list of mascaras I’ve used (May 2012, last updated August 2013)

Mascaras used, abused, etc.

Mascaras I have loved, mascaras I have left, mascaras that left me, those I loved and lost, and others I lust after: past and present recipients of the Gingerrrama Seal of Approval. Plus a handful I haven’t tried yet, but am listing here for my own purposes, for future reference. And some tips and suchlike egg-suckings.

I’ll update this through the year, as and when I test anything else out. I’m currently on a self-testing moratorium, mainly due to spring allergies’ aggravation by two recent trips (airports + cabin pseudo-air + funny foreign American air-con = unhappy eyes).

SEE ALSO: cruelty-free mascara (2012-03-09, updated and expanded since then)

LAST UPDATED: August 2013

GO STRAIGHT TO:

I. ON MASCARA-ING

The everyday essential, haven’t spent a day without it since I was 13… Going for a “not too unnatural for a redhead” look. In black.

WHY WEAR MASCARA

(bonus free publicity for an absolutely fabulous feminist charity)

Because I am a redhead.

I am a redhead in natural-lash denial with a lifelong—well, 25-year-long—mascara habit. Worse, I am a mascara wh**e. Not serially monogamous; it’s more like polygamy, with a harem, and long-term friends with benefits, and every once in a while—periodic phases of curiosity and urges to experiment—some down and dirty cheating.

Which is just as well, as it’s the best way to discover gems like one of my current rotation, the Reviva Labs mascara. It’s a simple, basic, everyday, YBB mascara. Available in brown and black. Odourless. Zero irritation, nice light feel, no smudging, good day-long last. Cheap.

That gem has now become the regular life-partner; from which I’ll stray occasionally, from one-nighters to short flings; to which I’ll return. Usually more of a “don’t ask don’t tell” situation than an open marriage, though I’m currently in a happy harmonious hybridized ménage à trois with the Stila Glamoureyes brush.

Black mascara on the redheaded: can actually look fine. But so fine that I’ve reconsidered my long-held devotion to the maxim that redheads look best in brown mascara, and black’s too dark/stark. Let’s face it: whatever you wear will clearly not match your hair, let alone your eyebrows. While a rich brown’s good, most browns are greyish and not good. And darkening eyebrows is a very dangerous thing – very hard to get right, and not make brows – or worse still, hair – look tinted. Also, the black tones down pinkness on eyelids (though I’m still using concealer/base as well), and makes eyes look clearer and brighter – I guess makes the whites look more blue. Brown might still be better with lighter reds and blondes, and on really cool-toned skin; freckles seem to warm skin up just enough to carry the black.

Sometimes I go through brown phases. I’ve even occasionally used plummy aubergine tones (usually followed by irritation, but not always: Jane Iredale makes the best interestingly-coloured tolerable mascaras, bar the vanilla scent). And my very first mascara was a light golden brown: Bourjois Vison Doré (“golden mink”).

These days, I use black.

MASCARA CRITERIA:

A short wand–great for controlled close-up work.

Brush with a short head, fairly short bristles, slim, but fairly densely packed.

Formula: not too thick, not too thin; not too wet (so it stays on), not too dry (so it doesn’t flake off); should adhere to and stay on lashes; should not glob, clog, bobble, clump; nor smudge and smear, nor should it leave lashes dry and brittle and crumbly; should not flake once on the lashes, nor smear under the eyes during the day. Ideally, also waterproof (as I live in rain). No bits falling into eyes, and if so, should be inconspicuous and–above all–not be associated with any irritation.

No irritation. No fibres. OK: sometimes fibres: ex. Urban Decay Cannonball.

And no animal testing (ideally, also no animal ingredients, though with some companies I can deal with beeswax).

Should stay on. This is important. Might need to stay on all night. (Not just as I live in fear of fire alarms, and being caught outside basically naked.)

End results: lashes should stay in place–not poke out in random directions–and feel soft, fluttery, feathery. No scrunchy spider-legs or monolash country & western effects. Some might call this a bit too natural. Though several of the mascaras below can be layered-up, to some extent, to a degree…

TECHNIQUE:

Other necessary tools: small mirror, metal-toothed lash comb (ex. Tweezerman), lash brush, the natural gift of myopia. Also eyeliner and a brush (see end of post, on tightlining).

Application:

(1) Just one coat should already leave lashes are lovely and feathery, perfectly acceptable for everyday purposes and for those favouring a “less unnatural” look. Though my “one coat” involves coating upper and lower sides of top lashes, down to the roots, which means more than just one layer anyway. Waiting for that to dry then adding a second coat often doesn’t make much difference, other than lashes starting to clump and be dry to the touch. Depends on formula: some need to be worked with very fast (ex. tubers) before they set. If building up, do it without waiting for the lashes to dry between coats: as a default: that usually works fine.

(2) Comb through immediately, a good habit to get into for dealing with fast-setting mascaras (especially tubers); there may be the odd teeny ball-clump at ends of lashes, easily removed with a fine-toothed metal lash-comb. This is the point at which you will be able to observe whether a mascara is a clumpy, bobbly, clotty, etc., one–or not; metal-toothed combs can save some really minging mascaras and make them wearable, though; better still, if the mascara has a decent brush to work with to start with.

With some very fast-setting tubing mascaras (especially the earlier generation, like Blinc) you don’t have time to comb through: no room for error or tweaking, get it right first time, or you’ll have to repeat the whole process.

(3) With any decent long-lasting, non-smudgy, waterproof mascara, remove any excess from surrounding skin immediately, otherwise it will take forever and a lot of rubbing once it’s dried. I always end up with smudgy bits around the eyes, it seems inevitable when getting mascara down to the roots. This is important on pale lashes, especially on the top side of upper lashes; done well, gives the impression of super-long lashes and a denseness at the roots like you get with tightlining; done badly, you’ll be showing your roots.

TIPS:

With some mascaras, too much comes out of the tube and the end of the brush (and, in some cases, the rest of it) is covered in gunky goodness. This is not the end of the world. With some, twisting the handle, spiral-fashion, as you pull it out of the tube will reduce the gunk. With many, pulling it out steadily and not too fast will help (though with some pulling it out fast works better). Remove excess on a sheet of paper–just plain paper, of the writing variety (not tissues: they often flake, leaving you with flaky tissue mixed in c/o mascara brush with your mascara in the tube and, O what a bonus, in your eye ). It may feel like there’s a lot of excess. With most mascaras, the gunk situation settles down in about a week. With some, it’s brush design flaw.

Brushes can sometimes be swapped between mascaras; a good idea if you want to marry one lovely formula to a separate lovely brush. very rarely, the whole brush-wand-handle-lid. More often, the brush and wand (if the wand is the right length for both tubes in question): in which case chop off both wands and swap them over, gluing firmly with some super-stuff. Similarly (but fiddly, and may fall off) with the brush head. Clean brush before use, inc. a final swab-down with alcohol / rubbing alcohol / surgical spirit to disinfect. There’s always the option of using a separate brush and keeping it outside the tube, cleaning it between uses.

If you’re short-sighted (myopic; problems seeing things at a distance): count yourself blessed. Don’t try to put on eye makeup with your glasses on, or with contact-lenses in. Use your natural advantage: the naked eye. Up close, you can see far better, and in greater detail, than the normal- and longer-sighted. I am thus blessed myself, and use a small mirror, balanced on left hand along with any containers (ex. mascara tube), while right hand does the artistic work. Such juggling may require practice. Worth it.

Note that you’ll need to be able to see both eyes at the same time, and indeed more of the face as a whole if doing anything fancier (compared to lash-darkening) that requires symmetry; eyeshadow, cat-eye flicks, eyebrow-shaping, blusher, assorted contouring. For these, don appropriate correcting/normalising apparatus, the short-sighted advantage is over…

If you’re normal to long-sighted (and have problem seeing closer up): get one of those magnifying mirrors. You may have to do some jiggling around and practising–angle of mirror, applying while sitting or standing, looking straight into it or down, and so on.

MASCARA LIST

KEY:

  • Underlined = I’ve used this
  • Not underlined = “next in line”: I’ve not used this, but would consider doing so
  • Italics = no longer options if you’re buying cruelty-free, though they were (to the best of my knowledge at the time) when I used them
  • BOLD CAPS = would buy again
  • GREEN = would/might/may satisfy assorted other green criteria (on which, see this year’s green-ish list)
  • GREENISH = kinda sorta greenish, compared to green; even though green already includes a range of tones, depths, and intensities of green-ness
  • For recenty tried and tested ones:
    • YYY = yes definitely!
    • Y = yes, liked, would try/use/buy again
    • N/Y = on the fence or “meh”
    • N = nope

THE LIST

  • 100% Pure: N
  • Almay: N
  • (Alverde: won’t be testing; reason = scent + shellac)
  • Australis
  • Aveda: last formula used (2011) was no use, previous one (2008-09) was good, the one before that was rubbish
    Can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company and parent company activity in China.
  • BARRY M: Y
  • B.E (Bare Escensuals): nice waterproof one (that would be BM Buxom I think; same company.
    Parent group isn’t cruelty-free.
  • BEAUTY WITHOUT CRUELTY waterproof: YYY
  • Becca: YYY
  • Benecos: N (retested), irritating scent
  • Benefit: N to BadGal
    Not cruelty-free now.
  • Bloom: Y
  • BLINC (KISS ME): Y-ish: “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure); dries very fast, tricky to work with. But that was a while ago. Need to retry; unknown if the formula has changed since I last used it. TEA issue: it does have triethanolamine, to which I react (eyes, skin) in higher doses. Unfortunately, there’s little way to tell if there will be enough of it in the formula for my eyes and/or skin to react until I try the stuff out: if there’s not enough TEA, fine; if there’s enough for a reaction, I’ll know it as soon as the tubes either start coming off or come off properly when I remove the stuff.
  • BLINC (KISS ME) AMPLIFIED MASCARA: YYY, a great tubing mascara. Dries slower than the original formula above, can be layered, is blinking marvellous.
  • Bobbi Brown No Smudge: Y so highly water-resistant as to be practically waterproof, very smudge-proof, tenacious
    Parent group isn’t cruelty-free.
  • Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined (RIP): Y “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure)
  • The Body Shop: Y had great mascaras in the late 1980s through early 1990s
    Company is cruelty-free, but parent group isn’t cruelty-free.
  • (AnneMarie Börlind: won’t be testing; reason = scent)
  • Boots Natural Collection/Botanics: Y to the volumising and super-basic ones.
    While this range and the rest of Boots cosmetics (17, No. 7) are cruelty-free, the company as a whole is not, as they still test on animals for the pharmaceutical/medical/serious drugs end of the business; over to you how you deal with this difference in approach.
  • Boots 17 waterproof: YYY marvellous. Did what it promised and more: waterproof, smudgeproof, and layerable.
  • Boots No. 7 Ultimate Waterproof (may now be discontinued): N/Y
  • Bourjois: Y to a very old RIP one, my first, called Vison doré. Circa 1985/86?
    [parent company, Chanel, is cruelty-free but uses fur in other, non-cosmetic areas of the business]
  • Bourjois, various others: N/Y
  • CARGO: N to Better-than-Waterproof tubing mascara, but seriously crap brush
  • Chanel: N to the few tried
  • Chantecaille: N (good but not good enough for the price)
  • Clarins Double Fix’ Mascara: YYY
  • Clarins (apart from the Fix): N
    Can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company activity in China.
  • Clinique High Lengths (the replacement for Long Pretty Lashes): N
    Can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company and parent company activity in China.
  • Clinique Lash Power: Y, “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure)
  • Clinique Long Pretty Lashes (RIP): Y
  • Clinique Naturally Glossy: YYY, very minimal, but layer-able. For a cruelty-free parallel, have a look at Tarte, ex. Gifted Amazonian Clay.
  • Clinique waterproof: N
  • COULEUR CARAMEL: Y
  • Dr.Hauschka: N
  • EARTHLAB RAW MASCARA: YYY, one of the best “all-natural” ones I’ve used. Quite waterproof too. This might be a replacement for Clinique Long Pretty Lashes.
  • ECCO BELLA: Y, can be layered, i.e. more coats applied, for a thicker, plusher look (without going Tammy Faye)
  • E.L.F.: Y but on the fence: OK, and better than many that are several times the price
  • Essence: Y, but used ages ago
  • FACE Atelier: A meh-ish N to Crybaby mascara: decent formula and brush; but clumps and flakes, and irritated eyes from the flakes (possibly TEA, one of my known irritants in higher dose)
  • Face of Australia
  • FACE Stockholm: Yish an old one, but a while back, and only under Clarins Double Fix
  • FACE Stockholm current mascaras: Lash Lift, Volumising WP
  • FRESH: Y to Spernova: plush, layerable, but smudges and dries out fast (a crime, at that price)
  • Gabriel: YYY, layerable, a nice basic
  • Givenchy: Y to Phenomen’eyes, the one with the spiky ball: yes, it IS fabulous.
    Not cruelty-free now though.
  • GOSH: Y, decent, but used ages ago
  • Hard Candy: N
  • HERBAN LUXE waterproof vegan mascara (c/o Etsy): YYY
  • Honeybee Gardens: N, but the version I used was in 2008/09 and is definitely different from the second-last and current (2013) versions
  • Hourglass: N, terrible brushes
  • Illamasqua: N/Y, on the fence; nice formula, bit smudgy, decent brush but a little too bushy to get down to the roots
  • ISADORA: Y but 4 years ago
  • Jane Iredale: N to the regular one and to the pricier one in the tube; it’s better, but I can’t abide the scent
  • Jemma Kidd
  • Josie Maran: N
  • Just For Redheads: N, tried all their formulae to 2010. Great range of shades though.
  • Kevyn Aucoin: Y to the volume mascara, but only under Clarins Double Fix
  • Korres: N
    Current parent group, for international export, isn’t cruelty-free.
  • La Femme: Y to cake (but not very resistant; OK for everyday)
  • Lancôme: N to all tried (phew, given the animal-testing issues… though even trying the stuff out was awfully unethical)
  • Laura Mercier: N
  • LAVERA: Y (NB: selling in China, cruelty-free status uncertain at that stage; though ingredients and products not tested on animals by Lavera)
  • Le Métier de beauté
  • Lise Watier: N, on the fence for the volumizing mascaras, currently called Dramatique, Total, and Wow; their Féline WP was dry
  • LISE WATIER 24HRS GLAM: YYY. this newer tubing mascara from them is excellent. Stays on very well without flaking (a problem with some tubers). Dries slightly slower, so can be tweaked before it dries solid.
  • Logona: N (retested), irritating scent
  • Lola Loves Lashes cake mascara: hard to find a supplier who ships to Canada, though
  • Longcils Boncza: N to their cake mascara. There’s a couple of other cakes out there, this is the one that seems to be getting the best reviews, from reliable sources etc. Contains several of my known irritants; tried it anyway (this baby was expensive!!!), and lo, irritation.
  • LORAC: Y to one I used maybe 10 years ago… N as haven’t liked the brushes on the current ones
  • M2 Beauté
  • MAC: N to all (tested out all available up to January 2012)
    Can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company and parent company activity in China.
  • Marks & Spencer: Y to all used, inc. decent waterproof
  • Mavala
  • Maybelline: Y to Full & Soft Waterproof, Lash Discovery (with a preference for the waterproof version), Volum’ Express (ditto)
    Parent group isn’t cruelty-free.
  • Maybelline: N to The Crap In The Pink Tube, Define-a-Lash, and assorted others
  • Merle Norman
  • Miessence
  • Mirenésse: Y Secret Weapon (original formula & brush) tubing mascara: nice, and one of the few I can use without irritation (lower than usual TEA, which is in all of the tubers I’ve met). My big quibble: aggressive marketeering, also sell ridiculous products, BS-allergic reactions.
  • Mosqueta’s: has scent but it’s just rose oil, which is fine with me and my skin
  • Napoleon Perdis
  • NARS: N
    Parent group is no longer cruelty-free.
  • NVEY Eco: N but note that the sample I received may have been a little old; I would try it again, but find the price unconscionable
  • NYX: N some irritation; but the WP was very pretty, decent formula and brush
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics: sometimes marketing works: I want to try this just because of the fantastic name!
  • Origins: YYY to Fringe Benefits, very plush, and layerable. But smudges (worked well with Clarins Fix on top).
    Can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company and parent company activity in China.
  • Peter Thomas Roth: Y, but used ages ago
  • Physician’s Formula: N, tried all their mascaras 2009-12, too wet, gloopy, horrid brushes; yeah, OK, could be a borderline Y/N… being charitable… it’s usable and cheap… if there’s nothing else available…
  • (Phyt’s: won’t be testing; reason = shellac)
  • Prestige: N, high levels of some of my known irritants
  • Pür: N, high levels of some of my known irritants
  • PUPA: Y, but used ages ago
  • REVIVA LABS: YYY, not technically waterproof, but nearly. Actually, more waterproof than many mascaras that claim to be. On me, completely smudge-proof: will only smudge a bit if, say, you leave it on overnight and add some oily eyecream (ex. shea butter) around your eyes. That’s pretty extreme smudge-proof-ness. Very layer-able, too. Bug: mascara clumps on the brush, when you pull it out the tube. The most-wiped mascara I’ve ever used; I wipe off surplus on some old scrap paper (not a tissue, as that risks getting fibres in your mascara; also, I’m one of those old-fashioned / eco types who mainly use cotton handkerchiefs).
  • Revlon: N to the several tried
  • Rimmel: N to the several tried years ago; including waterproof, smudgeproof, and layerable
  • (Sante: won’t be testing; reason = scent)
  • Sephora: N/Y. The WP was terrible, their basic everyday one is decent
  • Shu Uemura: Y to Mascara Basic, basic waterproof, smudgeproof, slightly dry (guilty: tested this before I found out they’re not cruelty-free, gah)
  • Silk Naturals: N. Looks OK on paper, on immediate application it reminds you of Clinique Naturally Glossy, but turns out to be in dry, clumps, non-good brush. Sorry: bin.
  • STILA: YYY Glamoureyes, very like Reviva Labs above, except with a better brush and none of its clumping-on-brush issues.
  • Stila: N to waterproof one, old (2007-08?) formula: note that Stila have returned (2009- ) to many of their original pre-takeover formulae, and the Glamoureyes is gorgeous
  • Superdrug: N
  • TARTE: Y to Gifted Amazonian Clay and their now-discontinued waterproof multipleye; Yish to lash-hugger (also discontinued) which was OK, very like Clinique Naturally Glossy. Tarte mascaras are definitely worth looking at if you’re looking for a cruelty-free equivalent to Clinique Naturally Glossy.
  • Tarte: N to Lights Camera Lashes, Lights Camera Splashes (=WP version of LCL)
  • TheBalm
  • Too Faced: N to Lash Injection and Pinpoint tubers
  • TRISH MCEVOY: Y the curling one (tubing)
  • UNE (Bourjois): N/Y as smudgy
  • URBAN DECAY: YYY to Cannonball waterproof. Seriously waterproof. The business and bees’ knees. 
    But: can no longer be treated as cruelty-free due to company and parent company activity in China.
  • Urban Decay: N to Big Fatty, Skyscraper
  • Vincent Longo: Y for WP, N for the others
  • Wet n Wild: N
  • Youngblood
  • Yves Rocher: Y (but ages ago)
  • Zuii Organics: N, I considered it, then reconsidered when I saw the ingredients. Bunch of EOs (inc. rose which I like, but also orange and palmarosa which is a silly idea) right near the top, otherwise looks lik a watered-down version of Reviva Labs for five times the price. I think not. Also, looked at it in-store: losy brush and I’m not keen on the scent.
  • ZUZU LUXE: Y, layerable. Very like Gabriel (same parent company).

II. ON TIGHTLING

Tightlining on the redheaded: if you have pale and/or fine lashes, just do it. You’ll not regret it. It will change your life. But do it in browns not black (or grey-blacks, or cooler tones): black looks off, wrong, too harsh, and kills the whole more-luscious-lashes effect. Not too dark either: slightly lighter than your lash colour adds to the perspective-illusion-trick that give you fuller-looking lashes at the roots. Plummy burgundies and some shimmer are manageable too.

Where: upper eye / lashes, from underside and upper side so as to fill in completely at the roots (surplus on surrounding skin wiped off after). Using a zig-zag, squiggly motion. Makes a humungous difference on pale lashes; combined with mascara, makes lashes look longer and thicker, dark all the way down to the roots, and without the eye actually looking lined.

See further: snickersforsnuggles’ splendid explanation with pictures. (MUA again, sorry)

I found cake or cream/gel versions the best for tightlining, using a brush; followed by twist-up self-sharpening pencils; then pencils proper, but more painstaking and time-consuming due to all that sharpening nonsense. Would probably be fine for someone longer-sighted applying while looking into a larger fixed mirror; I’m very short-sighted, apply “blind” so as to take advantage of shorter-sighted-magnification, and use a small hand-held mirror.

Colours: browns, burgundies, plums, eggplant/aubergine–but a browned purple, not a black-grey-blue one.

Tools: (that small mirror and) using a short-handled brush with about 2-3 mm bristles, cut flat across the top, so the brush-end is roughly square (i.e. neither a fine-tipped brush, nor a slanted one). Preferred brushes: the ones that came with Clinique’s cream and cake liners; Ruby+Millie make a good one too.

TIPS

If using cake: water works fine–you’ll probably need to do some experimenting before you hit on the exact right consistency for your eyes and lashline. Tapwater in a glass is fine. If you’re being fussy, bottled mineral water or water in a can. Takes all sorts.

If using gel/cream in a pot/jar: keep lid tight; keep the contents closed as far as possible. One way to do this is to take out (on you brush) a splodge of liner, put it on the back of one hand (or a sheet of dry paper), close jar, and apply liner from that splodge.

If you’re out of eyeliner, or packing super-light (and heck, the cake ones below are light as a feather): tightline using mascara and a teeny brush. Makeup’s so marvellously multi-purpose. And uplifting. Not just creating lifting effects on your face, in visual illusions; but lifting you up physically higher, and being generally uplifting all over:

EYELINER LIST

  • 100% Pure in Chocolate (but dried up fast)
  • Almay Amazing Lasting Eye Pencil in Brown
  • Bobbi Brown Long-Lasting Gel Eyeliner in Chocolate Shimmer Ink
  • Clinique Brush-on Cream Liner in Black Honey
  • Clinique Quickliner in Grape, Roast Coffee, Shy Brown, Smoky Brown, Violet
  • Clinique Waterproof Cake Eyeliner in brown (RIP, my first cake)
  • ECCO BELLA Cake (brown, nice eggplant too)
  • e.l.f. (OK, then lost it)
  • LAURA MERCIER Cake in Mahogany: my second cake. It was lovely. I lost it (or a TSA person nicked it). The replacement 2013 formula is different and not good.
  • Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Gel Eyeliner in Eggplant 
  • Maybelline Unstoppable (clicky pencil) in Cinnabar
  • NVEY ECO cake in brown: FAVOURITE (so far)
  • Origins Automagically in Mulberry
  • Sephora own-brand twist-up pencil in brown
  • Sephora own-brand gel
  • SILK NATURALS Cream Liner in Amethyst
  • SILK NATURALS Cream Liner in Mahogany
  • Stila smudge pot waterproof gel liner in bronze

Ending on another charitable note (eye makeup-related, feminist, independent):

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