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What Does Clear Mascara Do? Honestly, Not Much

I didn’t have any experience with clear mascara, so I thought I’d take a journey and share the results with you.

The Tl;dr is this: they say clear mascara enhances your lashes in a natural-looking way and that it can also be used as brow gel and flyaway tamer. My experience is that it did these things only negligibly. And I wound up feeling that clear mascara is a waste of money.

Before we get into how each individual thing I tried, let me share a pro and con list of clear mascara.

A picture of clear Great Lash from Maybelline
In all its see-through glory.

The Pros of Clear Mascara

Though I found clear mascara to be a bit of a flop, there were a few pros:

  • Clear mascara does have volumizing properties. Your lashes and brows will look slightly thicker.
  • Clear mascara is wet looking. Think of how people’s lashes look right after getting out of the pool. They’re slightly darker and easier to see. That’s because the shine of wetness reflects light and highlights the lashes.

The Cons of Clear Mascara

Sometimes there really are cons to clear mascara, like the ingredient denatured alcohol. But for the most part, my gripe is that clear mascara is simply a nothingburger. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The effect it has on your eyelashes/brows vs no product at all isn’t very different.
  • The hold it has on hairs is weak. Using clear mascara as a holding substance when there are so many great brow gels, not to mention the option of soap brows (or hairspray for flyaways), that could do the job…well, there’s just no reason to settle.
  • It makes your lashes stick together, giving them the opposite of definition.
  • Many drugstore formulas contain denatured alcohol. This harsh, drying ingredient is a no-no for skin and hair. If you really are set on finding a clear mascara, try Essence’s Lash and Brow Gel Mascara or The Body Shop’s Brow and Lash Gel—they lack this ingredient.

How My Experience Went

I tried Maybelline’s Great Lash in clear on my eyelashes, eyebrows, and flyaways. Let’s discuss the eyelashes and brows first.

Eyelashes and Brows

a picture of my eyes and brows, one side with clear mascara, the other with nothing
There’s clear mascara on the left eye and brow and no product on the right side.

As you can see, the wetness made the lashes look darker and made some of my bottom lashes look longer. But what we gain there, we lose in definition. Frankly, I like the fluffy look of my natural lashes better than the sticky look of the clear mascara side.

As for brows, I did notice the clear mascara side looking slightly darker and fuller, but I don’t know that the difference is marked enough to buy an $8 tube of transparent goo that didn’t prove to have a lot of hold.


Clear mascara worked for my flyaways…for awhile. It was a little wet and gel-like at first, and you can’t really control the amount of product you put in, which can get kind of gross. But after a few minutes, I couldn’t feel it there anymore. So that’s good.

My gripe here is that it didn’t hold any better than hairspray or hair gel applied with a toothbrush. In fact, after a half hour in the blustery, hurricane-season outdoors in the Florida Keys, I found the flyaways flying right back away.

If you already have hairspray laying around, why spend money on this tube and gloopy brush that’s not even designed for such a thing when you could have something so superior in hold?

Clear Mascara Was a Disappointment for Me

So, what does clear mascara do? Not a heck of a lot.

Maybe you’ll find that clear mascara works for you. It didn’t for me, though. Give me my pigmented mascaras and my soap for brows. I’m not interested in results that just make me think “meh” when there are so many perfectly natural-looking mascaras out there, like Lancôme’s Définicils , IT Cosmetic’s Tightline, and CoverGirl’s Clump Crusher. One coat of these, and your lashes look defined and dark but not like you’re wearing mascara. And for brows and flyaways, there are products with better hold out there.