Despite the many, many marketing messages and adverts that suggest otherwise, you don’t need to spend a fortune on makeup. In fact, some of the best drugstore mascara brands we’ve tried and tested outperform expensive rivals in almost every category.
To help you uncover these hidden high-street gems, we’ve spent the past month putting the best cheap mascara makes and models through the mill.
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To qualify, each of these mascaras had to be easily available from high-street – or at least the online shop of a drugstore when we were shopping during lockdown – and they all had to cost less than £10 for a full-size mascara tube.
This automatically excluded the likes of Benefit, Urban Decay and Too Faced, who sell mascaras that cost in excess of £20 each. But it did open us up to alternative brands and options we may not have tried, from the likes of Wilko, W7 and Wet N Wild.
You can find out which high-street mascaras made the cut in our list below. If any of these mascaras are cheap alternatives for the more expensive brands, we’ve highlighted them in their individual summary. For example, the L’Oreal Miss Baby Roll mascara is a great, cheaper alternative to the Benefit Roller Lash.
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£9.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: If you’re a fan of Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara (which features on our best mascara list) but just can’t justify paying £22 a time then this drugstore mascara from Maybelline is a worthy alternative. It even has an extremely similar-shaped wand.
Maybelline’s version promises to be better than an LVL lash lift – LVL stands for Length Volume Lift and is a semi-permanent lash treatment –thanks to its fibre-infused formula.
This formula, and the shape of the mascara brush, lifts and coats all lashes for maximum volume with minimum effort. All for just under a tenner.
This is the most expensive product in our list of the best drugstore mascaras but we think it’s worth paying slightly more.
£3.30 | Buy now from Feelunique
Why we love it: In our hunt for the best drugstore mascara, we happened upon this absolute hidden gem from Essence Cosmetics while shopping at high-street brand Wilko.
It’s not a Wilko exclusive – in fact it’s so popular it’s currently sold out (at the time of writing) when bought direct from Wilko’s website – but you can also pick it up from Feelunique and JustMyLook among other places.
For just £3.30, this fan favourite, which regularly tops Amazon’s most wished for lists, uses its cone-shaped fibre brush to provide you with a false-lash effect. In particular, its narrow top helps you catch those tiny hairs on your lower lashes while the thicker end helps sweep pigment onto the longer lashes in the corner.
It manages to do all of this without flaking or clumping too. A true beauty bargain.
£6.99 | Buy now from Feelunique
Why we love it: Chances are if you’re over a certain age (30+) you’ve either come across this classic Maybelline mascara, or you’ve even used it.
It has been a bestseller for years due to its drugstore price, great formula and how it manages to combine length and volume with a single brush.
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The brand even claims that the Colossal Volum’ Express creates seven tines more volume – although this is a little hard to quantify in real-world reviews.
This effect is boosted by the fact the pigment on this cheap mascara is on par with the kind of pigment you get from mascaras that costs up to ten times more. What’s more, you only need one, maybe two coats, to get amazing lift and separation.
We love this mascara – and it’s also available in a waterproof formula.
From £5.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it:If you like your lashes blacker than black and full of volume, this is the best drugstore mascara for you.
As its name suggests, it boosts the volume of your natural lashes ten-fold, thanks to its gel-like formula, and its thick wand helps sweep pigment across all your lashes, even the short ones on the lower lashes and in the inner corner.
It comes with 2-in-1 cap. The top cap lengthens and defines while the bottom cap thickens lashes with oversized volume. Available in black and extreme black.
£2.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: We have to admit, we were a little skeptical about just how well a mascara that costs just £2.99 can perform but we were pleasantly surprised. In fact, we were stunned.
Technic’s Mega Lash lengths and curls lashes with a strong pigment and its waterproof formula is one of the best we’ve ever used. It didn’t flake, clump or transfer all day.
Our only criticism, and it is very minor, is that the formula has a tendency to cling to the end of the wand – more so than others in this list – so we had to remove the excess on a tissue. We can normally get away with removing the excess just on the edge of tube.
Like we say though, this is such a minor convenience when you account for the price and its performance.
£7.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it:We recently tested and ranked every Benefit mascara in its collection and the Roller Lash came out on top. By quite some margin. If you want an extremely similar performance and look for more than half the price then we highly recommend this mascara from L’Oreal.
READ NEXT: Every Benefit mascara ranked
Just like the Roller Lash, the Miss Baby Roll drugstore mascara brush curls lashes from the root, to give them an instant lash lift, while the mega volume formula volumises lashes and holds them in a curl all day. At the time of writing, it’s currently on offer on Amazon for just £5.49.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget