I Tried The Buzziest New Mascaras — & This $5 One Was My Favorite

Mascara launches in and of themselves aren't groundbreaking, but when tons of exciting new formulas are hitting the market all at once, that is. As some of the biggest brands — from Pat McGrath Labs to Charlotte Tilbury — emailed me regarding their upcoming releases over the summer, I soon realized that mascara was officially the hot item of the season.

This market trend comes at the perfect time as we all look to accentuate our eyes more than ever to stand out above facial coverings. Being the mascara devotee I am, I felt inclined to put all these launches to the test, so I did. Some claimed lash lift-like effects, while others promised definition at a lower cost than my favorite tub of Ben & Jerry's. After six mascaras, some undesirable eye-poking, and lots of makeup remover, I was surprised by who the clear winner was. Check out my reviews, ahead. 

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Before


Naturally, I have long, semi-curled lashes, so when it comes to mascara formulas, I tend to look for volumizing power that gives my lashes definition and more curl.

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes


Claim: This innovative spatula-brush hybrid — the newest addition to the Pillow Talk lineup — will give you an instant lash-lift effect that lasts 24 hours. Your eyes will look bigger and brighter as your lashes are not only lifted, but also defined, separated, and volumized.
Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes, $29.00 Buy

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes


Verdict: Expectations soar whenever Charlotte Tilbury puts the words "Pillow Talk" on any of her products, so I had high hopes for this mascara. I'll admit that, upon first looking at the wand, I thought, "Wtf." You're supposed to use the flat side to coat lashes, which seemed messy to me, and then comb out each individual lash with the bristled side. I will say that personally I found this to be too much work for someone who just wants to swipe and go, but I was wrong about the mess: The bristles evenly spread the formula out. The result was everything it promised, with a lash-lift effect that really opened up my eyes. While I will be using this mascara again, it won't be when I'm in a rush — which is almost always the case.

Pat McGrath Labs Dark Star Volumizing Mascara


Claim: A gel-hybrid, pitch-black mascara with a contoured brush that sculpts lashes to deliver instant volume, multidimensional length, and weightless lift in one stroke.
PAT McGRATH LABS Dark Star Volumizing Mascara, $30.00 Buy
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Pat McGrath Labs Dark Star Volumizing Mascara


Verdict: While I love Pat McGrath's first mascara for its curling power, I found the original to be too smudgy and messy. This new formula effortlessly coats my lashes with lots of pigment, without the panda eyes. With just one stroke (as promised), my lashes are packed with volume — nothing more, nothing less. I do find that the more you swipe, the more likely you are to experience clumping. This is a solid option that will look gorgeous on your vanity or in your makeup bag, but for me, the $30 price tag is a stretch given its one-note performance.

Urban Decay Lash Freak Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara


Claim: An intensely volumizing and ultra-pigmented mascara that promises lifting power with its curved brush side, and definition and separation power with the brush tip. You can achieve a dramatic, wide-eyed look while also getting 20-hour, smudge-proof wear.
Urban Decay Lash Freak Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara, $13.00 Buy

Urban Decay Lash Freak Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara


Verdict: As fascinating as this wand is, it honestly scared the shit out of me. It isn't as hard as I assumed it'd be to use, but the bristles did disperse too much product for my taste. Given all that pigment on the wand, you have to take your time in combing out the formula or you end up with clumped, spidery lashes like you see here. Again, I'm a swipe-and-go gal, so this mascara just isn't for me. However, it did have serious lasting power and made it through setting my curls under a hair dryer, running errands in 92-degree heat, and an outdoor movie experience.

Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara


Claim: A smudge-proof mascara that coats your lashes from root to tip for a fanned-out finish that defines, lifts, and lengthens your lashes.
Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara, $29.00 Buy

Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara


Verdict: One swipe under-delivered for me, but two swipes gives my lashes noticeable length. It definitely lives up to its promised extension-like effect, so much so that I received numerous compliments when wearing this mascara. But I do find that the formula clumps more than I'd prefer, so it comes up short in definition and volume, which is what I look for in mascaras. The wand is super thin, so you'll also want to be careful not to poke out your eye like I almost did. (One or two tears later, I survived.)
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Huda Beauty LEGIT LASHES Double-Ended Mascara


Claim: A long-lasting, intensely black, dual-ended mascara that offers volume on one side and curling and lengthening on the other — which you can use separately or together.
Huda Beauty LEGIT LASHES Double-Ended Mascara, $27.00 Buy

Huda Beauty LEGIT LASHES Double-Ended Mascara


Verdict: Now that you know the laziness I aspire to in mascara application, this dual-ended situation should instantly let you know how I feel. If you're going to use both sides, the brand instructs that you swipe on the volume formula first, then go in with the curl and length side. For the full experience, I wore each side separately on different days, and then applied both on the third day. Both sides deliver on their claims separately, but the results are nothing extraordinary. The real impact comes with using both sides, which gives my lashes an impressive falsies-like fanned-out effect. My only qualm with this formula is the minor fallout I experienced, but also how long it took to get all that mascara off. After swiping one too many times with cotton pads, I was left with sore eyes, so I'll be opting for this one on special days only.

Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara


Claim: An oil-free formula that gives lashes volume and definition without smudging or clumping. It's created to last all day, but will easily come off with warm water.
Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara, $4.99 Buy

Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara


Verdict: This mascara was love at first swipe. With just one stroke, it delivers length and volume without being too much, giving a natural, yet impactful look. It's buildable, but it definitely won't give you a dramatic effect if that's what you're in the market for. I love it for everyday use, and the best part is that it lives up to its promise of not smudging, yet doesn't require too much tugging when it comes to removal. This was the overall winner that's earned a permanent place in my makeup stash — and it's just $5.
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