idea is that you can apply mascara to the small lashes with the ball, but instead our testers regularly just poked themselves in the eye. The unnecessarily complicated wand also means that the result is uneven and unfortunately doesn't produce the volume we had hoped for, instead looking more like spider's legs. The durability is the best thing about this mascara, and it neither flakes nor smudges under the eye, instead staying in place until you choose to remove it.
The narrow wand is easy to use, easily gets right into the roots of the lashes and helps lift the lashes. The lashes become intensively black and simultaneously nicely separated. Unfortunately that's about it – you don't get the promised "false eyelash effect", and there's not particularly much volume or length. The tube that the mascara comes in is very stylish, but because it holds so little it's also very expensive. However, the result lasts all day without flaking or smudging and there's no problem removing it at night. If the price wasn't so high this would have been a perfectly OK everyday mascara.
The anonymous packaging conceals a really great mascara. Your lashes become dramatically raven black, separated and have great length. The result also lasts really well throughout the day, even in a humid environment. The wand is a classic shape with a nylon brush that makes it easy to access all of your lashes. As well as length, this mascara gives good volume. Another positive thing about this mascara is that it's allergy-tested and perfume-free.