Guest Post! A Biologist’s Mascara Challenge

By Voxy  

A Biologist has just finished testing and comparing 13 (!) mascaras. So if you’re in the market for a new one, read on for her reviews! (Thanks to A Biologist for this guest post!)

The Great Mascara Challenge
Background: My eyelashes are relatively short and sparse.  I also have a unique eyelid chemistry which causes liner, mascara, and shadow to migrate to my undereye in a few hours if I don’t wear some sort of primer.  I wear contact lenses a few days per week.

Procedure: TFSI was applied to the upper lid to limit smearing.  Mascara was applied in a single coat to the top lashes.  Outcomes were examined after no less than 8 hours (12 hours for mascaras promoted to the final round).  Each mascara was tested on at least two different days during hot, humid weather.  Additional tests were performed when naps, crying, and/or extreme “glowing” due to heat indices occurred.  All final round mascaras were tested while wearing contact lenses at least once.

Provenance: Purchased, except Clinique High Impact, which was a gift, and Sephora Lash Plumper, which is part of the Sephora Beauty Insider birthday package.

Mascara Challenge Losers:
Losers were rejected for unacceptable amounts of flaking and smearing except where noted.

1. Cover Girl Professional
Note: Easily the worst performer, with a definite chemical smell and heavy smearing by the 8th hour.

2. Sephora Lash Plumper

3. CARGO Lash Activator

4. Fresh Supernova

5.  Laura Mercier Thickening and Building

6. Korres Abyssinia Oil
Note:  Didn’t come off fully after p.m. and a.m. cleansing, leaving undereye smudges requiring additional remover in the a.m.

7. Benefit BADGal Lash Mascara

8. Tarte 4 Day Stay Lash Stain
Note: Great holding power, no flakes and smudges BUT (and it’s a big but) after p.m. and a.m. cleansing, mascara smears appeared under eyes and were difficult to remove.  Continued to deposit product under eyes after the next day’s cleansing as well.  It could work very well for a single, day-long event where tears might appear, like a dissertation defense. Or some other big day.

Mascara Challenge Final Round:
All Final Round mascaras have acceptable amounts of flaking and smearing for daily use.

5. Sephora Lash Stretcher
Note: Best brush. Visible tiny fibers in mascara can be irritating on contact lens days.

4. Smashbox Lash DNA
Note: Huge unnerving brush required practice, took longer to dry than other mascaras.  Lashes look much fuller and darker.  A good evening mascara, or for those with good coordination in the morning.

2 (tied). Hourglass Superficial Lash and Urban Decay Skyscraper.

1.  Best Mascara: Clinique High Impact
Note: Held up really well with heat indices over 105 F.  Nice curl, length, and color.  Easy to apply.

Future Directions:

a.  When I need to replace mascara I will definitely purchase Clinique brand.

b.  Given how slowly I go through mascara, a few small tubes are more cost-effective and hygienic than full sized ones.

c.  I’d try other mascaras from Urban Decay, Hourglass, and Smashbox.  I’d also try another Tarte.  The 4-day (undereye) Stain was very close to being an excellent mascara.

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  1. avatar ab_grp
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Fantastic post! I have been breathlessly anticipating your results, and applaud your rigorous procedure. I wear contacts daily, and was wondering if you ever use waterproof mascara (I didn’t think the ones you listed were waterproof). My eye doctor advised against waterproof with contacts, but I think I must have the same eyelid chemical issues that you described, and I have had issues in the past with migrating makeup. It sounds like the Clinique product would be worth a try. Again, great post!


    • avatar a biologist
      Posted August 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

      To answer your questions, I used to wear Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof, which did a pretty decent job with the smearing problem, but was difficult to remove. The last two tubes I bought were already gloppy when I opened them, which was the reason I started looking for a new brand.

      I never heard that waterproof was bad for contact wearers, but I’m glad to know it could be a problem. I wonder why? The only mascara here that was supposed to be waterproof, I think, was the Tarte 4 Day Stain.

      Do you wear eyeshadow primer? The TFSI I was wearing is necessary for keeping any of these mascaras on for 8 hours, though the Clinique does a reasonable job without. I think most of the mascaras would slide off in a heartbeat without primer.

      I now have three primers, TFSI, a LORAC brand, and the UD Primer Potion that came with my Naked Palette. I’m going to do a little trial of these as well.


      • avatar ab_grp
        Posted August 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I have had issues with pulling eyelashes out when using some waterproof mascaras. I think it happened with Max Factor Aqualash, and a bit with DiorShow, but it doesn’t seem to happen so much with what I’m currently using (Maybelline Volum Express. I use Vaseline to remove my eye makeup, and it does a pretty good job. I don’t use primer, though I do use concealer and powder on my eyelid before applying eye makeup. Maybe I’ll try using some primer tomorrow.


    • avatar Relationalista
      Posted August 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ab-grp: I am also a contact lens wearer and have heard for years that waterproof eye make up should be avoided. I think it’s because bits of waterproof make up that land on the lens are very difficult to remove and also because formulations can cause eye irritation for some people. Despite the warnings, I used to only wear waterproof mascara (Boots No.7 [very good], Cover Girl, a horrible Maybelline two-step formulation that gave me spider eyes) because of migration issues and because if I had lens irritation I didn’t want to end up with smears under my eyes (which sometimes happened anyway).

      In my recent shift to Tarte mascara, though, I’ve found that the waterproof formulation (Lights Camera Splashes, which I’ve also tried and liked) hasn’t been necessary. I don’t know if this is just that brand, or whether in general higher end mascaras perform better than even waterproof drugstore stuff, but I’ve been surprised and impressed. Your mileage may vary, of course, but a side benefit is that it’s vastly easier to remove non-waterproof mascara (and so cleansers can also be more gentle) and it doesn’t pull out so many lashes.


      • avatar Voxy
        Posted August 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

        “In my recent shift to Tarte mascara, though, I’ve found that the waterproof formulation (Lights Camera Splashes, which I’ve also tried and liked) hasn’t been necessary.”

        Agreed. The Tarte non-waterproof Lights, Camera, Lashes! is still my favorite mascara, though I may pick up a tube of Clinique based on A Biologist’s test results.

        Waterproof mascara dries out your eyelashes more than regular mascara, which makes them fragile — more susceptible to breaking and to coming out when removing mascara.


      • avatar ab_grp
        Posted August 15, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I had heard the same reason, flaking off of bits that can then scratch your eye, for not using waterproof mascara with contacts. Hearing about these non-waterproof formulas that work so well for you folks is really heartening. My favorite mascara, to date, was Chanel Inimitable, but a sales clerk told me that the waterproof version wasn’t nearly as good. Now I have hope of, once again, being inimitable.

        Vox’s note about the waterproof formulations drying lashes out and making them more fragile makes me want to switch over soon.


        • avatar a biologist
          Posted August 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I’d really like to try Lights Camera Lashes. I’m keeping my eyes open for a sample-sized one.


          • avatar Relationalista
            Posted August 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Easily found on eBay!


          • avatar Voxy
            Posted August 15, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t included in the Sephora Mascara Sampler box you bought, which started this whole thing. I don’t know why they chose to put in the Tarte lash stain instead.


  2. Posted August 11, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    That is some rigorous testing, and thanks for posting! I have not found a mascara I am happy with, and I have tried Maybelline, Revlon, Max Factor and Lancôme.

    I’ll definitely try to pick up the Clinique one. I have a question though, did you apply it inside or outside the curl? (I can’t think of how to express it more clearly – what I’m asking is from above or from below on top lashes?
    My problem is that my lashes are not even, and seem to grow in all different directions, so I am always looking for ways to make them look decent.


    • avatar a biologist
      Posted August 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I apply from below, just the one coat. I try to do very natural, subtle eye makeup for the most part.

      Maybe a mascara like the Sephora Lash Stretcher, which has little fibers, would help with the unevenness. It also has a very nice curved brush, which helps with the even application.


  3. avatar a biologist
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow, that’s some rigorous testing! I’m very impressed by your methodological commitment.

    Thanks! Would you like to write me a letter of recommendation? :)


    • avatar Relationalista
      Posted August 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You’re on! Just tell me where to send it. I’ll make sure to include several gold stars to indicate the intensity of my support. (Most people don’t get those from me, I’ll have you know.)


      • avatar a biologist
        Posted August 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Awesome. The gold stars will match my “Half Baked” Urban Decay eyeshadow!


  4. avatar Relationalista
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow, that’s some rigorous testing! I’m very impressed by your methodological commitment. And great to know the Clinique performed so well.

    My current favourite is Tarte’s Lash Hugger. (I also really like their Lights Camera Lashes, and the difference between that and the Lash Hugger isn’t massive, but the latter is still my preference). I also tried the Tarte 4-day stain, and wasn’t that impressed with it. It looked quite natural, which was nice, but it wasn’t really a stain and so didn’t give me several days worth of colour, gave me crunchy lashes, and was, as you’ve said, a pain to remove cleanly from the under-eye area. The difference between the CG Lash Blast stuff that I used to wear and the Tarte LCL and LH mascara is so big that it almost doesn’t bear comparison; I wouldn’t have imagined that moving up to the next mascara level could make such a difference!

    I’ve been complimented on the length and thickness of my lashes (their “elegance”, even!) by several people since wearing the Tarte stuff (including by my male office administrator and someone else who I barely know), which is quite shocking. I actually have very unremarkable lashes. It’s all the mascara, and I might just stick with this stuff forever.


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