I’m flexible on the performance of a lot of beauty product categories — powder that needs to be reapplied, lipstick that fades in a couple hours, all fine. But mascara … if it’s not A+, I hate it and am perpetually angry with it for failing me. The fact that I have kinda oily skin and tend to get sweaty easily (grossss) makes for an extra challenge.

NOW : I’ve gone on and on about my love for Too Cool For School’s Dinoplatz Escalator mascara, which was and is my gold standard. It doesn’t flake, it does not smudge ever at all, and yet it comes right off easy peasy with any ol’ face wash. But there are SO MANY OTHERS! That so many people seem to adore! Cult favorites! So I’m gonna try some of ’em and see how they do, head-to-head.

THE RULES : All will be applied in my “normal” fashion, to freshly-washed face with a little serum or light moisturizer — nothing oily, and no foundation or powder or other makeup in the eye area. No eye makeup either, just mascara alone, because I don’t want to blame a product for smears or flecks that were caused by a misbehaving eyeliner or shadow. I’ll generally use full-size products, or minis as long as they have the same brush as the regular size, and aren’t more difficult to use for any reason. I’ll probably also test out mascaras I’ve had for a while, but I certainly won’t use anything that’s old, dried out, or otherwise not applying/behaving as is “normal” for that product.

FIRST UP : Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay versus Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir


Tarte Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara is $23/.24oz at Ulta; Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir is $26/.32oz at Sephora. On application alone, I’d give both of these about a B. They went on pretty nicely, neither was prone to sticking clusters of my lashes together into big spikes, both felt soft (not hard and stiff and tar-like) after drying, both were reasonably easy to apply without getting blots and streaks everywhere — which was a little bit surprising, as both of them have a brush that’s rather larger than I’m accustomed to :

Tarte Gifted has a bristle-type brush that’s quite long, but not particularly fat, and tapered toward the tip.
Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir also has a bristle-type brush, but it’s a bit shorter than Tarte’s, and it’s narrower in the center and wider at either end.

The brushes on both of these were fine for me — whether you’ll like them depends on your preferences, what you’re used to, and your lash type and eye shape.


Marc Jacobs on the left, Tarte on the right. The MJ looks a BIT thicker/darker at the base here, but that’s more due to shadows/lighting direction and the fact that my right eye is more hooded than the left one, sigh.

The Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir is quite black, and notably smooth, yet it added a good bit of volume as well as length. The fatter tip end of the brush DID make it a bit harder to get the small inner and outer corner lashes coated without making a mess, so I kind of didn’t really try.

Marc Jacobs, just applied.

Pretty good! I did a magnifying-mirror progress check at an hour, and it hadn’t dropped any flakes or changed at all that I could see. After eight hours though …

WOW that’s quite a lot of undereye smudges. :(  And yeah, it’s mascara, because no other eye makeup. I tried this one again, with full (albeit pretty minimal) makeup on — foundation, powder, eye primer, nude shimmer shadow, liquid liner — a few days later :

Yep, lotsa smudge action there. Damn.

The Tarte Gifted adds a good bit of length and volume, is also quite black, and I had an easier time reaching the corner lashes due to its tapered brush. However, it’s noticeably less smooth than the MJ Velvet Noir, and while it didn’t “clump” exactly, my lashes do have a few tiny flecks ‘n’ chips attached.

Tarte Gifted, just applied.

HOWEVER. Within an hour of application — and no I did not rub my eyes — the Tarte had dropped a whole bunch of tiny flakes all over my eye area and upper cheeks :

So that’s less than optimal. Let’s see what it looks like eight hours later :

Looks alright, but that’s not a shadow under the crease of my bottom lid — that’s mascara smudges. :(  It had also dropped a few more flakes, but not as many as it did earlier in the day (I cleaned those up at the one-hour mark, so I could see whether it continued to shed).

I did an undereye cleanup on both of these at the 8-hour point before I washed my face — behold the Filthy Q-Tips Of Failure :

That’s QUITE A LOT of mascara cleaned up just from my undereye area on each eye — as you can see, the Marc Jacobs is DEFINITELY much worse re: smudging than the Tarte … but of course the Tarte has that annoying flaking issue.

And here’s the cleanup q-tip from the day I wore the Velvet Noir with a full face o’ slap — yeah, it’s just as bad. :\

THE WINNER : Eh, I’m not super jazzed on either of these, and would probably rate both of them about a C. They apply pretty nicely and they look good, but Dinoplatz has spoiled me and I no longer tolerate any amount of undereye transfer. If I HAD to use one of them exclusively, the Tarte would be my pick, due to slightly less smudging and the easier-to-use tapered brush. The flakes are very bothersome indeed, but at least they can be brushed away occasionally. The Marc Jacobs starts smudging and KEEPS smudging, and even having a well-powdered undereye area didn’t deter it.

Have you tried either of these? Love or loathe? Diiiiiiscuss!