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Best waterproof mascara: Our favourite picks for smudge-proof and long-lasting lashes

Kate Hilpern Rachel Erdos
30 Jul 2019
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Stop streaks with our roundup of the best waterproof mascaras you can buy

Getting out of a pool, coming in from the rain or crying at a wedding with black streaks streaming down your face is not a good look. Which is the reason, if you wear mascara, you need a waterproof one. Historically, there’s been a major downside to using waterproof mascara – getting it off easily without losing a few lashes and making your eyes blotchy and red in the process.

Thankfully, science has come on a bit over the years and there are now more formulas than ever that keep you protected from water and sweat without the remnants flaking off onto your pillow – or around your eyes – the following morning. To find out which are best, we’ve put a selection of waterproof mascaras through their paces in various wet conditions. Here follows a list of the ones that performed best – and we’ve also got a few tips about what to look for when buying one.

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How to buy the best waterproof mascara 

What features matter most?

Two things: the brush and the formula – and the two need to work together. The brush needs to be the right shape to get the formula to coat lashes, as well as enabling you to reach every single lash. The formula needs to be one that gives you the look you’re after, whilst withstanding everything from pool water to sweat from your spinning class – as well as being easy to wipe off at the end of the day. Don’t trust those who tell you a traditional bristle brush beats a moulded brush, or vice versa. Neither is inherently superior – it depends entirely on the individual mascara.

What brush shape should I go for?

Mascara brushes are often compared to hairbrushes, to make the point that different brushes are designed for different purposes. As a general rule, comb and pointed brushes lengthen; jumbo brushes thicken; rectangle brushes are for volume and length; skinny brushes give definition; the inverted cone shape aims to widen eyes; and curved brushes curl lashes (although these are better at maintaining the curl in pre-curled lashes than creating a new curl).

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How can I tell a good waterproof mascara?

Unfortunately, mascaras are the one product where it isn’t advised (or allowed) to try before you buy. Nevertheless, it’s still worth looking at the shape of the wand and the brush style to get a feel for whether it can achieve the effect you’re after.

How much do I need to spend?

Framing your eyes with long, luscious lashes needn’t cost a fortune – although some of the best waterproof formulas are pricey. Worry not, though – our list covers the best waterproof mascaras for every budget.

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The best waterproof mascaras to buy

1. No7 Lash Impact Waterproof Mascara: Best all-rounder

Price: £13.50 | Buy now from Boots 


This one makes some bold claims – rain and tear-proof, clump and smudge-free and non-flaking. But does it live up to the hype? Well, yes, actually it does. Not only those things but it gives great length to lashes, separating the hairs with ease. If you’re after thickness then we’d advise looking elsewhere, although we found this a positive – the formula doesn’t feel heavy on your eyes and also comes off easily with makeup remover. It’s available in black or brown, and the vibrant packaging makes it easy to find amongst all the other potions and lotions on your bathroom shelf, or buried deep at the bottom of your handbag.

Key specsQuantity: 7ml

Buy now from Boots


2. Clinique High Impact Waterproof Mascara: Best for a more natural look

Price: £20 | Buy now from John Lewis 


This has a loyal fan base among those who prefer a more natural look, separating lashes perfectly on both the top and bottom of the eyes to give an even finish. Its elegant wand is super-easy to control. You won’t get any clumping, smudging or flaking, and we found it took only a couple of wipes with make-up remover to get rid of it at the end of the day. Available in black and brown, we think the black frames the eyes beautifully, while the brown works perfectly if you’re after a more subtle look.

Key specsQuantity: 8ml

Buy now from John Lewis


3. Maybelline Colossal Waterproof Mascara: Best budget option

Price: £7 | Buy now from Amazon 


If you can’t afford to splash the cash, this formula will do you proud. Not only is it cheap, but you need only a single coat to plump and thicken lashes in an instant. The results ensure eyes that are full of drama, perfect for a night out on the tiles. Don’t be tempted to layer on more, as it will start to clump and smudge – which isn’t a good look, nor ideal if you’re running late for a night out. We found it didn’t run, even under the wettest conditions, and came off reasonably easily with makeup remover, so won’t end up leaving black blotches all over your pillowcase.

Key specsQuantity: 9.07g

4. Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara: Best for lengthening and thickening

Price: £22 | Buy now from Debenhams


The regular version of this mascara is now legendary, with many women saying they couldn’t live without it. The waterproof version is the new kid on the block – and doesn’t disappoint either. You’ll need to pile on a few layers, but in return it will lengthen and thicken simultaneously. It gives lashes a defined look, and it holds curl in place too. It will see you through all manner of moisture-ridden situations – hotel pools, crying over your ex, or using the rowing machine at the gym, to name a few. Beware, though, that it doesn’t come off quite as easily as some others on this list, so you’ll need some powerful make-up remover and plenty of elbow grease to get rid.

Key specsQuantity: 8ml

Buy now from Debenhams


5. Yves Saint Laurent Luxurious Waterproof Mascara: Best for staying put, no matter what

Price: £26 | Buy now from John Lewis 


If you want thick lashes that don’t feel heavy and a mascara that won’t run, no matter what, then look no further. YSL’s mascara isn’t cheap, but we couldn’t find another formula that outlasted this mascara, maintaining volume of lashes from morning to night, regardless of what the day has in store. You need only one or two coats – and it won’t take half an hour of scrubbing to get it off at the end of the day. In fact, it slid off onto a makeup-remover-soaked pad in an instant – a complete surprise given that by the evening it still looked as though it had just been applied.

Key specsQuantity: 7.5ml

Buy now from John Lewis


6. Lancôme Hypnose Drama Waterproof Mascara: A single coat and you’re done

Price: £25 | Buy now from John Lewis 


This costs a bit more than most of the mascaras here, but you won’t be sorry you splashed out. It covers all bases – thickening, lengthening and volumising, with no clumping or flaking whatsoever. It’s particularly easy to apply, although the curved brush design won’t be to everyone’s liking. It doesn’t dry out as quickly as other mascaras, and you’ll need only a single coat to achieve a glamorous look. It’s easy to remove too – what are you waiting for?

Key specsQuantity: 6ml

Buy now from John Lewis


7. Full Exposure Waterproof Mascara: Best for long-lasting lashes

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon


Smashbox's best-selling Full Exposure Mascara is brilliant at layering and lengthening thanks to its fibre-rich formula and chunky brush. This waterproof version is just as good as the original but features moisture-resistant ingredients like isododecane. Its jet black hue means you'll make an impact with just one swipe but even if you pile it on thick, lashes don't look or feel brittle. It's a little tricky to remove so bear in mind that you'll need to invest in an eye make-up remover specifically designed for the job if you add this to your stash.

Key specs – Quantity: 11ml

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