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Makeup artist Yisell Santos reviews CF mascaras

Born and raised in NYC, Yisell has been in the industry since 2004. Her extensive portfolio includes work in print publications, TV, film, music videos, and bridal. Currently, Yisell is based in Gainesville, Virginia and divides her time between NYC & Washington, DC. Visit Yisell at yisellsantos.com.

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Cruelty Free Mascaras

A Makeup Pro Puts Them to the Test

by Yisell Santos, updated June 19, 2017

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More than 20 cruelty free mascaras, from drugstore brands to high-end brands, were put to the test. Price didn't always predict performance, with some low price mascaras turning in star performances.

Here are the experiments and results. All mascaras were tested with the exact same experiments and application technique.


The Tests

Experiments:

  • 10 hour wear
  • Jogging
  • Doing everyday chores in the home
  • Running outside errands
  • Sitting in a steamy bathroom (to simulate humidity)

Application:

  • Applied to both top and bottom lashes
  • Applied 2 coats
  • Applied from lash base to lash tips and wiggled brush back and forth horizontally
  • Checked results every 1 to 3 hours

And the Winners Are...

Best Overall Mascara

  • Best overall: Tie: FACE atelier Sculpt HD Mascara and Urban Decay Perversion Mascara
  • Best overall vegan pick: Tie: Gabriel Mascara and ZuZu Luxe Mascara
  • Best overall drugstore pick: Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara, in black tube. Note: Jordana has two other, similarly named mascaras: Best Length Extreme Volumizing Mascara (pink cap) and Best Volume Extreme Volumizing Mascara (green cap). These didn't perform as well, so be sure check the name carefully.

Best Lengthening Mascara

  • Best overall: Urban Decay Perversion, with Urban Decay Big Fatty a close runner-up
  • Best vegan pick: Tie: Gabriel Mascara and ZuZu Luxe Mascara
  • Best drugstore pick: Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara

Best Volumizing Mascara

  • Best overall: Urban Decay Big Fatty, with FACE atelier Sculpt HD a close runner-up
  • Best vegan pick: Lily Lolo Mascara
  • Best drugstore pick: Tie: Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara and Milani Big & Bigger Lashes Mascara

Most Dramatic Mascara

  • Best overall: Milani Big & Bigger Lashes Mascara
  • Best drugstore pick: Milani Big & Bigger Mascara
  • Best vegan pick: None. Honestly, the vegan ones are nice if you want a minimal makeup look. None really gave huge drama and they lacked pigmentation. Just not dark enough.

Best Staying Power

  • Best overall: FACE atelier Crybaby Mascara
  • Best vegan pick: Glamour Dolls Lashlight Mascara
  • Best drugstore pick: Tie: Milani Lash Trifecta Mascara and Milani Big & Bigger Lashes Mascara

Best Waterproof Mascara

  • Best overall: FACE atelier Crybaby Mascara.
  • Best vegan pick: Glamour Dolls Lashlight Mascara. It isn't labeled waterproof, but it holds up well in humidity.
  • Best drugstore pick: Tie: Milani Lash Trifecta Mascara and Milani Big & Bigger Lashes Mascara. They aren't labeled waterproof, but they hold up well in humidity.

The Details for All Mascaras

The following table summarizes the results for all the mascaras I tested. For the detailed review, click or tap the mascara name.

Mascara10 hr WearJoggingHome ChoresOutside ErrandsSteam (Humidity)Conclusions
Alima Pure Mascara (black)
MSRP: $22.00
0.28 oz/8 g
Vegetarian but not vegan (beeswax)
Held up Held up
some
Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: Held up all day, no clumping, no flaking, and the wand gives great separation to the lashes.
Cons: None.
End Result: Impressed. Loved the applicator and how nicely it separated my lashes and kept them separated without clumping or making them crunchy. A winner.
100% Pure - Maracuja Oil Mascara (black, brown)
MSRP: $26.00
0.24 oz/7 g
Vegan
Held up Held up
some
Held up Held up
some
Held up
some
Pros: Smells divine, and the pigmentation is very dark.
Cons: Very wet formula. At times it even dried up in small beads.
End Result: I wanted to love this. The packaging is super cute, and it smells so nice. But I was disappointed. Very wet formula made my lashes stick together, making for a clumpy look. Brown shade, called Dark Chocolate, also stung my eyes when I removed it.
Caution: Dark Chocolate contains cocoa powder. Avoid if you have a cocoa/chocolate allergy. An allergic friend tested it on her skin and reacted.
Beauty Without Cruelty - Waterproof Mascara (black)
MSRP: $25.95
0.24 oz/6.8 g
Vegan
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Pros: None.
Cons: Flaking happened fast. Steep price for something that doesn't deliver.
End Result: I really wanted to like this mascara, but it flaked & smudged within a few minutes, giving me raccoon eyes even for just simple home chores. It claims it's waterproof & long lasting, but it's not. Disappointing & not worth the price.
Beauty Without Cruelty - Full Volume Natural Mascara (black)
MSRP: $25.95
0.24 oz/6.8 g
Vegan
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Held up
some
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Pros: Wand separated lashes nicely, giving illusion of volume, but sadly, the lack of longevity outweighs the pros.
Cons: Smudging within 3 hours.
End Result:A nice mascara for about 3 hours, then begins to smudge.
e.l.f. Mineral Infused Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.00
0.28 oz/8 g
Vegan
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: I love the brush the best. It separated and defined my lashes effortlessly.
Cons: I was hoping for it to be a little darker.
End Result: A bang for your buck! This is a great mascara for everyday or if you don't want an overly dramatic look.
e.l.f. Studio 3-in-1 Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.00
0.28 oz/8 g
Vegan
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up Held up
some
Did not
hold up
Pros: Good for lengthening and separating, but no big pros here.
Cons: Smudged, not as black as it claims to be, crunchy lashes.
End Result: Provided some length and volume, but didn't perform well. Works ok if you're inside most of the day (i.e., work), but a night on the town or basic outside errands will make this mascara smudge. Ball tip on brush was nice for the lower lashes but difficult for inner corner of the eye.
e.l.f. Studio Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.00
0.28 oz/8 g
Vegan
Held up Held up
some
Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: I only liked that it didn't clump.
Cons: The brush doesn't grab the lashes enough to coat them.
End Result: This is a very normal, nothing special about it, mascara. Nothing here to love unless you want a very natural, no makeup, makeup look. I wasn't impressed.
e.l.f. Studio Waterproof Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.00
0.28 oz/8 g
Vegan
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up
some
Did not
hold up
Pros: Lashes remain soft.
Cons: Poor applicator. It takes work to see any effect. Pigmentation isn't great - needs to be darker. Smudged under the eye area - not really waterproof.
End Result: Very disappointing. Where's the volume/waterproof it promises? Lashes did not stand out at all. Better suited for someone going for a "no makeup, makeup" look or a young girl who's just starting to wear makeup.
FACE atelier - Sculpt HD Mascara (black)
MSRP: $26.00
0.24 oz/6.8 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: The silicone makes your lashes look & feel soft. Great thin brush for anyone who has small eyes and/or lashes.
Cons: None.
End Result: A real winner. It delivers everything it promises & more. The thin wand makes getting into the inner corners a breeze. The thin wand also lets you get close to the lash line, which helps in lengthening & separating.
FACE atelier - Crybaby Mascara (black)
MSRP: $26.00
0.24 oz/6.8 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Does exactly what it claims: waterproof, with no smudging, running, or flaking. Lashes remain soft.
Cons: Wish the black was darker, but that's personal preference.
End Result: Love this mascara. It's become my go to for my bridal clients. It also got me through allergy season without smudging.
Gabriel Cosmetics - Mascara (black, black-brown)
MSRP: $16.00
0.25 oz/7.5 g
Vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: Lengthens with no clumping. Lashes stayed soft.
Cons: None.
End Result:I loved this mascara! Great product for someone who doesn't like too much makeup. The black-brown is even more natural than the black on dark lashes and perfect for lighter blonde lashes.
Glamour Dolls Lashlight Mascara (black)
MSRP: $4.99
0.25 oz/7.5 g
Vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Held up all day with no clumping or flaking.
Cons: This formula is stickier than what I'm used to so it made it a little difficult to get the mascara off the wand and on to my lashes.
End Result: Because the formula is stickier, that's what makes it hold up in all the scenarios listed. For it being stickier, I was pleasantly surprised that my lashes were soft and not clumpy. If you don't mind putting a little extra work into applying, it makes a wonderful daily mascara.
Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara (black)
MSRP: $2.99
0.30 oz/9 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up
some
Held up Held up Held up Pros: It does as promises, except for clumping with two coats (recommend one coat). Love that it's very dark.
Cons: The only thing I didn't like was that it clumped with two coats.
End Result: What a bargain! The results are something I'd expect with a much more expensive mascara. I'm very pleased with this product. I'd purchase this time and time again.
Jordana Best Length Extreme Lengthening Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.99
0.34 oz/10 g
Vegan
Did not
hold up
Did not
hold up
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up
some
Pros: Although I'm not a fan of large applicators, this applicator does a nice job in separating my lashes.
Cons: It does really well in the beginning, but then starts to flake and smudge throughout the day. It doesn't hold up well if you do anything other than sit or stay home. Any moisture makes it smudge.
End Result: Pretty disappointed here. Out of all the things it promises, it only does one and that's separation. I didn't see much curling or lengthening.
Jordana Best Volume Extreme Volumizing Mascara (black)
MSRP: $3.99
0.42 oz/12 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up Held up
some
Did not
hold up
Pros: None. There are better mascaras with the same price point that won't smudge like this.
Cons: Brush is too big, making it difficult to apply. Needed to clean up my eyelids after application. Some smudging and flaking half way through the day.
End Result: The price is nice, but it's not worth the clean-up job during application and wear.
Lily Lolo - Mascara (black)
MSRP: $19.50
0.37 oz/10.5 g
Vegan
Held up Held up
some
Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: Kept lashes super soft even with two coats. No crunchy lashes.
Cons: None.
End Result: I really like this one, but I can get the same results and vegan ingredients with cheaper mascaras.
Milani - Big & Bigger Lashes (black)
MSRP: $9.00
0.50 oz/14.4 g
Vegetarian but not vegan (beeswax)
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Voluminous, long lashes. Held up well.
Cons: Flat tip brush tends to collect too much mascara.
End Result: I absolutely loved this mascara. One coat is enough to give you the effect it promises; two coats gives you more.
Milani - Lash Trifecta (black)
MSRP: $9.00
0.30 oz/9 g
Vegetarian but not vegan (beeswax)
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Good separation and length, good thickening with 2 coats, some curl, no smudging.
Cons: A bit more curl would be nice. Lost some curl and volume halfway through day.
End Result: I really liked this mascara as well as the mascara wand. If you want a mascara that lengthens and separates, this is the one.
Milani - Runway Lashes (black)
MSRP: $4.99
0.30 oz/9 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Discontinued by Milani, but may still be available locally in some stores.
Held up Held up Held up Held up Did not
hold up
Pros: In one coat, lashes were super black and showed volume. Lower lashes very dark.
Cons: With two coats or too much formula on wand, it clumps and makes lashes stick together.
End Result: For the price, I'd purchase it again. Great for evening events or events with dim lighting. No doubt your lashes will stand out.
Milani - Grandissimo Lashes (black)
MSRP: $4.99
0.30 oz/9 g
Vegan
Discontinued by Milani, but may still be available locally in some stores.
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Lasts all day, doesn't flake, and gives good separation.
Cons: Doesn't give the promised extreme volume (gives some volume). Huge wand is deal breaker for me.
End Result: Great for everyday wear, but I recommend swapping out the brush.
Mineral Fusion - Lash Curling Mascara (black)
MSRP: $18.99
0.57 oz/16 g
Vegetarian but not vegan (beeswax)
Held up
some
Held up
some
Held up Held up
some
Held up
some
Pros: For the most part, the mascara stays put all day. It's during extensive activities or in humid settings that there's flaking.
Cons: Flaking. This mascara is very wet and dries crunchy, which is why there's quite a bit of flaking. It also doesn't separate my lashes. They were clumped together.
End Result: It was a little difficult to like this mascara. I like my lashes to look full and separated and I have pretty good lashes; however, this made my lashes look clumpy and stiff. It was also hard to remove even with eye makeup remover.
Mineral Fusion - Lengthening Mascara (black)
MSRP: $18.99
0.57 oz/16 g
Vegetarian but not vegan (beeswax)
New formula - New testing in progress
Testing now Testing now Testing now Testing now Testing now Pros: New testing under way for new formula.
Cons:
End Result:
Urban Decay Big Fatty Mascara (black)
MSRP: $20.00
0.51 oz/15 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: Very black pigment, great brush that gets into the inner corners.
Cons: A little difficult to remove at the end of the day. I recommend using waterproof eye makeup remover.
End Result: This mascara is killer for night time and would make a smoky eye look incredible.
Urban Decay Perversion Mascara (black)
MSRP: $22.00
0.4 oz/12 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: They weren't kidding when they say "bigger, blacker, badder." This mascara brings it.
Cons: None.
End Result: I absolutely love this mascara. It wore all day and withstood the muggy weather I've been hit with lately. This mascara is definitely worth the price.
Urban Decay Supercurl Curling Mascara (black)
MSRP: $20.00
0.3 oz/9 g
Vegetarian but not vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up Pros: It does what it promises and my lashes looked pretty all day.
Cons: Two coats made my lashes stick to each other, creating some clumping. Recommend applying just one coat.
End Result: While I did really like this mascara, nothing stood out. I can get the same results with other mascaras at a lesser price.
ZuZu Luxe Mascara (Onyx black, and Espresso brown)
MSRP: $17.60
0.25 oz/7.5 g
Vegan
Held up Held up Held up Held up Held up
some
Pros: Lightweight, soft and fluttery lashes.
Cons: Slight smudging during humidity.
End Result: Perfect for someone looking to give their lashes a little something. It's very natural, so if you're looking for intense length, volume, and intense black pigment, this isn't it. However, I really loved this mascara. The Espresso (brown) color is fantastic for blonde lashes. The formula is pretty much exactly as the Gabriel Cosmetics mascara. There needs to be a waterproof version of this made.

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