The Best Mascara I've Ever Tried Is Less Than $5

Whenever I go shopping for mascara, I feel like Goldilocks. One makes my lashes look like crooked spider legs. Another makes them look sad, stubby, and underwhelming. Most, unfortunately, tend to flake and smudge so when I finally look in the mirror hours later, I see Courtney Love circa 1995.
I am always on the search for the "just right" formula that works for me. But as it happened, I didn't end up finding this one magical mascara — it found me.
I was walking through Chinatown in New York City killing time before dinner with a friend (I'm a Capricorn, so I'm always early), when a woman walked by me with the kind of lashes I've been trying to achieve for 10 years. They were full, but not fake; long, but certainly not extensions.
I did a thing I rarely have the nerve to do with strangers and asked her what she was wearing. She told me a brand I had never heard of called The Saem, and pointed me in the direction of their tiny corner store just a few blocks away. Inside, it's a bit of a mishmash of Korean beauty products, with masks and blushes and other items you won't find at Sephora or Ulta.
I tracked down the mascara the woman on the street had told me about: Saem's Saemmul Perfect Volume Mascara — which sounds about as generic as you can get, and the tube reflects that. It's black with plain white lettering and a simple white top, and costs less than $5. In the Saem store, they were running a buy-two-get-one-free sale, so it almost felt like stealing.
I got home still thinking the woman had steered me wrong. How good could a random $5 mascara really be? I put it on the next morning expecting to look in the mirror at work a few hours later and think, "Ah, Alice Cooper, we meet again." But my lashes were soft and fluttery and full and lovely. No bells and whistles, no gimmicks — just a damn good mascara.
Hours later and my mascara still hadn't budged, so I reached out to the brand to figure out why it's so effective. Is it the ingredients? The curved shape of the brush? Unfortunately, I've heard back nothing. All the description on the website says is "clump-free volumizing mascara," so I'm at a bit of a loss. But for lashes this good, I'm willing to let those questions go unanswered (though it's against my stubborn Capricorn ways) and simply just be so damn happy I found the perfect mascara for me.
The Saem Saemmul Perfect Volume Mascara, $4.99, available at The Saem.

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