We were on the hunt for the miracle: The mascara breakthrough that at long last would give us the most beautiful eyes in all the land.
Would it be L'Oreal's Voluminous that claims "up to 12x more impact instantly"?
How about Benefit's They're Real! with the special brush that "reveals lashes you never knew you had"?
Or Maybelline's new The Rocket Volum'Express with the "patented supersonic jumbo bristles"?
Yes, we'd been warned not to trust the hype. More than once, "Cosmetics Cop" Paula Begoun has told me, "Look at any fashion ad for mascara. They're wearing false eyelashes. You'd have to be blind not to tell."
And, sure enough, the fine print on The Rocket magazine ad says, "Lashes styled with lash inserts." Yup, false eyelashes. No wonder they look so lush.
The ever pragmatic Begoun, author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," also had told me that spending more than $10 for mascara just doesn't make good sense.
But we want to believe. We yearn for a product that with just the swipe of a (goo-covered) magic wand we can somehow lengthen, curl, separate, darken, thicken, define, nourish, extend, fortify and maximize those skimpy hairs on our eyelids.
In that ongoing quest for perfect lashes, my stalwart co-worker Keri Wiginton and I spent weeks testing the new and allegedly revolutionary mascaras we'd read about in magazines and online "best" lists.
Just when we thought we were done with the compare and contrast, the careful weighing of pros and cons of mascaras from less than $7 to more than four times that — $28.50 — I got a plaintive email from reader Patricia K.
She had read that MAC's Extended Play Gigablack Lash mascara could enhance even the "tiniest" bottom lashes. She was tempted, but "I am not too keen on spending more than 5 bucks, preferably less, on any cosmetics unless they produce miracles."
So at Patricia K's request, we put the $16 MAC mascara to the test too.
Every day, we'd apply a different product. Sometimes two a day.
I'd examine my painted lashes in a magnifying mirror (not recommended if you don't want bad news). Our husbands, friends and co-workers were called on to examine our eyelashes closely and tell us if they could detect a difference between the high-end Dior and the drugstore brands.
And we'd scrutinized them against our usual go-to drugstore cheapie mascaras. (Maybelline's $7.49 The Falsies Volum'Express for Keri; Maybelline's $5.99 Great Lash Big in the pink tube for me).
We hoped to be transformed. Really, we did.
But the bottom line is this: There was virtually no difference among the six mascaras we tried. No matter the cost, the purportedly miraculous brush, the pretty pictures in the ads. At best, one might be, say, 5 percent better than another.
After much deliberation, Keri and I agreed that if we had to pick one we'd both choose L'Oreal's Telescopic because of its easy to handle long, skinny brush, and it made our lashes look a little longer.
And you can buy it for less than $10.
Check out the mascaras in the photo gallery above (see information by clicking on "captions," or read it below).
¿Maybelline, The Rocket Volum'Express waterproof
Hype: "Explosive volume … Patented supersonic brush."
Our test: We liked it, and we liked the price. No eyelash explosion, though.
Details: $6.22, most drugstores, drugstore.com
L'Oreal, Telescopic Original
Hype: "60 percent longer lashes."
Our test: Our favorite overall; easy to apply with skinny brush, and lashes seemed slightly (not 60 percent) longer.
Details: $9.49; most drugstores, ulta.com