A Mascara Comparison and Review: Part 1

I have been watching a lot of Game of Thrones, with the season finale airing last night and on my mind. Now I think I am Daenerys Targaryen because obviously, as a lizard woman, she appeals to me. (Also, I can stand blisteringly hot temperatures in the shower and my significant other is long-haired and sort of looks like Khal Drogo if you squint, so that basically makes me her, right? Right. I knew you guys would agree.)

As far as beauty goes, the only two brands that may be able to get me even sort of close to bend the knee in loyalty are MAC Cosmetics and Make Up For Ever, and even then, I can’t profess absolute fealty. I swear no allegiance to one brand for everything, and for these two brands, the mascara offerings are not sufficient for my demanding* tastes.

(* = does not smudge, flake, or irritate my sensitive, contact-wearing eyes but also volumizes and separates. I have no need for lengthening in a mascara because although blonde, my lashes are long.)

As such, I have decided to give a few brands a running shot to joining House Gimlet, but whether or not they “bent the knee,” well–keep reading.

Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Babydoll

  • Price: $32 for 0.2 oz
  • Purchased: Sephora (full price; can also be found at Nordstrom and YSL Beauty website)
  • Ingredients: Water, Paraffin, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Acrylates Copolymer, Cera Alba/Beeswax, Copernicia Cerifera Cera, Ethylene/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Steareth-2, Cetyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Acacia Senegal, Ethylenediamine/Stearyl Dimer Dilinoleate Copolymer, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Fragrance, Disodium Edta, Magnesium Silicate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Tin Oxide.

I don’t know why the hell these brands insist on having names that are like this. I know it’s partially a marketing thing and for the price of this, it better impart a sense of glamour for something I’m supposed to only use for three months before tossing. (Except I didn’t because I’m asking for an eye infection because gotdamn, you guys, $32 on a mascara is not something I am keen to use for only 3 months.) It’s also worth noting I used this from May up until late August, wherein I stopped because I just got annoyed with it. Could I have probably used it for longer? Sure, but I didn’t want to, so take that as you will.

I’ve sampled a few YSL mascaras in my time, and although the ingredients list a fragrance, I can’t smell one. But as an aside: WHY. I’ve railed on them for this before and I will continue to do so; there is no reason for a mascara to have a scent. My eyelashes don’t need to smell like anything. No one is sniffing my eyelashes or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Sass aside, something I actually really do like about this product is the shape of the bristle. I find that bristles that tend to be “spikier” tend to work better with my lashes in keeping things separated and adding volume. I don’t find that they clump as much on me and so long as I’m not half-asleep, I’m pretty decent at avoiding stabbing myself in the eye with it. In this particular mascara, I don’t find that I have to worry about clumping as much because of that bristle shape and how it works with my lashes.

I also find the formula itself is not exactly dry (because of my eyes, I prefer to avoid drier mascaras), but it’s not sopping wet. It’s a really nice middle ground and I definitely do not need to rub excess off on the side of the tube when taking the wand out. For the price, the formulation is very nice.

For those that are considerate of this, YSL is not a cruelty-free brand. I do not specifically buy products on cruelty-free status alone, though, it is a nice perk if it is.

Now, as you’ll remember, I have a very specific criteria whether or not I like a mascara. In case you forgot, here’s how it stacks up to my needs.

  • Smudges? ❌ It sure does. I put down a layer of setting powder on my eyes to try and reduce the oiliness of skin and foundation to try and get it to be rubbed off, but it still smudges within 5 hours of wear on me regularly.
  • Flakes? ✔️ Fortunately, it does not! No flaking has ever been noticed in the 3+ months it’s been used.
  • Eye Irritation? ✔️ Another fortunate no, despite the presence of fragrance as mentioned earlier.
  • Volumizing? ✔️ Yes, I do notice that it does volumize, but not as much as I would like, especially at the price it retails for.
  • Separates? ✔️ Oh yes. If separation is the main thing you look for, this is what this mascara excels at. Where it drops the ball in volumizing, it makes up for tenfold in separation, largely due to the shape of the bristles

Now, ultimately, the main question: would I repurchase? Yes, but only if it were discounted. There is no way in hell I would be paying full price for this with the amount of smudging it does regularly. I think it would actually serve as a nice first layer of mascara and possibly work well with others.

Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara

  • Price: $10 for 0.09 oz as the travel size (larger size is available for $27.50 for 0.27 oz; making the full size a better bargain at $101.85 compared to the travel size at $111.11)
  • Purchased: Ulta (full price; can also be found at Nordstrom, Sephora, Macy’s, Estee Lauder website)
  • Ingredients: Water / Aqua / Eau, Stearic Acid, Myrica Cerifera (Bayberry) Fruit Wax, Sucrose Polybehenate, Polyisobutene, Polyvinyl Acetate, Paraffin, Aminomethyl Propanediol, Isostearic Acid, Panthenol, Pantethine, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax / Cera Carnauba / Cire De Carnauba, Kaolin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cholesterol, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, PTFE, VP / Eicosene Copolymer, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables, Sodium Polyacrylate, Simethicone, Polyester-5, PVP, Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hexylene Glycol, Nylon-6, Laureth-4, Nylon-66, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Chlorphenesin, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain: Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica, Black 2 (CI 77266), Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Copper Powder (CI 77400), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Chromium Oxide Greens (CI 77288), Chromium Hydroxide Green (CI 77289), Carmine (CI 75470), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Aluminum Powder (CI 77000), Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Bronze Powder (CI 77400), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090), Ultramarines (CI 77007).

I don’t want to give this one too much time, but suffice it to say, I don’t like this mascara at all, and I’m disappointed by how much I don’t like it.

As most people are aware, Estee Lauder is not a cruelty-free brand.

The formula is a wetter formula, but it is not excessive and does not require you to peel it off by rubbing it on the side of the tube to reduce the amount of product. It actually goes on nicely, despite the massive bristle size for a travel size mascara. The bristles are not my particular jam, but I do find that they are effective in increasing volume (though, not as much as I’d prefer).

  • Smudges? ❌ Hand to god, within a half hour of putting this on, the smudges were there. I think part of this is because the formula is just so wet, it takes FOR.EV.ER. to dry down, and even when it does, it has enough emollient ingredients that it will continue to smudge after the fact.
  • Flakes? ✔️ This mascara did not flake in my experience.
  • Eye Irritation? ✔️ Another fortunate thing I did not experience in trying this product.
  • Volumizing? ✔️ Yes, it does volumize, but not as much as I would like to see. The bristles are helpful at adding volume.
  • Separates? ✔️ Not really. It doesn’t exactly clump them, but it doesn’t coat every lash individually as well as I’d like.

Would I repurchase? That’s going to be a no from me.

Too Faced Better Than Sex (Waterproof Version)

  • Price: $12 for 0.17 oz (full size is $23 for 0.27 oz; travel size is $70.59 per oz and full size is $85.19 making the travel size a better deal)
  • Purchased: Sephora (can also be purchased at Ulta and Too Faced brand website)
  • Ingredients: Water / Aqua / Eau, Stearic Acid, Myrica Cerifera (Bayberry) Fruit Wax, Sucrose Polybehenate, Polyisobutene, Polyvinyl Acetate, Paraffin, Aminomethyl Propanediol, Isostearic Acid, Panthenol, Pantethine, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax / Cera Carnauba / Cire De Carnauba, Kaolin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cholesterol, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, PTFE, VP / Eicosene Copolymer, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables, Sodium Polyacrylate, Simethicone, Polyester-5, PVP, Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hexylene Glycol, Nylon-6, Laureth-4, Nylon-66, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Chlorphenesin, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide, Phenoxyethanol.

As a sidebar, I tried the non-waterproof version before and it actually might be the mascara I’ve tried that I like the absolute least. In the spirit of being completely honest, I don’t understand how it has the cult appeal it does. The bristles are massive and coated with product to the point where even wiping it on the sides doesn’t get the job done.

So when I decided I was going to give the waterproof version a shot, I had a conversation with myself that was a lot of side eye and a lot of hemming and hawing. But! I am actually really glad I went and tried it, because it isn’t like the non-waterproof version in the ways that made me really loathe it.

The formula is wetter, but unlike the non-waterproof version, it is not soaking wet and caked on the bristles. You don’t need to rub off the excess, it’s actually in a fairly manageable amount from the get go, which is great. I’m also usually not one to be seduced by packaging, but I really like the touch with the water droplets and how it feels on the packaging. It’s a great touch and reminiscent of the MAC collection a few years back that did something similar.

Over time and using this product, I did notice it became drier and more susceptible to things that weren’t present upon my initial experience. If I were to purchase a larger size, it’d be definitely something I’d be wary of and probably prevent me from repurchasing. I didn’t notice it have an effect on what I would like to see from a mascara in terms of volume and separation, though, even as the formula dried out.

Too Faced is a cruelty-free brand, for those that are looking for products that meet that criteria.

One thing I will note about this product: removing it was PAINFUL. I had made the mistake (because I can get away with doing this with non-waterproof mascaras) of keeping my contacts in while trying to remove it the first time I wore this, and it burned. It burned throughout the night and continued to make my eyes water until the next morning. When I wore it later and had removed my contacts to remove the product, I didn’t experience the same sensation. Something to beware of for those of us who wear contacts.

  • Smudges? ❌ Initially it did not on my first several wears of this product, but after it started to dry out, I did experience smudging with the product. Due to the size of the brush, it did smudge product on my eyelids.
  • Flakes? ❌ Initially it did not, but on my last several wears, I did notice some minor flaking with this product–likely due to the product drying out.
  • Eye Irritation? ❌ Yes. Contact-wearers beware! I don’t know if this might happen for others, your mileage may vary on it.
  • Volumizing? ✔️ Yes, it did a solid job of volumizing and was in the ballpark of where I would like to be with volume. Even as the formula dried, this did not change and was consistent.
  • Separates? ✔️ It’s not the separation I would like to see, but it still did a sufficient job and I would not consider it an issue, even as the product dried out.

Would I repurchase? Maybe, but only if I needed something cruelty-free and waterproof for only a short amount of time. Otherwise, it doesn’t hold up to daily use due to it drying out.

L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise

  • Price: $9.99 for 0.25 oz (making it approximately $39.96 per oz; though, this price is from Ulta and the price seems to vary depending on where it is purchased from.)
  • Purchased: Ulta (can also be found at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Amazon, and generally anywhere else you may purchase drugstore-priced products)
  • Ingredients: Isododecane, Cera Alba / Beeswax / Cire Dabeille, Copernicia Cerifera Cera / Carnauba Wax / Cire De Carnauba, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Dilinoleic Acid / Butanediol Copolymer, Aqua / Water / Eau, Allyl Stearate / VA Copolymer, Oryza Sativa Cera / Rice Bran Wax, Paraffin, Alcohol Denat., Polyvinyl Laurate, VP / Eicosene Copolymer, Propylene Carbonate, Talc, Synthetic Beeswax, Ethylenediamine / Stearyl Dimer Dilinoleate Copolymer, PEG-30 Glyceryl Stearate, Candelilla Cera / Candelilla Wax / Cire De Candelilla, Panthenol, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, BHT. May Contain: CI 77499 / Iron Oxides, CI 77891 / Titanium Dioxide.

Hark! A drugstore option? Why yes. Normally, I avoid drugstore mascaras because the last time I used one, after several attempts to find one between several options, I wound up with flakes and irritated eyes for days after the fact.

This one, though, surprised me. I knew it was worth a peek when Sabrina of The Beauty Lookbook raved about it, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Mascaras are a very “your mileage may vary” product for everyone, so I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did.

After looking at the ingredient list, I’m surprised I like it as much as I do. I notice that it contains denatured alcohol, which is one of my known skin irritants (regardless of location on the ingredient list–which corresponds to the amount it is present in the product–I would think would irritate my eyes!), but it doesn’t seem to bother them, even upon removal. (Though, it is worth noting when I do remove waterproof mascara, I tend to use an oil-based cleanser; coconut oil usually, though only around the eyes and nowhere else on my face.)

The formula itself is nice; it’s wetter, but not sopping wet. Given the presence of denatured alcohol, I do find that it dries quickly and I don’t have to worry about transfer to my under-eye area. The bristles on the lash are typically not what I prefer, but I do find that it doesn’t clump it right away. However, unlike the other mascaras on this list, despite using “Blackest Black,” I don’t find it is particularly opaque and have to build it up in several layers. L’Oreal is also not a cruelty-free brand.

There are some things about it I don’t love–for both the pigmentation and the volume I want, I really have to build this up and the more I build it up, I come close to more clumping. We’re not talking 80’s rock show level of clumping, but it’s enough where I can notice on myself and I don’t love it. With that, it takes a little away from the product.

  • Smudges? ✔️ Not even a little. It’s the only product on this review that didn’t smudge at all, even after several uses and expecting the product to dry out. I suspect this is due to the presence of the denatured alcohol, which would help it “dry” faster on the lashes.
  • Flakes? ✔️ None! I don’t notice any little flakes in my under-eye after the end of a 12 hour day.
  • Eye Irritation? ✔️ Nope! Even in removal, I didn’t need to remove my contacts and nor did I have any burning while wearing it.
  • Volumizing? ✔️ Yes, however, it does need some building. Once you get to a second or third layer, though, it’s definitely in the ballpark of where I like to be.
  • Separates? ❌ Initially, yes, however, with each subsequent layer, it does tend to clump lashes together.

Would I repurchase? Yes, especially for the price. I think this is a real knock out product and especially for a waterproof mascara, I think it’s pretty impressive.


Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara

  • Price: $14.00 for 0.21 oz (making it approximately $66.67 per oz for travel size; full size retails at $26.00 for 0.32 oz making it $81.25, with the travel size being the better deal.)
  • Purchased: Sephora (can also be obtained from Marc Jacobs Beauty website)
  • Ingredients: Water, Paraffin, Glyceryl Stearate, Synthetic Beeswax, Stearic Acid, Acacia Senegal Gum, Butylene Glycol, Palmitic Acid, Polybutene, Oryza Sativa Cera (Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax), VP/Eicosense Copolymer, Ozokerite, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Stearyl Stearate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Nitrate, Tropolone, Disodium Phosphate, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Phosphate, Iron Oxides (CI 77499).

This one hurt me the most. I had a lot of high expectations for it, seeing as how Beka over at MakeupNerdery loves it, but I don’t.

From the first time I tried applying this, the product has way too much product caked on. Even after several uses, you can see from the picture above, that the type of bristles it has lends itself (in addition to probably the wettest formula I’ve tried) to just having the product caked on. Despite brushing the side of the tube with excess product, it still gives you way more than you’ll actually need to apply.

Upon application, it’s a hot mess. If you’re someone who constantly runs short on time; don’t bother using this product on those days. You’re going to spend time cleaning your under-eye AND lid space because of how much product is on the wand (even if you use a tissue to wipe excess off.)

Even trying to clean it off, it smudges almost immediately and constantly throughout the day, largely in part to its very wet formula that doesn’t seem to dry down. Even if you try not to blink for a minute, it will still transfer.

It has sleek packaging that’s a nice minimalist black, but the bristles make the product and applying it a mess. Additionally, it is a cruelty-free product, if nothing else.

  • Smudges? ❌ Very smudgy due to its wetter formula.
  • Flakes? ✔️ None, but as it is so wet, I’d actually be shocked if it did flake in any way because that would mean it would have to dry down some.
  • Eye Irritation? ✔️ Nope, it was gentle to wear and remove.
  • Volumizing? ✔️ Yes, it actually does a great job of adding volume, but at the cost of time in clean-up.
  • Separates? ❌ Nope. Because of the shape of the bristles, it really does a piss poor job of separating them and instead does a great job of giving that Yzma-style lash clumping.

Would I repurchase? Unless there’s a reformulation, it’s going to be a hard pass from me.

Lancôme Monsieur Big Mascara

  • Price: A deluxe sample size which was redeemed. However, it is available for purchase in two sizes: travel size ($12/0.13 oz making it approximately $92.31 per oz) or full size ($25/0.33 oz making it approximately $75.76 per oz)
  • Purchased: Sephora (can also be obtained from Ulta, Macy’s, a ton of other places where Lancôme is sold, and Lancôme brand website)
  • Ingredients: Water, Paraffin, Glyceryl Stearate, Synthetic Beeswax, Stearic Acid, Acacia Senegal Gum, Butylene Glycol, Palmitic Acid, Polybutene, Oryza Sativa Cera (Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax), VP/Eicosense Copolymer, Ozokerite, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Stearyl Stearate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Nitrate, Tropolone, Disodium Phosphate, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Phosphate, Iron Oxides (CI 77499).

Mediocrity, thy name is Monsieur Big. This product is the definition of mediocre; there’s nothing about this product that’s bad, per se, but there’s nothing about it that’s great, either, especially at the price point.

The bristles are massive for the product (although I suspected this is due to getting a deluxe sample, it looks like it really isn’t that different on the actual full size product.) It’s coated in product and while the formula is opaque and “wetter,” it dries down in an adequate amount of time. The bristles don’t work for my smaller, deep-set almond eyes and inevitably, product winds up on my eyelid.

Lancome is also not a cruelty-free brand, for those concerned.

Despite the name, I don’t feel like it adds that much volume and it definitely does not separate. What it does somewhat well, though, is add length. That’s a great trait, but that’s not what I purchase mascara to do for me and it’s not the highlight of the marketing for the product, according to the Sephora website (“A high-volume mascara that delivers bold lash volume for up to 24 hours.”) If you’re into lengthening mascaras, give it a shot, but if you’re into either volume or separation, just pass on this.

  • Smudges? ❌ Does transfer to under eye area after a few hours of wear.
  • Flakes? ✔️ None.
  • Eye Irritation? ✔️ Nope, it was gentle to wear and remove.
  • Volumizing? ❌ No, required several layers to build up.
  • Separates? ❌ No. Additional layers clumped lashes and there was no visible separation upon initial application.

Would I repurchase? Nope, not even for the travel size. There’s way better options out there that would better for me at multiple price points.

 

As stated earlier, mascara is really one of those “your mileage may vary”–it varies because of variation in eye shape, eye sensitivities, lash size, lash type, and a ton of other reasons. What may work (and may not have worked) for me may not be your experience, but if you’re ever looking at any of these, I hope it provided some guidance in whether or not you will or will not purchase.

 

One thought

  1. I’ve just reviewed an Estee Lauder Mascara similar to this, which i thought was soo bad 😦 i had such high expectations and its a shame it didn’t deliver for me, but it still looks cute on my makeup desk lol!! I thought your post was sooo good, i love reading other peoples views, cant wait to read more of them xx

    Like

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