How Mascara Works

The science behind mascara

Believe it or not, there is a science to mascara. Sure, the differences between brushes may seem small, and the concentrations of ingredients between different formulas may in fact be the size of a dime or less, but your eyelashes are only 6.6 millimeters to begin with (Ophthalmology, 2010) — and to them, a wider brush, a different material of brush, or a 0.1% concentration of wax in a formulation makes all of the difference.

1.) For maximum results, choose a brush with long bristles.

FutureDerm DiorShow Black Out Mascara Why The Wand Matters

When it comes to adding volume, you need a brush that goes the distance.

To create voluminous lashes, you need to layer mascara on each lash. Your eyelashes will only grab as much mascara as a single stroke of the brush can apply from root to tip.

A short-bristled brush will not result in application of as much product in a single stroke.

On the other hand, a long-bristled brush maximizes the application of as much product as possible in a single stroke. The result? Thicker, more voluminous-looking lashes.

2.) …And choose a brush that is silicone or rubbery.

Silicone brushes

When brushing your hair, brush manufacturers have already determined rubber cushioning makes brushing hair easier, as the cushion will expand and retract based upon the thickness of your hair (Milady Standard Cosmetology).

Eyelashes are no different, though on a more microscopic scale: If you apply mascara made of a cushiony material to your eyelashes, the brush will “give” more against thick eyelashes and “push back” more against thin eyelashes, so you end up with more even application of product.

In addition, silicone or rubbery brushes also have less friction, so less of the product sticks to the brush, and more will adhere to your lashes.

3.) For lashes that build easily, choose a non-waterproof, waxy formulation.

diorshow black out mascara

When it comes to adding length and volume, you want a water-soluble formulation with wax, which tends to layer better than oil- or petrolatum-based waterproof formulations.

Non-waterproof/water-soluble mascaras typically have three major components: waxes for light, smooth, even application; pigments for color, definition, and depth; and resins to maintain texture, composition, and to keep the formulation in solution (Milady’s Encyclopedia of Hair).

Water-soluble mascaras are great because they are more easily removed than other types of formulations (namely those with petrolatum, which helps to make the formula waterproof). Unfortunately, you may need to watch that any mascara without petrolatum or petrolatum distillates does not run or smudge on the face. I’ve had solid success with Christian Dior DiorShow Black Out Mascara, but I do admittedly get the occasional smudge.

4.) For best results, apply with your mouth open slightly.


When applying mascara, open your mouth slightly as you look into a mirror directly in front of you: Doing so contracts the lateral pterygoid muscle, but more importantly for our purposes, this also makes it a lot harder to blink. (Try it!)

5.) For even more out of your mascara, wiggle the brush slightly as you apply.


As we stated before, a bigger, thicker brush results in bigger, thicker lashes because more product is applied to each lash with every stroke. Similarly, if you extend lash-brush contact surface area by wiggling the brush ever-so-slightly from side to side, taking care not to move the brush off of the lashes, you will end up with a better application of product.


Bottom Line

How Mascara Works

For the best eyelashes, look for the right brush and formulation, and utilize the right technique!

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  • Sadra

    This article is brilliant, thanks!

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