I have dry, sensitive eyes that tear at the slightest provocation. I also wear contact lenses. And while my lashes are fairly long and naturally grow in an upward direction, they've become very light in color and not as thick as they used to be as I've gotten older. All of which adds up to me being someone for whom mascara makes a big difference, but is almost impossible to wear comfortably.
Add to that the fact that I will only buy cruelty-free makeup and can't tolerate makeup with gluten, and it's amazing I have one brand of mascara to recommend, let alone three. (Please note: None of these are affiliate links, and I buy my own makeup.)
Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara. Let's start with the best mascara I've ever used, and certainly the most expensive.
"Faux Cils" means "false eyelashes," and this is pretty much what they look like once you get a few coats of this gentle, deeply black mascara on your lashes. (It only comes in black.) It has never bothered my eyes at all, and doesn't make them look clumpy or spidery. This high-end mascara retails for $72 at stores like Nordstrom and Neiman-Marcus -- the latter will let you sign up to purchase every 30, 60, or 90 days, which I recommend. No one, but especially anyone with sensitive eyes, should wear a mascara older than 90 days. Which should be a significant motivator to wear mascara more frequently, if you decide to invest in this product.
Bonus: While I don't wear mascara daily, this one claims that if you do, it will actually make your lashes grow longer and thicker.
Bottom line: I don't see how this mascara could be better, even without the treatment claim.
Chantecaille's cruelty-free statement: "Chantecaille skincare products are free of phthlates, sulphate, detergents, mineral oil, petrolatum, palm oil, synthetic color, synthetic fragrance and GMOs. We are cruelty free."
Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara is listed on Nordstrom's gluten-free products page, and claims to be gluten free in correspondence with the Gluten-Free Makeup Girl blog.
Trish McEvoy Lash-Curling Mascara. Significantly more affordable at around $30, this mascara is very different from Chantecaille while being nearly as impressive.
It really does lift my lashes even more upward in their sweep (which is what "curling" lashes actually do), and hold them there for hours. It's a tubular mascara and thus a bit harder to remove than other mascaras I've tried, but I just press a cotton pad saturated with micellar water to my eye, hold it for several minutes, then gently pat the mascara "tubes" away. The upside is that it literally will not and cannot smudge or smear, no matter how much your eyes might tear up.
The slight hassle is well worth it for this reliable, gentle mascara. Trish McEvoy is also available at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, and can be ordered from N-M on a 90-day replenishment basis. It's only available in black.
Bottom line: Long, curly, lashes with no smudging, at a reasonable price for high-end mascara.
Trish McEvoy's cruelty-free statement: The company only has a terse comment that they do not test on animals on their website.
Trish McEvoy is listed on Cruelty-Free Kitty's 2017 list of products not tested on animals.
Lash-Curling Mascara is noted as gluten-free on the Trish McEvoy website.
RMS is a lesser-known but excellent brand, with a passionate commitment to high-quality, organic ingredients. They're available at many smaller retailers, and are available online from Nordstrom. I originally purchased this product from Amazon and it was legit, but I've bought makeup on Amazon that I'm sure was fake, so I can't recommend it.
I may have been drawn to RMS Defining Mascara because of the brand, but it's a reliable, gentle mascara that never clumps or gets spidery. It doesn't have the va-va-va-voom of Chantecaille, but it's my go-to for daily use. I have one in my bathroom and one in my purse at all times. Like the others, it only comes in black, and is cruelty-free and gluten-free.
Bottom line: Reasonably priced for a higher-end mascara, great ingredients, gentle, makes lashes longer and darker without clumps.
RMS Beauty's cruetly-free statement: Their website says they do not test on animals.
RMS states all their products are gluten-free.