No BS Beauty! Episode 2: MASCARA

Hello everyone! It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for another edition of…

NobsheaderLast week we talked about liquid eyeliner, and we crowned the undisputed winner of Greatest Liner Alive. I feel like the rest of the products we talk about are going to be a little more subjective. Everyone in the world wants liquid eyeliner to do the same things, whereas other makeup is more complicated because there’s more variation in both what the product DOES and what people WANT IT TO DO.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to mascara, which is what we’re going to be talking about today.

Mascara is my magic product. When my lashes are dark and ready for battin’, I feel like the best, foxiest version of myself. But I’m an especially harsh critic of this product because my eyelashes are super light and require some drama to look the way I like.

There are sixty billion types of mascara. And despite what commercials tell you, they all do the EXACT same thing: paint your eyelashes darker. But this is also a product that suffers severely from a case of Magical Advertising, because every ad for mascara promises magic that it straight up cannot deliver. All mascara ads feature fake lashes or lash extensions, because the reality isn’t that dramatic. No mascara ever in the world is going to make it look like you’re wearing multiple pairs of extra-long fake eyelashes. Por exemplo:


These are all fake lashes. In fact, the Natalie Portman ad at the end (for Dior mascara) was banned in the UK for being misleading, ie: for using falsies. So then Dior said, Oh no, we just PHOTOSHOPPED her eyelashes. Which is not much better. So don’t believe the hype.

Here are some things that mascara won’t do:

  • Make your eyelashes thicker, except in the sense that certain types of paint are thicker than others. It won’t change the thickness of your actual lashes or “promote growth,” because then it would be a drug and you’d need a prescription for it.
  • Make them longer. I’ve tried six of the mascaras that have those little “microfibers” or “microtubes” for length, and none of them have made my lashes noticeably longer. They have made them clumpier, though. Regardless of who makes the product or how expensive it is, the microfibers always flake off and fall on your face like tiny black scabs. So skip it.
  • Make them super-curly. Just use an eyelash curler. It’s more reliable. Plus if you wear glasses, curling your lashes will stop them from brushing up against your lenses. I hate that.

So. If you want crazy long Telenovela lashes but your natural ones are short, or thin, or really straight, buy a really good pair of fake eyelashes. Mascara is only going to enhance what you already have, not drastically change it.

So! Mascara is one of the things that you don’t have to spend a tonne of money on to get a good product. The one that I like the best in the bargain category is Maybelline Full N Soft.

fullnsoftThe last time I was travelling & forgot to take any, I picked up a tube of this at a Walgreens and it was just like I remembered from college. It comes in your basic colours but I only ever buy it in black, and the brush is big and puffy.

A lot of people want a lot of things from their mascara. This is a good all-rounder. It’s dark right away, stays on well and takes multiple coats without getting gross looking. It doesn’t go on clumpy, dries fairly quickly and seldom makes you look like you have spiderlegs for lashes. Plus it’s under $7.

It does have some cons, though. “Drying fairly quickly” doesn’t mean “immediately,” so if you blink while it’s still wet you’ll end up with little black blobs on your face. The waterproof version doesn’t seem any more waterproof than the normal kind, but does seem to have a weird smell. I hate weird smells. It also wears a bit unevenly. It stays on just fine on my top lashes, but after a day’s wear the bottom lashes have almost no product left on them.

So if you need a mascara for under $10, this is the one to choose. It’s not perfect, but it’s quality. You can buy it here, or basically anywhere else.

Now we’re going to get into the products that I use, and the ones I recommend most often. Yes, productS plural. You’ll see why in a second.

This is MAC Plushlash. I use this on my top lashes. Pricewise it’s a middleweight–$16–but even the really expensive ones I’ve tried haven’t been as good. A $32 mascara is not twice as amazing as a $16 one–it’s basically the same. Diorshow & Lancome, you overrated bastards, I’m looking at YOU.

plushlashThis mascara has the best brush. It’s big and fat, but the tip is quite thin which lets you get the little lashes in the corner of your eyes. One coat of this is like two coats of any other product I’ve tried, which is awesome if you’re a multiple-layer girl or if you want to just do one swipe and run out the door. It dries really fast; I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten blinkmarks on my face from sneezing or something before it dried. It isn’t gunky or flaky. And it stays on all day.

As for cons, you need to clean the brush on occasion or else your lashes will start looking a little spidery. Wipe it with a dry tissue and it’s fine. A lot of reviews I’ve read talk about this mascara “curling” your lashes–I have long but very straight eyelashes and it doesn’t curl them at all, so I call wishful thinking on that one. It’s also not waterproof, so if you’re having an allergy day or a sad movie date, this isn’t what you want to wear.

I also use another MAC product, Splashproof Lash, on my bottom lashes. I love this guy, but for a very different reason than his partner above.


I know what you’re probably thinking: Two separate mascaras? WHY?

Well, because I need these two products to do very different things. My top lashes I want to look long and thick and luscious, so I use a product with a thick formula and chubby brush. For my lower lashes, I want a product that will stay PUT. And “Splashlash” as I’ve abbreviated it, STAYS FUCKING PUT. It doesn’t rub of, smear off or migrate south and make my dark circles look even darker. It just makes me look like I have impossibly long, naturally dark lower lashes.

I am so serious. This has staying power. I’ve worn it to the beach, to pools, to Lake Michigan, in the shower, while having sex, while having sex IN the shower, onstage, while suffering with a cold, at weddings in outrageous heat–it will not melt off. The skinny brush and thinner formula makes it a more “natural” looking mascara than the Plushlash, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And there is no better waterproof mascara on the market, period.

However. That staying power is also a con, because it’s hard to take off. You really need a gentle oil-based remover, and even then you may need to rub. Honestly I don’t wear this on my top lashes all that often for this exact reason, and also because I have a heavy hand with mascara which makes it exponentially harder to get off. So that’s partially my problem, not Splashlash’s.

Anyway, here’s proof that the system works. Here’s what my peepers look like without mascara (and what my face looks like without any makeup at all because I forgot to take pictures until ten o’clock at night):


Fine, but not all that impressive. You can hardly tell that I have any eyelashes, let alone that they are super long and pretty.

This is with two coats of Plushlash on top and one of Splashlash on the bottom:


BAM. This is why it’s my magic product.

In conclusion, mascara is a product that is sold based on magical thinking and outright lies, but I love it anyway. Maybelline Full n Soft is the best mascara under $10, MAC Plushlash is Best In Show and MAC Splashproof Lash is the best waterproof. You shouldn’t waste your money on anything more expensive than those two products, because after the $16 mark mascara is just diminishing returns.

And maybe in the future we’ll talk about eyelash curlers and combs and all THAT fun stuff! What do you think? Do you have a mascara I should try? Am I totally crazy for hating on “lengthening fibers”? Do you have OPINIONS? Let me know here or on Twitter!


5 thoughts on “No BS Beauty! Episode 2: MASCARA

  1. My biggest problem with mascara these days is the brush! If I have to wipe off tons of excess mascara off the brush, i hate them. They always give you tarantula lashes. (Example: the Kardahians)

    My staple for at least 15 years is the Naturally Glossy by Clinique. Best brush ever, plumps and lengthens without tarantulas.

    1. I’ve never tried that one! It’ll have to go on my list. I love Plushlash, but obviously I’m always into trying new things.

  2. I really like Benefit’s Bad Gal Lash but it is a little expensive. It lasts forever, though.
    My staple over the counter is Neutrogena’s Healthy Lash with olive oil. If I’m broke or on the go I always scoop up that one 🙂


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