We Put 5 Cult-Classic Mascaras to the Test to Find Our Ultimate Favorite (With Choices From $5 to $28)

The results from our office mascara competition are (finally!) in.
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In an office of product-obsessed women, we're probably most vocal when it comes to our favorite mascaras. Emily's been using NARS for a while, Leslie is all about ILIA's natural ability to lengthen, Kelly loves this drugstore classic, and Anne's secret to success is the clay in the formula. For one week, we each tried-out a different cult-favorite mascara (don't worry, we didn't swap wands), then rated each out of ten for application, overall appearance, staying power, and ease of removal then averaged our scores to find the winner. Spoiler alert: Things got heated, but we were also surprised to find there was a clear winner nearly everyone in our office now wears to work everyday! Here are our honest reviews and Emily's take on applying each mascara:

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Maybelline Great Lash was our entire team's first mascara—Emily remembers when her mom allowed her to wear "clear" Maybelline mascara to school in eighth grade, and Leslie bought it after reading about it in Seventeen. At under $5 it's definitely the most affordable on this list, and a fantastic deal considering the price. Though it didn't do a great job of staying on all day (namely, it flaked under our eyes by the end of the day), in terms of application, it does exactly what a mascara is supposed to do—it darkened our lashes and did a decent job of lengthening and separating.

Application: 5.2
Overall appearance: 5.4
Staying power: 3.6
Ease of removal: 6.2
Overall Score: 5.1

Here's Jess's take: I like that the formula is dark so it feels dramatic, but I wouldn't use it every day. The application process was messy and I had smudged mascara all over my lids. That being said, I do like that the brush is thin enough to apply to my bottom lashes and you can be particular about specific sections that need more on them.

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Katie in NARS Climax

Katie in NARS Climax

A good rule of thumb we learned in testing mascaras is that, while the formula plays an important role, your lashes will more often than not resemble the brush which definitely range true for NARS Climax. This was the second-most expensive mascara we tested, but also arguably the least favorite of the five, overall. The brush makes it difficult to apply with any precision, and it was hard to remove yet still smeared during the day. That being said, the mascara does give event-worthy drama with full bushy lashes. Overall, we felt it was too-hard to remove, and there are other products out there, at a better value.

Application: 4.6
Overall appearance: 5.6
Staying power: 5.2
Ease of removal: 6.2
Overall Score: 5.4

Here's Katie's take: I'm usually not a mascara snob, but this just did not work for me. The brush was so thick that I had a hard time getting it on my lashes without covering my lids in the product. After a few hours of wear, it smudged completely. Usually I swear by NARS products, but this one just doesn't do it for me. I wore it out over the weekend, and even with makeup setting spray, I couldn't keep it on my eyes. Only when I wanted to remove it off my eyes did it decide to stay in place. [Note: While most of our team agrees, NARS remains Emily's favorite for its ability to create a truly dramatic lash.]

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This mascara was easily the least polarizing in the office. Most of us enjoyed the formula and applicator. It lengthened, separated, and never clumped (Kelly said, "I like the formula and how it separates each lash, without ever clumping.") There was a lot of disagreement, however, over its staying power. While Anne loves how much this product lasts and holds curl from an eyelash curler, Jess and Leslie found the staying power to be less than favorable. At a slightly higher price point, this may not be your first choice, but overall we recommend it if you're looking for a reliable product.

Application: 7.2
Overall appearance: 7.4
Staying power: 7.4
Ease of removal: 8.8
Overall Score: 7.7

Here's Leslie's take: In spite of the name, I was not expecting this to actually smell like "Amazonian clay" but it totally does. Apparently the clay restores hydration and keeps the mascara flake-free! Apart from the smell, nothing about this mascara stood out to me as particularly fantastic—it applies fine, stays fine, removed fine, looks fine! It's a solid, totally fine mascara. If you like Tarte, I also recommend Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara

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Jess and Katie swear by this mascara, and we were all eager to see how well it actually holds up. Turns out, we had a few new converts. Those who love it say that it lengthens and separates, while achieving a natural look. But we all agreed on one point: You have to build this product to get your desired look, and it takes way more swipes to get full lashes than it did other products. The more you build, the more length and drama you get, which makes it more time-intensive, but also more customizable. If you're willing to work with the product, it is well worth it, as its staying power was the highest ranked by far. Katie claims it even lasts through any spinning class.

Application: 7.6
Overall appearance: 8
Staying power: 8.4
Ease of removal: 7.8
Overall Score: 7.95

Here's Anne's take: I have used this mascara in the past and am not a huge fan, but I understand its cult following! I find the formula clumps if not being particularly careful with application, and the brush doesn’t separate my lashes. I love tubing mascaras, but I feel there are better formulas on the market at the same or lower price point.

If you like "tubing mascaras," or mascaras that form a water-resistant tube around mascaras that slide off with warm water, here are a few of our favorites in a lower price point than Glossier: No7 Stay Perfect Mascara, Maybelline Snapscara Washable Mascara, L'Oréal Double Extend Lash Extension Effect Mascara, and COVERGIRL Professional 3-in-1 Straight Brush Mascara

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Surprisingly to everyone (except for Leslie!), ILIA Limitless Lash mascara was our over-all favorite. More than one of us went on-record betting that because it was natural, they weren't going to like it. But we quickly learned the error of our ways. The thin brush separates, lengthens (thanks to the "comb" side on the brush), and curls. It gives the wide-eye look without the need for build-up or clumps. It's fortified with organic bee and carnauba waxes and contains shea butter (so it actually nourishes your lashes), and comes off so easily at night, there's no struggle necessary. The only con some of us found was that it takes longer to dry than most mascaras. If you're patient, though, the end result is long, doe-eyed lashes that last all day.

Application: 8.2
Overall appearance: 8.2
Staying power: 8.4
Ease of removal: 9.2
Overall Score: 8.5

Here's Kelly's take: I am pretty shook at how much I like this mascara. Since it's natural, I honestly wasn't expecting to like it. I've always preferred natural hair products (I'm a big Aveda guy), but I always figured that natural cosmetics just couldn't be as good. I WAS WRONG. It's separating, lengthening, and curling, still looks natural, smells like honey. It also comes off so easily, with almost zero streaky black "I just sobbed my eyes out" vibes. Very happy!!

Speaking of which... here are the products we swear by for removing mascara and makeup:

For putting up our hair: Terry Cloth Headband
Oil cleanser: Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Cleansing Oil or L'Occitane Shea Butter Cleansing Oil
Black towel for removing oil with warm water: Makeup Towel
Cleanser: Caudalie soap-free foaming cleanser 
Makeup remover: Lancome Bi-Facil Makeup Remover

Emily
Leslie microbladed her brows during this process, which is why they look so different from day to day! She'll be sharing more about the process later this week.

Leslie microbladed her brows during this process, which is why they look so different from day to day! She'll be sharing more about the process later this week.

Jess
Katie
Kelly

P.S., Looking for more mascara info? We'll be sharing more images and videos on @shopcupcakesandcashmere today!