An effective but inexpensive mascara is hard to find. I would know — I’ve tried everything on my very short, stubbornly straight Asian lashes, from cheap drugstore brands to the pricey high-end stuff, and it’s rare that a mascara will do more than two things — some offer length but not volume, others give volume but not curling, and so on. It’s why so many women I know take to a double-mascara maneuver, mixing two different brands on top of another. All I’ve ever wanted was one no-frills mascara that can do it all.
Based on a tip from a beauty editor friend (who’s used the mascara on her own Asian lashes), I now use a mascara that checks all the mascara boxes — for less than $5. The Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara from Essence, true to its name, dramatically plumps and intensifies my lashes in every single way — it lengthens, volumizes, lifts, and curls each tiny hair (without the use of a tool) — to the point where my eyes look more open, brighter, and more alert.
Because I have sparse, stubby lashes to begin with, the mascara takes a few strokes to get into “false lash” territory, but it will likely enhance more well-endowed lashes with just a stroke or two. I’ve recommended Essence’s mascara to almost everyone I know (Asians and non-Asians alike), and the results are staggering. Those who’ve fallen under its cult spell post stunning before and after photos on Reddit (seriously, look at those photos). Recently, at a family engagement party, my own father asked if I had gone in for eyelash extensions. I’ve never been more flattered.
Some reviewers complain that the mascara is a pain to remove, but I consider that one of the mascara’s best qualities — it’s an all-day, long-lasting product that doesn’t require constant upkeep. Though not touted as waterproof, it’s even survived sweaty yoga sessions and barre classes smudge-free. When I’m ready to take it off, I simply wash my eye area carefully with a soapy cleanser (I like this Shiseido) and then swipe it with Bioderma micellar water to pick up any lingering residue.
If you prefer, you can buy it at Amazon.
More Strat-approved eye-openers
If you’re looking for the very best waterproof mascara, several agree that it’s Chanel’s. None other than Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist says Chanel Inimitable Waterproof Mascara is the best because it’s “waterproof but also curls, lengthens, and gives volume in just one coat. A lot of waterproof-mascara formulas tend to be drying, but this one feels soft and is conditioning.”
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best hair-care essentials, whitening toothpaste, very black mascara, tinted lip balm, acne mask, magnifying mirror, and all-natural deodorant. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.