Best Cheap Mascara

A buying guide to the best cheap lengthening, volumizing, and curling mascara, including waterproof mascara.

What We Considered

We analyzed mascara reviews by consumers, beauty bloggers, and other experts on retail and beauty websites such as Makeup Alley,, and to determine which mascaras do what they claim to do, whether it be lengthening, volumizing, curling, or all of the above. Staying power and ease of application and removal were also critical in deciding what constitutes an excellent, good, or ineffective mascara. Reviewers look for mascara that goes on smoothly, lasts all day, and provides the perfect amount of length, volume, and definition.

We Looked At

Online reviews slam mascaras that don't make a noticeable difference, leave clumps, or make lashes stick together. An effective mascara creates long, plush, defined lashes. Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes (starting at $5) really opens up the eyes and makes them pop, according to reviews. Clinique Bottom Lash (starting at $10) seems to live up to its promise of enhancing bottom lashes, and many reviewers say it goes beyond that mandate to provide precise coverage for upper lashes, as well. On the other hand, users of Wet n Wild Mega Plump (starting at $4) claim the mascara makes lashes look anything but ample. One reviewer posting on the retail site Makeup Alley had to put on five coats to see even a minimal difference in her lashes.

A good mascara will not smear, flake, or just plain wear off within a few hours of application. Mascara that doesn't hold for more than half of the day or creates a raccoon-eye effect should also be avoided. Wet n Wild Mega Plump is one of those formulas that just doesn't stay put, according to community members posting on the review site Total Beauty.

In reviews on Amazon, users laud the staying power of L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly mascara, which lasts all day without a smudge. Consumers reviewing Cover Girl Professional All-in-One Curved Brush mascara on Makeup Alley comment that it doesn't leave specks or blotches under eyes, with the exception of one reviewer who says it smudged a little when she wore it on her lower lashes. Another reviewer points to the long-lasting curl, saying the mascara creates pert lashes that don't droop as the day goes on.

Our Top Pick

L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly

L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Review

Buy on  $3.53  $8.99Buy on  $3.53  $8.99

This mascara's formula helps it glide onto lashes and stay there. Major beauty magazines conclude that the unusually shaped brush isn't just a gimmick.

Our Picks
L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly

L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly reviews laud this mascara for lengthening and thickening lashes. The asymmetrical brush is designed to give lashes a winged-out look, and impresses users with efficient application of just the right amount of product. Reviewers assert that this mascara (starting at $7, Amazon) is just as good as, if not better than, more expensive products.

Hundreds of consumers writing on the review site Makeup Alley have awarded this product an average rating of 3.7 out of 5. Two out of three reviewers indicate they would purchase the mascara again. One consumer admires the winged effect created by the trademarked Butterfly Brush, which has longer bristles at the base to emphasize the outer lashes. She doesn't find the mascara very volumizing but still considers it a favorite choice. On the other hand, a reviewer posting on the retail site Ulta Beauty reports that her lashes transform from long and thin to long and full.

On, some less-than-positive reviews lament that the product doesn't make much of a difference in the look of lashes and tends to flake off. One shopper wasn't impressed with the formula or scent but liked the brush enough to say she would keep the wand to use with another product.

An editor from Allure highlights the winged brush and clump-resistant, waxy formula. The beauty magazine featured L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly on a list of seven "great mascaras" alongside high-end brands such as Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana. It's available in a waterproof version and comes in black, blackest black, and black brown.

This mascara is relatively new; L'Oreal launched the product in October 2013. An even more recent line extension, L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Intenza, has a double-wing-shaped brush that purports to fan out lashes even more. We haven't seen enough reviews yet to evaluate this claim.

L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly mascara is a go-to product for those seeking longer, thicker lashes. It's been touted for truly eye-opening results by outlets such as Elle and Allure. Despite some complaints, this mascara is a top choice for all-around fuller lashes.

Clinique Bottom Lash reviews praise this product for its ability to reach small, scattered, and corner lashes on the top as well as the bottom. Beauty experts and shoppers alike are fans of this mascara, which has a wand and brush about half as long as a regular mascara. The unique design employs tiny bristles to catch and coat bottom lashes.

Beauty magazines Harper's Bazaar and Allure both include this product on lists of the best mascaras. An expert at Harper's Bazaar mentions that the team there likes Clinique Bottom Lash (starting at $10, Amazon) because it coats every last lash and creates the look of larger eyes. An expert from Allure agrees that Clinique Bottom Lash doesn't neglect corner lashes and has staying power, crucial for avoiding the raccoon effect from smears underneath the eyes.

Consumers have likewise found that this mascara lengthens and thickens bottom lashes. Several users who have posted reviews online appreciate the wand's lash-catching design and admire the way the brush coats the small lashes at the inner and outer corners of the eyes without smudging or getting product on the skin. A reviewer posting on gives Clinique Bottom Lash mascara 5 stars and credit for transforming the look of her eyes.

This mascara also counts many fans among consumers writing on the review site Total Beauty. One user describes the mascara as long-lasting yet easy to take off. More than one expresses surprise that there aren't more products like this on the market. The tiny brush allows precise application and accentuates small lashes. One reviewer appreciates that the formula doesn't bother her sensitive, watery eyes. Clinique Bottom Lash mascara is allergy tested and available in black and brown. To remove it, you need only rinse with warm water gently press on your lashes.

Clinique's cosmetic products are usually priced out of the Cheapism range, but this is a welcome exception. It's one of the only mascaras on the market that specifically targets bottom lashes, and reviews assert that it's more versatile than that. If you are looking for a way to make meager lashes stand out, give this mascara a try.

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes

If you want the look of false lashes without the time-consuming, gluey process of the real thing, Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes mascara (starting at $5, Amazon) just might be worth adding to your shortlist. Several Maybelline Volum' Express reviews praise the mascara's ability to create long, thick lashes. On the retail site Ulta Beauty, two reviewers say people often assume their lashes are false when they use this mascara. Another declares the product better than false eyelashes.

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes mascara features two brushes: a flexible brush for upper lashes and a separate, smaller brush for lower lashes. Many reviews on the CVS Pharmacy website point to the brush designed for bottom lashes as the best part of this product. Even reviewers who aren't too fond of the mascara itself appreciate the small brush, which separates and evenly coats tiny lower lashes.

A majority of users who have reviewed this mascara on are likewise impressed by the lower-lash wand but not so much by the regular full-size brush. Many complain that the mascara tends to clump during application. Otherwise, the many positive reviews suggest that this is a good mascara for the price.

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes mascara is formulated to lengthen, separate, and volumize lashes to create a false-eyelash effect. The mascara includes keratin, a fibrous protein formula intended to thicken lashes and make them appear fuller. The mascara is also available in a waterproof variety. Colors available are very black, blackest black, and brownish black.

Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes is a budget mascara with a big following. If you like the look of false lashes or an extremely plush, volume-packed fringe, give this one a shot.

Cover Girl Professional All-In-One Curved Brush (starting at $5, Amazon) has a new look, but the mascara itself doesn't seem to need improvement based on the raves it garners. Cover Girl Professional All-In-One reviews praise this mascara for leaving lashes curled and lengthened. They attribute these effects in part to the curved brush.

The brush isn't always seen as a positive, though. A reviewer posting on Total Beauty grumbles that the curve makes the wand difficult to handle and the mascara difficult to apply.

We should note that a majority of the negative reviews for this product on the Cover Girl website stem from consumers' preference for Cover Girl's Marathon line of mascara, which was discontinued. Many users were disappointed to see this product put forward as a replacement and posted complaints to try to get the company to bring back their beloved brand. In general, reviews on Amazon and elsewhere focus on how well this product lengthens and thickens lashes. It also gets credit for staying put and resisting smudges.

Cover Girl Professional All-In-One mascara comes in two other versions, straight brush and waterproof, and three colors: very black, black brown, and brown. Cover Girl advertises this mascara as safe for contact-lens wearers and people with sensitive eyes. One reviewer says this is the only mascara that doesn't bother her eyes and another recommends it to people who have watery eyes.

If you are looking for a mascara that stays put and leaves lashes looking more naturally enhanced than falsified (the aim of many of today's mascaras), then Cover Girl Professional All-In-One Curved Brush mascara is a good pick.

Wet n Wild Mega Plump is unquestionably an inexpensive mascara (starting at $4, Amazon). It can be purchased just about any major drug or retail store for less than $5. However, it shows in the quality, with a lumpy, messy formula.

There aren't many Wet N Wild Mega Plump reviews; the brand is not as popular as major cosmetics companies such as L'Oreal and Maybelline. The reviews that do exist are mostly negative. On, one user expresses regret over purchasing this mascara and advises other consumers to steer clear. Users who have weighed in on Wet N Wild Mega Plump for the review site Total Beauty cluster at the low end of the rating scale. They complain that it doesn't last more than 20 minutes and leaves a large, smeary mess. As a result of gripes like this, the product has ended up on a "worst mascaras" list.

At the same time, some users reviewing the mascara on Makeup Alley are quite happy with Wet N Wild Mega Plump. Whereas some reviewers see no difference in the length or volume of their lashes, another describes the effect as natural yet defined; she says she doesn't understand why the product gets such poor reviews. One reviewer took a day or two to warm up to the drier consistency of this mascara but ultimately decided she liked how it made her lashes look.

Wet n Wild Mega Plump mascara has a short wand with dense, small bristles. While short wands are typically good for short lashes, the brush doesn't seem to have helped this mascara gain any fans.

Most of the poor reviews for this mascara seem to stem from the gooey formula. Wet n Wild Mega Plump simply lacks the consistency most users are looking for. While the cheap price of this mascara is alluring, just a couple more dollars will get you a mascara that's much more effective.

Buying Guide

Cheap Mascara Buying Guide

The vast majority of department store or designer brands, which cost anywhere from $25 to $75, offer no better product or performance than many cheaper drugstore mascara brands. In fact, experts often recommend scrimping when it comes to mascara, because the product has a typical shelf life of only three months once it's been opened. All that opening and closing of the tube exposes the mascara to the air and to normally circulating bacteria, and the wet consistency dries out and breeds infection.

Major cosmetic brands L'Oreal, Maybelline, and CoverGirl top our list of excellent, cheap mascaras, and one department-store brand managed to meet our price limit. Our top picks are L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly (starting at $7) and Clinique Bottom Lash (starting at $10). We also like Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes (starting at $5) and Cover Girl Professional All-In-One Curved Brush mascara (starting at $5). Wet n Wild Mega Plump (starting at $4) is one product we suggest consumers pass on.

Some of the mascaras we researched, including L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly and Maybelline Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes, are available in both waterproof and water-soluble/washable formulas. Consider the activities you participate in, as well as your make-up routine, before purchasing a waterproof formula. You'll need eye makeup remover to wipe it away at the end of the day; using just water -- or even soap and water -- requires excessive rubbing of the delicate skin around your eyes, potentially breaking lashes and causing irritation.

No matter which mascara you buy, follow necessary precautions to limit the chance of eye infections and other problems. Never share your mascara with anyone, because doing so can spread bacteria that may result in pink eye, sties, and other ailments. Pay attention to the condition of the mascara and the wand. Has the mascara changed color? Do you detect a change in how it smells? Is it clumping more than it did originally? Is it hard to get out of the container? Is the brush showing signs of wear? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," it's time to buy a new tube.

What We Looked For: Types of Mascara

Lengthening Mascara.

People with short lashes may feel they've gotten the short end of the stick, but there is an upside. Short lashes are usually pretty thick, and with thick lashes you get great definition around the eye without having to resort to eyeliner. Experts say to look for a mascara with a comb-like wand designed to separate, define, and lengthen lashes without clumping. L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara has a wing-tipped brush to add extra length to those tiny lashes at the inner and outer corners of the eye. Clinique Bottom Lash also lengthens short lashes -- both top and bottom, according to user reviews.

Volumizing Mascara.

Thickening or "volumizing" mascara provides extra structure and amplitude to each individual lash. You'll want to look for a large brush with thick, dense bristles, designed to add a good amount of product to your lashes. Maybelline's Volum' Express The Falsies Big Eyes mascara is equipped with dual brushes: a larger brush for the upper lashes, which features dense bristles, and a smaller brush with short, thick bristles to add fullness to bottom lashes. Clinique Bottom Lash is another mascara to consider if you want to add extra oomph to stubby lashes. The short wand is designed especially for those little lashes that regular mascara wands have trouble reaching. Reviews on the Sephora website report that the product really catches and coats bottom lashes for a fuller look.

Curling Mascara.

Long, thick lashes are what advertisements suggest we all need and want. But if your lashes are already long and thick, they might need a bit of a curl to keep them from angling down. In that case, try a curling mascara that's formulated to firm lashes and hold them up. The brush on this type of mascara is usually curved to help shape and lift lashes. The Cover Girl Professional All-In-One mascara on our list has a curved brush that is supposed to reach even the tiniest top lashes, such as the ones on the inner corner of the eye. Cover Girl recommends using this mascara with an eyelash curler to get the most eye-opening effect. In general, any mascara will work to its maximum effect when used in conjunction with an eyelash curler. On super-straight lashes, the curler bends the lashes and a curling mascara helps hold them in place.