For me, mascara is the one cosmetic product that is a) absolutely necessary and b) usually the biggest disappointment in terms of performance. Flakes not only irritate my contact lenses but also really REALLY p*ss me off. Excuse the language. But bits of black adhered to various areas of my face are not in any way aesthetically pleasing.

Throughout my lash-coating life there have been four mascaras that have been perfect, all which have then gone on to be discontinued. I know. What is that about? And it’s an expensive experiment – trying to find one that works for me and my personal requirements.

I have quite a lot of lashes, and they are reasonably long, I want a mascara that enhances them a bit, holds a curl, comes off relatively easily (excessive rubbing just makes my sensitive skin red and sore) doesn’t smudge and DOESN’T FLAKE.

I am not expecting miracles. I just expect a product to do what it says on the tin. Otherwise it’s fibbing.

I’m well aware there are lots of promise-to-do-everything-and-then-some wands of supposedly magic goop on the market, especially from the more spendy super brands. And I do wonder if the price point is largely dictated by the fancy packaging and ridiculous marketing investment. I’ve tried my fair share of posh tubes, only to be sorely disappointed.

With this in mind I decided to have myself a little (ahem rather significant) trial and review of some cheaper, more accessible brands, to see if might perform as well as or (fingers crossed) even better than their more luxe counterparts.

I am glad to report I have discovered some gems, and my go-to mascara is now…..£1.99. This is the absolute truth people. I have described my findings in detail below.

L’Oreal Double Extension £11.29

I wouldn’t say this is actually that budget, and really it’s the white volume building aspect that’s the winner. Normally I can’t be arsed with double-duty faff but if you are repaired to put the time in, this is one of the best lash primers around. A few of my friends and my sister buy this purely for the plumping undercoat.

The actually mascara is fine – at least it doesn’t flake, it is a little clumpy though so you will need to use a lash comb/dry wand for separation. Available from Superdrug.

Max Factor Clump Defy £10.99

I tried this after admiring the defined truly black lashes of a girl and emailing to ask what mascara she used (!) – turns out it was this. I like the brush very much, it gives you an uplifted look and holds the curl well, it also separates well and doesn’t clump….unless you want more than two coats. In which case for me it does tend to create those annoying blobby bits that will eventually flake off.

A good choice if you’re not bothered with layering, doesn’t smudge either. Max Factor is available at Boots.

Autograph Lash Lengthening £8.50

This make-up range by Marks & Spencers has never been on my radar until I read a few positive reviews on-line. I actually love this super skinny brush, it’s easy to control and defines every single lash. This is very very natural. You can layer without clumps but don’t expect a Bambi flutter or anything, it lengthens a wee bit but there is hardly any volume. I don’t mind this aspect personally and it’s perfect for quick application when you are short on time.

Autograph is available at Marks & Spencers.

NYC Cityproof Buildable £2.49

This truly is buildable, takes some effort admittedly but you can create decent volume and length with some perseverance. Doesn’t hold a curl brilliantly, (I wonder if this is to do with the “weight” after several coats?) but it doesn’t fall off or create black shadows either which is always a winner. Plus it’s dirt cheap and a good choice for your handbag if you want to touch up for evening without creating those weird spider-legs that I find happen if you try and layer new coats over old.

NYC is available at Superdrug.

Natural Collection Lash Length £1.99

Ta Da! my favourite. Yep. It’s under two quid and performs better than any YSL, Chanel or Christian Dior that I have splurged on recently. An easy to control brush, a dry-ish buildable formula, holds a curl, makes lashes longer, doesn’t flake and doesn’t smudge. It won’t replace the effect you get from a set of falsies but it does come close. I went up to Adam last week, whilst adorning several layers of this and basically shoved my eye in his face and said, “What do you think of my lashes?” his response? “big”.

That’ll do for me. You can often purchase Natural Collection on 3 for 2 offers at Boots – yes, I bought three. That made each one ohhh about £1.33.

Have any of you folks tried the mascaras listed above? care to share your absolute favourites?