As someone who effectively tests mascaras for a living, I rarely use the same one for more than a couple of weeks. I’ve tried Japanese fibre mascaras, 3D-printed wands, tinted lash primers, ball-tip wands, bottom-lash mascaras… all in the name of research. The innovation never stops – forming a queue on my desk currently I have Nars’s new mascara (ribbed bristles and a built-in moisture complex), Yves Saint Laurent’s The Curler (two-in-one brush/comb combo) and Hourglass’s Caution Extreme Lash Mascara (hard and soft waxes combined with a 360 brush). But when I ask non-beauty-industry friends and family for their favorites, they tend to stick to the classics. My sister’s pick? Benefit’s brilliant They’re Real! A fashion industry friend? Max Factor Masterpiece. My mum? Lancôme Hypnôse. All of them are willing to try new formulas (and jump at the chance to trial them when I offer) but feel like they’ve found their ultimate everyday mascara already. Maybe it’s just them. Or is it that we have enough mascaras already?
Chanel, Lancôme, Estée Lauder et al have a diverse range of different mascaras for different needs and they sell – all of them. All three of Benefit’s mascaras are among its top-selling products. But some of beauty’s biggest new brands are yet to launch their own. Neither Fenty Beauty nor Kylie Cosmetics has a mascara in their line-up, whilst Huda Beauty offers a vast array of false lashes but not one mascara. Even Glossier waited over three years before debuting its first. Perhaps that’s it. Have we reached peak mascara?
“The reason so many of the hot new brands don’t yet have mascaras is the prohibitive costs of creating something original. It’s easy to white label, but there hasn’t been much proper innovation in this category since the addition of fibers and copolymer ‘tubing’ from Japan,” Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty tells me. “Mascara fans tend to fall into two groups, the ‘natural enhancers’ and the ‘glam bam thank you ma’ams’ – any product that falls between these will quickly wither and die.”
She’s right. One Vogue colleague wants the full false lash effect on a daily basis, whilst I am a devoted member of the former camp, preferring to look as though I’m barely wearing any mascara (whilst still boasting enviable lashes, of course). This makes us perfect desk companions as we happily divvy up the mascara deliveries. One of my favorites for my barely-there mascara look is, incidentally, Glossier’s Lash Slick, which launched earlier this year.
“We wanted to develop a mascara since day one of Glossier and, as we are with all our products, were obsessed with making it perfect no matter how long it took,” a representative from Glossier’s product development team told me. “We combed through thousands of comments, emails, and interviews on Into The Gloss to come up with the concept and then spent 18 months developing the formula, traveling to Japan to find the leading technology, and conducting hundreds (248 to be exact) of trials to design packaging that gives the best application. There’s no lack of choice when it comes to mascara but we knew from conversations with our community that there was room for improvement.”
But as well as the sheer volume of mascaras on the market, there’s also the rise of lash extensions, lash lifts and semi-permanent eyeliner tattooing to create the impression of lash fullness long-term. According to Business of Fashion, the popularity of these treatments is on the rise, whilst mascara sales growth is slowing. And it’s understandable – the results from these treatments are increasingly natural-looking and they save you precious minutes in the morning. Even the much-maligned category of false lashes has upped its cool factor in recent years.
“We are about to bring on Lily Lashes at Cult Beauty, which is the latest cool lash brand. Her 3D Lashes are by far the top sellers as they recreate the make-up pro trick of layering lashes at different angles to create the perfect angles and thickness for that ‘pow’ effect,” Inge reveals. “And any time one is talking about ‘lashes’ one has to give a nod to Huda Beauty, who brought innovation and attention to a category that hadn’t changed since the ‘50s. Huda doesn’t need a mascara in her range as most of her customers buy these, specifically the Samantha lashes and her black colored glue.”
But there’s no denying it, mascara remains a beauty essential. And if a new formula is brilliant enough, it seems this already chock-full category will simply make room – after all, mascara is constantly named celebrities’ cant-live-without-it product in Vogue‘s On Beauty interviews, challenged only by concealer. Nars’s new release turns out to be utterly brilliant when I try it, and Vogue beauty director Jessica Diner is already a keen supporter of Hourglass’s Caution. Glossier’s product development team add they they based the launch of their mascara on community feedback. “Mascara is very much still a part of our community’s routine – it was our second most requested product, right after sunscreen,” they tell us.
“Like blue jeans, mascara will never go out of fashion,” Inge says, definitively (in case you’re interested, Cult Beauty’s best-selling mascara is Too Faced’s Better Than Love, also a favorite of the one and only Britney Spears). “It’s too much of an instant beauty upgrade.”
And that’s the thing. Beauty trends may come and go, new products and treatments might wow us or they might pass us by, but one thing will never change: our relationship with mascara will last a lifetime.
This article first appeared on Vogue.co.uk