Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mascara // More Than You Wanted to Know

Women often deflect compliments with self-effacing rebuttals. I'm certainly not immune to this habit, but I do have features that I am proud of. My eyes are my most complimented feature, and when they are called "beautiful" or "pretty", I say a hearty thank you. I don't believe this makes me too proud or boastful. I believe that it's in a person's best interest to learn to take a compliment and to find something about themselves that they love.

Part of the reason why I love my eyes so much is because they make me the spitting image of my late father. It's nice to be reminded of him when I look in the mirror and to know that I might remind his friends and family of him. Seeing our features through the lenses of our loved ones gives us perspective.

It was requested that I do a post about my mascara. Eye makeup is my weakness. If I have time only to do the "five minute face", I just do my eyes and let any zits or facial imperfections go. When I do my eyes, I feel like I look more awake and polished. And even if I have zero time, it is rare for me to leave the house without mascara (or some form of it. See: Lash Tint).

I'll let you in on my biggest tip from the get-go: I have amazing eyelashes. Not sorry, I'm going to own that pride. That being said, they are straight and have blonde tips. Thus, I take action to give what I've got going for me a boost. 

Eyelash Curler
Lash curlers look scary, but when you get used to them, it's like riding a bike. I achieve a more wide-eyed look with a lash curler, an indispensable tool in my makeup bag. Since the departure of the Shu Uemura brand from US-based stores, my favorite has become the Sephora eyelash curler. What I like most about this is the rubber grips on the handle. I noticed just how accustomed to the grips I became when I hurriedly used an old eyelash curler without grips...and my fingers slipped. Ouch. The main point is to get an eyelash curler that fits your eyeshape. They all look like they're created equal, but they can have subtle differences in their shape. This linked article hits the nail on the head: you want a lash curler that is flatter and can encompass your entire lash line, rather than one that is too curved. I believe in spending just a bit more to get a quality one. You'll have it for a while, and it's important to get the shape right.

Last Tint
I've been getting my lashes tinted for over 2 years. You can see my previous post on last tints and their great results HERE. This semi-permanent dye darkens the ends of my lashes and renders mascara optional. When I've no time to do my face, I'm grateful to have had my lashes tinted so as to appear more fresh and awake. If I have a fraction of a second, I'll curl my lashes and throw on some clear mascara. While most days I still wear mascara, I like having the option of not doing so. I also like the fact that my lashes will stand out 24/7. I'm not so vanity obsessed that I sleep in my makeup (gross) but it's a nice bonus when I'm brushing my teeth at night to look in the mirror and see defined eyes. That small bonus aside, it's a real time saver for those mornings where I just don't have the time. Also, I find the need to use less product with my lashes already so dark. It's nice not to need heavy layers of products. Because my bill is lumped together with eyebrow wax and tint, I do not remember the exact price of this particular service. I had it done at a high end salon once (which charges $30) before my regular esthetician began offering the service. She charges about the same and the results last about a month and a half.

I know this is about mascara, but no one's going to be looking at your lashes if you've got Kahlo-brows (God love her). As I write this my esthetician is out of town, which is perfect timing to be taking photos of my eyes and waxing poetic to you all about the importance of decent brows as a frame for the eye. I did my own brows while I lived abroad in college...and it was not good. Therefore, I have revoked my tweezer privileges. I pay somebody to wax and tint these babies, and compliments abound. No need to futz with tweezers or eyebrow pencils. However you do it -tweezers, waxing, threading- just do it.

Darkening the lash line enhances your lashes. Eyeliner can be a scary prospect. I know it was the thing I feared most when I started with makeup. The good thing is in this day in age, smudgy and smoky is the liner look of our time. Find yourself a dark brown pencil (my recommended color for everyday) with a smudged attached to the other end, work it in as closely to the lash line as possible, and smudge it. No precision required, and your set of lashes will look fuller because of it. If you want to get brave and more subtle, consider learning the art of tightlining. Be warned: it takes practice. 

How to Find the Right Mascara
Now, on to what you're here for.

I think finding the right mascara for the look you're going for is a delicate job. First of all, unlike a bright lipstick or bold eye color, no one's really going to notice if your lashes look particularly volumized vs. lengthened. Lashes have a hard job. They don't stand out like a bold choice in lip color or winged liner. (Tammy Faye Bakker notwithstanding.) However, skip the mascara and there will be a noticeable "can't put my finger on what's missing" difference. Furthermore, no one's going to notice that you plopped down $25 on Diorshow vs. $10 on Loreal Voluminious. While I'm a pushover at a high end counter, and some of the favorites I call out below are high end, I'll be the first to admit you don't need to spend big bucks to get great lashes. If you have a high end favorite, by all means, but I've gotten as many compliments on my lashes wearing Maybelline mascara as I have wearing Bobbi Brown mascara.

Knowing your lashes is key. We've all got a skintype, but no one ever thinks about their "lash type". It's usually presented as what kind of mascara type you're going for: natural, volumizing or lengthening, or some combination of any of these. My hair is fine and this translates to my lashes: I don't have a lot of volume/thickness, but I have a lot of long lashes. And like my hair, my lashes need help in holding a curl. (Fortunately they can hold one longer than my hair.) As a result, I find that volumizing mascaras are usually too much for me. The way the wrong conditioner can weigh down my hair, a mascara that is too volumizing can weigh down my lashes. Though I've tried a few volumizing formulas I've liked and will wear heavier formulas for certain looks, on most days I'm looking for something in the lengthening category to enhance what I've got, or a hybrid length+volume formula. I think that's key to getting a great mascara: know what looks best on you. It's harder to copy your friend's awesome eyelashes than it is her trendy lip color. By choosing the right formula for your lashes, you'll frame your eyes in your own unique way.

That being said, here are my thoughts on a few mascaras I have in rotation.

Mascaras I Like
In this previous post I waxed poetic about my all-time favorite mascara. Clinique Naturally Glossy has been my stand-by since 1996. (We have an anniversary because we're in a serious, committed relationship.) This is a natural mascara. It won't give you any volume. Its function is merely to darken, slightly lengthen, and separate. I won't carry on, you can read my love letter to this product in my previous post. The point is that this mascara will enhance what you've already got going on. I always have one in my possession. At $16, it's a bit more than drugstore mascaras but considerably less than a high end brand.

Maybelline Full 'N Soft: A washable mascara that removes easily to prevent lash loss, it builds length and (some) volume making it true to its name. This is quickly becoming my drugstore favorite. It's perfect for everyday use and is pretty close to being (dare I say it) the drugstore equivalent to my beloved Clinique mascara.
Full 'N Soft Mascara on Lashes

Full 'N Soft Mascara in Tube
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket: This was the mascara I was wearing in the post that set off the requests for this post. I was discussing Mad Men in this post, so I was going for the full blown 60s lashes, heavy coating be damned. I bought this after hearing a lot of good things about it, but I was skeptical. The proof was in the application: it volumizes well and isn't clumpy thanks in part to its plastic brush.
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket on LashesMaybelline Volum' Express The Rocket with full face of makeup
Maybelline Volum' Express The Rocket in tube
CoverGirl Clump Crusher Mascara: Speaking of plastic brushes, the mascaras in the LashBlast line by CoverGirl are the first ones that come to mind. The Clump Crusher is the only one in the line that I've tried, but CG's plastic-brush mascaras are wildly popular. This is another volumizing mascara I enjoy because it lives up to its promises of being clump-free.
Clump Crusher on Lashes
Clump Crusher in Tube
Flower Beauty Zoom-In Ultimate Mascara: While it's pretty safe to say that plastic brushes have made volumizing mascaras more user-friendly for me, this one from Flower has a traditional-bristle brush yet still manages to coat my lashes without clumping. Read more about it in this post.

Flower Beauty Zoom-in Ultimate Mascara on Lashes

Flower Beauty Zoom-in Ultimate Mascara in Tube

Lancôme Hypnôse Doll Lashes: In glancing at the high end selection of mascaras in Sephora's lineup, I've tried many but few have knocked my socks off. Lancôme mascaras are popular, but this is the only one I've tried that I like. I can attest that the description is true: it lifts, extends, and thickens lashes without weighing them down.
Doll Lashes on Lashes

Doll Lashes in Tube

Bobbi Brown Extreme Party Mascara: I don't have any of this on hand currently, but this is one of the blackest mascaras I've tried and is a great option to use as directed: while partying.

Josie Maran Argan Black Oil Mascara: This is my most recent favorite after trying it in deluxe sample form from Sephora. It's another great example of my preferred level of volume: not too much. Blackened with iron mineral pigments, it has the bonus of added argan oil to condition lashes. It doesn't just perform as well as other products in its price bracket, it surpasses them, which is major considering it boasts a 91% natural formula.
Black Oil on Lashes

Black Oil in Tube

Expiration dates of cosmetics is a much-debated topic. The experts say to rotate your mascara every 3 months. They also say mascara is a product that is designed to break itself down so as to encourage you to keep your product fresh. Because it is a product that is in close proximity to your eyes, and its packaging can be a dark breeding ground for bacteria, it's a good idea to remember when you opened your tube. I usually have a few in rotation at at time, and since I don't use each one everyday, I sometimes use my product a little longer. You'll know when your mascara is up - it's formula goes flaky and begins to dry up in the tube. I just don't wait longer than 3-6 months. I also never try to extend the life of a dried up mascara that's on its last leg. I'm not willing to risk an eye infection for a few bucks.

Other Things to Consider
Wear contacts? Got watery eyes? Remember to take these things into account. Labels sometimes contain "ophthalmologist tested" or "safe for contact lens wearers" taglines to help your shopping. Personally, I've never had issues with mascara and my contacts, nor do I care if the formula is waterproof. The athletic and watery eyed among you may want to check into waterproof options, but I've never had an opinion one way or another on waterproof formulas.

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