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My Search For The Perfect Mascara

The best brands for your money, IMHO.

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Mascara patterned on yellow background
Rich Begany/The Licensing Project
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One day within the last year, I caught a glimpse of myself and screamed aloud, “What happened to my eyelashes!” I hadn’t worn eye makeup for a while, and they seemed almost invisible. Not a stranger to looking in the mirror, I hadn’t noticed that before. Maybe it was one of those signs of aging creeping up on me. I started looking at everyone I passed on the street who seemed a contemporary, give or take 20 years. Even at a social distance, with a mask there is little to look at except someone’s eyes, and due to isolation a shocking number were unadorned with makeup. I thought about my friends and their eyelashes, trying to peel away images of them in my mind of when we first met decades ago, and concluded there seems to be some attrition of hair on the eyelids the older we grow.

Several solutions can remedy this annoying dilemma. Eyelash dyeing or extensions is an option — although those who choose one of these routes have been out of luck for several months because contrary to some thoughts on the matter, they are not essential businesses. As a contact lens wearer, I don’t like the idea of someone else fiddling with and dyeing the few lashes I have left. I feel the same about extensions, which to me seem like a high price to pay for constantly replenishing the look of a small furry animal or spider roosting above my eyes. And because I am a swimmer, they would have to be replaced more frequently. False eyelashes are another option, but not mine — too much weight and tugging on the eyelids.

I’m an old-fashioned mascara gal, and the only way to go is waterproof with added volume. Years ago, after getting divorced, I was in a restaurant with my son surrounded by happy couples and families, and my eyes watered up and ugly black lines ran down my cheeks like a mime. It was where my boy and I started the tradition of sharing hot molten chocolate cake, distracting the tears by sparring for the greater share. (As tempting as it sounds, chocolate cake is not the solution for every bad moment because then the only thin part of me would be my lashes.)

That’s when I discovered waterproof mascara, and I have been a fan ever since. The color and lushness of my lashes as well as nonstreaked face have stayed intact through joyful tears at my son’s graduation and crying buckets at the deaths of my parents and friends. As I grow older more things move me emotionally, with my heart becoming the most toned muscle in my body. Whether it is brutal, senseless, racist deaths, the folly of world leaders or random acts of kindness, the wellsprings from my eyes keep gushing.

There are many brands of the wand in the tube that I recommend. They vary in price from $5 for Maybelline’s Great Lash to $46 for Tom Ford’s Waterproof Extreme Mascara. Diorshow Pump'N'Volume and YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils also are wonderful. I’m drawn to Lancome because they have so many choices that promise voluptuous volume. Currently I’m using their Monsieur Big, which costs about $25. Not only is the title great, but so is the product. But honestly, there are so many brands in that price range that add volume and will stay on your lashes while swimming with or without goggles, sweating or crying, why not have fun with the packaging? When I went into Sephora looking for alternatives, I couldn’t resist buying the Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara. It was great, and I recommend it.