7 brilliant brown mascaras worth ditching your trusty black formula for

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When was the last time you bought a brown mascara with intention, and not because you thought it was black? It’s time to switch it up and pay some attention to one of the most overlooked beauty items with our top picks of the best formulas and shades.

I bought my first brown mascara when I was in secondary school, purely because it was about £3 cheaper than the black one. From then onwards, I noticed that my friends (who wore their lashes thick, black and spidery) would constantly get told off by teachers and were forced to take their make-up off, whereas I would often slip by unnoticed. Ever since then, brown mascara has been a staple in my make-up bag for defined lashes that still make an impact, but are subtle enough to look like you’re wearing nothing.

We’ve always been told that brown formulas are reserved for those with blonde or red hair, as the colour is softer and less harsh on paler hair and skin. Despite having black eyelashes and a medium-brown complexion, I still opt for brown to coat my lashes for the sake of a soft, harmonious look. 

Brown pairs beautifully with a haze of neutral eyeshadow around the eyes, and especially well on the finer lower lashes (which can often look clumpy and harsh with black). For the best of both worlds, I do black on the top and brown on the bottom for just the right balance of impact and subtlety. It seems like an unnecessary extra step, but trust me – once you try it, you’ll see what I mean.

Not all browns are created equal; some are basically black, some are too wet or too dry, and some are a strange warm red tone that doesn’t flatter everyone. Read on for the best colour and formula combinations that’ll convert anyone to the brown side.

  • Lancôme Hypnôse Mascara

    Lancôme’s cult formula has a brown version, and it has exactly the same lengthening and densifying powers - plus it’s safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens-wearers.

  • Benefit They're Real! Mascara in Brown

    Again, another hero mascara in brown – this shade is slightly lighter than other browns, so it’s best for an ultra-subtle look.

  • Kiko Smart Colour Mascara in 02 Warm Brown

    Despite the name, this brown is quite ashy, which makes it stand out less than warmer shades, but in a good way. Just one swipe gives subtle statement lashes.

  • L’Oreal Paris Volume Million Lashes Mascara in Brown

    This was my first brown mascara, and I’ve always had a tube on the go ever since. The plastic brush separates and coats every lash, and it’s an intense dark brown – the perfect transition shade if you’re still clutching your black mascara.

  • NYX Worth The Hype Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara in Brownish Black

    This is for anyone who likes their lashes jumbo. The dark brown colour will stop lashes from looking too spidery, unless you prefer them that way.

  • Chanel Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in 80 Écorces

    This rich brown combined with a hard-working brush delivers sumptuous, fluttery lashes.

  • Rimmel 100% Waterproof Mascara in Brown

    A total classic, this mascara lengthens and ensures lashes stay the way they should all day long.

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Ava Welsing-Kitcher

Ava Welsing-Kitcher is Stylist’s junior beauty writer and resident curly girl. She’s addicted to lip balm (who isn’t?!), wearing eyeshadow as blush and lipstick and all things hair.

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