Why the best drugstore mascaras remain iconic

A Little known (but important) fact about me is that, before becoming a beauty editor, I worked at Ulta in my hometown of Minnetonka, Minnesota. A few hours a week – after school and on weekends – my main job was selling women in the Midwest all the latest cosmetics.

But the best part? My discount. Which meant half of my salary was spent buying what my heart desired. At the time it was mainly nail polish, hair accessories, lip gloss and of course mascara. It’s the one product I never leave my house without because it has so many benefits: it’s easy to apply, it travels well, and it adds an instant glam factor, even if you’re rocking sweatpants. The best part though? It’s a drugstore diamond. So great, so great Kristopher Buckle told To tempt that he uses Covergirl Lash Blast Volume Waterproof ($9) on the pop queen herself, Mariah Carey. Let’s be here for the best of the best drugstore mascaras.

What I learned then at Ulta has since been confirmed in my time as a beauty editor: Mascaras you’ll find in the aisles of CVS and Target are So well, they can rival any more expensive tube in the department store or Sephora. But why is that? I wanted to hear from both cosmetic chemists and celebrity makeup artists why, with a kit full of options, drugstore mascaras still hold a special place in their hearts and on the counter. Keep scrolling to read more.

Photo: Getty Images/JGIJamie-Grill

The formulation of a drugstore mascara

First things first, how? precisely does your prized beauty product work? Simply put, “the short answer is that mascara works by depositing color or tiny fibers on your lashes to make them appear longer, darker, or more voluminous,” says senior chemist R&D personal care at Hain, Tawhanna Wood.

Fair enough, but why do some stand out in a sea of ​​inky formulas? “There are two components in mascara that make it work. The first is the mascara brush. Second, the key to having a great mascara is the composition of the formula,” Wood says. “Mascara can be water-free, without water , or an emulsion containing water and oil. Mascaras formulated with little to no water are considered waterproof.”

“There are two components in mascara that make it work. The first is the mascara brush. Second, the key to having a great mascara is the makeup of the formula.”

According to cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain Ko, several iterations help us achieve a “look,” whether we’re going for thickening, elongation, or a curly effect. “The ingredients will vary from formula to formula, most will be based on pigment and coating materials,” he shares. Cosmetic chemist and director of The Eco Well, Jen Novakovich, explains that “Having something to thicken the formula to get a better consistency, and also a better dispersion of the color, is usually added to mascaras. for example, on the natural side you have a lot of gums, on the less natural side various chewing gum, guar and clay derivatives and on the synthetic side ingredients such as carbomer,” she explains.

Depending on the desired effect of the formula in question, these ingredients – pigments, thickeners and emulsifiers – will appear at different levels to allow the lashes to achieve the desired effect. “In your emulsion, you want very light oily ingredients, which give you a really nice feel to your lashes,” she adds. “In conventional mascaras, these are usually ingredients such as dimethicone, a very light oily silicone-based ingredient. In contrast, many natural mascaras will opt for slightly heavier oils, such as vegetable oils or natural oil derivatives, e.g. ‘MCT’ coconut oil.”

Why the mascara brush is so important

When it comes to what’s the best mascara on the market, the better question to ask, according to cosmetic chemists, is: Which brand has the best brush?

“The most important factor in mascara application is the brush,” explains Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist based in New Jersey. “There are so many versions: tree-shaped brushes, spiral brushes, hollow brushes, rubber brushes, and the list goes on. The brush determines whether a mascara can give ‘separation’ or ‘more volume’ by giving more deposition of the product or by elongate or stretch the polymer more.”

The different brushes combined with the specific formulas explains all the variability you will see when you go to the drugstore. And there is much reward (ahem) that comes with doing well, King tells me. “Mascara is all profitable because you have to buy it back every three months because it either dries out or can spoil it,” she says. not want to get an eye infection!”

Since mascara is an item that you buy at least four times a year, it makes sense that many would want to opt for an effective formula at a lower price. †[Big companies] spend the most on research and development and have the most effective technology. When developing new products, all companies in the industry use these companies’ products as a benchmark,” said Perry Romanowski, Element 44 Inc vice president and cosmetic chemist. That means buying mascara at the drugstore is like shopping. in a gold mine of options.

Photo: Stocksy/W2 Photography

Then why are some mascaras still expensive?

“The skeleton of a mascara formulation is usually the same. The main ingredients are pigments, waxes and oils. Higher brands tend to have higher formulation costs and can therefore use more prestige or exotic ingredients,” explains Wood. “This one not necessarily means that the formulation is better or that the final product will perform differently.”

Romanowski cites the reason for the huge price increase as packaging. Yeah, we don’t wanna tell you, but you to be pay for those cool, IG-worthy photos on your bathroom counter. “The price difference is not based on how well the formulas work, but on the brand positioning of the product. You can find cheaper mascaras that work just as well as any expensive ones,” he tells me.

Some of the pricier options may include conditioners, serums, and treatments in their mascaras to make your application feel more luxurious, but so are drugstore options these days, makeup artist Lavonne Anthony tells me. But the bottom line? “From a formulaic point of view, there is not “There’s a huge difference between drugstore and expensive options,” King emphasizes. If you’re buying a mascara where the wand is separate from the formula, let it cool in your makeup bag for a day before using it. “Mascara needs to be soaked for 24 hours in the brush (except rubber ones) to get a good deposit,” she explains. “This is also why some mascaras seemed to work better after a few uses.

How to make any mascara work for you

Ask a group of 10 women how they apply their mascara and you might get 10 different answers. From sticking your tongue out to staring at the floor, makeup artists have plenty of tricks for making lashes do their thing.

For voluminous lashes, celeb makeup artist Marco Castro always starts with curling the lashes first. “I like to apply the first coat from the root and comb the lashes all the way to the tip,” he explains. “For the second coat, I’ll continue with a zigzag motion, taking my time to add volume, and finally, making sure to grab every lash and corner with the tip of the wand.”

Anthony advises clients to try her signature ‘blink and coat’ method to achieve long, inky black bangs. “Here you place the wand close to the eye and blink the brush. Wiggle and roll, starting at the root and wiggle to the tip of the lash. Full stroke, start at the root and repeat full strokes from root to lash.

Are you going for a thick knife with full bangs? Celebrity makeup artist Camara Aunique is a fan of letting mascara layers “set” to maximize the look of thickness and length. “For the common woman, tilt your head up and apply from the lash line and wiggle your way to the end of the lash,” she explains. “Let it sit for a few minutes and apply another coat. You can never have enough mascara.

While we’re on the subject, here are 9 really great mascaras and that’s why it’s super important to take off your mascara before going to bed.

Hurry Up!

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