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Asian Mascaras That Will Make You Throw Out Your Western Ones

Mascara is arguably the one beauty product that inspires vicious resentment or praise beyond praise. It’s finicky about expiration dates and definitely isn’t something to be shared. Even if you keep your tube past its six-month due date, it tends to start a half-life deterioration as soon as you twist it open for the first time. Air, light, general usage — all things that contribute to its sticky clumpy demise.

I’ve done my fair share of Goldilocks-ing prestige mascaras, and I found that if one gave me the volume and length I wanted, it smudged like crazy and clumped up after the first five uses. And if it was waterproof, it made my lashes feel like tree branches and was such a pain to get off, even with heavy-duty eye makeup remover that I’m pretty sure took several of my lashes with it.

I discovered Asian mascaras around the time I picked up a tube of this Fiberwig mascara that promised to be hair extensions for your lashes.The formula created teeny tubes around your lashes that also build upon itself to make them longer. The best part was that not only was it seriously smudgeproof, the tiny tubes just slid off your lashes easily with warm water and cleanser. Magic or science? Whatever it was, I was pretty set on collecting a ton of other Asian mascaras to see if they had something the western ones I was used to didn’t.

Turns out, most of them surpass the beauty conundrum of volume, length, and stay-fastness, sometimes with the added bonus of holding curl. My hypothesis? Something about their formula that covers certain bases first — like water resistance and lightweight buildable texture — sets them apart immediately from the kinds you’ll find in US or European drugstores and beauty shops since volume and length can be zhuzhed up with application technique (not unlike hairstyling) but a wimpy flaky formula is always going to end up under your eyes by midday. Here are some top notch picks for Asian mascaras that go the extra swipe.

For lash extensions in a tube…


Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl Mascara

The name may sound like something out of Mad-libs, but this is largely heralded according to the jury of the Internet as the best of the best of Japanese mascaras. You can find it in Japanese drugstores (or on Amazon). It has a simple curved nylon brush and the formula is peppered with little fibers for lengthening. I’d say that the ability for this one to hold a curl (or even encourage it, if you roll it out as you brush through your lashes) puts it above most others. It’s so light-feeling that it doesn’t squash the work you just did with an eyelash curler—it just adds a bit of definition and length. It’s a really natural finish that’s not clumpy at all, so you can really fake as if you’ve gotten lash extensions.

For disco-amounts of volume…

Clio SalonDeCara

Clio Salon De Cara Hair Roll

“For thin and boring lashes!” That’s what Club Clio’s website says this mascara is for, so if that’s a way you’ve felt towards your lashes — there you go. I’ve always known Asian mascaras to prioritize lengthening since East Asian lashes are generally on the short sparse side. What’s  funny about this is how it’s marketed as a blow-out for lashes — the brush acting like a tiny round hair brush (according to the packaging). I actually really like that the silicone brush is shorter than normal (about a half inch long) so you can really wiggle it up your lashes with less casualty of getting it all over your skin. That’s just considerate, honestly. But boy does this really volumize! One swipe gives you defined natural-looking curled lashes but two or three swipes later and they pack some serious punch. This one is less lengthening than the previous two but what it lacks in that department it makes up in its ability to fatten lashes while not weighing down your curl.

For super long lashes with absolutely zero clumping…


Shiseido Majolica Majorca Lash Expander Edge Meister

It may not look like most sleek Shiseido products, but this Japanese drugstore pick is for any type-A person who throws a fit at first clump. The brush, which is actually a curved comb, is to thank for that. The fibers in this formula give you super long glossy looking black lashes and the comb-brush makes that clean-up round with a lash comb completely unnecessary. Also, I will admit to keeping this tube for quite a few months more than six (it was a gift from Japan and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my hands on another tube soon) and the quality was consistent up until the very end! Completely waterproof, this one required a bit more than just warm water and cleanser to remove, however it was no match for a cotton pad soaked in eye makeup remover or micellar water.

For when you can’t decide if you want volume, length, or both…


Too Cool For School Dinoplatz Escalator Mascara

Okay, this one is just fun to use, regardless whether you like it or not. The silicone brush expands and contracts by twisting the top, giving you a lot of control. This formula is much more volumizing than it is lengthening and a bit on the wet side, causing your curl to droop a bit if you pile it on (easy to do what with all the twisting that makes you want to reapply). But it’s just as waterproof as the rest while still feeling flexible on your lashes. Some people are texture fiends — me, not so much, but I really dislike mascara that stiffens your lashes to a near painful degree so it’s a big plus when a waterproof formula stays soft and pliable.

For “Like yours but better” lashes…


Son & Park’s Power Volume Mascara

It makes perfect sense that the guys to bring your Korea’s answer to the perfectly polished dewy no-makeup makeup look, also have a top notch mascara that does just that, translated to lashes. The Power Volume Mascara sounds more aggressive than it actually is, the standard nylon bristle brush delivering a slick layer to each lash — not too gloopy but leaves a nicely defined emboldened effect on your lashes. And fortunately, it’s smudge-proof too, proving to be humidity resistant on a super hot and swampy NYC day, leaving no trace underneath my eyes. It’s everything you’d want an everyday mascara to do with just the right amount of oomph.  

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