I'm really surprised by the number of negative reviews for this product...I'm guessing that a number of people may feel a little put out by the price and therefore more likely to judge harshly, which I suppose is understandable. For me, this mascara was a pleasant surprise; I was not expecting the level of curl and volume that it imbued!
I bought this product pretty much sight-unseen; I had gone into the store specifically looking to purchase Shu's Smooth Fit foundation, and thought I would ask for a mascara recommendation from the MUA just on a whim. I explained that I was looking for a mascara that would add volume to my long but sparse eyelashes, and this was her Shu suggestion. I'm normally very fickle when it comes to mascara - I'll use pretty much anything once, and just grab whichever drug store brand is on offer - so the thought of paying £20 for this shocked the heck out of me; however, since the Shu stockist was somewhat out of my way and I wasn't planning on coming back anytime soon, I decided to take a risk a splurge.
My first impression on this was regarding the tube; it's incredibly sturdy, a far cry from the plasticky tubes of drug store mascaras (I imagine a chunk of the £20 pricetag went on the packaging). It's also very stylish; a matte black tube with the brand name stamped in white on the side. The lid "clicks" when you've closed it fully, and the surface feels slightly rubberised. All in all very premium and pretty. The soft brush is of relatively standard width, and is slightly curved to enable you to reach your corner lashes easily.
Application can be tricky, as the formula does seem to be prone to clumping (in my experience all volumising mascaras can clump if applied too liberally - after all, they achieve maximum volume by building up product on your lashes and "gluing" them together to build up exaggerated thickness at the sacrifice of the perceived "number" of visible lashes). I didn't find it too troublesome to comb a couple of layers through my lashes though - certainly no more so than any of the other volumising mascaras I've used in the past. My lashes did look much thicker and dramatic, but not unnaturally so; more emphasised than really outrageous, which is what I was going for. Prior to buying this I had been using a free sample of MAC's "Haute and Naughty"; I would say that the volume of this is not quite on par with the Haute brush and is much drier in texture; it offers markedly more volume than L'Oreal's Volume Million Lashes Excess and Max Factor's False Lash Effect Fusion. Personally, I think I like the application and overall depth of colour of Haute a little more - however Ultimate Expression does have a few more tricks up it's sleeve that make it a real contender for me.
For starters, UE adds a superb curl to your lashes. As previously mentioned I have quite long but sparse lashes (probably down to my half-Asian half-European genes), and they are typically poker-straight. A couple of coats adds the most remarkable curl to my lashes, so much so that I don't actually need to curl them separately. That's a big deal for me, as I am spectacularly lazy and love to cut out a step wherever possible! Secondly, this product never flakes or wears away during the day for me; admittedly this isn't a problem that I have ever had with Haute and Naughty, but is a serial issue with the drugstore brands I've used. I've fallen asleep in this and it has not flaked or rubbed off at all. I have quite temperamental eyelids that veer between bone try and extremely oily, and never have any issues with the product drifting or irritating. It's not waterproof and can easily be removed with a makeup wipe. It's worth noting that, when I use a wipe to remove this, I never find that I've lost any lashes during the removal process; this is pretty unusual for me, as I usually expect to see a lash or two come away with the product, so I don't know if perhaps it's strengthening my lashes? If so, bonus!
Is it worth £20? Honestly, I'm not sure any mascara is worth £20. However, I am very pleased with this product and certainly will not reach for any of my other mascaras while I have any of this left. The fact that it curls my lashes so beautifully - and maintains the curl all day - is a wonderful bonus, and likely to be the real pulling factor for me repurchasing. I imagine a number of people won't feel that it's dramatic enough to justify the price tag; for me, I think this product does offer some pretty special benefits, and I think I could certainly be swayed to buy again in the future.