Brown mascara is one of the most overlooked beauty items. Tell me, when was the last time you bought a brown mascara with intention, and not because you thought it was black? Switch it up and pay some attention with our top picks of the best brown mascara 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 sometimes 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.
However, 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.
Here are the best colour and formula combinations that’ll convert anyone to the brown side.
Best brown mascaras 2020, picked by the Stylist team
Lancôme Hypnôse Mascara in 002 Brun Hypnotic
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.
Shop Benefit They’re Real! Mascara in Brown at Boots, £22.50
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'Oréal Paris Volume Million Lashes Mascara in Brown
This was my first brown mascara, and I’ve 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.
Eyeko Black Magic Cocoa Edit Mascara
Yep, Eyeko’s cult Black Magic mascara is available in a rich brown shade. The formula is enriched with shea butter and keratin to condition and strengthen your lashes, while the curved wand delivers the perfect fluttery finish.
L'Oréal Paris Paradise Extatic Mascara in Brown
The perfect everyday mascara, this brown L’Oreal formula has a soft finish that still delivers subtle impact. It’s also infused with castor oil for softer, healthier lashes.
Diorshow Pump 'N' Volume
We know a squeezable mascara sounds odd but it’s actually very clever. When you squeeze the tube, every spike on the wand is fully coated in formula. Then, a dual-material wiper ensures that excess product is taken off for clump-free application.
Images: courtesy of brands