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Perfect mascara just a myth

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Sunday, May 12, 2013, at 10:19 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 12, 2013, at 11:40 a.m.

We were on the hunt for a miracle: the mascara breakthrough that at long last would give us the most beautiful eyes in all the land.

Would it be L'Oreal’s Voluminous that claims “up to 12 times more impact instantly”?

How about Benefit's They’re Real! with the special brush that “reveals lashes you never knew you had”?

Or Maybelline’s new The Rocket Volum’Express with the “patented supersonic jumbo bristles”?

Yes, we’d been warned not to trust the hype. More than once, “Cosmetics Cop” Paula Begoun has said, “Look at any fashion ad for mascara. They’re wearing false eyelashes. You’d have to be blind not to tell.”

And, sure enough, the fine print on The Rocket magazine ad says, “Lashes styled with lash inserts.” Yup, false eyelashes. No wonder they look so lush.

The ever pragmatic Begoun, author of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me,” also had said that spending more than $10 for mascara just doesn’t make good sense.

But we want to believe. We yearn for a product that with just the swipe of a (goo-covered) magic wand, we can somehow lengthen, curl, separate, darken, thicken, define, nourish, extend, fortify and maximize those skimpy hairs on our eyelids.

In that ongoing quest for perfect lashes, stalwart co-worker Keri Wiginton and I spent weeks testing the new and allegedly revolutionary mascaras we’d read about in magazines and online “best” lists.

Just when we thought we were done with the compare and contrast, the careful weighing of pros and cons of mascaras costing from less than $7 to $28.50, I got a plaintive e-mail from reader Patricia K.

She had read that MAC’s Extended Play Gigablack Lash mascara could enhance even the “tiniest” bottom lashes. She was tempted, but “I am not too keen on spending more than 5 bucks, preferably less, on any cosmetics unless they produce miracles.”

So at Patricia K’s request, we put the $16 MAC mascara to the test, too.

Every day, we’d apply a different product. Sometimes two in a day.

I’d examine my painted lashes in a magnifying mirror (not recommended if you don’t want bad news). Our husbands, friends and co-workers were called on to examine our eyelashes closely and tell us if they could detect a difference between the high-end Dior and the drugstore brands.

And we’d scrutinize them against our usual go-to drugstore cheapie mascaras. (Maybelline’s $7.49 The Falsies Volum’Express for Keri; Maybelline’s $5.99 Great Lash Big in the pink tube for me).

We hoped to be transformed. Really, we did.

But the bottom line is this: There was virtually no difference among the six mascaras we tried. No matter the cost, the purportedly miraculous brush, the pretty pictures in the ads. At best, one might be, say, 5 percent better than another.

After much deliberation, Keri and I agreed that if we had to pick one, we’d both choose L’Oreal’s Telescopic because of its easy-to-handle long, skinny brush, and it made our lashes look a little longer.

And you can buy it for less than $10.

Benefit, They’re Real!

Hype: One review quotes a woman as saying she stops strangers to tell them how amazing it is.

Our test: The brush with extra bristles on the end looked promising but wasn’t. A letdown and not worth the cost.

Details: $23; sephora.com, benefitcosmetics.com

Dior, Diorshow Iconic Overcurl

Hype: “Its secrets? An incurved brush, modeled after professional eyelash curlers.”

Our test: Vastly too expensive for the so-so results.

Details: $28.50; sephora.com, dior.com

MAC, Extended Play Gigablack Lash

Hype: “Effortless, upward bending definition and extreme volume.”

Our test: A decent mascara but not appreciably better than cheaper stuff at the drugstore.

Details: $16; nordstrom.com, maccosmetics.com

Maybelline, The Rocket Volum’Express waterproof

Hype: “Explosive volume. ... Patented supersonic brush.”

Our test: We liked it, and we liked the price. No eyelash explosion, though.

Details: $6.22; most drugstores

L’Oreal, Telescopic Original

Hype: “60 percent longer lashes.”

Our test: Our favorite overall; easy to apply with skinny brush, and lashes seemed slightly (but not 60 percent) longer.

Details: $9.49; most drugstores

L’Oreal, Voluminous Extra-Volume Collagen waterproof

Hype: “Our most revolutionary lash-pumping technology.”

Our test: Unimpressive.

Details: $7.95; most drugstores

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