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making faces :: 40 lashes

well, i don't know if it's quite forty, but i thought that it might be a fun idea to do a "lightning round" series of reviews on mascara.

mascara is the one thing- even more so than lipstick- that i cling to in my makeup routine. it's the thing i'm least likely to leave the house without. but i sometimes find it less than exciting to review, because you don't have the excitement that colour products can bring. the differences tend to be fairly subtle, especially in photographs.

so here's a quick review of this mascara fiend's findings in the field. for the purposes of comparison, i've given each a grade.

armani :: eyes to kill extreme
this holds the distinction of being the only armani product ever to disappoint me. i make no secret of how much i love most of their products and this mascara isn't bad, but i found that the formula was very thin and wet, especially when fresh. i found i liked it more after i'd been using it a week or so [not uncommon for me], since at first, it tended to make my lashes quite spiky until the newness had "worn off" and the formula had thickened a little. once this happened, it was actually a very nice product to work with that gave great results. i would have liked it quite a bit, except... there's a chemical, inky smell that greets you every time you open it. it's strong, too, strong enough that the act of putting on mascara became unpleasant. it doesn't linger on application, but it's enough to take a very good product down a few notches.
grade :: b+

benefit :: they're real
the company that showed me the potential of a mascara made me nervous when they launched a new one a couple of years ago, but i really shouldn't have worried. this is a nice formula with a long, flexible, rubbery brush and one of those nice round, bulbous tips- great for getting at the lashes on the outer and inner corners and giving yourself a full, lush fringe. despite the big talk, it's not a super-dramatic mascara. it can be built up for some more serious flutter, but i find it a great everyday option. the drawback? you kind of need to use the brushes tip and multiple coats to get proper coverage. for some reason, it's a mascara that just doesn't seem to apply evenly without some work. it can look great, but it's a product that takes a bit more effort.
grade :: a-

benefit :: bad gal
this was my first mascara obsession and for old times' sake, i bought myself a tube a few months ago. either my eye lashes have thinned, the formula has changed, or my standards have gotten higher [actually, none of those things are mutually exclusive]. it's endearingly huge brush just didn't seem to give me the coverage or the drama that i remembered. given the choice now, i'd opt for "they're real".
grade :: b-

cargo :: lash activator
cargo aren't known as a prestige brand, so when i saw one of their mascaras priced at around the same level as chanel and ysl, i was taken aback. turned out they were onto something. i got a sample of this in a gift bag and was completely blown away. the length of time that the sample lasted me alone was shocking- i was able to wear it fairly regularly for a couple of months- but the quality was truly amazing. from the first application, it gave me a beautiful fringe with a fair amount of impact. it's better for lengthening than volume, but it's not bad on volume either. i liked the flexible wand and had no problems getting full coverage of both top and bottom lashes. best of all, it left my lashes quite soft. it is also supposedly good for lashes, although this is hard for me to judge, since i wasn't wearing it alone or everyday. an overlooked gem.
grade :: a+

chanel :: inimitable intense
i knew when i got this that it was so crazy hyped that there was no way it could live up to all the expectations. well you know what? it almost does. compared to a lot of the mascaras on this list, it has a smaller brush, which means it can take longer to coat your lashes, but allows you more precision. i'm sort of split on whether i like it or not. it's fantastic for length and very good for volume, but what really stands out to me is its ability to curl. now, i don't want to annoy you, but that's not actually an area in which i need a lot of help. my lashes have a pretty decent curve on their own. but certainly, this formula helps. the one real problem i noticed is that the product dries out surprisingly fast compared to other high end mascaras. it's great while it lasts, but if you're using it every day, it just isn't going to last that long.
grade :: a

chanel :: le volume
new on the scene is chanel's volume-oriented formula. at first blush, it's very similar to inimitable intense, but it is slightly better at providing volume. if what you really want is a curling formula, it's not quite as amazing as its inimitable cousin, but for my lashes, i like it better because it helps create the illusion of fullness. so having thought they were very similar, i do have to admit that you can go with the name: le volume is your best bet if you want volume and some length, inimitable is your dance partner if you aim for more length plus some curl. i've only worked with a sample size of this one, but i find that even the sample has a better lasting time than inimitable intense, so i really do have to give it the edge.
grade :: a+

dior :: diorshow
talk about hype. i was promised that this would be the be-all, end -all of mascara but in the end, i was let down. i don't find it particularly amazing for length or volume and its a bit messy to work with to boot. the large brush is actually more unwieldy than anything and makes it a bit tricky to get full coverage if, like me, your lashes sit on a fairly deep curve. the formula is nice and lasts a long time, but it's a bit prone to clumping and spiking, which i really don't need. word to the wise: it has a scent. it's a delicate floral and it dissipates on application, but you'll definitely notice it. i actually quite liked it, although it struck me as weird at first. there are dior products that i like far better.
grade :: c+

givenchy :: noir couture
daaaaaammmmnnn. this is one i got as a sample and went back for more. i'd been planning on trying their phenomen-eyes mascara, but got swept up in the launch of this new one with its mysterious figure-8 brush. and what's not to get swept up in? it's a phenomenal formula, long lasting, non-clumping, soft and wonderful for length. it's pretty good on building volume as well, although perhaps just a little behind the best formulas. the real gem here is the coverage it gives. that magical brush can go to work on every lash, no matter how awkwardly placed and won't leave a smudgy mess in its wake. an absolute joy to work with.
grade :: a

mac :: plushlash
mac have an undeservedly deserved bad rep when it comes to mascaras. yes, many years ago, they were awful. i was a 100% full-on mac addict and i still didn't buy their mascaras because a girl has to have some standards. but the fact is that there have been improvements and some of those- like this hardworking little character- got lost in the shuffle. plushlash is a a particularly nice formula if you're looking for volume- better than the much-hyped diorshow in my books. the lengthening is decent and the lasting power is good. it's a large brush, but i find it easier to manoeuvre than many in that same category. it does tend to dry out fairly fast and the quality fades quickly as the formula starts to dry, but it's still a very decent mascara and deserves your attention.
grade :: b+

mac :: opulash
a tale of two mascaras. the first: a lovely dramatic formula that covers lashes, making them fuller, longer and richer. the second: an infuriating mousse-like formula that becomes dry on application and prone to flaking. opulash has great potential, but even if you don't get the flaking effect, you are likely to have lashes that are a bit... crispy. i wanted to love this, because it looks so wonderful at first, but i just couldn't. so sorry...
grade :: c

mac :: false lashes
this is another possibly underrated mac mascara, although how underrated it is will depend on what you're looking for. if you're looking for length, this is your baby. it's great at delivering long, wispy lashes to bat at your paramour. however, if length isn't what you're looking for, you might just want to keep looking. it's not a great volume builder and doesn't give any kind of curl that i saw. it just has that wonderfully fluttery, feather-lashes. the downside is that i find this is one formula that fades- not that the product dries up quickly, but my lashes first thing in the morning looked far, far more fabulous than they did later in the day. i hate it when that happens.
grade :: b

smashbox :: full exposure
honesty up-front: smashbox is a brand that has yet to really impress me. the one thing of theirs that i liked was a lipstick that i got as a freebie with a concealer i bought, because the formula was being discontinued. other than that, i've been way, way short of impressed with anything they've done. i got full exposure as a sample and while that doesn't necessarily give one the time to explore a product that a full-size version does, it was more than enough for me to realise that i never wanted to spend my hard-earned money on a full tube of the stuff. it gave neither length nor volume and clumped my lashes together in weak little bundles. there aren't many times i'd say that i'd be happier with no mascara at all, but it was really difficult for me to see an upside to this one.
grade :: f

yves st. laurent :: faux cils
saving the best for last? well, maybe. if i'm being very honest, faux cils does have a couple of flaws that are obvious straight out of the box: the first is that the formula is a little bit greasy, which can lend itself to unsightly smudges. the second is that there's so much product that comes out at first that you can end up with clumping. [luckily, that creamy formula is easy to comb out, but it's still a flaw.] after a few uses, though, this becomes just divine. i've purchased the "noir radical" multiple times and it really is the most intense black i've ever seen. plus it delivers gorgeous, super-dramatic lashes that are long, thick and coyly curled. it's so beautiful you could almost forget those early-on problems, especially since there's a lot of product packed into a tube and it just doesn't dry out. in this case, it's not as flawless as the best formulas, but i love the end result so much that i hate to count its flaws against it [especially since they resolve themselves through use]. nevertheless...
grade :: a

yves st. laurent :: baby doll
what's this? something new? i'm actually trying this out for the very first time today. impressions thus far? oh my. it doesn't give quite the theatrical flourish of "faux cils", but it's flawless straight out of the tube, very clean to work with, and fourteen hours after application, it's still going strong.
grade :: too early to tell, but all signs are positive...

for certain there's more to be said on this subject, because it's certain that i'll be trying out more formulas as time goes on. but this is my list for now.

all the accompanying images were taken from this post, although there's no telling where they got them from...

have a favourite mascara? still searching for your holy grail? feel free to share.

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