Which brown mascaras are best?

When most people think of mascara, they think of the color black. While black mascara is a classic for a reason, brown mascara is a wonderful alternative. In fact, brown mascara may be more fitting for those who prefer a more natural makeup look or have fair skin. Brown mascara is also a great complement to blue or green eyes.

The perfect brown mascara is easy to apply and stays put for the entire day. Our top pick, Clinique High Impact Mascara, goes on evenly and lasts for hours. Whether you’re looking to try a new brand, or you’re experimenting with makeup for the first time, here’s what to consider when shopping for brown mascara.

What to know before you buy brown mascara

Desired effect

Everyone’s eyelashes are different. It’s important to buy a mascara that’s formulated to meet your specific needs. While all mascaras will make your lashes longer, some are more focused on strengthening your lashes and others help to volumize or curl them.

You may want a mascara for daytime that creates a more subtle look and a different mascara for the nighttime that makes a more dramatic statement. Or you can look for a single mascara that’s easy to build up, which will allow you to switch between the two.

Price point

There are three main price categories for brown mascaras: Drugstore, mid-range and luxury. The drugstore category includes brands like CoverGirl, L’Oreal and Maybelline, while the mid-range category has brands like Clinique, Bobbi Brown and Urban Decay, and luxury brands include Lancome, Gucci and Tom Ford.

Luxury isn’t necessarily better. Many drugstore brown mascaras perform just as well as mascaras two, three or even four times the price. Some users prefer the cache of a luxury brand, while others just want something that performs well. The choice is up to you.

Tube design and size

Mascara comes in a tube that is designed to last around two to three months depending on the number of days you use it and how many coats you apply. Some mascara tubes will be small and compact while others will be large and gaudy. Many will have coloring or lettering to make them stand out in a bag or purse.

Some brands also make miniature sizes for travel or for people who only occasionally wear mascara. This can be a great way to save a few bucks if you don’t use mascara every day or to try out the mascara to see if you like it.

What to look for in a quality brown mascara

Wand design

Wand design varies greatly between brands. Bigger wands will make your lashes voluminous in seconds but could look rather cakey, while small wands will be clump-free, but may take a few extra strokes to achieve the most volume. Some wands have plastic bristles while others have nylon. Some wands are straight while others are curved (usually if the mascara also curls lashes). Everyone’s best wand design is different.

If you don’t know what type of wand works for you, it wouldn’t hurt to buy a few cheap drugstore mascaras and figure it out before you opt for a pricier mid-range or luxury brand.

Waterproof and color variations

Most brands make a waterproof version of their black mascaras, but waterproof brown mascaras can be few and far between. If your eyes water during the day or you’re a sucker for tearjerker movies, opt for a waterproof formula.

Some brands make true brown mascaras but many more brands make black/brown mascaras. Black/brown mascaras may be too dark for your eyes or skin tone, so be sure to keep your receipt if you aren’t testing them out in the store. Most major retailers will allow you to return opened cosmetics products, but make sure you verify the store’s return policy.

Wear and removal

A mascara might seem great when you first put it on, but the true test is how it wears during the day. Is it flaking after a few hours? Do you look like a racoon by the time you reach the end of the workday? These are signs of a mascara that’s not going to work for you in the long run.

It’s important to use an eye makeup remover to fully remove your mascara each night. This can be difficult with some formulas, especially if they’re waterproof, so be sure to try removing your mascara for a few nights before you decide to keep it.

How much you can expect to spend on brown mascara

Drugstore mascaras will run you $4-$15. Mid-range mascaras are generally $15-$30. Luxury-brand mascaras can be found for $30-$75.

Brown mascara FAQ

Do I need to use a primer before applying brown mascara?

A. Makeup artists are divided on mascara primer. Some say it’s essential for building the fullness and thickness of your lashes before applying mascara, while others say it’s yet another product to buy and an unnecessary step provided you choose the right mascara. If you do decide to use a primer, apply a single coat, wait around 30 seconds for it to dry and then apply your regular mascara right away.

How long should I keep a tube of brown mascara?

A. You should replace your mascara every three months. If you keep it any longer, you run the risk of bacteria building up on the wand and causing an eye infection. Some people like to write an expiration date in permanent marker on the tube to remind themselves. If your mascara has an unusual smell or consistency, toss it immediately.

What are the best brown mascaras to buy?

Top brown mascara

Clinique High Impact Mascara

Clinique High Impact Mascara

What you need to know: A versatile mid-range brown mascara with terrific lasting power.

What you’ll love: Bold brown color that doesn’t smudge or flake as the day goes on. Simple wand design allows you to create the effect you want.

What you should consider: Some users say it takes longer to dry than other mascaras.

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s, Sephora and Ulta Beauty

Top brown mascara for the money

CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara

CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara

What you need to know: A drugstore brown mascara that creates fuller lashes for an affordable price.

What you’ll love: Easy to build up volume with this wand, and its design helps prevent “spider eyes.” Its bright orange tube is easy to find at the bottom of a bag.

What you should consider: This mascara needs to be thoroughly removed from your eyes every night to avoid clumping when used every day.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Worth checking out

Lancome Hypnose Volumizing Mascara

Lancome Hypnose Volumizing Mascara

What you need to know: A luxury brown mascara with a creamy formula that’s perfect for more dramatic looks.

What you’ll love: The SoftSculpt formula lengthens lashes without clumping, while the tube design is expensive looking and feeling.

What you should consider: Some buyers say this mascara doesn’t perform any better than drugstore brands, a sticking point given the high price tag.

Where to buy: Sold by Kohl’s and Sephora


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Frank Paiva writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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