Mascara review and compare

One ‘volumising’ mascara stood out by a length — but at a price.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 
  • Updated:14 Dec 2006
 

01 .Introduction

Mascara

User trial of 13 black, non-waterproof mascaras priced from $9.50 to $50

61 people trialled the 13 mascaras for us. Participants were given a selection of mascaras with all product names removed. They trialled each one for three days.

We asked our trialists to assess:

  • How well it reached and coated fine hairs.
  • How evenly it spread on their lashes.
  • How quickly it dried and how long it took to wear off.
  • How easy it was to remove.
  • How effective it was at curling, separating, lengthening and thickening their lashes.
  • Whether it smudged, clumped, flaked or ran, or if it irritated their eyes.

Please note: this information was current as of December 2006 but is still a useful guide today.


Findings:

Our results show that a big name or a higher price is not always a guarantee of how much you’ll like a product.
One of the highest rated mascaras was considerably cheaper than others rated equally.

Brands trialled

  • AUSTRALIS Lash Magnitude Volumising
  • CLARINS Wonder Volume
  • ELIZABETH ARDEN Double Density Maximum Volume
  • ESTÉE LAUDER Magnascopic Maximum Volume
  • LANCÔME Amplicils Full Dimension Volume
  • MAX FACTOR 2000 Calorie
  • MAYBELLINE Volum' Express Turbo Boost
  • NAPOLEON Perdos Peep Show Madame Fantasia Volumising
  • REVLON Fabulash
  • RIMMEL Xtreme Volume Instant Full Volume Comb
  • SHISEIDO Advanced Volume
  • THE BODY SHOP Volumising
  • YVES SAINT LAURENT Luxurious Mascara

Where's L’OREAL?

The L’OREAL mascara that fell into the ‘volumising’ category is a ‘two-step’ product — a double-ended tube consisting of a white ‘primer’ at one end and the mascara at the other. Our market research only identified a few two-steps on the market at the time of our trial. We didn’t include them because they’re too obviously different from the other mascaras to be able to compare them fairly.

 
 

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What to buy

Brand Price

  • CLARINS Wonder Volume - $40 ($5.71/mL)
  • ELIZABETH ARDEN Double Density Maximum Volume - $40 ($3.90/mL)

 

Product profiles

CLARINS WONDER VOLUME

Price: $40 ($5.71/mL)

Out on its own as the top-rated mascara, but pricy.

Trialist comments

  • “Smooth to put on, no scent. Thickened and lengthened my lashes great.”
  • “Nice curl, mascara applied without any clumps.”
  • “I’m not sure if any of the products actually lengthened and thickened my lashes but this kept them nice and separated.” 

ELIZABETH ARDEN DOUBLE DENSITY MAXIMUM VOLUME

Price: $40 ($3.90/mL)

One of a group of four mascaras rated second, and considerably cheaper in terms of how much you get in the tube for your $40 than the CLARINS.

Trialist comments

  • “Went on smoothly — did not clump.” 
  • “Suitable for daytime but not a glamorous effect for evening.” 
  • “Really good at separating and lengthening lashes. It performed well, but smelt strongly of paint, which was offputting.”


A clear winner

  • While our testers thought eight out of the 13 mascaras trialled were ‘fairly effective’ at volumising or thickening the lashes, the clear winner was CLARINS Wonder Volume Mascara. It rated 80% overall, as well as for the result on trialists’ eyelashes and ease of application.
  • Thirteen out of 14 people said they’d be likely to buy it if it were reasonably priced. At $40 a tube, though, it may be out of reach of many people’s budget. On a comparative level, it’s $5.71/mL — the fourth most expensive of the mascaras trialled.

And the runners up

  • Four mascaras came equal second according to our Home Testers. ELIZABETH ARDEN Double Density Maximum Volume, ESTÉE LAUDER Magnascopic Maximum Volume, LANCÔME Amplicils Full Dimension Volume and SHISEIDO Advanced Volume were all rated 70% overall, for ease of application and for results.
  • If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper than the CLARINS, you’ll probably be disappointed to see that the recommended retail prices of these second-place mascaras is between $40 and $48.50 — apparently little or no difference. However, if you work it out per mL the ELIZABETH ARDEN is cheapest at $3.90/mL, while the SHISEIDO is the most expensive at $8/mL.

What about the rest?

  • The next six mascaras were rated 60% overall, with varying scores for ease of application and how the product looked once applied. One of these, AUSTRALIS Lash Magnitude Volumising, is the cheapest in the test at 87 cents/mL ($9.95 recommended retail price). Although it rated equal best with CLARINS for ease of application, some trialists thought it was too thin to adequately thicken their lashes.
  • The two mascaras least favoured by our Home Testers included one of the most expensive and one of the cheapest per tube respectively. YVES SAINT LAURENT Luxurious Mascara for a False Lash Effect rated just 50% overall but cost $50 a tube ($6.67/mL) — a lot of money for a product that, according to our results, failed to impress. And four trialists said it was mildly irritating.
  • The lowest scorer was the RIMMEL Xtreme Volume Instant Full Volume Comb, which rated 40% overall, and only 40% for the result achieved. Six out of its 15 trialists said this mascara clumped a lot. The RIMMEL has an unusual wand — a comb with very small teeth — which many of those who used it disliked. One trialist said this mascara gave her “… the heavy drag-queen or Tammy Faye-Baker look…” — something she wasn’t really after.

Results table

  Results
Mascara1 (in rank order)* Overall rating2 (%) Easy to apply rating2 (%) Result achieved rating2 (%) Price ($) Price3 per mL or g ($)
CLARINS Wonder Volume (14) 80 80 80 40.00 5.71
ELIZABETH ARDEN Double Density Maximum Volume (12) 70 70 70 40.00 3.90
ESTÉE LAUDER Magnascopic Maximum Volume (14) 70 70 70 46.00 5.11
LANCÔME Amplicils Full Dimension Volume (12) 70 70 70 48.50 7.46
SHISEIDO Advanced Volume (13) 70 70 70 48.00 8.00
AUSTRALIS Lash Magnitude Volumising (14) 60 80 50 9.95 0.87
MAX FACTOR 2000 Calorie (11) 60 70 60 20.85 2.32
MAYBELLINE Volum’ Express Turbo Boost (13) 60 70 60 16.15 1.62
NAPOLEON Perdis Peep Show Madame Fantasia Volumising (14) 60 60 60 30.00 2.31
REVLON Fabulash (11) 60 70 60 19.95 2.53
THE BODY SHOP Volumising (13) 60 70 70 19.95 2.85
YVES SAINT LAURENT Luxurious Mascara for a False Lash Effect (11) 50 60 60 50.00 6.67
RIMMEL Xtreme Volume Instant Full Volume Comb (15) 40 60 40 14.95 2.99
 

Table notes

* Numbers in brackets indicate the number of Home Testers who tried each mascara.

1 Mascara
We removed all the product names from the mascara bottles so that our Home Testers wouldn’t be influenced by the brand.

2 Ratings
The Home Testers scored the products in each of the three separate rating categories on a scale of zero to six, with zero being very poor or extremely difficult to use and six being excellent or extremely easy to use. Scores were then converted to percentages and rounded to the nearest 10.

To prompt them about things to consider when giving these scores, we asked the Home Testers to assess each mascara for how well it reached and coated fine hairs, how evenly it spread on their lashes, how quickly it dried and how long it took to wear off. They evaluated how easy it was to remove, how effective it was at curling, separating, lengthening and, of course, thickening their lashes, whether it smudged, clumped, flaked or ran, or if it irritated their eyes.

3 Price per mL or g
Mascaras come in various sizes, so for comparison we calculated the price per mL or gram.

03.Things to consider

 

Keeping the bugs at bay

Most mascaras contain preservatives to stop them going off. While a test conducted in 2005 by our German counterpart Test found two brands (not sold in Australia) that didn’t contain adequate preservative, in a search of medical literature we found very little about recent reports of eye infections caused by mascara.

The microbiologist we consulted said to avoid infection:

  • Don’t leave your mascara in a really hot place (for example, the glovebox of your car)
  • Don't share your make-up with anyone

Some manufacturers also warn against:

  • Using mascara on irritated or scratched eyes
  • Diluting it with any other substance
  • Leaving the wand out of the bottle

If your mascara changes in smell or appearance, bin it immediately.

Are they cruelty-free?

To find out if any of the brands in our trial don’t test on animals, we checked the Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) Preferred Products List (PPL).

The only brand from our mascara trial on this list was AUSTRALIS. According to CCF, AUSTRALIS products and ingredients haven’t been tested on animals by the company, its suppliers or anyone on their behalf for at least five years before it applied for accreditation with CCF.

THE BODY SHOP used to be on the list but isn’t any more, though it’s still on the (less stringent) US-based People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) list, as are CLARINS, ESTÉE LAUDER and REVLON.