Even if you were blessed with the most luscious lashes of all time (jealous), we’re willing to bet that mascara is a part of your day-to-day routine. After all, no matter what type of makeup look you’re rocking, nothing quite finishes it off and ties everything together like a good mascara that defines and enhances your natural fringe. To that point, we’re willing to bet good money that you’ll be sporting mascara on your wedding day. But here’s the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a big day mascara: Mascara is a super individualized thing.
“Mascara is all about body chemistry,” explains MUA Jenny Patinkin. Things such as the number of oils in your lashes can affect how the mascara works, meaning that the one that your BFF loves and swears by might not be the best one for you. To that point, Patinkin says it’s important to take any mascara you’re considering wearing on your wedding for a test run to make sure it works for you.
There are a few unique things you can look for in a wedding-specific formula (more on those in a moment), but, other than that, Patinkin says finding a great formula that you love for day-to-day life and simply using two to three coats instead of the standard one to two is a great idea.
Meet the Expert
Jenny Patinkin is a makeup artist and founder of Jenny Patinkin Eco-Luxe Beauty Tools.
Read on on for the best mascaras for your wedding day.
Best Overall: Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara
This aptly-named pick truly does create the look of lash extensions—with none of the time, commitment, or cost associated with such. The length and definition it imparts truly are unparalleled in our opinion, partially thanks to a molded brush that helps the formula reach every single little lash. While it’s not waterproof, it does have a film-forming technology that wards off smudges and smears impressively well, though it still comes off very easily with just warm water.
Price at time of publish: $29
Best Overall, Runner-Up: Jones Road The Mascara
Fun fact: The name of this mascara is a nod to the fact that it’s ‘the’ only one you’ll ever need. The deeply-pigmented black hue packs a major punch, and the formula is easily layerable and buildable, a major boon per Patinkin’s previous tip about brides using a few extra coats. The curved wand captures and coats both the inner and outer lashes equally well, adding a nice amount of separation, lift, and volume. It doesn’t hurt that it’s totally clean and highly-conditioning for your lashes, too.
Price at time of publish: $26
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Eye Lash Sensational Mascara
Nothing against the OG Great Lash formula (you know, the one in the neon pink and green tube), but this is our favorite Maybelline mascara. It fans out lashes and adds tons of both length and volume. Plus, you can pick from six different colors/waterproof and non-waterproof options, and, in true drugstore fashion, the price can’t be beaten.
Price at time of publish: $12
Best Waterproof: Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Mascara
You don’t necessarily need to use waterproof mascara on your wedding day, but, if you know you’ll be shedding a tear or two (and/or that it’s going to be super hot and humid), it’s not a bad idea to err and the safety and opt for this pick. Lengthening and volumizing, the formula has proteins, amino acids, and honey in the mix that help improve the health of your lashes and ensure they stay nice and soft even if you layer on multiple coats. In our experience, that’s not always the case with waterproof formulas, which can tend to get brittle and hard quickly.
Price at time of publish: $26
Best Tubing: Caliray Come Hell or High Water
Patinkin says tubing mascaras are a nice alternative to waterproof formulas for brides; they work by delivering teeny-tiny tubes that coat and extend every lash. This is one of her favorites: “It builds length and volume and stays put until you wash it off,” she says. It won’t smudge and is water-resistant, and, as a nice bonus, the tube is made from 100% ocean-recycled plastic.
Price at time of publish: $24
Best for Length: Thrive Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara
Another tubing formula, there’s good reason this mascara has amassed somewhat of a cult-like following. It won’t clump, flake, or smudge and comes off with water alone, no eye makeup remover required. It’s also dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested, a non-irritating pick even for those with sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers. Plus, it comes in not only black, but also brown and a super-pretty deep-blue hue.
Price at time of publish: $25
Best for Volume: Kjaer Weis Im-Possible Mascara
“The wand of this mascara makes it so easy to build a ton of fluffy volume and also to get into the baby lower lashes,” says Patinkin of another one of her favorites. (The brush is nice and thick.) It’s not only clean, but it’s also one of the few certified organic mascaras out there, filled with good-for-your lashes ingredients such as nourishing marula oil and strengthening sunflower oil. Also cool: The tube is refillable, choice for anyone looking to make their makeup routine more sustainable.
Price at time of publish: $32
Best for Lash Lift: Milk Makeup Rise Lifting + Lengthening Mascara
This newbie imparts so much lift and curl to lashes that you may be tempted to ditch your lash curler. The curved brush is specially made to lift and boost all lash types (straight, curly, fine, or thick) from the root, while its wavy bristles help to keep clumps at bay. The mascara itself is made from, among other things, four vegan waxes that are surprisingly lightweight, ensuring lashes stay nice and lifted and not weighed down. And the tube itself has a unique grippy texture that makes it incredibly easy to hold.
Price at time of publish: $18
Best Versatile: Ilia Limitless Lash Lengthening Mascara
Not sure whether you want length, volume, or a little bit of both? Try this mascara. “The applicator has one side that builds length and another side that builds volume, so you get the best of both worlds,” says Patinkin of another one of her favorites. (Namely, the bristles are shorter and fluffier on one side, and longer and more defined on the other.) The mascara is made with beeswax and shea butter that imparts hold yet is still flexible, so you don’t have to worry about flakes.
Price at time of publish: $13
Best for a Natural Effect: Merit Clean Lash Lengthening Tubing Mascara
Another tubing pick, we appreciate that this one leaves your lashes with that ‘no-makeup makeup look.’ It’s not necessarily super dramatic or intense, but rather a good option for those who want their lashes to look super natural…but just a little bit better than usual. The formula is clean, cruelty-free, and vegan and also helps to nourish and condition your fringe, always a good thing in our book.
Price at time of publish: $26
What to look for in a wedding mascara
A buildable formula
According to Patinkin, your wedding day is a good time to use more coats of mascara than usual, think two to three at least. That means finding a formula that won’t clump or flake as you layer more on is paramount.
“Tubing mascaras are a great option for brides because they have amazing wear time and won’t smudge or flake,” says Patinkin.
A waterproof option
While it’s not an absolute must, for brides who know they will be crying, it’s always a safe bet to go with a waterproof pick. Plus, you can also use one to layer over your favorite non-WP formula to up the staying power (keep reading for more on that point).
“Adding a coat of waterproof mascara on top of your regular mascara to seal it in will always be helpful,” says Patinkin. Also, making sure your lashes are clean of any oils or residue (i.e. from your eye cream or makeup) is a good idea, too.
Patinkin suggests what she calls the “press, wiggle, and fluff” technique. “Press the mascara wand into the base of the lashes and gently wiggle side to side before fluffing the wand out to the tips. This helps build pigment in between each little lash so that the lash line looks darker, and builds a base of product that will support a curl,” she explains. Avoid putting too much product on the tips of the lashes, which can both leave them looking spidery or clumpy, as well as weigh down the curl, she adds.
Why Trust Brides
Brides contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She’s also a newlywed, who used (and is still using) most of the mascaras featured on this list for all of her wedding-related events. She used the Maybelline option on the big day itself—the waterproof version because she is a crier.