The Challenge: Find A Mascara That Does What It Says

Every week-ish I accept challenges from the members of the Facebook Group Old Dogs, New Tricks to solve their things-I-should-know-by-now questions.

The Contenders:

Asked and answered, right?


Mascara is a rabbit hole from which it is difficult to escape. There are so many variables to consider that I’d written 7500 words before I realised it would send you screaming from the room.

With that in mind, you can skip to the winners lower down or you can click on the details of what you should consider before you buy your next mascara.

So Many Things to Consider

Ignore at your peril

 Do not, I repeat, do not go to bed without getting your mascara off.

All kinds of bad things happen – here’s YouTube goddess of all things dermatological, Dr Dray on the subject.

She also advises you to skip the eyelash serums – check it out here.

Mascara lasts three months. I’ve never met anyone who trows theirs away so quickly but after three months you’re probably putting more germs on your lashes than dye.


I have a preference for fluttery eyelashes I am also hopelessly unfashionable. Every beauty editor ever disagrees with me. A fashionable eyelash is spidery.

By now we should have learnt that no one gets to tell us what is the “right” look, so make up your own minds on this on.

All mascara formulations are pretty much the same (wax and dye). The applicator is actually more important.

Wand Type


Skinny Good for straight lashes
Hourglass Good to give an intense mascara look
Pointy Good for separating lashes and for creating layers
Spiral For Fine, short lashes and good for “wiggling”
Round Tip Allows you to focus on specific parts of your lashes
Curved Volume
S-Shaped Length and Volume
Wide Apart Bristles Fluffy
Plush Good for sparse eyelashes

Honestly, this left me with more questions than answers. At the risk of dragging you into my existential mascara crisis, what about these:

  • How many lashes is sparse?
  • How long is a long lash or a short lash?
  • How curly is a curly lash?
  • Why can’t I just have normal lashes, like normal skin and normal hair?

You can read an article with less angst about wands here.

Every beauty editor ever not only condones but encourages you to use multiple wands and formulations in a single setting.

This was a huge disapointment for two reasons:

  • Instead of testing three times I tested all the possible.

Ever beauty editor ever also advises that your mascara brand is less important than how you apply it (obviously wand dependant!).

Here’s what I picked up:

  • Lightly powder your lashes before you begin – everything sticks better
  • Many little strokes will give you the high fashion spidery look
  • Slower, fewer strokes will give you the fluttery look
  • Wait a few minutes before putting on a second coat 
  • Wait until your mascara is completely dry if you need to get rid of clumps or want to comb out spidery-ness
  • Spoolies are your friend when it comes to combing out lashes
  • Eye-lash curlers are the work of Satan – avoid, avoid, avoid! (that’s just me not the editors).

I did find a tiny bit of smudging at the end of the when I wear two coats of Essence All Eyes On You. 

I looked up some tips but I haven’t tried them yet:

  • Once your mascara is dry add a layer of eyebrow gel. I bought some of this on a whim, so I’ll test this hack soon.
  • Use eyelid primer (I honestly don’t know what that is)
  • Avoid putting on eye cream or cream-based eye shadows when you’re wearing mascara. This makes sense but hello…the SPF on the eyelids is more important. I guess that you could use setting spray or powder over your sunscreen?
  • Use rice blotting paper – I’ve seen this at Dischem but never tried it
  • Use waterproof mascara

I really expected to end this week with sanded down panda eyes but all of these mascaras were really easy to remove with my usual double cleanse routine (sun screen is also sleep unfriendly):

  • At the moment I’m in love with
    Heimish Cleansing Balm. Take a scoop as big as about half your pinkie from the tub. Rub it between your hands and slather it onto your face, neck and chest 
  • Massage it in. I gave my eyes a little extra attention and rubbed the blam downwards along the shaft of my eyelashes.
  • It’s vital not to look in a mirror at this stage.
  • I jump in the shower at this point and rinse off the blackish residue.
  • For my second cleanse I’m currently,  in love with the  Heimish All Clean White Clay Foam I got in a K-Beauty starter pack. Use it in the way you’d use a normal water-based cleanser

I didn’t need any other makeup remover to hop into bed panda-free and fresh-faced.

Heimish double cleanse

An old school friend who lives in the UK immediately gave a definitive answer with the all time best mascara:  Dior Overcurl Mascara .

I’ve seen loads of rave reviews for this but I immediately hit 2 snags:

  • It wasn’t easily locally available (I’d need to import it through Amazon)
  • After shipping, duties and tax this came in at a whopping R767. Ouch

For those of you who are rich and/or living in the UK/US you can get it on Amazon.

P.S.Use the link above because it’s an affiliate link and I could get money from your order!). 

The Winner Is:

Not Simple!

Like mascara itself, the outcome isn’t simple. I ended up with three recommendations.

Best For Dramatic, Glamorous Look

Mascara: Two coats of L’Oreal Paris Paradise mascara waterproof black

Wand: The micro brush that comes with Revlon Mascara Ultimate All in One

Why I love It:

It made me look far more glamorous than I actually am. It also made me look like I was wearing eyeliner.

If I ever went out for sophisticated evening do’s this is the look I’d pick. 

Best for fluffy day time lashes

Two coats of Essence All Eyes on Me (waterproof) using the tapered wand that it comes with.

Why I loved it:

The result was lots of fluffy eyelashes. It was probably the least dramatic or fashionable look but it was the one that delivered the day-time look I like.


An Honourable Mention

Best Wand: L’Oreal Paris Paradise

I loved this fat, soft wand. It was the least stabby and even with my lack of coordination, I didn’t puncture my eyeball.


Last But Not Least, Your Other Mascara Questions Answered

  • None of them made eyes water, although the L’Oreal Paradise formula did make my eyes feel a but stick when I blinked.
  • Apparently holding a spoon over your eyelid can stop “printing” but I didn’t test that myself!
  • See the bit on wands and application techniques above for ideas for very fair eyelashes