One beauty question that comes up a lot — in comments, emails, and queries on the Strategist’s The Beauty of it All Facebook group — is whether the perfect waterproof mascara exists. We’re talking about a mascara that’s “ugly cry proof,” should the occasion arise, but still does all the work of lengthening, and curling up without the crunchy texture.
Some of the business of being smudgeproof lies in application. “When using waterproof mascaras be mindful that the formula tends to be more liquid than the water-resistant or regular types,” says makeup artist Jennifer Nam, so it’s important not to blink too much when brushing it on to prevent smudging. A little bit of translucent powder under the lower lash line can help, she says, along with giving it time to dry and set. To find the best formulas (application aside), we turned to six makeup artists on the best waterproof mascaras they rely on for red carpet events, high humidity shoots, and even ones that have survived Miami Swim Week.
The best waterproof mascara overall
Half of our experts singled out the same Chanel mascara, so it wasn’t tough to crown a favorite. The first thing we think of when we think makeup and tears is Kim Kardashian’s infamous “ugly cry” face, and her makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic was emphatic about Chanel’s Inimitable Waterproof Mascara for holding up in those instances. “It’s waterproof but also curls, lengthens, and gives volume in just one coat,” he says. And compared to other waterproof formulas that are stiff and drying, he notes that this one feels soft and conditioning.
Others agree. Makeup artist Jen Myles says it toes the line of “holding up under any conditions,” being gentle on the eyes, and easy to remove. It’s also her go-to on set “when there are a lot of makeup changes, I am shooting outside in the summer, and there’s heat and humidity involved.” And you really don’t need much product to see the effects, per Nam, who says, “It delivers everything you want in one to two swipes: length, volume, separation, and long-lasting results.” The Cut’s beauty director, Kathleen Hou, also considers it the best “sweat and rain proof” mascara.
The best drugstore waterproof mascaras
Though the general consensus was that you don’t have to spend more than $10 to find a good waterproof mascara. Myles praised this Maybelline Lash Discovery mascara for its “thin and precise wand” that catches all the little lashes along your lower lash line without smudging. She uses it on both lash lines when she wants a “detailed and brushed-out look.” Makeup artist Mariko Hirano likes how it emphasizes lashes while still looking natural, and finds that the mini wand prevents clumps.
Myles also called out this L’Oreal Voluminous Waterproof Mascara as “the best volumizing mascara to build thick dark lashes.” She says the waterproof formula is reliable, without budging or flaking, and gets results. “I use this one if I know I want gorgeous, thick lashes and there’s going to be water or sweat involved.”
Celebrity makeup artist Vincent Oquendo (who frequently works with high-profile clients like Lily Collins, Tessa Thompson, and Janelle Monae for events) suggested this volumizing Maybelline mascara as one of his go-tos for a clump-free finish. “I absolutely love how the mega brush and collagen formula work together to give you major lashes without any clumps,” he says.
And here’s an oldie, but a goodie, that you probably already know — it’s arguably the most famous mascara of all time. Freelance makeup artist Marina Christine — who works across runway, film, editorial, and commercial projects — says when she needs a heavier mascara that will work for a variety of settings she always grabs Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara. “Not only is this mascara highly pigmented, but it does not move at all and still looks great hours later. I have tried many over the years and always go back to this one.” She used it backstage at Miami Swim Week, and said despite the humidity, “this mascara saves the day.”
The best volumizing waterproof mascara
For a falsie-esque look that you want people to sit up and notice, Nam says Dior’s Overcurl Waterproof Mascara is “iconic, for the girl that wants a dramatic curl and volume to her lashes.” It has a curved brush that was inspired by professional hair-styling tools, and holds up so well that she recommends it for people with oily monolids.
The best natural-looking waterproof mascara
Maybe you’re not looking for anything dramatic, just a dialed-up version of your regular lashes. Hirano suggests Glossier’s Lash Slick mascara in this category for something that doesn’t budge, even when sweat and sebum threaten to ruin it, yet doesn’t look too over the top. Our beauty writer Rio also sung its praises, after trying many other waterproof mascaras that haven’t worked for her. “This mascara is unlike any I’ve ever used before,” she says. “With it, your lashes just look better: longer, but not in a dramatic way, and darker, but not in an obvious way. The teeny-tiny bristles coat your lashes without causing any clumping. Just one coat achieves the prettiest, most fluttery, feathery lashes.”
The best lengthening waterproof mascaras
Or maybe you just want something clump free that will separate and define. Myles calls out this Serge Lutens one as her favorite for its applicator. “It has a comb which helps to really separate each individual lash and doesn’t weigh them down.” She says the formula is lightweight enough to layer on for a more dramatic curl, and lasts. “No matter what is involved on set, it holds up against sweat, water, humidity, and still comes off easily at the end of a shoot.”
Another of Oquendo’s favorites is this Shiseido mascara, which he credits to the wand tip that prevents clumps and defines lashes (though full disclosure: Oquendo works with Shiseido). “I love this one,” he says. “Its brush has a crown tip that allows you to separate the lashes and lengthen them in an easy swipe.”
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