When most of our images of mascara are fed to us through inky-lashed, Bambi-eyed beauties in what are definitely full sets of falsies (come on advertisers, give it up) the concept of clear mascara can seem a little bit at odds with what we think a great mascara should do. But not only can the best clear mascaras give your lashes a subtle boost and a healthy sheen, there’s all sorts of other things they can do too.
- Check out our full list of the best colour mascaras here (opens in new tab)
- Looking for a subtle make up technique? Try our round up of the best clear lip glosses (opens in new tab)
First, on lashes: clear mascara separates and defines without adding colour, so if you’re in search of the ultimate no-makeup makeup, you might find one coat is enough for a hint of ‘I woke up like this’ natural glamour, and if you’re very fair, you might find it preferable to sometimes-overbearing black mascara for everyday. There’s also the added bonus that if you do get caught in an unforecast rainstorm on the way to that interview or find yourself in the middle of an unbelievably weepy movie on that first date, you won’t look like Alice Cooper’s less famous sister when the lights go up.
Elsewhere, among the most common ways to use clear mascara is as a brow gel. While we’ve been quite proud of ourselves for using this beauty shortcut for years, the brands have been getting savvy and are now selling clear mascara specifically formulated for fixing brows, some of which you’ll find in our list below. Finally, in a pinch, you can even use a clear gel mascara to fix flyaways for a sleek ‘do – who knew?
To get the most out of your mascara, you might want to curl your lashes first for extra oomph, but other than that it’s all pretty foolproof, with none of the panda eyes or other pitfalls that coloured mascaras tend to throw at us.
One reviewer opened by saying that Dr. Hauschka Brow and Lash Gel was ‘probably the best thing to ever happen to my brows’. High praise, but it’s all backed up by a selection of small but significant virtues: the inclusion of nourishing botanicals such as neem and the appropriately named eyebright; the user-friendly design of the spoolie (that’s the brush bit, to us mortals); and of course, the lovely natural look it gives to lashes and brows. Users recommend applying alone for delicate definition, or underneath coloured mascara for flawless, non-clumpy application.
If you’re buying a clear mascara with the sole intention of using it on your brows, it makes sense to go for something engineered for the purpose, such as Estée Lauder’s Brow Now Stay-in-Place Brow Gel. If you have naturally dark or tinted brows, one swipe may be enough for what the brand boasts is a guaranteed flake-free finish, although reviewers commented it really came into its own over a coloured brow powder or other product, where it made sure the colour stayed true, and kept hairs in place.
There’s a very strong chance that you either had a tube of deep black Great Lash mascara kicking around in your makeup bag as a teenager, or that there’s still one lurking in the back of the bathroom cupboard – but have you ever tried the clear version? Its oil-free formula makes this Maybelline mascara a good bet for sensitive eyes that sometimes struggle with oil-based products, and testers found it gave lashes a lovely sheen both alone and on top of their regular coloured mascara, as well as holding the curl of lashes well.
While this Covergirl clear mascara is a world away from the ultra-bright Great Lash in terms of its minimal packaging design, it’s definitely not far off in terms of its fabulous water-based formula that’s great for sensitive eyes and skin. Unlike our previous pick it’s not the most adept at keeping a curl, so those with naturally poker-straight lashes might want to try something a little different, however reviewers found that its excellent hold made it a top pick for holding feathery lashes and bold brows in place throughout the day.
Full disclosure: this might not technically be a clear mascara, but according to devotees it does everything you’d expect a clear mascara to do, and then some. Engineered to bring lacklustre lashes back to their best, it can be applied before mascara as a primer if you wish, but reviewers found its real talents lie in perking up lived-in lashes. Rather than the clumpy spider leg look you might get from adding another layer of coloured mascara on top of your already worn later, users said this gel smooths, refines and refreshes dry mascara for an instantly fresher, more wide-eyed look.
For bigger, bolder lashes, check out our list of the best eyelash curlers (opens in new tab) for defining your eyes and giving your lashes the wow factor.