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The 8 Best Brown Mascaras, All Editor-Tested 2023

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When it comes to building out a capsule makeup collection, one must not forget a good mascara. But every once in a while, it’s okay to deviate from your “little black mascara” and incorporate some more color (for example, colorful eyeliner). Nowadays, there’s a rainbow of mascaras to choose from, and while it may not be the *spiciest* option to consider, brown mascara is great because it complements a variety of eye colors while delivering a subtle, au naturale makeup look.

Best brown mascaras, at a glance:

  • Best volumizing: Too Faced, Better Than Sex, $29
  • Best drugstore: Covergirl, LashBlast Volume Mascara, $9
  • Best smudge-resistant: Dior, Iconic Overcurl, $32
  • Best long-lasting formula: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara, $25
  • Best separating: YSL, Lash Clash Extreme Volume Mascara, $29
  • Best water-resistant: Pixi, Large Lash Mascara, $16
  • Best lifting: Charlotte Tilbury, Pillow Talk Volumizing Mascara, $29
  • Best coating: Glossier, Lash Slick, $18

What to look for in brown mascaras

Not every mascara is offered in a brown color, but for the ones that are, there’s a variety to choose from: dark brown mascara, best light brown mascara, brown tubing mascara, and more. Some have red undertones; others come in a dark chocolate shade, so there’s plenty to choose from. Even more, they lengthen, volumize, and lift lashes to give you that va-va-voom look.

When shopping, here are a few tips to consider:

Ingredients

Take a moment to review the ingredient list on the mascara’s packaging. If you have sensitive eyes or prefer “clean” beauty products, opt for mascaras that are free from harsh chemicals, parabens, and fragrances. Natural ingredients like chamomile or aloe vera can be gentle on your lashes and the delicate skin around your eyes. Also look for cruelty-free certification or vegan seals, if that matches your lifestyle.

Brush style

The mascara wand’s style plays a crucial role in achieving your desired lash *lewk.* A curved brush can help curl and lift your lashes, while a straight brush is ideal for separating and defining. For a natural appearance, choose a thinner brush, and for added volume, go for a thicker, densely bristled brush.

Formula

And of course, the formula is key. Opt for waterproof formulas for longevity or a washable one for easy removal. Also, look out for nourishing ingredients like vitamin E to keep your lashes healthy and strong; some brown mascaras come with extra features, such as lash-conditioning benefits, lash-serum infusion, or lash-darkening properties.

Other formulas can be “tubing” formulas, which differ from traditional mascara in how they coat and enhance your lashes. Instead of painting your lashes with pigmented liquid or wax, tubing mascaras create tiny “tubes” around each individual lash. When you’re ready to wash your face, the tubes slide off seamlessly, making them a gentle option for those with sensitive eyes.

The best brown mascaras, according to W+G staffers

Best volumizing:

left is better than sex brown mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

Too Faced, Better Than Sex — $29.00

Tester: Maki Yazawa, food writer

Eye color: Brown

“I’ve been using Too Faced Better Than Sex in black since it first launched back in 2013 (yep, a decade ago). This mascara is basically the holy grail of lifting and volumizing in one. But it wasn’t until recently that I switched to brown; frankly, I’m never going back. The brown shade errs more on the side of dark chocolate, which complements my dark brown eyes much better than the lighter brown mascaras on the market. The thick wand makes applying and, most importantly, volumizing my lashes nearly effortless—a few swipes and my lashes are giving Main Character energy.

I also have extremely sensitive eyes, and this is one of the few mascaras that don’t make my eyes itch or water. Although the formulation isn’t technically waterproof (in the brown shade, at least), I find that this product doesn’t flake off or smudge easily whatsoever. Case in point: It can withstand a hot yoga class as long as I avoid rubbing my eyes excessively.”

Shades: 2

Cruelty-free: Yes

Waterproof: No

  • Delivers long and voluminous lashes  
  • Complements dark brown eyes  
  • Has thick wand
  • Cruelty-free formula

Best drugstore:

left is covergirl lashblast volume mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

Covergirl, LashBlast Volume Mascara — $9.00

Tester: Amelia McBride, editorial assistant

Eye color: hazel

“There are a million reasons why I love Covergirl’s Lash Blast Volume brown mascara, but for time’s sake, I’ll share just a few.

For one, it’s only $9; some luxury brands charge as much as $30-$40 for a tube. Second, the brush is made of rubber, which means the bristles stay in place and won’t warp or bend over time. Third, this formula is super thick and delivers instant length and volume. If I’m in a rush, just one coat will do the trick. Lastly, this brown shade has red undertones which make the green parts of my hazel eyes really pop!”

Shades: 5

Cruelty-free: Yes

Waterproof: No

  • Affordable price point    
  • Rubber applicator tip won’t lose its shape  
  • Adds volume and length    
  • Red undertones highlight green eyes
  • Cruelty-free formula
  • Brush isn’t the best at separating lashes    
  • Formula is very thick and can get sticky
  • Not waterproof

Best smudge-resistant:

left is dior iconic overcurl, right is model wearing the mascara

Dior, Iconic Overcurl — $32.00

Eye color: brown

Because I have short lashes, it’s always a struggle to find smudge-resistant mascara. At $32 per tube, Dior’s Iconic Overcurl is one of the more expensive mascaras on the list, but it’s worth splurging on. Not only does the rich, chocolate-brown color complement my brown eyes, it volumizes and lifts my short lashes sans smudging. I’ve run, incline walked, and worn the Overcurl in 100-degree Texas heat. Did it smudge? No. Did it hold up? Yes. Was my mascara still delivering looks eight hours later? Heck yea.

I really appreciated the curved brush, which was great at coating each of my lashes. Even my lashes on my inner tear duct weren’t missed. It’s packaged in a fancy silver tube with the Dior logo (yes, I’m a snobby Taurus who’s a sucker for packaging). One thing to consider: it does take a few extra swipes to get a fuller and more dramatic look. The more I swipe, the fuller the look. It’s a win-win.

Shades: 3

Cruelty-free: No

Waterproof: No

  • Volumizes and lifts short lashes  
  • Fancy packaging  
  • Curved brush to coat all lashes  
  • Smudge-resistant
  • Expensive  
  • Takes a couple of swipes
  • Not waterproof
  • Not cruelty-free

Best long-lasting formula:

left is tarte lights camera lashes mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara — $25.00

Tester: Jenny Heimlich, senior fitness and health editor

Eye color: blue

“As someone with fair skin and blue eyes, I typically reach for a brown mascara, but I find some versions are too light and subtle to do much for me. So I love that Tarte’s is a rich chocolate brown that’s dark enough to make a statement but still complements my natural coloring. The formula adds nice length and volume to my lashes without clumping. Also: It stays put for a long time. This mascara promises to last for 24 hours, and I found it truly stuck on my lashes that long, though it would get a bit flaky by the end of that period.

The packaging is super fun! The outside of the tube is purple snakeskin material, which makes me feel like I’m getting ready for a party. It’s easy to open and doesn’t make a mess. I didn’t experience any irritation, but I wouldn’t say I necessarily have super sensitive eyes. This mascara is vegan and cruelty-free. The formula includes ingredients like rice bran, wax, vitamin C and B5, and olive esters to condition, hydrate, and protect your lashes. I appreciate that it also comes in a smaller travel size.”

Shades: 2

Cruelty-free: No

Waterproof: No

  • Has a rich chocolate brown color  
  • Complements blue eyes  
  • Not clumpy
  • Can get flaky, but I only noticed this after several hours of wear  
  • Pricey
  • Not waterproof
  • Not cruelty-free

Best separating:

left is ysl lash clash mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

YSL, Lash Clash Extreme Volume Mascara — $29.00

Tester: Betty Gold, senior food editor

Eye color: blue

“This mascara both lifted and lengthened my lashes. It was a very subtle, soft brown, which I loved. The mascara had great packaging. It didn’t make a mess when opening or on my face. Score! I do have sensitive eyes, and this mascara did not irritate my eyes. Another feature worth noting? It’s waterproof and has a vegan formula. One of my favorite things about this mascara is that it actually isn’t clumpy. A very, very rare find and a time saver, in my opinion—trying to comb through your lashes over and over to get them to fan out and separate is tedious. None of that with this!”

Shades: 3

Cruelty-free: No

Waterproof: Yes

  • Lengthened and lifted my lashes  
  • Not clumpy  
  • Brush coats lashes well  
  • Nice soft brown color
  • Waterproof
  • Vegan
  • Not great for adding volume  
  • Pricey
  • Not cruelty-free

Best water-resistant:

left is pixi brown mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

Pixi, Large Lash Mascara — $16.00

Tester: Kara Brown, beauty writer

Eye color: Brown

“Although this was a fun experiment, I can’t say I’ll reach for brown mascara again. Because my skin is brown and my hair is super dark brown, putting on this Pixi mascara made my lashes lighter than usual and less noticeable against my skin tone. They’re still visible, but because I have short lashes I want mascara that makes my lashes pop instead of making them more subtle. The formula went on and stayed on well.”

Shades: 2

Cruelty-free: Yes

Waterproof: No, but water-resistant

  • Water-resistant  
  • Buildable formula  
  • Has oversized brush
  • Water-resistant
  • Cruelty-free
  • Brown color looks less noticeable on people with medium to darker skin tones

Best lifting:

left is charlotte tilbury pillow talk mascara, right is model wearing the mascara

Charlotte Tilbury, Pillow Talk Volumizing Mascara — $29.00

Tester: Maki Yazawa, food writer

Eye color: Brown

“When it comes to perfect mascara, I look for ones that achieve long, non-clumpy, yet voluminous lashes all in one. And Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Volumizing Mascara delivers on all of those fronts. (In truth, I’ve yet to encounter a Charlotte Tilbury product I don’t like.) From the sleek packaging to the high-quality formulation, Charlotte Tilbury’s mascara hits the mark. It has a slightly auburn hue, which gives my lashes a subtle tint, perfect for a no-makeup, makeup type of day.

That said, this brown shade with reddish undertones would also look beautiful on folks with green-colored or hazel eyes. It’s also worth noting that one of my favorite parts about this product is the mascara brush that’s built with “load and comb” technology meant to give your lashes a “push-up” effect—and, boy, does it work. The only downside of this mascara is that you do need to add a few layers if you want to achieve that super va-va-voom voluminous look—but a few extra swipes will easily do the trick.”

Shades: 2

Cruelty-free: Yes

Waterproof: No

  • Not clumpy  
  • Gives lashes a push-up effect  
  • Cruelty- and gluten-free
  • Needs a few coats for a voluminous look  
  • Pricey
  • Not waterproof

Best coating:

left is glossier lash slick, right is model wearing the mascara

Glossier, Lash Slick — $18.00

Tester: Danielle Calma

Eye color: Brown

“This mascara makes my eyelashes look like they are three times their original length without making it appear like I’m wearing any mascara at all. Unlike many other mascaras I’ve used in the past, this one went on without clumping, regardless of how many coats I piled on—and thanks to its thin wand, it allowed me to target each and every lash with precision while the brushes separated my lashes for a lifted and fanned-out look. (Just keep in mind that it won’t make lashes appear super-thick, at least in my experience).

What’s more, a couple of coats were more than enough to take my lashes to new heights. I put this mascara through the wringer, using it one afternoon when temperatures were above 80-degrees and even after six hours in the heat, I was pleased to find that it stayed put.”

Shades: 2

Cruelty-free: Yes

Waterproof: No

  • Thin wand coats all lashes  
  • Not clumpy  
  • Affordable
  • Cruelty-free

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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