In the making: mascara

So we’ve been wondering how one of our go-to makeup products, mascara, is actually made. And what it is made from. So, just as we did with lipstick, we’ve done our research to find out.

Woman applying mascara on her eyelashes - macro shot

The many uses of mascara

“If you want a specific effect, look for a specialized type.” – Makeup artist Troy Surratt

With many of us using it on a daily basis, mascara is one of our favourite go-to products to wear. Whether it’s to make the lashes look longer, darker or thicker, mascara successfully draws more attention to the eyes in pretty much any makeup look.

Suitable for any women’s preference, there are many different formulas and brushes to create different looks. And with the likes of Cheryl Cole and Cara Delevingne gracing our screens in some of our favourite makeup brand advertisements, there’s no surprise we all want those long and fluttering celebrity lashes.

From thin mascara brushes which separate the lashes, to thicker ones which use plumping agents to make each lash look fuller, it’s clear how much choice there is for your eyes. Not forgetting, lengthening brushes which coat the lashes in polymers for an extended appearance.

Along with our tapered and curved wands, the desire for a longer lasting lash affect, has driven brands to now create tinted mascaras. So we can all gain those darker lashes gradually, without the need to apply mascara 24/7.


Although a lot of mascara products claim to achieve all of the above, this usually isn’t the case. Makeup artist Troy Surrat advises us to pick a mascara that states a specific technique, such as volumises.

So when and how did mascara begin?

The idea of mascara goes way back to the Ancient Egyptian era when men used ointments and kohl to both protect their eyes from the sun and darken their lashes. Proving that makeup isn’t just for us women.


In terms of the first actual mascara product, it was developed in the 19th century. Perfumer for Queen Victoria, Eugene Rimmel, yes, THE Rimmel, used Vaseline and coal dust to create a cake form product that women used to make their lashes stand out.


Our life saving water proof mascara came around in 1938, saving us from sweat, tears and rain. However, at this time it wasn’t so pleasant, as the turpentine included in it caused itchy and red eyes. Luckily for us, this ingredient was later on banned from cosmetic products.

Revlon, now being one of the world’s favourite drugstore brands, invented the first brush on mascara in the 60’s. With a coloured formula, in hues of dark green and mauve, thick spidery lashes were being inspired by the one and only Twiggy.


For those wanting a natural lash enhancement, Max Factor, in 1988, decided to create the first clear mascara. Now, in 2016, the world of mascara has developed and advanced further, into lash extensions, lash curlers, and false lashes.

The mascara wand itself has also gone from basic, to working wonders to our dull life-less lashes. Its upgraded technology has our wands being double sided, and now even with ability to vibrate for an evenly covered set of separate lashes.

How is this handbag essential actually made?

Whilst the manufacturing process and ingredients may vary slightly, both from brand to brand and between different mascara types, many of them share the same basic aspects. With harmful ingredients such as turpentine and mercury having been banned in the past, many formulas are now designed to keep the wearers lashes in a healthy condition.

The basic ingredients include colour pigment, a polymer to create a film that covers the lashes, a thickening wax or oil, and preservatives to allow the product to last for as long as possible.


Many mascaras now also include lash conditioning and protein formulas for a more beneficial wear. And with cosmetic consumers being more environmentally aware, more brands are now creating organic and natural mascaras. Some of which even include ingredients like Organic Green Tea, who knew?

And if you ever wondered what was saving our perfect lashes when we get a tear or two, it’s the solvents that are included in our water proof mascaras. They prevent the makeup from running.

There are two processes that mascara tends to take when in the making;

The emulsion way – This is when thickeners and water are mixed to make a creamy base. Emulsifiers and waxes are then blended and heated, then pigments are added. Both mixtures are then combined.

The anhydrous way – this is when all ingredients are blended together in a tank and heated.

This video explains in more detail how each step of the making is carried out!

… And there you have your mascara! Ready to wear.

So what is your go-to makeup brand for mascara?

Text: Lizzie Moxom

Images: Allure, YouTube, Getty Images

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