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'Oreals Voluminous that claims up to 12 times more impact instantly?
How about Benefit's Theyre Real! with the special brush that reveals lashes you never knew you had?
Or Maybellines new The Rocket VolumExpress with the patented supersonic jumbo bristles?
Yes, wed been warned not to trust the hype. More than once, Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun has said, Look at any fashion ad for mascara. Theyre wearing false eyelashes. Youd 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 Dont Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, also had said that spending more than $10 for mascara just doesnt 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 wed 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 MACs 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 Ks request, we put the $16 MAC mascara to the test, too.
Every day, wed apply a different product. Sometimes two in a day.
Id examine my painted lashes in a magnifying mirror (not recommended if you dont 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 wed scrutinize them against our usual go-to drugstore cheapie mascaras. (Maybellines $7.49 The Falsies VolumExpress for Keri; Maybellines $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, wed both choose LOreals 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, Theyre 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 wasnt. A letdown and not worth the cost.
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.
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.
Maybelline, The Rocket VolumExpress 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
LOreal, 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
LOreal, Voluminous Extra-Volume Collagen waterproof
Hype: Our most revolutionary lash-pumping technology.
Our test: Unimpressive.
Details: $7.95; most drugstores