Head-To-Head: Which Holds Up? The High End Original or the Drugstore Dupe?

Published May 10, 2022
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My persisting COVID-era life hack is this: a good pair of earrings and a swipe of mascara is all it takes to make it look like you've put any level of thought into your appearance. Ten seconds to Zoom camera ready? Music to my ears. This, of course, means I have cultivated a pretty extensive collection of earrings and a taste for truly exceptional mascara.

So when I stumbled across a $5 tube that boasted nearly a quater of a million reviews, it was a total no-brainer. I had to try it. After a little sleuthing, I discovered that there was an extremely similar mascara at my local Ulta that came in a shinier tube and at a higher price point. I figured that if they are so close in quality, a little side-by-side comparison couldn't hurt, right? Nervous about the idea of wearing two different mascaras all day long, but determined to find out if they could really be that similar, I grabbed them both and decided to give them a same-day trial run.

Hourglass's Caution Extreme Lash Mascara went first. Applying it carefully to my left eyelashes, I was at first taken aback that not much product went on! After another try, though, I realized that was by design. It's meant to be a gradually buildable formula.

At just under $30, the shiny packaging and luxury feel of the Hourglass Caution mascara was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. It swiped on easily and turned out to be pretty robust without feeling too thick or sticky, a rare feat that I fully appreciate.


I'll be honest: I was a little worried about this one. The packaging was pretty sturdy and the brush looked fine, but come on... less than $10 for a supposedly life-changing makeup product? I swiped it onto the lashes of my right eye, and I realized immediately why people love it so much.

My lashes didn't clump and the product didn't flake. It went on easily and evenly without issue, and by the time I finished both of my eyes, I truly couldn't tell a difference!

It's worth noting that I went through a full weekday with Hourglass on my left eyelashes and Essence on my right. I went to my morning yoga class, I ran a few quick errands, I worked (which included more than one Zoom meeting!), I did my daughter's laundry, and I went on a hike with my family before dinner. At the end of all of it, just before I washed my face and got ready for bed, this is how my mascara looked.

No smudging on either one!

I have to say I was pretty impressed with both! If I look very closely, I can see a bit of clumping on the Hourglass set of lashes while the Essence lashes have stayed pretty separated, but all in all, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well each mascara held up, even after an entire (busy!) day.

Head-To-Head: Which Holds Up? The High End Original or the Drugstore Dupe?