The Best & Worst Drugstore Mascaras, From $1 To $16

I've included a handy pros and cons list, because: beauty nerd.
Publish date:
November 13, 2014
elf, drugstore makeup, maybelline, mascara, budget beauty, colored mascara, mascara formulas, NYX Cosmetics

Pro: There are so many awesome drugstore mascaras at various price points. Con: It can be overwhelming to pick one. Pro: I did the legwork for you. Con: None! Except my eye gets really red! Let’s go!

If You Only Have $1e.l.f. Essential Lengthening & Defining Mascara

It doesn’t get more affordable than this. If you’re down to your last dollar (and for some reason you’ve decided to spend it on mascara), this won’t let you down.

I’ll be wearing mascara on the left in all photos; my natural lashes are on the right.


  • This mascara will give you decent length without any clumping or smears.
  • Cruelty free.
  • I mean… it’s only a dollar.


  • It’s very no-frills, both in packaging and performance. This is a mascara for those who want a very natural everyday look.

At this price, it’s a good idea to buy a few for your purse, your work desk, and so on.

If You Want Healthier-Looking Lashese.l.f. Mineral Infused Mascara ($3)

If you have two more dollars to spend, I highly recommend upgrading to this e.l.f. mascara.


  • The price.
  • Long, clump-free lashes for a natural look that lasts.
  • Cruelty free.
  • Promises to provide beneficial effects for your lashes with the minerals that it contains.


  • Take that last claim with a grain of salt. This mascara specifically promises “healthier-looking lashes,” which is just a way of getting around not being able to promise lashes that actually are healthier. I can’t tell yet if my lashes have benefited long-term but they do look healthier when wearing this.

If You Want A Bouncy Wand & Flower-Scented LashesMaybelline Volum' Express Falsies Flared Washable Mascara ($6)

I had high hopes for this one, considering its name and what Maybelline is calling “an innovative spoon brush.”


  • The design, with the bouncy, bendable wand, is fun and interesting.
  • It smells like flowers! Not fake, perfume-y flowers but real, fresh flowers.


  • It smells like flowers. I genuinely like this scent, but it might be way too much for those who are fragrance-averse.
  • A little clumpy.
  • The brush doesn’t really seem to do much to flare the outer corners of my lashes out, which is what I really wanted; the brush is too big and the bendable wand actually made it harder for me to apply to my lashes because it had too much give. To get flared lashes, Benefit They’re Real! has a much better brush.

If You Want A Subtle Pop Of ColorNYX Cosmetics Color Mascara in Purple ($7)

I liked Maybelline’s limited-edition color mascaras a lot, so I thought I would see how this NYX version stacks up. (This also comes in blue and brown.)


  • Gives length without clumps.
  • The color is vibrant...


  • ...IF you can get it to show up on your lashes. Mine are dark so I really had to pile this mascara on to get the purple to show up.

If You Want Long But Natural-Looking Lashes Maybelline Full ‘N Soft Washable Mascara ($7)

I’ve heard so much about this mascara from its loyal cult following that I finally had to try it for myself. I didn’t expect much, but I really liked it.


  • Gives insanely long and black lashes with zero clumps.
  • My lashes looked natural and soft but 100% more noticeable.


  • I didn’t try the waterproof version, so when I chopped onions while wearing this it did streak quite a bit. Don’t ask why I chopped onions and tested mascara on the same day.

If You Want Lots Of Volume And A Budge-Proof Formula Covergirl LashBlast Volume Mascara ($8)

This has long been my favorite mascara. Sadly, I’ve been having second thoughts.


  • Gives length, blackness, AND volume.
  • The waterproof version lasts all day (and sometimes all night--oops) without smudging or flaking.


  • The fat orange tube is ugly (but I’m a packaging snob).
  • It can clump up quickly if you make too many passes with the wand, which is why I use it less often.

If You Want Natural, Non-Irritating MascaraPhysician’s Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin CC Curl + Care Mascara ($10)

This is not a dramatic mascara at all, but it has lots of other benefits to offer.


  • A very “natural” product, meaning there’s no added fragrance, parabens, synthetic preservatives/colors, etc. You can see the ingredient list here. Also, the brush is 100% recyclable.
  • Cruelty free.
  • Length with zero clumps.
  • The curved brush makes application a breeze.
  • Pretty packaging.
  • Non-irritating (and after several days of testing mascaras, I can attest to this).


  • Does not give much volume or drama.
  • Can dry out pretty quickly.
  • Can be prone to smudging and flaking if you’re the type to touch your eyes a lot.

If You Want To splurge For Dramatic LashesPixi Large Lash Mascara ($16)

This one is expensive for drugstore mascara, but I really like the Pixi brand so I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did.


  • Cruelty free.
  • Free of fragrance and parabens.
  • Gives long, black lashes with a good amount of volume without clumps.


  • Pricey.
  • Has a natural but strong Play-Doh scent.

In the end my least favorite was probably the Maybelline Falsies, and my two favorites were Maybelline Full 'N Soft and the Pixi Large Lash.

  • Have you tried any of these? What did you think?
  • Did I leave out anyone’s favorite drugstore mascara?

Photos by Joshua Kirby