As a general rule, I try not to splash my cash on any and everything, but save it up for something worthwhile. My purse strings err a little on the loose side if I don’t keep record of my disposable income, so I tend to exact this rule especially on beauty products because they’re just too damn easy to justify needing. (Damn you, cosmetic marketing industry!)
For a few years I would only buy mascara from prestige brands. Dior Blackout, Benefit They’re Real, and Tarte Better Than Sex were a couple mainstays. To this day, nothing but false lashes will get me the length, volume and deep dark color like Dior Blackout. When I die, I’ll be burned at the stake, war-crying “DIOORRRRRRRRRRR!”
But since I am a grownup, and being a grownup involves more than coating my eyelashes with luxury tar, sometimes you really have to cut some unnecessary corners when it comes to frivolous spending. I mean, L'Oreal owns, like, EVERYONE, so there’s a perfectly good chance that the mascara I’m paying upwards of $20 for at Sephora is the same quality as magazine favorite, Voluminous. Also, drugstore mascara is usually less than $10, and if I’m not into it, I can even return it to most chain stores (even though I got so much side-eye at CVS one time that I’ll probably just eat the cost from now on).
I stocked up on a couple crowd favorites, to find My One. My lashes are short and on thin side, so anything promising length and volume are like the little glowy bob on an anglerfish for me.
CoverGirl Flamed Up Mega Curl Mascara
Novelty contender came in the form of CoverGirl’s Flamed Up mascara. CG was doing that whole Hunger Games collection, foil-printing sinuous flames around their Flamed Out mascara tube. I mean, makes sense right? Girl on fire would totally flame out her lashes, duh.
I’m pretty sure the whole “flame” approach had to do with boasting its curling capabilities. It has one fatty of a curved brush. I felt like I was applying mascara with a caterpillar. But curl it did. Not so much with the lengthening, but I did get quite a kick of volume out of this one. I mean, it sounds weird, but I want to call it “thickness” rather than volume, but I’m probably just mincing words.
Maybelline Volum' Express The Mega Plush Mascara
I was attracted to Maybelline's Volum' Express Mega Plush mascara because of its comically large brush and sproing-y wand. I imagined applying mascara with the wand springing back like a flicked antenna, to the Benny Hill soundtrack. No such thing happened, and I’m still kind of perplexed as to what that whole flexi-straw wand is about.
The bristles proved to be way too far-spaced to evenly coat my lashes, which were like toddlers jumping for monkey bars here. The formula, however, was super light and smooth, with hardly any flaking. The only other formulas I’ve tried that felt this light were the ones with those little tubes that encase your lashes with tiny extension fibers attached to the tip of each lash. (Those are great, by the way, but I feel like I get a lot of lash loss when I wash those off.)
Little disappointing, but it’s cool, Maybelline, because you bring it on back with the perennial favorite...
Maybelline Full 'N Soft Mascara
With its modest cylindrical tube and no-frills packaging design, I’d barely pay it any mind if its virtues had not been extolled by so many people, blogs, and beauty sites.
It has a basic nylon bristle brush, which doesn’t taper at the end, so getting to the baby-er lashes takes some sniper finesse. With a couple coats, my lashes were noticeably lengthened and, indeed, full AND soft, even with the waterproof formula. And yes, they were VERY BLACK, as advertised.
Don’t underestimate what a good, deep, black, opaque blackness will make up for in a mascara. Full' N Soft, you have my full ('n soft) approval.
L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara
Last and the opposite of least, is the piece de resistance of drugstore mascaras, L'Oreal's Voluminous Butterfly mascara (not to be confused with the Ashton Kutcher film, The Butterfly Effect, even though that’s kind of what they’re pushing here). I was drawn to its futuristic-looking tube and it’s wacky, asymmetrical Lady Gaga-looking brush.
I generally shy away from silicone brushes because I feel like they apply too much product at once to my lashes and weigh them down. Butterfly's wand had one side with longer silicone bristles than the other to catch your end lashes. It’s designed to be like the bear trap of mascara wands, catching all the lashes at once.
The formula is dramatically lengthening, much to my surprise, and the short end of the bristles are easy to use on your bottom lashes. There was some flaking throughout the day, but I didn’t buy the waterproof version because CVS was out of it (grrr).
Here’s a side-by-side of my two favorites, FNS on the right and The Butterfly Effect on the left. For some reason, my lashes are longer on one eye, so I took that in account, not butterflying them too much because I didn’t want to make Maybelline feel bad or anything.
With an arsenal of mascaras all under $10, I no longer need to mourn my Blackout and They’re Real (which is good because that was just an awkward thing to say). I mean, that’s not to say the next time I have a spare $26 not going towards dinner or topping off my Metrocard, I might breeze by a Sephora, lured in by the smoky khol promises…