Fabulous Eyelashes Over 40: Does Brush Shape Matter in the Same Formulation?

Skin Care

mascara want shape
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

Aging Eyelashes
The same process that hair undergoes happens to eyelashes and eyebrows as well.

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

buxom_S-shaped_MascaraThe 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.

Buxom_adjustable_brushThe 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).

Buxom_Lash_MascaraAt 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.

Bottom Line

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!

Post by Rebecca Harmon

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  • Nicki Zevola

    That is super interesting! I never thought of how hormones could affect prostaglandins working or not (hence Latisse…) wow!

  • Rebecca

    Interesting about the Latisse – well, ‘Mother Nature’ has the last laugh one way or another!!

  • Teresa

    Erica — that was my exact thoughts when I was 50 and prior to completion of menopause. I completed that natural process by 52 and have found a real drop off in benefits of Latisse throughout the process after that. 3rd to 6th week: marvelous to die for eyelashes. After that, not so much. I believe I will try RapidLash next.
    Rebecca: I’ve tried the L’Oreal brand of lash growing mascara and serum — both caused reactions. Ditto on your comment that what I used to use now causes reactions.
    I have to tell you, girls, I live an extremely healthy lifestyle and this decrease of eyelashes, thinning hair and beginning of receding hairline has been horrible. But I also know this is the normal progression of our bodies after menopause and just have to accept it.

  • Rebecca

    Erica – any side effects or is it all good ??!

    • Erica

      All good. No side effects whatsoever. I just realized this was published 2 years ago. I’m 50 now and still using it, still no side effects. Still have long lashes that everyone comments on.

  • Erica

    Forget mascara. One word. Latisse. Its the only thing that works. I have crazy long and think eyelashes and I’m 48. I’ve been using it for 3 years and will never stop at this point. NOTHING else works no matter how much it promises to do so.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Teresa – thanks for the comments!

    If you haven’t caught this blog (https://www.futurederm.com/2013/01/22/will-vaseline-make-eyelashes-grow/) be sure to check it out! It mentions L’Oreal’s Lash Boosting Serum which I haven’t used, so I cannot give it a thumbs up or down, but it looks promising enough to try and at a price point of < $10 it wouldn't break the piggy bank to give it a try.

    I have not traditionally used an eyelash curler but your solution sounds like it works – bravo!

    As an aside, when I worked selling cosmetics, I was much younger and apparently th ught I knew a lot (haha). When older women (ladies closer to my age now) and they would tell me that certain cosmetics cause their eyes to itch, I would sometimes think they were being melodramatic. THEN, I hit my mid-40s, and cosmetics I once used with reckless abandon started causing my eyes to itch and I realized that I might have been a little quick to judge. 🙂

    Live and learn,…right?!

    Stop back and let us know if you try the L'Oreal conditioner and if it works for you.


  • Teresa Wright

    I have been using Latisse for about 4 years, with one year off in the process due to an infection from my stupidity. But I saw a significant growth of my eyelashes about the 3rd week after starting to use Latisse again, and I find your information about the different phases interesting, because in about the 6th week of use, my eyelashes have begun to thin out and I am finding many on my cheeks when I am applying mascara.

    I need to tell you, also, that I am 54 years old and my eyes have been my best feature all my life and I have read everything I can get my hands on to protect them and the surrounding skin. Hence, I have hardly any lines around my eyes. I am almost obsessed with taking care of my skin and daily and my facial skin does not show my actual age.

    But I also notice that many of the “grow mascara” products tend to relax my eyelashes after my curling them. I suffer from eyelashes that grow downward, always have, always will. And I am about as WASP as you can get too. But having said that, I have found that if I heat my eyelash curler slightly, I can get them to curl and then the mascara will set them to curl up. But not with any “grow mascara”, except Rimmel. Within moments after applying even very very expensive brands, my eyelashes will begin to uncurl and then go back to their original position, downward. Except the Rimmel brand. 🙂

    What I have also noticed, and you concur, that the older and more sparse my eyelashes are, the more I only like the wand from the Maybelliene Discovery Mascara — the wand has very short bristles and not compact. And so, from reading your assessment about your experience I now know why it is my favorite: It allows me to separately coat each lash (instead of clumping) and then coat again and again to build them up.

    I’ve been looking for an eyelash conditioner to utilize after I apply my Latisse. Anyone know of any that will not be touted as “grow” serum? I am very sensitive to various formulations and will know within 3 days if it is not for me and for the trashcan. (BTW, a dermatologist told me to watch for this 3 days and know that it will take at least 3 days to clear up, if I have a reaction)


    T. Wright

  • Rebecca

    Erika –

    I’ve never thought about using a brush I loved with a different mascara, but I’m a child of the 60’s which means I lean toward, “if it works for you, why not!?”… but with one cautionary note:

    We’ve all read about the bacteria that builds up on mascara wands over time, to the point that I believe it’s recommended that we replace our mascara every 3 months. I’m not sure how this plays into the use of a wand from a product we love (and have used up) into a new one, in terms of the transfer of bacteria. I would imagine that washing the brush/wand thoroughly helps significantly, but I am not sure if, absent a medical-like sterilization, we could remove ALL the sneaky, little bacteria that can hide in the most difficult to reach places.

    I also think there is more to buying our makeup than functionality; it’s one way that we nurture ourselves and boost feeling good about who we are. If we are cobbling together too much of a solution, it could become less nurturing and begin to seem like we have to “make do” which can be less than uplifting.

    My suggestion is to find a brand that fits your budget and aligns as closely as possible with the features you want, then buy it for yourself! After all, “you’re worth it!” (L’Oreal reference intentional)


  • Rebecca

    Thanks for your feedback, Emm & Erika! In my so-named “Mascara Odyssey”, I found another brand that I have to admit, rivals the Buxom for my affection and at a much lower price point!

    L’Oreal’s Voluminous Million Lashes (http://www.amazon.com/LOreal-Paris-Voluminous-Million-Blackest/dp/B004GHG8EK) retails for less than $9 and I consider it a contender for rivaling the Buxom mascara I do love!

    I am NOT aware of the L’Oreal stance/record re: cruelty-free products (I should know this) but I can tell you that the application and wear of this product does give me much of what I like in the Buxom mascara at less than 1/2 the price point!

    Thanks for reading!


  • Erika

    How about using the Buxom brush on a DIFFERENT formulation?

    For example, I love the Buxom brush but the price of the mascara is too expensive for daily use. So I’ve been thinking about saving the Buxon brush and washing it. Then buying a drugstore mascara brand like Maybelline Full n Soft (my 2nd favorite behind Buxom) and inserting the Buxom brush to use with the Maybelline Full n Soft.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts!

  • Emm

    I’m 38, I’ll be 39 in about a month and I received a Buxom Lash Mascara sample from Sephora. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first but I grew to love it. I Usually prefer the older style wand with bristles but this silicone brush has finer longer bristles, as you mentioned and it works well. I like the formula as it seems to thicken my lashes well. My only issue was it seemed a bit dull. I want more shiny looking lashes and some mascaras are more flat and or sooty looking than others. I like the Buxom brand and I want a cruelty-free mascara. I might buy it but it’s a little expensive for me.

    I have tried will re-purchase Revlon Grow-luscious because there is a good amount of product in the tube, I like the dense brush on the wand and it helps my lashes grow in better and fuller. I do not care for the plumping brush or formula as it flakes too much for me.

    I even keep old mascara wands and wash them, in case I like the wand but want a different brands formula!

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