There are actual problems in the world: heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, war, war against reproductive rights… But then there are personal problems that are not really problems in the macro sense, but still deeply frustrating. I give you my own personal beauty quandary, which is finding a smudge-free mascara that’s also vegan and clean.
After years of trial and error, I actually had been in a happy place for a long time with my lashes. This wasn’t easy. Like many Asians, I have short, relatively thin, and straight lashes. I didn’t see anyone with lashes like mine in beauty ads or TV—clearly, my lashes were something to hide or desperately seek to improve. I couldn’t go to school without using my lash curler (heated with a blow dryer) and Great Lash mascara. At one point, I clamped the curler on my eyelid by accident, which led me to lose all my lashes in that eye for a couple months. I cannot even tell you how embarrassing it is to talk to your crush with half your lashes missing.
In college, I experimented with individual lash extensions glued to my own lashes. This gave me the length and the curl that no mascara could ever endow. However, they also randomly fell off at key moments—sometimes even when I was in the presence of a crush. This made me transition to curler + Dior Show lash primer, followed by a waterproof mascara. If you have straight lashes, lash primers help hold the curl and add about 50% more length. Eventually though, I became vegan and using cruelty-free beauty products became imperative. Like most mainstream luxury beauty brands, Dior is not cruelty-free.
Finally (I’m almost done!), I moved on to using a lash growth serum + curler + waterproof mascara. This was a revelation: after trying a few brands, I realized that lash serums can truly give you length and thickness and even a little curl. Plus, it’s not temporary, but a sustained change. I tried Vegamour VegaLash and RevitaLash, and the latter is the one I recommend. At around the same time, my perspective about beauty also changed. I now think that short, straight, Asian lashes are not something to feel insecure about—that’s just how some people’s lashes are. I do feel more critical of Eurocentric standard of beauty. I happen to love my Asian features, especially my eyes, so I’ve come to view my natural lashes as a part of my holistic look, not a weakness. These days I feel comfortable meeting anyone, crush or no crush, without mascara on. Of course, I love to dress up, so it’s still important to know what to do when there is an occasion.
Which brings me to the fact that Gabriel Waterproof Mascara (non-toxic, cruelty-free and vegan), which I’ve been using for about a decade, has been discontinued. This was a true favorite that I never stopped buying: it held a curl well, never ran from workouts or rain, lengthened and volumized, and was relatively gentle on sensitive eyes.😭
So I’ve been searching for a replacement lash routine and getting our resident beauty guru Mary’s advice, per usual.
Em Cosmetics Pick Me Up Volume + Length Mascara
Mary swears by this tubing mascara by beauty influencer Michelle Phan. It lifts, lengthens, resists water, and holds a curl, and doesn’t smudge even in Texas heat and humidity. I mean, that’s saying a lot. I also love that the brand shows what the mascara really looks like on an Asian model. Major points for inclusivity. It’s a tubing mascara, which means it slides off easily with just water and hand pressure. At $24, it is a medium price point.
Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Water-Resistant Long Lash Mineral Mascara
After much deliberation, and a couple of trial-sized clean mascaras that didn’t work for me, I settled with Aquarian Gaze, and I’m glad that I did. It has a stiffer, spikier brush, which is great for shorter lashes. The formula isn’t too wet or dry, and holds the curl pretty well. It lengthens, volumizes, and separates. When I workout vigorously, it smudges slightly—I would say about 10%, if 0% is pristine and 100% is utter lash failure. But for the price point ($14), accessibility (sold widely in health stores), and vegan, cruelty-free credit, I think it’s fine.
Pacifica Vegan Collagen Lash Serum & Primer
This nourishing lash primer, like Dior Show primer, is white so you can see where it adds length and volume on your natural lashes. If you have straight and thin lashes like mine, curl them first and apply primer just to the tips—this helps to keep the curl. Let dry (it doesn’t take long), and then apply mascara as usual. You can also use this vegan collagen & kaolin clay formula at night to help your lashes grow. It’s not only vegan and cruelty-free, but also made of 100% glass packaging for less plastic usage. It’s also only $14—so much bang for your buck!
I prefer to not do mascara on my bottom lashes for the smudging reasons. If you choose to indulge, make sure your eye cream is completely absorbed, and set with a little bit of powder so that oil from your skincare / base makeup doesn’t melt your mascara.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Andre Sebastian via Unsplash; Em cosmetics; Pacifica