Beauty Report: Choosing the right mascara

Given that mascara has a short lifespan an expensive one really is a luxury purchase

Mascara is the bread and butter of the makeup industry. Completely portable and utterly transformative, mascara is the one product that even those who generally don’t wear makeup will always spend money on and keep to hand.

Given that mascara has a lifespan of three to six months (after that the formula will thicken and dry, as well as increase the risk of eye infections), an expensive one really is a luxury purchase.

A misguided mascara purchase is incredibly frustrating – if you’re going to stretch to spending more on a product with a short lifespan, it should work hard for you every day while you have it.

Finish preference is obviously very subjective – whether you prefer volume, length, curl, or a low-key effect will dictate which mascara you choose, but there are some qualities that a mascara should always have. The more it costs, the less tolerant I am of flaws and issues.


If you’re opting for black mascara, it should be black as a priest’s socks. An insipid, watery grey is unacceptable, and should never be tolerated.

Clumping is a sign of a bad (or old) mascara, and any crispiness or movement once the mascara has dried on the lashes justifies a quick trip to the bin.

Mac Upward Lash (€25) will create big, volumised lashes which sit almost vertically for a wide-eyed, refreshed look.

The small brush gives you access to every last lash. Apply it in thin layers to maintain control over the finish, or you may end up with lashes that stick together. My own lashes simply will not hold a curl, so I gave up on lash curlers years ago and have focused instead on finding good mascaras that will force an artificial curl into my lashes instead.

A mascara with this magical ability is rare, but Le Volume Ultra Noir de Chanel (€31.50) will force a curl into the straightest lashes. It has a very pleasing fan effect which pushes lashes up and outward, coating each one without clumping.

For warm weather, holidays, or those with oily lids prone to makeup smudging, Lancome Hypnose Volume-a-Porter (€27.50) is a very sound investment.

The slightly thick consistency gives volume as well as length, and forces flaccid lashes to work a bit harder and stand a little taller. Waterproof mascaras are no match for oil, since that’s exactly what we use to remove them.

Sebum and sweat will move a waterproof mascara in no time, so smudge-proof is a better option. It will take more work to remove, but will stay put all day. If you find that every mascara migrates, this one is a must-try.

Since mascara doesn’t last very long, there’s no need for preoccupation with preserving it – it will dry out anyway.

The best way to apply every mascara is to take the majority of the paste off the brush. Whatever can’t be scraped gently against the edge of the tube should be dabbed off into a tissue before application. It feels wasteful, but ensures the best finish.