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!


Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

LOVE IT! Love the idea of your doing this mascara stuff.

The really sad news is that I remember the cake mascara. If you gag easily don't read this: Not infrequently my girl friends and I would use "moisture from out mouths" as the water for the brush. That's spit of course. Between classes at school, we might freshen our lashes by touching the little brush to our tongue, swiping it across the cake of mascara, and using it on our lashes.

None of us is dead or blind from this practice. That same sassy teenager grew up to be me: A fess-butt about dirt and germs. What the hell happened to me?

On the post below: Is the Catholic Church even thinking about trying to do something about Darfur? Is any church? Genocide and rape are problems that a "Rose for a Cause" is not going to help. Oh, no! You got me started on a rant. It's all your fault.

8:32 AM  
Blogger red-queen said...

LOL - it's amazing any of us ever live to adulthood, with our unsanitary/unsafe practices. My DS off at college proudly informed me the other day that he had some chicken that was "a little bit spoiled", but he cooked it "extra long" to kill any bacteria. I raised him better than that, I swear!

Re: the RC Church and Darfur - rants welcome, have at it.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Bela said...

Oh, I remember cake mascara. I believe you were supposed to use spit; it was part of the ritual. I used one as late as 1987: Chanel produced some wonderful coloured ones (mine was deep purple) at the time.

I know someone who licks her hard contact lenses whenever she gets grit in her eyes. She was told by an ophthalmologist it was better than using tap water!

Mascara was the first make-up product I was allowed to use by my mother. Curiously, it is now the one thing I don't care about and hardly ever wear. I stopped using it every day when I had my eye problems in 1990 (it's more difficult to remove than soft pencil) and I never really got back into the habit.

I couldn't do without lipstick, but mascara leaves me cold. LOL! Interesting reviews, though, D. :-)

11:18 AM  

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