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Best volumising mascara 2023: Full lashes in just a few sweeps

Amplify lashes from root to tip with our pick of the best volumising mascaras

If you would like your lashes to look thicker and fuller, then you needn’t resort to falsies: you just need the best volumising mascara. With the right mascara, you can achieve a dramatic frame for your eyes quickly and easily, without the faff of false lashes or the expense of getting permanent lash extensions.

From options for sensitive or irritable eyes, plus waterproof formulas, many volumising mascaras even include ingredients to nourish and improve the condition of your lashes. Available in a range of colours – including intense black hues that deliver instant impact – and formulas that promise to curl and lengthen lashes, there really is a volumising mascara for every need and budget.

But which volumising mascaras are the best? We’ve made our way through an array of tubes to discover the options that will work best to add definition and drama to your lashes. Read on for some key information to consider before you make a purchase

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Best volumising mascaras: At a glance

How to choose the best volumising mascara for you

What different types of volumising mascaras are available?

Volumising mascaras come in a variety of different colours, formulations and price points. There are formulas that will happily see you through a full day, from work to drinks in the evening, alongside those that will stay put if you get caught in a rain shower, with numerous waterproof options available. And if you’re looking to apply several coats of a true black shade without any clumping, then there are mascaras on our list that have you covered, too.

What should a volumising mascara do?

As the name suggests, a volumising mascara is designed to thicken and plump lashes. Their thicker consistency binds to individual lashes, to help them appear fuller. Many volumising mascaras also come with the added benefit of curling or lengthening the lashes, too.

Are they suitable for sensitive eyes?

Those with sensitive or irritable eyes, and contact lens wearers, too, should keep an eye out for words such as “ophthalmologist tested” or “allergy tested” on the packaging or added information online.

If you have previously experienced issues with stinging or irritation of eyes on applying a mascara in the past, we suggest carrying out a patch test before you apply a mascara all over your lashes. Swipe a small amount of mascara onto your outer lashes and then leave it on for a few hours. If you don’t suffer any irritation or discomfort, or see any redness, then you’ll likely be fine to apply the product across the entirety of your lashes.

How many coats of volumising mascara should I apply?

This will depend on the overall effect you’re striving for. For a daytime look where you simply wish to frame your eyes, a single sweep will suffice. However, for a more dramatic, faux-lash look, apply several coats of mascara to achieve eyelashes with more impact. Each of the mascaras on our list works well applied as a single coat, or layered several times.

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How do I remove volumising mascara?

When removing mascara, especially if you’ve applied several coats, it’s important that you don’t vigorously rub or pull at the eye area. The skin around our eyes is particularly delicate, and harsh removal of product could cause damage to the eye area and hasten the appearance of wrinkles or fine lines.

We recommend using a cotton or reusable makeup-removal pad to gently press onto your closed eye, gently swiping it down your lashes to remove any makeup or mascara. If your mascara is a waterproof formula, invest in a bi-phase makeup remover, which combines oil and water to dissolve even the toughest of waterproof formulations.

How often should I replace my mascara?

This may be of surprise to many, but mascara actually has one of the shortest shelf lives of any makeup product. Since it’s a product that comes in direct contact with the eyes and has air introduced to it every time we remove and reinsert the wand, it’s recommended that we replace our mascara every three months.

This short timescale may inform how much you’re willing to spend on a tube of mascara.

How much should I spend?

A tube of volumising mascara can range in price from a few pounds to upwards of £50 or £70. In our opinion, you shouldn’t need to spend any more than £30 for a super- impressive formula of volumising mascara, particularly when you consider how quickly you’ll need to replace it. Think of it this way: over the course of a year, you should be swapping out your mascara for a new tube four times, so you’ll want to spend an amount that you feel comfortable to shell out several times over.

All of our picks come in under £30, with our budget buy costing just over £10. And since this is a makeup product you’ll likely be using daily – or more than once a day, if you’re topping up for nights out – it’s worth choosing an option that makes sense for your wallet.

How we test volumising mascaras

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. To put the various formulations of mascaras through their paces, we apply each product to the eyelashes to evaluate the overall ease of application and how well it boosts their look. To test volume in particular, we paid specific attention to how each product coats the lashes and its impact on the depth of colour, thickness and curl of natural lashes. In order to make a clear comparison, each mascara is applied to one eye while the other is left bare to assess the difference.

We also note how well a mascara lasts through a typical day of wear, how comfortable it is to wear, and whether any of the product flakes, sheds or smudges as the hours progress. Finally, we confirm whether or not the mascaras are vegan, ophthalmologist/dermatologically tested, and if they’re available in a waterproof formulation.

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The best volumising mascara you can buy in 2023

1. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara: The best overall volumising mascara

Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at Look Fantastic

This is one of the most lightweight volumising mascaras we’ve tested. Even with several coats applied to lashes, they continue to feel soft and fluffy to the touch. The unique curved brush successfully captures individual lashes, working particularly well to coat bottom lashes for an overall wider appearance to the eyes. And despite adding serious volume to lashes, this mascara’s shade of black is one of the most natural-looking, matching that of your lashes.

Our only small gripe with this mascara is the fact that the formulation can dry out more quickly than many of the other volumising mascaras on test. However, in our experience, this was around the three-month point or later, which provides a handy indication that it’s time to replace your current tube of mascara with a new one.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: No; Waterproof option: Yes

Check price at Boots

2. L’Oreal Paris Lash Paradise Castor Oil Enriched Mascara in Intense Black: The best budget volumising mascara

Price when reviewed: £12 | Check price at Look Fantastic

Available in Brown, Black and a waterproof formulation, it’s the Intense Black option of this Paradise mascara that you should opt for to achieve the most voluminous, dark black lashes. While it is possible to pick up a volumising mascara under £10, we think it’s worth spending the additional £1.99 for a budget volumising mascara that really delivers.

Paradise’s new castor oil enriched formula keeps lashes feeling soft and silky, remaining clump-free even after it’s been layered several times. It works just as well applied in a single sweep for a more natural look. Lashes look defined and separated, and importantly, we didn’t experience any flaking or fallout as the day progressed. It’s also suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.

Key details – Vegan: No; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: Yes; Waterproof option: Yes

Check price at Boots

3. bareMinerals Lashtopia: Best smudge-proof volumising mascara

Price when reviewed: £21 | Check price at LookFantasticbest volumising mascara bareMinerals Lashtopia

Volumising mascaras can cause panda eyes, making it difficult to find a good smudge-proof option that’s easy to remove. bareMinerals Lashtopia fits this bill perfectly. It has a soft, buildable formula that separates, curls and lengthens in one coat while adding impressive volume. Its thick brush can create thicker, fuller lashes without making them look clumpy.

The mascara wears beautifully throughout the day because it doesn’t set rock solid. That means it feels comfortable and weightless while being flake and transfer-free. For £21, it’s an investment but is well worth it if cheaper mascara always transfers onto your eyelids and under your eyes.

Key details – Vegan: Yes; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: Yes; Waterproof option: No

Check price at LookFantastic

4. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Volume Mascara in Black: The best volumising mascara for sensitive eyes

Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Look Fantastic

You may be aware of La Roche-Posay’s impressive dermatologist recommended skincare and bodycare products. But did you know that the brand also sells makeup? Designed specifically with sensitive eyes in mind, the Toleriane Volume Mascara is also suitable for contact lens wearers. Including ingredients such as ceramides and carnauba wax, which are said to strengthen and thicken lashes over time, the formulation is 100% hypoallergenic and free from fragrance, preservatives, parabens, alcohol and colourants.

The fluffy brush coats lashes evenly, for a dramatic black finish, while ensuring lashes feel soft and feathery to the touch. We didn’t experience any smudging or fallout throughout a full day of wear, yet the mascara was easy to remove at the end of the day using a bi-phase makeup remover, such as the brand’s Respectissime waterproof eye makeup remover.

Key details – Vegan: No; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: Yes; Waterproof option: Yes

Check price at LookFantastic

5. Lancôme Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara in Black: The best waterproof volumising mascara

Price when reviewed: From £25 | Check price at John Lewis

While a few of the other picks on our list are available in waterproof formulations, the Lancôme Monsieur Big Waterproof Mascara easily takes top position. With a waterproof formula that didn’t budge through scenarios from an unexpected rain shower to an hour of sweating in the gym, we were super-impressed by this mascara’s staying power.

The large curved fibre brush helps with clump-free application, separating lashes and even slightly curling them while adding volume in just one coat. Note that you’ll definitely need to invest in an oil-based waterproof makeup remover for use alongside, or you’ll struggle to get it all off at the end of the day. For those who don’t need a waterproof formula, the original version performs just as well.

Key details – Vegan: No; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: No; Waterproof option: Yes

Check price at John Lewis

6. DIOR Diorshow Pump ‘N’ Volume Mascara: The best luxury volumising mascara

Price when reviewed: £31 | Check price at Boots

This unique squeezable mascara is unlike any that we’ve tried before. Before removing the wand, you squeeze the tube a few times to make the mascara more fluid and ready for application. Doing this results in a mascara that’s super-creamy on application, but one that won’t budge once it has dried.

We love the classic black shade, but this mascara is also available in fun colours such as blue and coral, a natural shade of brown and there’s a waterproof option, too.

Key details – Vegan: No; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: Yes; Waterproof option: Yes

Check price at Boots

7. Pat McGrath Labs Dark Star Mascara: The best volumising mascara for party-ready lashes

Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Sephora

If you have a special event or party coming up, or are looking to recreate the fanned-out lash look, this incredibly pigmented black mascara from world-famous makeup artist Pat McGrath is a brilliant option.

The gel-hybrid formulation clings to each individual lash, lifting while simultaneously adding a little bit of extra length to your lashes. One coat can transform lashes, but this mascara really comes into its own when it’s layered with several coats. It doesn’t flake or dry out lashes, and even with several coats applied, lashes don’t feel especially heavy or laden with product.

Key details – Vegan: No; Ophthalmologist/Dermatologist tested: Yes; Waterproof option: No

Check price at Sephora

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