Words Melissa Sturgess
I can’t be the only woman (person) who believes they can do a quick dash into Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges or Boots to replace their dried out, well past its use-by date, mascara, only to be confronted with the most baffling array of options, none of which vaguely match the product you have come to love and cherish.
Said mascara is usually quite old. It is also quite dried out but with regular scraping of the wand against the rim of the tube and a bit of time picking the lumpy bits off your eye lashes, it still does a very fine job. You love it. It is a desperate day when you finally admit defeat. Strangely, mascara is possibly also the only product that you seem to use beyond its use-by date. Your bathroom is littered with jars and jars of night creams, all of which have a particular focused task in your beauty regime. Your lipstick collection is diverse and colourful. But your mascara collection isn’t a collection. It is the one mascara you have come to rely on for everything – it does day, it does night, it makes your lashes long and elegant or chunky and funky. And I promise you it is the one product that your manufacturer of choice never seems to continue for more than a couple of seasons. It is the one product that, on finding it is the perfect offering, is discontinued.
So you decide on this quick dash into the store, praying it will be a fast and easy purchase but secretly knowing you are in for a mind bending session of choices and decisions that will leave you gasping for coffee or wine.
Let’s dissect the problem, which is that mascara can be categorised in many ways. By price, by lengthening effect, by volumizing effect, by curling effect, by plumping effect, by colour, by wand type and so on. And by brand, of course. You get the idea.
On arriving in the relevant hall of your chosen department store or the relevant aisle at Boots your first decision is to choose a brand. Easier said than done. My first instinct is always to go to Chanel or Dior and then I listen briefly to the little nagging voice in my head which says ‘surely you don’t need to spend that much to get a good mascara’. I have never had a suitable answer to that question so good luck and let me know if you do.
The second decision is where on earth do you start and how do you walk out with a mascara and your mind in tact. All I can do is tell you that I approach this deepest of existential problems by thinking about mascara the same way I used to think about choosing wine in a restaurant (Disclaimer 1: I no longer drink alcohol). This approach is two pronged. Firstly what do you stay well away from? On the wine list it is the wines that you simply don’t recognise on any level (you know …. those unheard of blends from unknown places). In my mascara minefield I stay well away from bizarre shaped wands which claim to create unique eyelash effects but in my reality are weapons that invariably end up with the pointy end in my eye or two thirds of the applied mascara bunched up on two eye lashes. Stay away I say.
So once I’ve removed the dangerous mascaras from my reach I am now left with a range of ‘in my price range’ brands that have non-weaponised wands. Progress. From here the final decision is getting closer and simpler. Back to the wine list. So you like red wine, great. You know you don’t need to buy the most expensive wine to have an enjoyable flavour and you know that if you buy the cheapest it will be bearable but you ‘could do better’. Invariably you head for the middle of the price range and look for a blend or style or label that is at least vaguely familiar. Yes it is that easy with mascara, well almost. You know you don’t need to buy the most expensive product to get a good result and you also know that the cheapy will probably work out fine but you think you can do a bit better than that. Simple. So, at that point I dive right into the middle of the range. There are always three or four offerings that are mid-priced (for whatever price bracket you’ve chosen), have wands that I think I can master in a few attempts and have claims that seem reasonable and achievable: ‘long luscious lashes’ is my go-to expression. It seems aspirational yet vaguely achievable so I grab one of each from the racks and assess the packaging closely.
Now things do get a bit tricky. When you are down to the last four options the temptation is to think that perhaps you have not adequately considered all the options and the best thing is to start again. Then you look at your watch, realise this exercise has already taken nearly an hour and that more time is simply not an option. That’s good. That’s another decision made. You now have no choice but to decide from your final batch of four. I wish at this point I could guide you further but I admit I can’t. This is where I panic. I do a quick brain scramble, look up from my final four choices and grab something completely off-piste and head for the till. All afternoon, full of regret at having abandoned my logical approach to my mascara purchase, I convince myself that actually, the full bodied ultra volumizing curling thickening curved wand mascara that I have in fact bought, was the one I wanted all along.
But seriously, here are my top 4 mascaras from the ocean of mascaras out there:
If I’m in a Boots kind of mood it is their No7 Intense Volume Waterproof mascara. At £7.50 it’s at the lower end of the price range and is a good, every day reliable mascara. Just like all the other No7 product range.
Up the price scale a bit is the really cool, La Roche-Posay Toleriane Volume mascara. I don’t suffer from allergies but this is an actual low allergy mascara and it is really good. Some low allergy products can be a bit thin and just feel that they have less product in them. This feels great and is £13.50.
If I’m in a Harrods kind of mood (and that’s most days) then I J’Adore (sic) Chanel’s Le Volume de Chanel and Dior’s Diorshow Lash Extension Effect Volume Mascara (both £28.00). These are pure luxury and I feel a million bucks just reading their names.
Let me know how you fare.
Disclaimer 2: Mascara Minefield was written with tongue firmly in cheek