Because we’re all just one mascara away from supreme beauty.

Every Sephora visit I’m convinced I’m one mascara away from Liza Minelli lashes. I’ve burned cash on serums, primers, rubber applicators — you name it, I’ve globbed it on my lash line — but most “miracle” products disappoint.

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Glueing faux hairs onto my eyelids have also proved fruitless. Every pair of fake eyelashes I’ve ever used itch like hell and look—well— fake. Is there anything more embarrassing than someone asking, “Are you wearing fake lashes?” I always lie, but we both know the truth.

I headed over to Lashe Spot, Chicago’s only salon dedicated exclusively to eyelashes and eyebrows, to end the hunt once and for all. My mission was simple: Find the best products in the industry, test them for optimal beauty and the amount of time they lasted — and assess which was the best value, overall.

Here’s how they sized up:

Mascara option #1 came highly recommended by my girl Jennifer, a sales associate at Sephora with killer contouring skills. She assured me that “Better Than Sex” by Too Faced was one of the hottest products in the store. But honestly, I’ve had better. I used an eyelash curler and two coats of the stuff and was still disappointed. Though the company boasts: “Two coats and [you’ll be] reaching unbelievable heights of drama,” I didn’t feel very SHAZAM.

Pros: There were some minor boosts in volume and length.

Cons: After a few hours I was met with those icky under-eye raccoon eyes from mascara residue. “Smudge proof, all day wear,” my ass. I’ve had better results from drugstore mascara.

Cost: $23

Time to apply: 3 minutes

Duration of wear: 12 hours

Mascara option #2 was “They’re Real” by Benefit. My trust in Jennifer was renewed after using this product. In the past I’ve been unimpressed by plastic applicators but after two coats I immediately saw this one was different. My lashes looked thicker and had more length. At just $1 more than the previous mascara, I saw a dramatic improvement.

Pros: Noticeable volume and length. My favorite feature is the tiny bristles at the top of the applicator. They reached the tiny crevices near my tear ducts that I always struggle to define.

Cons: There was some clumping and lashes sticking. “It didn’t really bother me, but I know it’s an issue for those who already have naturally long lashes.”

Cost: $24

Time to apply: 3 minutes

Duration of wear: 12 hours

If you’re looking to make a very loud statement, these are your best option. If I bat these bad boys, you’d think I was landing a helicopter. My eyes were definitely the focal point of my face, but not in a way I was comfortable with. My small almond-shaped eyes simply weren’t made for such drama. Mink’s false lashes left me looking like a Hayao Miyazaki character.

Pros: Lots of volume. Soft, feather-like texture.

Cons: They looked fake. A bit too much VA VA VOOM for my taste.

Cost: $24

Time to apply: 5 minutes

Duration of wear: 12 hours

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about lash extensions, so I was excited to give them a shot. Our friends at Lashe Spot hooked me up with extensions they call the “mascara look.” This was a beauty game-changer. I sat in a chair for about an hour as my girl Claudia meticulously applied single synthetic lashes to each and every one of my follicles. The result was flawless.

Pros: Supreme, beautiful lashes that look totally natural. They lasted over 4 weeks! After a while, I forgot what my normal face looked like and just started believing this is just how I looked. I rolled out of bed and felt like I didn’t even need to fuss with other makeup. When I came back to the office with the extensions, my co-worker shouted, “You look like a doll!”

Cons: This kind confidence comes at a hefty price. It’s no wonder the majority of women I see investing in this regimen are brides or celebs.

Cost: $100-$450, depending on the style you choose. But many salons (including Lashe Spot) have crazy coupons on deal sites like Groupon, so do your research before booking an appointment.

Time to apply: 1 hour

Duration of wear: 4 weeks

The takeaway? For those with the budget (or savvy shopping skills), extensions are the way to go. They’re a no muss, no fuss option that lasts ages when you care for them. With the option to touch-up your extension every three weeks, I can easily see how this luxury treatment could become a woman’s necessity.

If you’re looking for a more traditional fix on the cheap, shoot for Benefit’s “They’re Real.” I’ve tried countless brand-name and drugstore products and this item beats ’em all. It will definitely be a new staple in my makeup bag.

Huge thanks to our pals at Lashe Spot for the Instagram-worthy lashes! ?

All images by Antonio Manaligod for Dose.