Mascara Minefields

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. 

Melis­sa Sturgess
Insta­gram: @auschick

Dis­claimer 2: Mas­cara Mine­field was writ­ten with tongue firm­ly in cheek