I Tried 8 New Drugstore Mascaras — & The Best One Is Only $5

Some people have Champagne spending habits when they're living on a Bud Light budget. I, on the other hand, have always been a bargain shopper — especially when it comes to my beauty routine. Although I have the kind of job that grants me the privilege of wearing and using luxury beauty items, if I did have to stick to a regular budget, there's no chance in hell I'd be willing to splurge on many things over the $20 mark.
That would mean having to ditch a few of my favorite things, like my go-to $124 Gucci perfume, or the face mask that revives my skin overnight (while also robbing me of $50 even faster than that). But my makeup routine would survive — because I fully believe that a lot of drugstore makeup is just as good as the expensive stuff, especially when it comes to mascara.
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So when I noticed a flood of new mascara launches coming across my desk, I knew it was time to put my longtime theory to the test and see if there were high-quality formulas behind these modest prices. Ahead, my honest opinion on the newest mascaras to hit drugstore shelves near you...
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The Mascara: Wet n Wild Lash Renegade in Avenging Amethyst

The Claim: With a "cutting-edge" brush — a curved shape with a ballpoint tip — this mascara promises to catch every lash with a formula that volumizes, curls, lengthens, and defines for a dramatic finish. (Plus, $1 from every tube sold goes to a wildlife refuge.)
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The Verdict: This mascara formula isn't new — the black one launched last year, and I became a regular user after noticing that it does, in fact, pump up the volume on my lashes. But I was intrigued by the new purple tint, which just came out this month, because 1) '80s makeup is back, and 2) I rarely wear colored mascara, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the trend. Sadly, my dark lashes seemed to absorb all the color. So, if I ever hope to look like Margot Robbie (her makeup artist Pati Dubroff loves a good tinted mascara), I'll have to pile on several more layers next time.
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The Mascara: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Plumping Waterproof Mascara

The Claim: This new waterproof formula not only extends your lash length with the tapered wand, but nourishes and strengthens each one with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and keratin.
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The Verdict: Since I don't have oily eyelids, I'm normally not too picky about whether or not my mascara boasts a waterproof — or at least a water-resistant — guarantee. But my experience with this formula just shows I'm a fool for never making that a priority. After spending hours walking through the city on a 90-degree day, sweating off all my foundation and highlighter in the process, this mascara was the only thing that remained. By 10 p.m., I swore my lashes could go another 24 hours looking this good.
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The Mascara: Flower Beauty Lash Warrior

The Claim: To volumize lashes by at least 150%, increase thickness by at least 100%, and length by another 88%.
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The Verdict: The best part about this mascara is the wand — the formula doesn't collect between the thin, short bristles, no matter how many times you pump it in the tube. Sadly, I don't think it doubled my lash volume by 100%, but I do know that there wasn't a clump in sight and that's worth something in my book.
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The Mascara: Physicians Formula Killer Curves

The Claim: To create curled, voluminous lashes with an hourglass wand that coats every single lash.
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The Verdict: My initial reaction to this mascara was incredibly positive. It lifted my lashes more than the rest, with the kind of effect you might expect from a professional lash-lift treatment. Sadly, by 4 p.m., my lashes felt heavy and that impressive curl totally unfurled. If you have shorter lashes, this wet formula will definitely work better for you.
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The Mascara: Mehron Brazen Mascara

The Claim: This nylon-infused formula will create intense volume to enhance even the finest lashes.
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The Verdict: After I got a lash lift six months ago, I was sure no mascara could convince me that it would do a better job at curling my lashes than the keratin treatment. This mascara proved me wrong. The flexible brush is my favorite part about this new launch because it bends when you need it to, so you're really covering every contour of your lash line for a look so dark, you won't need to tight-line with a kohl liner.
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The Mascara: Revlon VolumAzing Mascara

The Claim: No smudging or flaking for 24 hours, with 92% more volume and length.
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The Verdict: This just so happened to be the first mascara I tried in this challenge and it — prepare for an eye roll — blew my mind. The packaging might not be the prettiest of them all, but the formula is worth instant holy-grail status. With stacked bristles (of different sizes) and a super-wet formula, this mascara coats lashes fully without giving you an accidental smoky eye. But it's the long-lasting curl that really kept me happy throughout the day. By the time I had to rinse it off at night, I was sad to see it go. Needless to say, I'd shell out $9 for this one any time.
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The Mascara: Black Opal ColorSplurge Waterproof Mascara

The Claim: Its curved brush helps individually coat each lash (in a waterproof formula) with gentle wax for intense volume.
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The Verdict: I took a chance on this waterproof mascara and brought it with me to Miami, where I wore through a thick haze of humidity and three straight days of pouring rain. After using it for an entire weekend — without it melting or smudging once — I can chalk up this mascara's power to the strange wand that sort of looks like a bent finger. From my experience, this helps wiggle the product as close to the lash line as possible for a fuller, thicker effect. At the end of the day (literally), my lashes looked good when Mother Nature was doing everything to make sure they wouldn't.
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The Mascara: e.l.f. Pump It Up Mascara

The Claim: Clump-free lashes, thanks to this rich, ultra-black mascara that separates each lash for a dramatic, feathered look.

e.l.f. Pump It Up Mascara, $5, available in July.
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The Verdict: This mascara's claim undersells it... by a lot. At first glance, the wand and formula look a lot like L'Oréal's Lash Paradise or Too Faced's Better Than Sex, but upon closer inspection, I noticed the bristles are organized in a sort of spiral structure, so when you swipe it through your lashes, it grips every one. What's more, the formula is wet, like really wet — but it makes for a long-lasting curl that doesn't wilt by the middle of the day. If Revlon's is my favorite for all day use, this would be my go-to for a Saturday night.
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