Mascara can range from as little as $5 to upwards of $50 depending on where you buy it and what name brand is slapped on the side of the tube. We’ve all heard ‘you get what you pay for’ and have all even likely experienced the idiom’s truth after a misguided effort at frugality. So when it comes to mascara, what important attributes are you cheating your lashes out of when you purchase the wallet-friendly versions, and what luxurious extras are you treating yourself to when you hand over a crisp Grant? As it turns out, not much—on either front. We talked to cosmetic chemist and co-founder of The Beauty Brains, Perry Romanowski to help break it down for us.
Does it matter? “There is very little difference between high-end mascara formulas and low-end ones,” he says and goes on to explain that it’s not uncommon for the exact—or very similar—formulas to be packaged differently for individual brands. “Many small brands are produced using contract manufacturers who have a basic formula that they provide to all their customers (with some minor tweaks but essentially the same). Even large manufacturers who have different brands will use technology across all of them. You just have to compare the ingredient lists and you’ll see they're mostly the same—pigment to darken, wax to ‘thicken,’ oil to help spread the product, and sometimes polymers (PVP, PVPA) to lengthen or make it waterproof,” he explains.
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How do mascaras promise different results if they are all basically the same? Well, there is one other thing that makes a difference—the hardware. Two pieces (the brush and the wiper) of the tube can actually be a game-changer in how mascara goes on and what it does for your lashes. Depending on the shape of the brush it can help dramatically in lengthening, thickening, and/or separating lashes. The wiper, which is the ring at the mouth of the tube is responsible for taking excess mascara off the brush. If it’s too tight, it can pull too much formula off the wand; if it's too loose, you’ll pull out a gooey mess. The performance of this tiny washer-like part actually makes a big difference.
Good news? Yes, there is good news! Our favorite version L’Oreal Voluminous Original Mascara packs all the punch you need for full fanned-out lashes for well under ten bucks.
Buy It: L’Oreal Voluminous Original Mascara, $5.55; amazon.com
You don’t have to buy an expensive mascara to have great-working hardware, which is a good thing considering that it’s recommended you replace your mascara every three months to avoid bacteria growth that can be transferred to your eyes.