A few weeks ago, I headed to a local drugstore and nearly emptied the shelves in search of drugstore mascara, with a price tag of under $10, that could compete with my high-end favorites. I found three mascaras, all for less than $8, to add to my love list, and a couple of mascaras that you couldn't pay me to try again. Here are the eye-opening results of my drugstore mascara expedition.
Love it: Maybelline's XXL Pro Volume Mascara
I raved previously about a pricey — but worth it — mascara and primer duo from Kanebo, and now I've discovered the bargain bin alternative for drugstore divas. Maybelline's XXL Pro Volume Mascara, available in washable and waterproof formulas, promises to amp up volume thanks to a dual-sided applicator that builds lashes with a primer-like product and then adds color with the mascara itself. The microfiber base coat delivers on its promise to increase volume, while the topcoat serves up intense color that is oh-so-buildable. Best of all, this affordable mascara actually lasts; grab a tube for $7.24 at Target stores.
Leave it: L'Oreal Double Extend Eye Illuminator
Another dual-sided product — that isn't half as good — is L'Oreal's Double Extend Eye Illuminator. Available in a variety of shades meant to complement different eye colors, this mascara fails on two counts: the mascara itself is not impressive, and it is guilty of flaking. The top coat, an illuminator that promises to highlight eyes with "light-reflecting pearls," is barely noticeable. Spare yourself the hefty price tag — by drugstore standards — of about $11, and leave this one at the store.
Love it: Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara
I love this volumizing, lengthening mascara from Neutrogena equally for its impressive ability to build up lashes as for its commitment to staying on my lashes without smudging, flaking or transferring. The big brush applicator was initially a bit awkward to master, but the mascara's formula really compensates for the application learning curve by serving up dense, lush lashes in a mascara that refuses to clump, coat after coat. Get it for $7.47 at Walmart.
Leave it: Almay Intense i-Color Mascara
The claim of "light interplay technology" intrigued me, even though I have no idea what that actually means. It sounded high-tech and futuristic, and at less than $8 for the mascara, I was willing to take a gamble. The verdict: While I didn't actually solve the mystery of what this technology would do for my eyes, I did find the formula to be prone to clumping and the mascara brush itself to be cheap and bulky. Knowing when to fold 'em, I gave up on this mascara after a few wears.
Love it: CoverGirl LashBlast Fusion Mascara
When a girlfriend compared CoverGirl LashBlast Fusion Mascara to a favorite designer mascara brand, I had to give it a try. Determined to prove that this drugstore brand could not compete with the higher-priced competitor, I coated one eye with LashBlast and the other with aforementioned designer fave. And while I hate to be wrong, LashBlast earned its rightful place on my "love it" list thanks to super-volumizing, lash-lengthening, long-lasting formula. Kudos to CoverGirl; get it for $7.99 at Target.
Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet Up with Carolyn on Twitter @tampabaypretty.