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Okay — what is the best mascara?! I recently bought Diorshow because I heard it was the best, but it's really clumpy. I found Benefit's They're Real! to be a little too tough to get off. Do I just stick to eyelash extensions forever? — Tiffany
There are people who love a clumpy mascara and I am one of them. But I totally get if you don’t like the sooty look. This is, after all, why there are approximately ten zillion different types of mascaras out there on the market.
While there is no foolproof way to know if a mascara will be clumpy without actually trying it, there are a few clues. First, if it says “volumizing” or “thickening,” that’s a sign that it’ll deposit a lot of product onto your lashes. It doesn’t conclusively mean it will clump, but there’s definitely a higher chance.
Next, if it has a big, fat, traditional brush with bristles that are really close together (yes, like Diorshow’s), there’s definitely a higher clumping risk, at least in my experience.
Instead, look for words like “lengthening” on labels. Those formulas tend to deposit more thinly, rather than trying to increase the diameter of each individual lash. And in general, molded plastic brushes tend to clump a little less than traditional bristles. Ditto brushes that are skinny with more widely-spaced bristles; those that form a helical pattern down the brush also tend to deposit product more evenly.
Now, here are five mascaras that I’m giving the “less likely to clump” seal of approval.
Surratt Beauty Relevée Mascara ($30)
This mascara might be the solution to all your woes. It’s a tube mascara, a popular formula type in Japan, where Troy Surratt manufactures most of his products. This means that the formula forms a coating around the lashes instead of sitting on top. It also contains tiny fibers to add volume. It has never clumped on me, ever, and is just really an elegant product overall. (Kevyn Aucoin, who was Surratt’s mentor, also has a similar formula: the Volume Mascara, $28, with slightly less prominent fibers.)
Too Cool for School Dinoplatz Escalator Mascara ($25)
This K-beauty brand has been doing well at Sephora, and is about to open its first brick and mortar store in New York City. Don’t let the whimsical tube, which features doodles of adorable dinos on it, fool you — this thing is high tech. The brush features molded, short, symmetrically-placed bristles that do not clump. You can also twist the end of the brush, which retracts and expands the head to make the bristles more compact or farther apart, so you can really customize it to best fit your lashes. This is also a tube-style mascara, meaning you can just gently roll the product off at the end of the day.
Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Babydoll Mascara ($32)
If you’re not happy with Diorshow but want to keep the French designer vibe, this YSL mascara is a good choice. Like the Dinoplatz mascara, the molded wand has stubby bristles and deposits the product uniformly. The bristles are pretty close together, too, so you get excellent coverage with just one coat.
Catrice Cosmetics Glam & Doll False Lashes Mascara ($6.99)
There are tons of great drugstore options out there, but I’m loving the whole line from Catrice, a company out of Germany. This brush is molded plastic, but it’s also slightly curved, which makes it easier to use the tip to pinpoint specific lashes, especially the outer corners.
Well People Expressionist Pro Mascara ($21.99)
People are clamoring for natural makeup, but mascara is tough to formulate without using some ingredients that natural makeup companies find objectionable. This mascara is widely lauded as the best natural mascara on the market, and I can tell you that it’s just a really good formula overall. It has the now-familiar molded brush with short bristles, but it also has a tapered end that is so useful for getting into tiny areas, plus the formula lasts all day.
In a pinch, you can’t beat a good eyelash comb, which can fix a mascara hack job quickly. I love this little rake ($7) from Sephora. Also, for difficult-to-remove product or those cases where you apply mascara and then blink and get it all over your lid, you cannot beat good old Almay eye makeup remover pads ($4.49).