How does mascara extend your lashes?

Woman applying mascara.
How does mascara make your eyes pop?
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Ask a woman what makeup item she'd insist on taking to a deserted island, and mascara might be her enthusiastic choice. Many women won't leave the house without applying it -- it's a simple way to emphasize your baby blues -- or browns – whether you're going for a sporty, natural look, or all-out, night-on-the-town maquillage.

Mascara has always been one of the most popular cosmetics, with a history that goes back to ancient Egypt. Originally, it was made into pressed cakes and applied with a dampened brush. Then lotions were developed that eventually came in tubes. The mascara "wand" that we know today wasn't developed until the 1960's; it's now featured in a package complete with a metering ring that scrapes off the excess, so that the brush has the right amount for a perfect application on it.


No matter what brand you choose, this tried-and-true product helps make your lashes look longer, darker and thicker, helping to draw more attention to your eyes. Basic mascara ingredients include pigments for coloring, various waxes, and preservatives. Water-resistant mascaras include solvents to keep your mascara from running in case of contact with water, sweat or tears.

It's an easy and safe process, as mascara simply coats the lashes to make them stand out; different formulas and brushes yield different results. A lengthening or extending formula includes the usual ingredients, plus short synthetic fibers. Made of nylon or rayon, these fibers stick to your natural lashes from the root to the tip when applied, helping to make your lashes look longer. The more you apply, the longer your lashes will appear.

Use a steady hand, a careful touch, and good lighting for best results; it's very easy to apply too much lengthening mascara and end up with a clumpy or overly thick appearance.

Mascaras made especially for lengthening lashes can be found at a variety of price points, ranging between Maybelline's New York Lash Stiletto, around $9 in drugstores, to Laura Mercier's Long Lash Mascara at $24.


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  • Finley, Amy. "What Does Mascara Do to Your Eyelashes." LovetoKnow: Makeup. (Sept. 24, 2012)
  • "How Does Mascara Work?" The Beauty May 13, 2006. (Sept. 24, 2012.)
  • Jackson-Kannady, Ayren. "Lash Out! The Best Mascaras." Fitness. (Sept. 24, 2012.)
  • Smith, Sarah. "Road Test: The Best Mascaras." Real Simple. (Sept. 24, 2012.)
  • Vora, Shivani. "Old Standbys, New Stand-Ins." The New York Times. September 12, 2012. (Sept. 24, 2012.)