September 5, 2017

Hit or Miss: Drugstore Mascara

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Whenever a magazine rounds up makeup and beauty that you should save or splurge on the number one item they tell you to save on is mascara. Why? Because mascara gets tossed quickly! You don’t want to buy mascara and apply it to your lashes for the next six months of your life. At best, mascara has a shelf life of two months maybe three tops. Think about it. That applicator is touching your lashes and being shoved back into a tight, wet, dark place. It’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Eye infection central.

So, remember kids, toss your mascaras often.

This is why most beauty editors will say don’t splurge on mascara because you have to toss it in two months! Why spend $20 or more bucks on a mascara you’ll be tossing?

The thing is, drugstore mascara has reached an all time pricing high. I mean some drugstore mascaras are as much as $13.99! So why, not go and splurge on a $20 from Tarte or Too Faced or any other number of mid-range brands right?

Are drugstore mascaras a hit or a miss for you?

I lean towards splurging on mascara which makes most drugstore mascaras a miss for me. But on a rare occasion I come across awesome formulas at the drugstore that have me rethinking my splurge mentality.

I have lashes that naturally cross over each other and I always feel like those big club mascara applicators from brands like Covergirl end up creating a mess. I recently tried and hated Volum’ Express The Colossal Big Shot Mascara. I ended up giving it a second chance and now it’s suddenly my best friend. It creates a really full lash look. Loves it!

But most days, drugstore mascaras are a miss for me.

How about you?

Are drugstore mascaras a hit or a miss for you?

I receive a small commission if you shop through my link.

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Christina D.

    I don’t buy expensive mascara because I toss them out rather quickly, usually before the recommended three month period. But I have to admit I haven’t bought mascara in months, maybe years, because I get so many deluxe samples. It’s a nice perk and I find the sample sizes make the most sense for a disposable item.

    Speaking of ridiculous drugstore prices, did you see the newest NYX eye shadow palettes — $30 each!!! They have officially jumped the shark.

  • Michelle

    As far as I know, there is no drug store equivalent for Estee Lauder’s Double Wear mascara (their tubing mascara) or ANY tubing mascaras at the drugstore. So I’m stuck with higher end mascara.

    • kjh

      Tubing masks are a must, esp for lowers. L’oreal’s sucks. Boots #7 is passable, but not great. Catrice’s was better than Boots, but Ulta doesn’t carry it anymore. Blink Kiss Me has deteriorated in quality over the past few years. I like the touch in sol Stretchex. The only non-tubing that stays put with concealer for me is Japanese, Heroine Make. In this country (US) it winds up being midrange, but I think it is DS in Japan. The downside with that one is that it’s a true bitch to get off, w/o oil cleanse. Micellar barely makes a dent.

    • Paula Wright

      Oh, there are!

      Covergirl clump crusher is one, it never smudges for me.

      I’ve found that if they are based on acrylates or pvp rather than waxes, they are tubey.

      Good luck.


    I used to do product testing for L’oreal and the payment would be a gift bag of products, frequently containing Lancome mascara. I found I did not like the high end mascaras and kept going back to my drug store brand. My fave for the last several years has been Cover Girl Lash Blast, the original one. I first discovered this mascara while product testing mascaras for L’oreal in their facility. There were three. Each was wrapped with black electrical tape so it was impossible to know if it was a product already on the market or who made it. The first sample had an odd shaped container and a brush I had never seen before. I loved the mascara. I tried the other two, did what was necessary at the appointment, and went home and googled pictures of mascaras to watch for the shape of the container and the large plastic brush of the sample I had loved. It turned out to be Cover Girl Last Blast and though I have strayed at times, I always come back to it. And now it’s available on Amazon Subscribe and Save, so for less than $6 a tube, I can have one delivered every two months.

  • Swoozy

    I used to love Dial a Lash mascara (I’m old), but I think they stopped selling it years ago – at least I haven’t seen it for years. I splurged a few years ago on YSL Faux Cils Shocking and it was a game changer. I can’t go back, although now that’s discontinued too and I have four tubes left.

  • Christina

    Drugstore mascaras don’t really work well for me. I don’t wear mascara daily, so I know it’s a waste to spend on high end versions, but I just like them better. They don’t smudge as easily, even in the non-waterproof formula, which I never wear because I hate how hard they are to remove. I’ve also had some luck with various Japanese and Korean lines, which tend to cost a bit more than drugstore versions, so I guess I don’t mind splurging on high end mascara.

  • Lauren Gallo

    For me, I mostly save and go with drugstore. I’ve found L’Oreal Lash Paradise to be the first mascara truly that lives up to the hype, but I also adore quite a few Essence mascaras as well, which for around $5 are a totally amazing steal. I especially love the Get Big Lashes Triple Black.

    The only pricier mascaras I’ve ever liked are Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes, Stila Waterproof Volumizing Mascara and the dearly departed Fresh ones.

    • Isabella Muse

      Couldn’t agree more about Paradise and also essence mascaras which have always performed great for me ;-D

  • Maria

    I love the new Loreal lash paradise mascara. It adds length and volume and lasts all day. No flakes or clumps and it less than $10.

    • Carol

      Me too! Just as good as TF BTS in my opinion which saves $! And this week Walgreens has buy 2 get 1 free mix or match cosmetics so that was a nice time to buy this mascara. So glad I finally found a drugstore mascara I love. Mascara has been such a hit or miss for me in the last 6 months or so.

  • Carolina

    I think I’ve become very spoiled by the high end mascara deluxe samples. Those usually last about three months and then I just toss them. However, if I ever find a HG mascara maybe I’d think differently and just splurge on a full size, regardless of whether it was drug store or high end.

  • Danadoo

    I am one of those “risky” people with my mascara, as in I use it until it’s empty! I often get 4-5 months out of it, I’ve been doing this for the last 25 years and I have never gotten an infection! I think it’s a conspiracy to make us buy more. Why do they not put expirations like this on eyeliner, which when you think about it is even grosser than mascara?

    • kjh

      Me, too. It’s hard to toss a color, since colored mascaras are seldom in fashion (have eyes on that YSL from Nordie’s M reviewed)… if I even suspect an eye problem, I pick a sample, dot it with nail polish, then use it only, if any, until the eyes are normal, then toss the sample. I’ve even thinned old mascara with isododecane (Duraline’s main ingredient). I, too, have never had ‘infected’ mascara, and think that careful use can prevent such issues. I also think that allergies to ingredients can be the problem, rather than icking up the product. S.t. Will take a clean spoolie or disposable wand, rather than reinsert. That said, the Sephora Marsala is dead, and I think I have to get the YSL reddish brown!

  • Robin

    I love my Essence mascaras!!! They stay put and make my lashes look long. I also like Wet n Wild Max Plus mascara; it doesn’t make my lashes stiff or crunchy.

  • Lara

    I got the $28 mascara sampler from Sephora and that was the best investment in mascara I’ve ever spent. I wasn’t even in it for the full-sized one of your choice after trying them all, I just wanted all the minis! The full-size is a bonus, if I redeem the voucher for the Lancome it will be worth as much as the whole sampler box, I think. Crazy.

    Even though I find that a better deal than drugstore, I do like the L’Oreal Voluminous the most.

  • Jessie

    I prefer drugstore mascaras, L’Oréal Telescopic Carbon Black has been my HG for years! My splurge product would be Latisse and because of how well that works for my lashes I can save some on mascara. I like a long separated lash look, volumizing mascaras are always a clumpy flaky disaster for me, same with bristle-type brushes like Lash Paradise. Give me small flexible spiky plastic brushes!

    • Randi MacDonald

      I just opened that Loreal telescopic mascara. My local dollar store( 99 cents only store) got a ton of them last year so I bought a few. The brush kinda threw me though. I’ve only used it twice so I’m still on the fence about it.

  • Codename Duchess

    I actually have good luck with drugstore mascaras. I think since I actually like those rubber-bristled brushes, i’ve got a lot of great, cheap options at the drug store. Cover Girl’s Clump Crusher is my usual mascara of choice and it’s only $6 at Target and Walmart.

    While I’ve tried and liked some high end mascaras, I’ve yet to meet one that I think is worth paying the extra $$$ for.

  • Leslie

    I’m pretty loyal to my Loreal Voluminous Carbon Black for around $6 at Wal-Mart….or at least I think it’s still $6 lol….I didn’t pay attention last time I bought it. When I do splurge, I love Lancôme Hypnose original. Almost the exact quality….maybe a slight edge over Loreal.

    • Karen

      Loreal Voluminous Carbon Black is my fav too. I have tried many, many in my 51 years & have found the high end mascaras not worth the $. The biggest bomb for me was Dior Show. Total waste of moola for this girl. Smeared like crazy (yes it was the water proof one).

  • Kimmwc03

    I like Maybelline full and soft a lot for natural days. I just bought Lash Paradise but I haven’t opened it yet. My favorite mascaras are usually the Lancôme ones (Grandiose, Monsieur Big, etc.) but I don’t buy mascara too often since I have so many samples.

  • TropicalChrome

    I’ve been as happy with drugstore mascaras as I have been with high end, and that’s mostly because (with two exceptions), the high end mascaras didn’t perform any better than the drugstore, and they cost multiple times as much.

    The two exceptions for me have been Benefit’s Roller Lash and It Cosmetics Superhero. I was absolutely floored that they did a noticeably better job than my Maybelline Volum’Express Colossal (still my go to). The kicker is that I’ve received so many samples of them that I think I have only bought one deluxe sample of the Roller Lash (on special with a coupon) – so they’ve been cheaper than purchasing any mascara at all!

    Yes, I keep trying the new samples I get in hopes that I’ll find another stellar performer, but so far, nothing special.

  • Paula

    I only use drugstore mascara because I’m pretty religious about tossing them out after 3 months. L’Oreal mascaras always irritate my eyes but I have great luck with Maybelline. My current favorite is the Falsies Push Up Drama Waterproof. No clumps, nice length and volume, and keeps my lashes curled. To remove it, I just use Neutrogena’s Ultra Light Cleansing Oil to break it down followed by Neutrogena’s oil-free eye makeup remover.

  • Sarah

    I’ve always been able to use most drugstore mascaras without problems. I’m so slow at using up a tube, (even with daily use, so much gets tossed) that I can’t really justify buying an expensive tube. However I’m tempted to buy a small tube of Too Faced BTS after receiving as a freebie and using up a travel sized tube. It really did a nice job on my lashes and I’m a bit hooked. I have the new L’Oréal that is suppose to be close but its just, Ok. Not anything special to make it stand out from other drugstore brands and also not very close to TF BTS, except that the tubes are pink and the wands are kinda similar.

  • Liz

    I am a big L’Oreal mascara fan – way back to the Lash Architect and Lash Out days. Now I like Telescopic. But now i’ve discovered CoverGirl Total Tease and I am obsessed. I love it. I don’t do any of the teasing or whatever, but once coat and I have long, long lashes. I was floored when I first put it on. I used to love Lancome mascara but they are so expensive and I just feel like they dry out so quickly. I am also a huge Clinique fan, I love almost every mascara they make and the price is amazing.

  • Linatha

    I recently purchased Palladio 4D Boost mascara at Sally Beauty. I paid less than $10. I really like it. It doesn’t clump and it gives soft volume.

  • Dee

    I’ve had great luck with drugstore mascaras and never splurge on high end. I’ll use them if I get them as samples but never have repurchased one. I love Covergirl Clump Crusher and Full Lash Bloom, the new L’Oréal Paradise mascara and Maybelline New York Volume Express. I also like Maybelline Lash Discovery for my lower lashes.

  • Amy

    I KNOW a lot of people don’t like the Maybelline Mascaras but for me, they are the only mascaras that don’t smudge into my under eye area after a few hours or flake on me. I particularly love the Rocket Volume, Falsies Push Up Drama, & Falsies Push Up Angle. Every time I try another hyped mascara it’s never as good as those 3. They just work for me.

    • Jackie

      there’s a Maybelline in a light pink tube and a curved brush that I really like. Other than that, I’ve loved UD Perversion for years as far as higher end.

  • Pdo

    Now that generic latisse is available, I splurge on that. I expect a lil $50 bottle will last me about 6 months, so not too bad of a splurge. In conjunction I use a drugstore mascara lately it has been L’Oréal Paradise or Soap and Glory Thick n Fast. I like the volume that both of those give and they don’t smudge.

    I plan on checking out an Essence one someone mentioned on here. I already use their make me brow product, so why not delve into more of their super affordable products

  • J

    I always get drugstore mascaras! Try the Essence mascaras! They are not overpriced like some drugstore mascaras – they’re $4.99 a pop and awesome!

  • mushlice

    Before I meet L’Oréal Lash Paradise I never trust any drug store mascaras. I tried some top rated ones (from drug store to brand ones), but none of them meet what I expected. My best mascara is KissMe Volume and Curl (from Japan), you can get one at about $14, thus if any mascara higher than this price or cheaper but much worse will never be considered. But Lash Paradise match KissMe and the price is only about the half, I will never try any other mascaras anymore!
    I believe Lash Paradise is a game changer for the market here in U.S: now people know what is a REALLY good mascara. For the others that actually sucks, they’d better get out of the drugstore soon.

  • Tippy6

    Drugstore mascara, heck, mascara in general has become like dancing across a mine field blindfolded. The best mascara, drugstore or any other class, was L’Oreal Splash Out which was waterproof, smear proof and flake proof. It was followed up by L’Oreal Lash Out Waterproof which had the same outstanding qualities as the former and then both disappeared from the face of the earth. Both had these amazing “teddy bear” brushes that applied the mascara flawlessly on both upper and lower lashes. The brush was the perfect texture, length, diameter and the wiper dispensed the best amount of mascara. I’ve tried like heck to find another mascara to match it for years, both drugstore and high-end, to no avail.

  • Lori

    The only higher-end mascaras I’ve ever tried were:
    -Better Than Sex, because it came with the Funfetti set. The brush was WAY too big and the mascara was too wet and messy.
    -Something from Bare Minerals that came in a box kit. Again, brush was way too big and the mascara was completely unspectacular.
    -Monsieur Big from Lancôme, because Ulta sent me a postcard to redeem for a sample. It was…OK. I mean, for all the hype, and being Lancôme, I expected a lot more.
    I like Milani Lash Trifecta, and a few from Essence. I tried Lash Paradise and it was good, except after 3 weeks it seemed dried out?!?

  • genevieve

    The only HE mascara that I liked was the Clinique Black Honey one, it was in a GWP. But I wouldn’t spend the money on these kinds of mascaras at all because I wear glasses and I can’t have long lashes or it will swipe my lens like a wind shield wiper on a car.
    So I generally use DS mascaras, I get them on sale and currently I am using the Physicians Formula Argon Oil one – which is OK. I need to toss that soon and get another one, so I am looking that the suggestions made by readers above. I think I will try the Essence one next.

  • Kristin

    Anyone happen to know of a good curling mascara? At least one that helps hold/keep/form a curl after using a lash curler? Tired of mascaras that straighten out all of that hard work curling them up ever so. Drugstore or higher end, a la Sephora or Ulta. Just something that works…