Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mascara #2...

My most recent mascara purchase was at Ulta, the cosmetics superstore. Ulta entered the market here only a few months ago, and I've tried a few of their store-brand cosmetics, hoping they would be on a par with Sephora. Eh. Let me tell you about the mascara...

Ulta Maximum Volume Soft Curl Mascara is pretty unremarkable. It is dirt cheap, so I don't know that I have any basis for complaint. But still. It's got a standard-shape brush with fairly stiff bristles - not a lot of give. The stiff bristles should assist in the curling technique, but it doesn't work particularly well, and here's why: The mascara formula itself is dry, dry, dry! It's not fluid enough to coat the lashes and make them bendable. I almost returned it to the store, thinking I'd gotten an old tube, but I talked to a friend who's tried it and she had the same experience. So unless we both got bad tubes, this is just a really dry formula. Upon application, it makes my lashes look and feel rather scrubby - yes, they are thicker, but in a kind of "gunked up" way. The surface is not smooth. I find I need to apply a couple of coats to get any added length (not something I normally do - I'm a one-coat-n-go gal) , and then it's hard to drag the brush back through my lashes because of the texture of the first coat.

UMVSCM comes in jet black, soft black and black/brown. I purchased black/brown and it is definitely more on the brown side. I prefer a brownish black, rather than a blackish brown. The price is probably the best feature of this mascara - $7 regular retail price, but often available at 50% off. Nevertheless, I will not be buying again.

Product rating: 5

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mascara #1...

As I pointed out in my previous post, one of the major differences between mascaras is the type of brush. Of the mascaras I have loved, most have had a fairly full, plushy brush - but it has to be soft. My lashes are quite long (brushing my glasses lenses when I wear them), but they have no natural curl whatsoever - just like my hair. I look for mascara to plump them up, make them look fuller, and also to give them that little bit of curl that makes eyes look wide-open. One of the best for that little lift is Prescriptives False Eyelashes.

False Eyelashes has about the plushiest brush I've tried - it is very full and soft. The mascara itself is a medium consistency - not too thick, not too watery - very creamy and it goes on smooooth. One drawback to the plush brush: it is difficult to apply to lower lashes without leaving smudge tracks. False Eyelashes comes in only two colors: Plush Brown, which is a very dark, mink brown, and Plush Black, a deep, soft black. It is not glossy color, but more like velvet. Oddly named, this mascara makes my lashes look very natural - perhaps because of the non-gloss finish and the fact that it never, ever clumps or spikes.

One distinct advantage of False Eyelashes is the generously-sized wand, which has a gel insert (like a Dr. Rx grip pen), allowing the user to get a really good grip. If you've ever dropped your mascara wand onto a fresh white shirt, as I have (klutz!), you'll appreciate the sure-grip feature! Retails for $19.

Overall product rating: 8.5
Packaging: 10

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mascara Madness

The awesome Annie, of Blogdorf Goodman, has challenged a few friends to post reviews of the mascaras we've used, and also to branch out this month and try new ones. (And thank you Katie for the great logo!) I don't know how many reviews I'll end up writing, but I'm always on the lookout for the perfect mascara. I'm a makeup minimalist - most days, it's just translucent powder, mascara, and some sort of lippie. If I had to lose two of those items, mascara is the one I'd keep - can't go without it!

Before I write any actual reviews, I'd like to start with a little history, a few observations about mascara in general. First, I have to say that, from brand to brand, high-end or low, mascara seems to differ in quality the least of any cosmetic, in my opinion. This is why I seldom think it worth it to spend mucho dinero on it. There are as many really good, cheap mascaras out there as there are expensive ones, if you consider the formula and brush only, and not fancy packaging. This uniformity is both a blessing and a curse: Blessing, because I know I can get a more-than-decent mascara for very little money; curse, because I've come to believe that, no matter how much I'm willing to spend on mascara, there are certain shortcomings I have to put up with. But hope springs eternal - thus the purpose of this May Mascara Madness!

Second, it seems to me that mascaras have changed the least over time than any other beauty product. The first mascara I ever used, 30 years ago, was Maybelline Great Lash. This is the one in the iconic pink and green tube - it has been an industry leader ever since its launch in 1971, and the formula remains unchanged. Maybelline touts it as "America's #1 best-selling cosmetic product," reporting that a tube sells every 1.9 seconds. They claim their original mascara formula was a concoction of petroleum jelly and coaldust, created by a chemist in 1913 to help his sister wow her reluctant beau. Apparently it worked, as the sister & beau were married in 1914! While we can now safely assume there's no coaldust in our mascara, petrolatum still features high on the ingredient list in many brands. (By the way, the first mascaras were only available in cake form - the user had to wet a small brush, swirl it over the cake, and apply to the lashes. The first "wand" mascara was launched by Helena Rubinstein in 1957.) In 1996, Maybelline was acquired by cosmetics giant L'Oreal, leading to presumably even less diversity in the mascara formulae on the market.

For the most part, modern mascara formulae are very similar. Despite the advertising hype, there are no miracle ingredients that make one brand stand out from another. All contain water, waxes (to thicken lashes), film-forming ingredients (to make the product cling to the lashes), colorants, and preservatives. Some mascaras also contain fibers - usually nylon or rayon - that are supposed to bind to the lashes to lengthen them. These fibers can be problematic for contact lens wearers. The biggest difference between mascara formulae is regular vs. waterproof. Although some brands tout special formulae to curl, lengthen, thicken, define, volumize, etc., these effects are primarily achieved through the use of different types of brushes/combs. The success of Max Factor's recent release, Lash Perfection, for example, is entirely based on the innovative soft brush.

Okay, enough history. I will try to get to some reviews tomorrow. In the meantime, please browse the following blogs for more Mascara Madness!

Monday, May 01, 2006

"...these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee..."

I recently received an e-mail offer from Jackson & Perkins of an "exclusive opportunity" to own a Pope John Paul II commemorative rose:
"This radiant white tribute to a beloved world figure grows in the private Vatican gardens. Now you can enjoy its perfectly formed hybrid tea flowers and citrus fragrance in your own garden, along with a numbered edition Commemorative package. The collection includes a Pope John Paul II bareroot rose and solid, cast aluminum marker to place alongside the planted rose in your garden. You'll also receive an embossed keepsake portfolio, which holds a signed and numbered certificate of authenticity, a full-color photograph of the rose and one of the late Pontiff’s homilies."
It is advertised as a "Rose for a Cause" because a portion of the profits will be donated to benefit the poor in sub-Saharan Africa ("
one of the late Pontiff's closest concerns").

Cost of the complete limited-edition package? 150 smackeroos. Portion of net to be donated? 10 percent.

Now, J&P sell the same bareroot rose - minus all the Pope-crap - for $25. I would love to see the final balance sheet for this trumped-up charitable opportunity. The Vatican have given the go-ahead to the project - I wonder what their cut will be?