Everyone in Our Office Is Obsessed With This New $5 Mascara

We tested seven new mascaras, and the winner is...

Last week, FLARE’s fashion and beauty department forced (read: asked nicely and they heartily agreed) a group of editors in our office to take on a challenge: test drive seven new drugstore mascaras over seven days and pick a winner. The products on the docket were Nude by Nature’s Allure Defining Mascara, Maybelline’s Total Temptation Washable Volumizing Mascara, Burt’s Bees’s Nourishing Mascara, L’Oréal’s Voluminous X Fiber, Essence’s Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara, Covergirl’s Peacock Flare Mascara and Benefit’s BadGal Bang! Volumising Mascara.

After a week of double coating, lots of note-taking and much deliberation, we were actually surprised to find that there was a clear standout: the Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara from Essence. Its clump-free application, amped-up natural effect and solid staying power made us all fall in love with this thrifty find.

And despite the differences in the state of our natural lashes and our overall mascara preferences, this one seemed to work wonders on everyone. Read on for what every editor loved about this magic wand—as well as their runner-up picks!

Essence Volume Stylist mascara

Volume Stylist 18h Lash Extension Mascara, $5.49,

Erinn Stewart, Assistant Fashion & Beauty Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “I’m a serious fangirl of Essence’s Lash Princess so I was excited to give its sister mascara a try. It didn’t disappoint! It went on smoothly with no clumps and a lot of coverage with each stroke. It gave my lashes volume and lift, but still left a p. natural finish which is typically the everyday lewk I’m going for.”

On her other fave, Nude by Nature Allure Defining Mascara: “Natural mascaras (that actually work!) are hard to come by and I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this one. The formula really defined my lashes and added a lot of length, so much so that my coworker asked if I had lash extensions when I wore it to work one day!”

Ishani Nath, Associate Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “Based on the toy-style packaging and the super low price point, I’m not going to lie, I was not expecting much from this mascara. WOW, was I wrong. It curled and coated my lashes beautifully, separating and fanning them out into a look that I loved. The formula felt light and stayed put all day without smudging—which might be why it took me two rounds of cleansing to get it off at the end of the day. All around though, this mascara did wonders for my lashes (and my preconceived notions).”

On her other fave, Covergirl Peacock Flare: “I love a dramatic lash look and that is exactly what this mascara delivered. The application was really easy and didn’t clump or feel heavy, even when I applied multiple layers. The mascara was heavy enough that made my lengthened and curled lashes stand out, but not so heavy or chunky that the mascara itself became the focal point.”

Lauren Ufford, Associate Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “I’m impressed—Essence really gives my expensive brand-name mascara a run for its money. The application is great, it goes on super smooth, and doesn’t clump at all. I usually only apply one coat for everyday wear, but I tried layering this one and it still felt light and kept my lashes separated. I wore it for almost 12 hours and it never felt dry, plus there was zero fallout throughout the day.”

On her other fave, Covergirl Peacock Flare: “My ideal mascara is one that only needs one coat to give my lashes volume and a bit of curl. The Covergirl Peacock mascara was a thick, super black formula that is perfect for a more dramatic look, without creating any clumps or smudging.”

Jennifer Berry, Acting Senior Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “This blessed gift to my makeup bag does the one thing I find most mascaras fail to deliver on: it *actually* gives the illusion of more length. My lashes are already pretty long and curled, and this drugstore gem enhanced what I naturally have. Additionally, and to my delight, I could pile the stuff on with abandon without it looking too clumpy or feeling too heavy. And there was no flaking, fallout or smudging to speak of.”

On her other fave, Maybelline Total Temptation: “This baby was a seriously close second to Essence’s magic but didn’t take the top spot for two main reasons: while it blasted my lashes with major volume and a hint of length, it didn’t give me the length that Essence did. And while I wasn’t overwhelmed by fallout, I did notice it flakes a bit more easily (like if I rubbed my eye absentmindedly). That said, alone with its volumizing power, I loved the fluffy brush, chic packaging and intense inky colour it gave my lashes and would def purchase to replenish my supply.”

Sejal Kapadia Pocha, Social Media Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “I was so tired of testing mascaras by the time I got to trying Essence (our experiment required Sunday application, too!), that I was in full-out judgement mode—no more Mr. Nice Girl. But it delivered! The product glided on evenly without showing signs of clumping or flaking. It lengthened my lashes to a point that felt natural and comfortable. It didn’t create the wow-factor I was looking for—which my first choice did—but I can absolutely see why there’s SO much hype around Essence’s mascaras.”

On her other fave, L’Oréal Voluminous X Fiber: “This wand gave me lashes I never thought I had—long, full and curved. My mom even noticed it from across the Atlantic Ocean over a FaceTime call. The first step lengthened and darkened my lashes, and the second step thickened them up at the root and curved the outer strands upwards and outwards. It lasted all day and was surprisingly easy to remove. I couldn’t wait to get it back on the day after our week-long experiment.”

Tara MacInnis, Associate Fashion & Beauty Editor

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “Essence never lets me down when it comes to eye makeup (their liquid eyeliner stays on for. ever.), and this mascara was no different. I’m all for bristle-y brushes rather than rubber ones, so this started off well for me. I loved the way brush separated my lashes, and the amount of product that came out was perfect. It applied nicely, didn’t clump or make my lashes stick together at all, and left them looking fuller, longer and blacker. It was tough to remove, but that’s worth it to me when it doesn’t budge through the day.”

On her other fave, L’Oréal Voluminous X Fiber: “I also love most L’Oréal mascaras, so I was excited to try this one, especially since the priming first step wasn’t white like they all used to be. That said, the first and second step didn’t seem all that different, but I usually layer mascaras, so I was happy to have two built into one. I think the trick with this one is to apply the second step before the first one dries. Doing that left my lashes more fanned out and fuller.”

Charlotte Herrold, Acting Style Director

On Volume Stylist Lash Extension Mascara: “I have pin-straight lashes and struggle to find mascaras that don’t weigh them down after curling—it seems like I either get the bold look I want and my lashes fall after an hour, or they stay lifted but the formula is so lightweight that it barely looks like I’m wearing anything. This Essence mascara delivered the best of both worlds: thick, definied lashes and volume that lasted until I washed my face in the evening. I’m sold.”

On her other fave, Nude by Nature Allure Defining Mascara: “Full disclosure, I’m a newly recruited flag-waving member of the Nude By Nature cult. I recently switched to using their mineral powder foundation after nearly a decade of dedication to another brand, and am equally obsessed with their concealer and lipgloss. So, I was pretty certain I was going to love their mascara even before I tried it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Its richly pigmented formula glides on super evenly, and it’s the only mascara I’ve ever found to be truly buildable with no clumping—I applied a third layer after work before going out for dinner and it looked like a completely fresh application. All the hand-clap emojis ever!”


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