Where’d You Get Those Eyes? — Mascara, of course!

Posted on: January 17, 2011

Close-up of My Eyes with Mascara

Oh, mascara … one of those beauty products you can’t live without when you’re trapped on a desert island (that and sunscreen).  If the eyes are the “window to the soul”, mascara gives you some really nice curtains for that window!

Generally speaking, I recommend black mascara for everyday wear.  Brown or brown/black looks most natural on lashes that are very blond, but even for blonds black mascara is usually a solid choice.  And, of course, every few years colored mascara becomes the rage (purple, blue, etc.) and it can be a lot of fun to experiment with those, worn alone or over your usual black mascara.

I am going to write today about some brands I’ve tried.  Makeup technology is always evolving and mascara is no exception! 

A Brief History of Mascara

Ancient people (Egyptians most famously) used kohl to darken their eyes and eyelashes.  Victorian women would heat elderberry juice and ash and apply the mixture to their eyelashes, but a real breakthrough occurred when chemist Eugene Rimmel invented a cosmetic using petroleum jelly and coal; more famously, T.L. Williams made a similar product for his sister Mabel and began selling it to the public in 1917  under what became the Maybelline cosmetics brand.   Cake mascara, made with soap and black dye, came next, but it was still messy.   Cream mascara in a tube as we know it today was first introduced in 1957 by Helena Rubinstein, and not long after the “mascara brush” was patented. 

Although mascaras are generally composed of the same essential materials — a mix of wax, oils, and pigment — there are always new innovations in mascara brushes and mascara formulas. 

I should mention here that I lean towards brands that are a little more “high-end.”  Over the years I’ve used Maybelline Great Lash, Cover Girl mascara with their Elasta-Nylon formula, and others, but overall I’ve been more satisfied with department store brands’ performance, and I consistently turn to Lancome (which consistently holds the prize for top-selling mascaras, and with good reason) and MAC for mascara.  That said, friends I’ve surveyed have suggested L’Oreal Voluminous and Rimmel brand mascaras as their personal faves that are a little more budget-friendly.

Long-Time Favorites and New Technology

Waterproof Mascara — an absolute must in any makeup artist’s kit, especially for brides!  I gotta admit my personal fave is and still remains MAC’s Splashproof Mascara.  It goes on smoothly, doesn’t clump, and once it’s on stays put.  You will need eye makeup remover to get it off completely at the end of the day. 

Lash Primer — Mascara/lash primers became very popular when they emerged on the scene a few years ago.  Why use a lash primer?  Primers help add volume to the lash before you put on your mascara (so you can get thickness with gooping on layers and layers of mascara!), help mascara adhere to your lashes, and the right formula can also condition lashes to help prevent lash breakage.  Lash primers are white in color, so effort must be made to hit every lash with mascara after using the primer.

Two of my favorite lash primers are by MAC (Prep and Prime Lash) and Lancome (Cils Booster XL). 

TIP:  be sure to not apply primer too thickly (wipe excess off the brush before applying), and only put on one coat of primer.  If you are using a lash primer, don’t put on more than 2 coats of mascara — your lashes will look overloaded and stiff.

Conditioning Mascaras — Mascaras can be drying, which can contribute to lash breakage.  Since it takes months for lashes to regrow, a conditioning mascara is a good choice if you find that your lashes are “falling out” or breaking, or just feel dry.  A personal favorite is Lancome’s Definicils Precious Cells mascara released this past summer.  Oh, I love love love this mascara!  The first time I tried it, I was incredibly pleased with the smooth feel of the product, and when I touched my lashes later in the day, I was thrilled with how soft my lashes felt — no stiffness, no dry or brittle feeling.  No primer is needed with this mascara – the plant oils in the mascara prep and condition but don’t smudge. Easy to remove with soap and water, or a gentle eye makeup remover. It’s not waterproof but has enough stay-put-ness for the average day. 

Fast Lash Fibers — This innovation by Alcone adds fibers to each lash to lengthen and thicken lashes.  To use, apply your favorite mascara,  immediately apply the white Fast Lash fiber mascara while the lashes are still wet, and then add a second coat of mascara.  I’ve used this product and it does work, but it’s not great for sensitive eyes or contact lens wearers — those little fibers can and do get into the eye during application (which I found a little messy — white fibers went everywhere!), and it’s definitely not smudgeproof.  But I will say that for the first time I felt that I had found a product that truly added significant substance to the lashes, more than the usual claims by “lengthening” mascaras.

“Tubular” Mascaras — No, I’m not talking out a mascara inspired by the movie Valley Girl!  What these mascaras do is form “tubes” around each individual lash rather than painting on pigment.  What’s fantastic about this technology is that it’s perfect for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers because it absolutely doesn’t smudge, clump, or flake, and the formula doesn’t dry the lashes.  The first and best of the tubular mascaras out there is by blinc and is the only tube mascara I recommend.  The mascara is water-resistant and I can testify that it does not move even after a good cry or if you rub your eye.  Fast and easy to apply — no primer needed, just put on a coat and go.  No eye makeup remover is needed — just use lots of warm water and a washcloth or your fingers (I use my fingers) to gently “pull” off the tubes.  I promise you it’s easy and you won’t pull out your lashes.  The best part?  No harsh eye makeup remover and no raccoon eyes in the morning because you didn’t get all your mascara off the night before.   Great, great product for everyday wear and it’s available in black, dark blue, dark purple, and dark green.  This mascara is available on the blinc site and also at Sephora.

“Natural” Mascaras — Many women are wanting cosmetic products without preservatives, petroleum derivitives, sulfates, or harsh chemicals.  In mascara, there’s still a way to go in achieving a truly “natural” product that will meet consumers’ performance demands.  I have recently tried Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Action 4-in-1 Mascara, which according to their website contains olive esters to condition, rice bran and carnauba wax for lengthening, and provitamin B5 for volume.  However, the mascara does contain a synthetic “film former” to help hold in curl and it’s not clear from the website what’s in that ingredient.  The website claims in clinical trials the mascara increased volume and length by 424% — I can’t say I personally experienced a 424% improvement in my lash volume and length, but it is a good mascara that can produce dramatic results, especially if two coats are applied.  My only major problem with this mascara is that I did not feel that it stayed put as well as other mascaras mentioned in this post and was not as conditioning, in my opinion, as the Lancome Precious Cils mentioned above.

A brand-new product I’m looking forward to trying that falls under “natural” mascaras is by Ojon, the hair care company that uses a palm nut oil from the ojon tree in Central America.  Now only available on QVC until August 2011, the mascara is a double-ended tube — a “restorative treatment” on one side that is used as a primer/conditioner containing ojon oil, and black pigment/mascara on the other.  Ojon has become a very popular brand of haircare due to the effectiveness of ojon oil as a conditioner, so this mascara could hold some promise.  When I get my tube, I will review it in the comments area of this blog post. 


*Note that all products mentioned here were purchased with my own money, and I have never worked for any of these companies.


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    • lilmakeuptips: Thanks for your comment! I got your note on the smoky eye and will do a post on the topic soon!
    • Wicked Red: You look REALLY good in those Lil. Thanks for sharing.
    • lilmakeuptips: Thank you so much Emil! I hope to have a New Year's makeup blog entry posted tomorrow ... maybe even a webcam if I can get it done ...


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