In my 20s (which doesn’t seem that long ago until my 25-year old interrupts me with a text message) I had eyelashes that were hands-down, awesome. I was born with naturally thick, honey-blonde hair and the dark brown eyes of my great-grandmother. My eyebrows and eyelashes were thick and dark, and while I learned to do battle with the uni-brow I inherited from someone else in my family (name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent), I took those thick, long eyelashes for granted.
Like many women, I realized late in the game that there were a number of pretty important things that were left out of all those talks about growing up and I’m not referring to birds, bees, boys, and babies. We all figure out the 4-B’s sooner or later, with help or on our own.
No, the joys of growing up beyond those years come later when we begin to discover that individual eyebrow hairs can, without provocation, migrate southward and appear on our chin (usually overnight and without prior warning); that shiny silver looks GREAT on the funky, bold ring we pick out for our pre-mid-life jewelry crisis, but is shockingly uncool when we catch a glimpse of silver hair in the side mirror of a friend’s car; and that the mascara that served us well for the past decade or so now falls flat, leaving us with lashes that say, “blah” instead of “Ooh-La-La!.”
A Bit on Eyelashes and Aging
Eyelashes are hair, and like the hair that appears in various forms on the human body, eyelashes progress through stages of growth known as anagen, catagen, and telogen. The active phase of hair is known as anagen and features new hair formation and the displacement of old, non-growing hairs. This active phase for eyelashes lasts around 30 to 45 days. During the catagen phase, growth stops. This phase lasts about 2 to 3 weeks and then is followed by the telogen phase, which is the transitional or resting phase, and lasts about 100 days for hair on our heads, and slightly longer for eyebrows and lashes. This phase hosts most of the shedding activity, in preparation for a new round of new growth.
This cyclical process begins early and continues unnoticed by most of us until the aging process catches up with our lashes and we begin to see the manifestation of the law of diminishing returns in the mirror. Normal aging brings thinning eyelashes. We lose length, width and we even see a decrease in the number of lashes due to the fact that some eyelash follicles will slow, or stop producing hair altogether (Healthy Women). It is usually somewhere around this point that we begin to become obsessed with mascara and finding “the one” that will return our lashes to their former glory.
What Does this Mean for Mascara Brush Shape?
In my last article, I reviewed a number of mascara products and commented on the role that the brush/wand shape played in their performance. It was an easy research project since I had a drawer full of many different mascaras; the result of my own mascara odyssey. I realized mid-research that the things that I found worthwhile for my lashes just might have more to do with the fact that I was seeing fewer and thinner lashes in the mirror and less to do with the mascara, brush, or moon cycle at the time of application.
To do more meaningful research on the impact of the brush shape or size, I would need to compare a formulation that already worked for me, and comes with different brush types. I chose the Bare Escentuals’ Buxom formulation, which I have used and like a lot, and tested their Sculpted Lash Mascara ($19, amazon.com), their Amplified Lash Mascara with Innovative Expandable Brush ($22, amazon.com) and my traditional mascara, Buxom Lash Mascara ($19, amazon.com). I was perfectly happy with the Buxom Lash Mascara I have been using but admit I was intrigued to see the difference between these 3 mascara wands.
Putting Bare Escentuals Buxom Brushes to the Test
The brush on the Sculpted Lash Mascara sports the S-shape common to many mascara brands. The bristles are fine in gauge and generous and do a good job at teasing apart thin lashes and depositing mascara to each. The impact is very much like that of the Buxom Lash Mascara in the way that it goes on and appears after application.
The Amplified Lash Mascara with Innovative Expandable Brush, which I was not expecting to be impressed with, was a pleasant surprise. The wand/brush is able to be ‘dialed’ (using end of cap) to extend more space between each row of bristles, or back to position bristles much closer together, as user preference dictates. The bristles are not as long, or as fine as those in the Lash or Sculpted Lash formulations, but I found that the initial application was quite thorough and gave my 49-year old lashes nice definition and what seemed — at application — to be more ‘bulk,’ or width to each lash. After several hours of wear, however; there was no distinguishable difference between the two (I wore one on each eye for a real-time comparison).
At the end of the day, I will probably return to using my old favorite, Buxom Lash Mascara, because I like the thin bristles that are closely packed on the cylindrical (not curved) brush. I also find that the mechanics I use to apply mascara work better with a straight brush than an S-shaped one and with no significant difference in the impact. While I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the Amplified Lash Mascara with Innovative Expandable Brush, I don‘t see myself replacing my preferred mascara (formulation and wand) with this wand variation but I can give it “2-thumbs-up” in terms of performance and results.
At the end of the day, makeup preference is as individual as each of us. When it comes to mascara, our preferences are influenced by many things, including the companies that we feel good about (I admit to being a big fan of the Bare Escentuals brand), and the current state of our lashes. I realize now that as a young woman with all kinds of lashes, just getting some mascara to stick to the end of them was all I needed to look great.
This changed significantly as my lash numbers and volume began to shrink in my 40s. Other than turning to the growing number of preparations for thinning lashes and hair, such as the prescription, Latisse or cosmeceutical preparations like RapidLash ($54.97 for two, amazon.com, the quality and character of the mascara, the size and shape of the wand (and how easily we can maneuver it) all become considerations when our lashes begin to reflect the impact of the aging process.
I’d love to hear your experiences on aging eyelashes, comparing different mascaras, and your thoughts on wand size and shape — I look forward to hearing from you!