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Mascara: The Science Behind Gorgeous Lashes

On the hunt for the mascara that will give you longer, darker lashes? Get the scoop on mascaras—and how to find the perfect one.

December 26th, 2011

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Mascara: The Science Behind Gorgeous Lashes

Mascara is undeniably the magic wand of makeup. “It instantly enhances lashes, creating a wide-eyed, fresh appearance that can be completely personalized to look natural or dramatic,” says Gina Brooke, artistic director for Hourglass cosmetics in Los Angeles, who is responsible for getting celebrities such as Madonna and Anne Hathaway camera-ready.

QUIZ: What's the best mascara for your lashes?

But it’s also one of those beauty staples that women go mad for, trying to land the perfect mascara that truly has the power to make all of their lash wishes come true. Some crave length while others dream of lift, curl, darkening, definition and volume in a single swipe. And everyone can relate to the never-ending story of mascara trial and error: buying a new mascara that you hope will be your very own mascara-in-shining armor, only to be left disappointed and immediately tossing it into a seemingly black hole of a drawer.

Don’t give up just yet. The truth is, there’s a basic story that mascaras follow.

“Most mascara formulas are usually pretty similar to each other,” says James Hammer, a cosmetic chemist at Mix Solutions in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. “They’re essentially emulsions which contain pigment, oils and waxes.” (Chemistry 101: an emulsion is when two normally unmixable liquids are put together.)

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