made in france

This Trusty $13 French Mascara Might As Well Be Chanel

Photo: Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images

Bastille Day is Saturday, July 14, and to celebrate France’s national day, we’re dedicating the week to the very best French things. You may be familiar with stories we’ve done on French pharmacy products and cookbooks, but we’re going even deeper this week, from the best books on Paris and French baking to the greatest French pantry essentials and lesser-known French beauty products. Welcome to Made in France week.

“It’s made in the same factory as Chanel,” said my mom, pointing to some mascara while she steered me around a department store in Paris. I was a week shy of turning 15, had never been allowed or inclined to wear makeup, and was overwhelmed. The brand of mascara was called Bourjois, and I bought a tube of its Volume Glamour with francs converted from dollars I had earned babysitting.

Later, in our hotel bathroom, I had a teenage revelation: Even though I still had woefully mismanaged curls and a retainer, I had eyes for the first time. It was a possibility that, at breakfast, I hadn’t known existed. Back home in the U.S., I turned daily to my tube of Volume Glamour — which made it so easy, even for a novice like me, to make one aspect of myself look exactly like I wanted it to — for a truly unsanitary length of time. It had turned out that Bourjois, which was seemingly in every hypermarché in Paris, was basically impossible to find in America. Eventually, at a CVS, lured by magazine best-of lists and sheer availability, I replaced it with Maybelline’s Great Lash. I spent the next day worrying that my stiff lashes would break off. They did not, but neither were they remotely akin to the soft and separated full lashes I had with the Bourjois, which never smudged, flaked, hardened, or clumped.

Nineteen years have passed since I bought what turned out to be the first of many tubes of Volume Glamour, which I eventually replenished back in Paris, as a college student studying abroad. I was 19 and fairly clueless as to how to dress or act like a French girl, but at the very least, I could have long, thick eyelashes that looked like a dramatically better version of my own (and which washed off easily enough not to ruin my host family’s towels). The mascara, with its simple lettering on a black package and rose-gold cap, hadn’t changed (and still hasn’t), creating copious, curled lashes that were both much longer and voluminous, all with two easily layered swipes.

Despite briefly appearing in Sephora sometime around 2004, Bourjois is still mostly unavailable in the U.S. — at least now there’s Amazon — and the brand remains fairly unknown Stateside. But since I’ve lived in Berlin for the past four years and find myself passing often enough through a French duty-free store on connecting flights, it’s easy to keep to my lone lifelong beauty commitment. Its scarcity Stateside also comes with another added advantage: It’s proven itself a great gift. High-quality, European, and unfamiliar, several very well received tubes come home with me every year at Christmas.

Here’s another Bourjois mascara that promises voluminous lashes in one swipe.

And one more, while you’re Amazon-ing for this “hard to find in the U.S.” beauty product. This “one second” mascara is on Prime.

This one actually is by Chanel, and it’s absolutely the best waterproof mascara, according to both makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic and the Cut’s Kathleen Hou. “A lot of waterproof-mascara formulas tend to be drying, but this one feels soft and is conditioning,” Dedivanovic told Lauren Levy a while back.

We’re departing from France for this recommendation, but writer Ariel Kanter loves this curling mascara from Trish McEvoy, citing how it forms “water-resistant tubes around your lashes — that’s the ‘tubular coverage’ — making each strand super bold and long” as the secret to how it works so well without leaving behind any clumpy raccoon eyes.

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This Trusty $13 French Mascara Might As Well Be Chanel