mascara (2011, updated spring 2012)

Mascara tree, Quinn McDonald (click image for link)

Not one of my current crop–but a brilliant repurposing!–using Maybelline: “The bottom of the container is pink, the top green. I don’t think it’s changed in 30 years. And it worked.” Result: someone has at long last found a use for The Crap In The Pink Tube™…

Herewith current recipients of the Gingerrrama Seal of Approval. And some tips and suchlike egg-suckings.

UPDATED 2012-04-05 (with additions from another list of stuff I’d tried out…), and 2012-05-02


Black mascara on the redheaded: can actually look fine. But so fine that I’ve reconsidered my long-held devotion to the maxim that redheads look best in brown mascara, and black’s too dark/stark. Let’s face it: whatever you wear will clearly not match your hair, let alone your eyebrows. While a rich brown’s good, most browns are greyish and not good. And darkening eyebrows is a very dangerous thing – very hard to get right, and not make brows – or worse still, hair – look tinted. Also, the black tones down pinkness on eyelids (though I’m still using concealer/base as well), and makes eyes look clearer and brighter – I guess makes the whites look more blue. Brown might still be better with lighter reds and blondes, and on really cool-toned skin; freckles seem to warm skin up just enough to carry the black.

Sometimes I go through brown phases. I’ve even occasionally used plummy aubergine tones (usually followed by irritation, but not always: Jane Iredale makes the best interestingly-coloured tolerable mascaras, bar the vanilla scent). And my very first mascara was a light golden brown: Bourjois Vison Doré (“golden mink”). Mostly, though, I use black.

Tightlining on the redheaded: if you have pale and/or fine lashes, just do it. You’ll not regret it. It will change your life. But do it in browns not black (or grey-blacks, or cooler tones): black looks off, wrong, too harsh, and kills the whole more-luscious-lashes effect. Not too dark either: slightly lighter than your lash colour adds to the perspective-illusion-trick that give you fuller-looking lashes at the roots. Plummy burgundies and some shimmer are manageable too.



The everyday essential, haven’t spent a day without it since I was 13… Going for a “not too unnatural for a redhead” look.

In black.

I am a redhead in natural-lash denial with a lifelong–well, 25-year-long–mascara habit. Worse, I am a mascara wh**e. Not serially monogamous; it’s more like polygamy, with a harem, and long-term friends with benefits, and every once in a while–periodic phases of curiosity and urges to experiment–some down and dirty cheating. Which is just as well, as it’s the best way to discover gems like one of my current rotation, the Reviva mascara. It’s a simple, basic, everyday, YBB mascara. Available in brown and black. Odourless. Zero irritation, nice light feel, no smudging, good day-long last. Cheap.

A short wand–great for controlled close-up work.

Brush with a short head, fairly short bristles, slim, but fairly densely packed.

Formula: not too thick, not too thin; not too wet (so it stays on), not too dry (so it doesn’t flake off); should adhere to and stay on lashes; should not glob, clog, bobble, clump; nor smudge and smear, nor should it leave lashes dry and brittle and crumbly; should not flake once on the lashes, nor smear under the eyes during the day. Ideally, also waterproof (as I live in rain). No bits falling into eyes, and if so, should be inconspicuous and–above all–not be associated with any irritation.

No irritation. No fibres [UPDATE 03/2012: OK: sometimes fibres: ex. Urban Decay Cannonball]

And no animal testing (ideally, also no animal ingredients, though with some companies I can deal with beeswax).

Should stay on. This is important. Might need to stay on all night. (Not just as I live in fear of fire alarms, and being caught outside basically naked.)

End results: lashes should stay in place–not poke out in random directions–and feel soft, fluttery, feathery. No scrunchy spider-legs or monolash country & western effects. Some might call this a bit too natural. Though several of the mascaras below can be layered-up, to some extent, to a degree…


Other necessary tools: small mirror, metal-toothed lash comb (ex. Tweezerman), lash brush, the natural gift of myopia. Also eyeliner and a brush (see end of post, on tightlining).


(1) Just one coat should already leave lashes are lovely and feathery, perfectly acceptable for everyday purposes and for those favouring a “less unnatural” look. Though my “one coat” involves coating upper and lower sides of top lashes, down to the roots, which means more than just one layer anyway. Waiting for that to dry then adding a second coat often doesn’t make much difference, other than lashes starting to clump and be dry to the touch. Depends on formula: some need to be worked with very fast (ex. tubers) before they set. If building up, do it without waiting for the lashes to dry between coats: as a default: that usually works fine.

(2) Comb through immediately, a good habit to get into for dealing with fast-setting mascaras (especially tubers); there may be the odd teeny ball-clump at ends of lashes, easily removed with a fine-toothed metal lash-comb. This is the point at which you will be able to observe whether a mascara is a clumpy, bobbly, clotty, etc., one–or not; metal-toothed combs can save some really minging mascaras and make them wearable, though; better still, if the mascara has a decent brush to work with to start with.

With some very fast-setting tubing mascaras (especially the earlier generation, like Blinc) you don’t have time to comb through: no room for error or tweaking, get it right first time, or you’ll have to repeat the whole process.

(3) With any decent long-lasting, non-smudgy, waterproof mascara, remove any excess from surrounding skin immediately, otherwise it will take forever and a lot of rubbing once it’s dried. I always end up with smudgy bits around the eyes, it seems inevitable when getting mascara down to the roots. This is important on pale lashes, especially on the top side of upper lashes; done well, gives the impression of super-long lashes and a denseness at the roots like you get with tightlining; done badly, you’ll be showing your roots.


With some mascaras, too much comes out of the tube and the end of the brush (and, in some cases, the rest of it) is covered in gunky goodness. This is not the end of the world. With some, twisting the handle, spiral-fashion, as you pull it out of the tube will reduce the gunk. With many, pulling it out steadily and not too fast will help (though with some pulling it out fast works better). Remove excess on a sheet of paper–just plain paper, of the writing variety (not tissues: they often flake, leaving you with flaky tissue in eye c/o mascara brush). It may feel like there’s a lot of excess. With most mascaras, the gunk situation settles down in about a week. With some, it’s brush design flaw.

Brushes can sometimes be swapped between mascaras; a good idea if you want to marry one lovely formula to a separate lovely brush. very rarely, the whole brush-wand-handle-lid. More often, the brush and wand (if the wand is the right length for both tubes in question): in which case chop off both wands and swap them over, gluing firmly with some super-stuff. Similarly (but fiddly, and may fall off) with the brush head. Clean brush before use, inc. a final swab-down with alcohol / rubbing alcohol / surgical spirit to disinfect.

If you’re short-sighted (myopic; problems seeing things at a distance): count yourself blessed. Don’t try to put on eye makeup with your glasses on, or with contact-lenses in. Use your natural advantage: the naked eye. Up close, you can see far better, and in greater detail, than the normal- and longer-sighted. I am thus blessed myself, and use a small mirror, balanced on left hand along with any containers (ex. mascara tube), while right hand does the artistic work. Such juggling may require practice. Worth it.

Note that you’ll need to be able to see both eyes at the same time, and indeed more of the face as a whole if doing anything fancier (compared to lash-darkening) that requires symmetry; eyeshadow, cat-eye flicks, eyebrow-shaping, blusher, assorted contouring. For these, don appropriate correcting/normalising apparatus, the short-sighted advantage is over…

If you’re normal to long-sighted (and have problem seeing closer up): get one of those magnifying mirrors. You may have to do some jiggling around and practising–angle of mirror, applying while sitting or standing, looking straight into it or down, and so on.

UPDATE 03/2012: on the mascaras below, those that are on my updated revised cruelty-free main list haven’t been changed; for the others,in italics,either they don’t test and the parent company does, or their cruelty-free status is otherwise undermined e.g. selling products on a market that requires testing… updating in progress…

UPDATE 04/2012: I added a couple more notes on latest mascaras tested. Will also redo this post as one single alphabetical list of mascaras: tested/untested (on me), liked/disliked, would try in the future, etc. Coming up at some point…

For all mascaras below:
Italics = no longer options if you’re buying cruelty-free, though they were (to the best of my knowledge at the time) when I used them
Bold = would buy again


Not all at once–in some vague sort of rotation. My current usual one (April 2012) is Stila Glamoureyes, and my regular trusty old faithful is Reviva Labs. Has been for a while.

  • Beauty Without Cruelty waterproof
  • + (if I want to be super-duper-waterproof) Clarins Double Fix’ Mascara
  • Ecco Bella: can be layered, i.e. more coats applied, for a thicker, plusher look (without going Tammy Faye)
  • Maybelline Full & Soft Waterproof, Volume Express WP [UPDATE 03/2012: not used in ages]
  • Mirenésse tubing mascara: nice, and one of the few I can use without irritation (probably TEA, which is in all of the tubers I’ve met)
  • Reviva Labs: not technically waterproof, but nearly. Actually, more waterproof than many mascaras that claim to be. On me, completely smudge-proof: will only smudge a bit if, say, you leave it on overnight and add some oily eyecream (ex. shea butter) around your eyes. That’s pretty extreme smudge-proof-ness. Very layer-able, too. Bug: mascara clumps on the brush, when you pull it out the tube. The most-wiped mascara I’ve ever used; I wipe off surplus on some old scrap paper (not a tissue, as that risks getting fibres in your mascara; also, I’m one of those old-fashioned / eco types who mainly use cotton handkerchiefs).
  • Stila Glamoureyes: very like Reviva Labs above, except with a better brush and none of its clumping-on-brush issues.
  • Urban Decay Cannonball waterproof. Seriously waterproof. The business and bees’ knees. [UPDATE 2012-06-06: now nolonger cruelty-free]


  • B.E (Bare Escensuals): nice waterproof one (that would be BM Buxom)
  • Blinc / Kiss Me: “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure); dries very fast, tricky to work with. But that was a while ago. Need to retry; unknown if the formula has changed since I last used it. TEA issue: it does have triethanolamine, to which I react (eyes, skin) in higher doses. Unfortunately, there’s little way to tell if there will be enough of it in the formula for my eyes and/or skin to react until I try the stuff out: if there’s not enough TEA, fine; if there’s enough for a reaction, I’ll know it as soon as the tubes either start coming off or come off properly when I remove the stuff.
  • Bobbi Brown No Smudge: so highly water-resistant as to be practically waterproof, very smudge-proof, tenacious
  • Boots Natural Collection/Botanics
  • Boots 17 waterproof: marvellous. Did what it promised and more: waterproof, smudgeproof, and layerable.
  • Boots No. 7 Ultimate Waterproof (may now be discontinued)
  • Bourjois, various [parent company, Chanel, uses fur]
  • Clinique Lash Power: “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure)
  • Clinique Naturally Glossy: very minimal, but layer-able
  • Fresh Supernova: plush, layerable, but smudges and dries out fast (a crime, at that price)
  • Gabriel: layerable
  • Givenchy Phenomen’eyes (the one with the spiky ball: yes, it IS fabulous)
  • Lavera
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Maybelline Lash Discovery (with a preference for the waterproof version)
  • Maybelline Volum’ Express (ditto)
  • Origins Fringe Benefits: very plush, and layerable. But smudges (worked well with Clarins Fix on top)
  • Physician’s Formula (OK, just about… being charitable… it’s usable…)
  • Rimmel, several, including waterproof, smudgeproof, and layerable
  • RIP:
    • Aveda: current formula no use, previous one good, one before that rubbish
    • Bobbi Brown Perfectly Defined: “tubing” waterproof, and smudge-proof (needs to be removed with warm water + pressure)
    • Bourgeois: a very old one, my first, called Vison doré. Circa 1985/86?
    • Clinique Long Pretty Lashes
    • The Body Shop: had great mascaras in the late 1980s through early 1990s.
  • Shu Uemura Mascara Basic (guilty): basically waterproof, smudgeproof, slightly dry
  • ZuzuLuxe: layerable
YYY = yes definitely!
Y = yes, liked, would try/use/buy again
N/Y = on the fence or “meh”
N = nope
  • Barry M: Y
  • Benecos: N (retested), irritating scent
  • Becca: YYY
  • Bloom: Y
  • Chantecaille: N (good but not good enough for the price)
  • Couleur Caramel: Y
  • e.l.f.: Y but on the fence: OK, and better than many that are several times the price
  • Essence: Y, but used ages ago
  • FACE Atelier Crybaby mascara: A meh-ish N: decent formula and brush; but clumps and flakes, and irritated eyes from the flakes (possibly TEA, one of my known irritants in higher dose)
  • FACE Stockholm: Yish, but a while back, and only under Clarins Double Fix
  • GOSH: Y, decent, but used ages ago
  • Hard Candy: N
  • Hourglass: N, terrible brushes
  • Illamasqua: N/Y, on the fence; nice formula, bit smudgy, decent brush but a little too bushy to get down to the roots
  • IsaDora: Y but 4 years ago
  • Kevyn Aucoin: Y to the volume mascara, but only under Clarins Double Fix
  • La Femme cake: Y (but not very resistant; good for everyday)
  • Lisa Watier: N, on the fence; their WP was dry
  • Logona: N (retested), irritating scent
  • LORAC: Y to one I used maybe 10 years ago… N as haven’t liked the brushes on the current ones
  • Mirenésse: Y
  • NYX: N some irritation; but the WP was very pretty, decent formula and brush
  • Peter Thomas Roth: Y, but used ages ago
  • Physician’s Formula: N, too wet, gloopy, horrid brushes
  • PUPA: Y, but used ages ago
  • Sephora: N/Y. The WP was terrible, their basic everyday one is decent
  • Silk Naturals: N. Looks OK on paper, on immediate application it reminds you of Clinique Naturally Glossy, but turns out to be in dry, clumps, non-good brush. Sorry: bin.
  • Tarte: Y Gifted Amazonian Clay was lovely, as was their now-discontinued WP multipleye; lash-hugger was OK, very like Clinique Naturally Glossy (so: worth looking at if you’re looking for a cruelty-free equivalent); N to LCS (the main WP), LCL
  • Trish McEvoy: Y the curling one (tubing)
  • UNE (Bourjois): N/Y as smudgy
  • Vincent Longo: Y for WP, N for the others
  • Wet n Wild: N
  • Yves Rocher: Y (but ages ago)


  • Blinc: need to check ingredients: last lot I used had TEA, and quite a lot of it
  • Longcils Boncza cake mascara: there’s a couple of other cakes out there, this is the one that seems to be getting the best reviews, from reliable sources etc.


  • Australis
  • Becca
  • Face of Australia
  • FACE Stockholm current mascaras: Lash Lift, Volumising WP
  • Jemma Kidd
  • Le Métier de beauté
  • Lola Loves Lashes cake mascara: hard to find a supplier who ships to Canada, though
  • M2 Beauté
  • Nvey (see note above)
  • Mavala
  • Merle Norman
  • Miessence
  • Mosqueta’s: has scent but it’s just rose oil, which is fine with me and my skin
  • Napoleon Perdis
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (just because of the fantastic name!)
  • TheBalm
  • Youngblood


(so far, and who knows what might happen in the future):
  • 100% Pure
  • Almay
  • (Alverde: won’t be testing; reason = scent + shellac)
  • CARGO Better-than-Waterproof tubing mascara: crap brush
  • Chanel
  • Clarins (apart from the Fix)
  • Clinique waterproof, and the replacement for the Pretty (High Lengths)
  • Dr.Hauschka
  • FACE Atelier: irritation (then again, it does contain TEA, I should have known–but had to wait till I got it, ordered online, to get the blinking ingredients)
  • Honeybee Gardens
  • Jane Iredale: the one in the tube is lovely, but I can’t abide the scent
  • Josie Maran
  • Just For Redheads
  • Korres
  • *anything* from Lancôme (phew, given the animal-testing issues… though even trying the stuff out was awfully unethical)
  • Laura Mercier
  • MAC
  • Maybelline, The Crap In The Pink Tube and assorted others
  • NARS
  • NYX
  • Nvey: note that the sample I received may have been a little old; I would try it again, but find the price unconscionable
  • (Phyt’s: won’t be testing; reason = shellac)
  • Prestige, Pür: high levels of some of my known irritants
  • Revlon
  • (Sante: won’t be testing; reason = scent)
  • Stila waterproof one, old (2007-08?) formula: note that Stila have returned to many of their original pre-takeover formulae, and the Glamoureyes mascara is gorgeous
  • Superdrug
  • Too Faced
  • Tarte (some: see further below)
  • Zuii Organics: I considered it, then reconsidered when I saw the ingredients. Bunch of EOs (inc. rose which I like, but also orange and palmarosa which is a silly idea) right near the top, otherwise looks lik a watered-down version of Reviva Labs for five times the price. I think not. Also, looked at it in-store: losy brush and I’m not keen on the scent.



Where: upper eye / lashes, from underside and upper side so as to fill in completely at the roots (surplus on surrounding skin wiped off after). Using a zig-zag, squiggly motion. Makes a humungous difference on pale lashes; combined with mascara, makes lashes look longer and thicker, dark all the way down to the roots, and without the eye actually looking lined.

See further: snickersforsnuggles’ splendid explanation with pictures. (MUA again, sorry)

I found cake or cream/gel versions the best for tightlining, using a brush; followed by twist-up self-sharpening pencils; then pencils proper, but more painstaking and time-consuming due to all that sharpening nonsense. Would probably be fine for someone longer-sighted applying while looking into a larger fixed mirror; I’m very short-sighted, apply “blind” so as to take advantage of shorter-sighted-magnification, and use a small hand-held mirror.

Colours: browns, burgundies, plums, eggplant/aubergine–but a browned purple, not a black-grey-blue one.

Tools: (that small mirror and) using a short-handled brush with about 2-3 mm bristles, cut flat across the top, so the brush-end is roughly square (i.e. neither a fine-tipped brush, nor a slanted one). Preferred brushes: the ones that came with Clinique’s cream and cake liners; Ruby+Millie make a good one too.


If using cake: water works fine–you’ll probably need to do some experimenting before you hit on the exact right consistency for your eyes and lashline. Tapwater in a glass is fine. If you’re being fussy, bottled mineral water or water in a can. Takes all sorts.

If using gel/cream in a pot/jar: keep lid tight; keep the contents closed as far as possible. One way to do this is to take out (on you brush) a splodge of liner, put it on the back of one hand (or a sheet of dry paper), close jar, and apply liner from that splodge


  • Laura Mercier Cake in Mahogany
  • Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Gel Eyeliner in Eggplant
  • Nvey Eco cake in brown
  • Sephora own-brand twist-up pencil in brown
  • Silk Naturals Cream Liner in Mahogany
  • Stila smudge pot waterproof gel liner in bronze


  • 100% Pure in Chocolate (but dried up fast)
  • Almay Amazing Lasting Eye Pencil in Brown
  • Bobbi Brown Long-Lasting Gel Eyeliner in Chocolate Shimmer Ink
  • Clinique Brush-on Cream Liner in Black Honey
  • Clinique Quickliner in Grape, Roast Coffee, Shy Brown, Smoky Brown, Violet
  • Clinique Waterproof Cake Eyeliner in brown (RIP)
  • Ecco Bella Cake (brown, nice eggplant too)
  • e.l.f. (OK, then lost it)
  • Maybelline Unstoppable (clicky pencil) in Cinnabar
  • Origins Automagically in Mulberry
  • Sephora own-brand gel


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