A Love Letter to Mascara

The makeup that hugs our eyelashes needs a hug every now and then too, ya know.


Mascara gets a bad rap sometimes. A recent New York Times article reported that the National Advertising Division is cracking down on mascara ads for falsely advertising their product via…falsies. (Or “lash inserts,” per the fine print at the bottom of such ads.)

Essentially, the thinking is that using fake lashes in mascara ads leads women on to thinking that their results will be exactly like Freja Beha Erichsen’s. I understand this concern. One time I saw an advertisement for those sneakers that make your butt look better and I just knew that if bought those sneakers, I’d be the next butt model in their campaign. Also, sometimes I see pictures of Freja like, anywhere — the street, the runway, in magazines — then I sort of assume I look like her by osmosis.

“If you’re going to sell me a product based on a photograph, then that photograph needs to be truthful,” executive director of Truth in Advertising Bonnie Patten told the New York Times. “You can’t assume that I have a degree in how many lashes a normal person has in her eyes.”

I don’t have a degree in this either. I wish I did, but I don’t.

It’s unethical to persuade people to buy something that can’t deliver what it promises, and advertorial lies inevitably lead to a discussion on propaganda. But there’s just something so innocent about mascara, so quiet and loving, like it never wanted anything other than to make you look more awake, that just makes me want to give it a little hug by way of typed words on this here computer. I want to tell mascara that it’s not its fault that it was sort of poorly misrepresented by way of faux spidery stems. “You work just fine without them, I swear,” I want to coo to it as I coat my own lashes with the magical paint.

The truth is that I don’t know where I’d be today without mascara. In Tuesday’s post while waxing endlessly on the cost of looking natural, I wrote, “I’m perfectly fine running around sans ‘face’ no matter how much of an earwig I resemble without mascara on — I really don’t care.” This is true, I don’t care…but I also kind of do, you know?

When I apply mascara it shows those around me that I care about them. It says, “Hey you. Hey world. I’m going to put this shit on my lashes out of respect for the fact that you get to look at me all day long, and in the same way that I’m wearing my favorite shoes and my coolest jacket, I’m also making my eyelashes look like I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet of awesome.”

When I put mascara on, I feel prettier. I do not feel pretty when I put on a crap brand and the formula clumps and suddenly I look like I mixed sand with black ink and called it a day, but when I use my favorite brand or one of its lovely sisters-that-are-also-competitors (like Venus and Serena!) I become a changed woman. My confidence grows. My smizing ability goes up ten fold and I feel like I own the world with the bat of my lash. This is all because of you, mascara. You, who on my absolute strangest day where my hair is being evil and staticky and my skin is arguing and my eyes are crossing, are always ready and willing to jump in and light my face up like the reflection of July 4th fireworks on open, glorious water. (In this case you are the fireworks, mascara, and I, the water.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is…I love you.

Don’t let the haters get you down. They probably just haven’t found their brand yet.

What’s your favorite brand? And what do you love about it? And please, for the love of everything good in this world, please post a picture of your lashes all done up. (And if you do wear “falsies” let me know because I am utterly intrigued and kind of want to try.)

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  • CDJ

    love the bad gal and the “they’re real!” or something along those lines. recently got the bobbi brown smokey eye mascara as a sample and am loving that as well. clinique makes a great one with that really cool green flat-ish brush “high lengths”. it takes me about 10 minutes to apply mascara on a good night because i only like my lashes when they touch my eyebrows. you also can’t just wear one brand at a time! then it takes approximately 25 minutes to get it off at the end of the night. but ITS WORTH IT.

  • I actually found a Maybelline that’s not that bad. The one in the orange packaging. Yeah, mascara is my everyday must 😉

  • PatriciaParisienne

    Haha I love this! I swear by Diorshow. Thanks for this article 🙂

  • Chelsey

    Max Factor mascara is the love of my life.

  • Gré Tee

    I love mascara as well, it’s my secret weapon, apart from my face-make-up (foundation, blush, powder, concealer), I just cannot put anything else on my eyes, only mascara, and it is perfect! I feel like I’m myself with it, but a more polished version, so I’m sharing this love of mascara!!! <3

  • Allison

    Lancome’s Hypnose Doll Eyes is my newest purchase. it rules.
    Had benefit’s “they’re real” before and hated it. loathed it. wouldn’t use it if it was the last mascara on earth.

  • lulu

    “They’re real” by Benefit is the best mascara I’ve come across so far.

  • My favourite brand of mascara is definitely Lancome! I honestly haven’t tried any I wouldn’t like! My absolute favourite is the Hypnose Doll Eyes, but I still have to try the Hypnose Star one. And always, always go for the waterproof!

    • Steph

      Waterproof is where it’s at!

  • Charlotte Fassler

    I have a wretched habit of pulling mascara clumps off my lashes (so fun, right!?) which results in pulling out my actual lashes….. I love how YSL mascara looks on, however it dries kind of thick and sticky which is no good for my nasty habit… I do however love how Lancome applies and I’m a huge advocate for Maybelline mascara sold at any drug store

  • I had to check mine: it says its name is Manhattan, it’s written in electric blue letters on a black background, it also claims it would give me the ULTIMATE BOOSTING, which is also waterproof – well, what’s not to like about ultimate boosting? 🙂

  • Lou

    The absolute best combo is Dior’s white base/primer (Diorshow maximizing serum) and Chanel’s latest Le Volume de Chanel. Insane lashes ensue!

  • Sarah Fairbank

    YSL Mascara will osmosis you to Cara Delevigne status and give you faint whiffs of floral scents all. day. long.

  • Ivana Džidić

    For years I didn’t care much about mascara and always assumed that my eyes look more or less the same without it ( going so far as putting the eye shadow but no mascara)…until a friend of mine did my make up and I was like ” are those really my eyelashes?” I couldn’t believe how big and long they looked, absolutely like falsies.
    So, sometimes it is not just about the brand but just taking the time to curl them before you put on mascara (taken that you need it because they’re not naturally curled) and to apply it just right.

  • Lancome Hypnose Drama, hands down. From the drugstore, the purple Cover Girl one.

  • CrystalXOXO

    I feel like the “fake lashes in mascara ads” issue comes up every few years. Just like photoshop in ads, it’s not going to change– let’s all just get over it now lol. Benefit’s “They’re Real” is the best mascara I’ve ever used. It’s mid range pricewise. I tried switching back to Maybelline’s Great Lash to save money but found that I just couldn’t cut it. Once I had experienced the lengths of “They’re Real” there was just no going back.

    Falsies are great! But only at night. And only use the full strips if you’re auditioning to be Kim K. Stick with the individual lashes. They’re more time consuming to put on, but they look way more natural. I usually just stick a few on the outside part of my upper lashes and it works great to make eyes pop. I kind of want to try lash extensions, but heard you actually can’t even use mascara on the extensions?? Maybe this was just hearsay, but the thought of going w/o mascara even with semi-permanent falsies makes me apprehensive…

  • Aubrey

    L’oreal Voluminous is my cheap go to. Hands down the best. My favorite splurge is Benefit They’re Real. I layer the two to perfection.

  • heather nicole

    giorgio armani eyes to kill. game changer.

  • viirginiaa

    Can’t go wrong with a big brush. Diorshow or Bag Gal Lash, but my favorite is a classic, Maybelline Great Lash + they have a BIG brush now!

  • Isabel

    Love this article. The best mascara is L’oreal Voluminous

  • B.

    AH! “They probably haven’t found their brand yet.” OMG I feel like a mascara whore! I swear I will try any mascara! I always, ALWAYS start with a layer of Maybelline Great Lash (the typical one in the pink and green tube) and then let it settle and then (this is where the whoring begins) a layer of something else! Currently I am using Avon’s Super Extend Infinitize. I’ve used everything from L’oreal to MAC to YSL, but I mean all those commercials promising to make your lashes look their best how could you ever stick with just one?!



  • Jen

    Guerlain Maxi Lash. Look no further.

  • the pearl oyster

    clinique high impact mascara. the name speaks of itself. clin

    • Isabel

      Brown looks fabulous on blondes.

  • I love they’re real by benefit. I have it on right now as we speak without eyeshadows or anything. Though I do feel like covergirl clump crusher achieves a similar result on me. I like maybelline falsies, but the brush is too big.

  • the pearl oyster

    clinique high impact mascara // the name says it all


  • I will never understand why models wear false eyelashes/lash extensions/photoshopped lashes in ads for mascaras. It’s ridiculous and dishonnest.

    Mafalda ❤

  • Nika

    I got a tester of Chanel Le Volume mascara in Harper’s Bazaar last february. It is amazing!! I still have it and am saving it for nights out only AND it is still as good as new, didn’t thicken at all!! Right out of a mascara campaign 😉

  • anna louise

    Intrigued that you used Elizabeth Taylor in one of your photos. Reputedly, she had such naturally thick lashes that she did not use mascara, much less falsies. Jealous.

  • Laura Mitchell

    I used to wear false lashes all the time freshman/sophomore year. Nothing scares a shacker more than leaving those suckers behind the next day. Bonus points if he woke up with one stuck to him. Right now I’m a big fan of Hypnose Doll Lashes

  • Amelia Diamond

    You guys I’m going to try all of these! Keep ’em coming!! I have a party tonight do you guys think I should try falsies?? SOMEONE GIVE ME TIPS I BOUGHT A PAIR FROM CVS AND I AM SCARED.

    • Aubrey Green

      Lisa Eldridge (the makeup artist) has a pretty good tutorial :).

    • Laura Mitchell

      Step one: have a few glasses of wine. It steadies the hand….
      Step two: Cut the lashes to fit your eyes- usually they’re too long
      Step three: squirt a small glob of the glue out onto a papertowel or something so you can work with it
      Step four: use a q-tip to dab the glue on the base of the lashes
      Step five: let the glue sit for 20 second or so, then press onto the base of your lashline. hold for 45 seconds or until they’re secured

      Use eyeliner (liquid works great for this) to blend the strip into your lash line. Finish with eyeshadow and mascara to blend your eyelashes into the fake ones

  • Eva Kuzyk

    When I was in jr high I cut my eyelashes with scissors thinking that they would grow longer like hair. I walked around with stubs for so long but now they really are longer!

  • Talullah Francis

    I’m a self confessed mascara junkie. I will devour any brand out there, I’ll mix ’em up, swap brushes, leave caps unscrewed overnight, I’ll honestly try anything once.

    Currently got a hell of a lot of love for YSL Volume Effect Faux Cils Babydoll. Boy, that stuff does RIDICULOUS things to lashes.

  • Benefit’s “They’re Real!” mascara changed my life!!

  • Bonnie Meyers Cohen


  • JoB

    My kind of love letter =)
    My current obsession is MAC’s In Extreme Dimensions. If you can maneuver the massive brush, it does wonders!!!

  • Gift4Style

    Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill. Been my go-to since YSL made an adjustment to their Effect Faux Cil formula (they claim no changes were made, my lashes beg to differ). I’ve also been impressed with Chanel Inimitable but am not ready to jump the Armani ship just yet. Apparently my lashes are a testament to its power because I’ve already converted a few of my friends…

  • Laura Mercier Full Blown. CoverGirl LashBlast Volume. Guerlain Maxi Lash.

  • Melissa

    Givenchy Phenom eyes is my recent favorite. I’ve been using it almost exclusively (apart from the occasional sample) for a year and a half. It takes a bit longer than normal to apply, due to the tiny orb-style brush – but it’s worth the extra effort because you can really control the density and coverage. I can apply a lighter coat for day and a heavier look for evening… it’s an amazing all-purpose product for me.

  • JM

    I wear nothing but Volume De Chanel in Noir. It is the holy grail of mascaras– don’t bother with the fakes, because it’s so good, it makes them look like falsies.

  • Amelie

    haha- love the title! I personally don’t love mascara very much, especially since it leaks really easily in my experience. Has anybody found a mascara that actually holds?

    The Neon Guava


    The Neon Guava


  • AKEasl

    My genetics got confused and gave me thick, obscenely dark eyebrows but sparse blonde eyelashes. Kevyn Aucoin helps me to disguise this genetic injustice.

  • Emily

    Benefit’s They’re Real is the best. I have always had problems with mascara (even waterproof) flaking off, but this stays on all day, including a trip to the gym after work (where I frequently have sweat pouring down my face). Or, sometimes instead of mascara I just dot liquid eyeliner between my lashes to make them look a little fuller.

  • Cecilia Lang

    Yup! I totally agree. Diorshow Extase is my go-to. Well worth the money.

  • caroline

    I love mascara too! It’s the only thing I need to feel good. However, no matter how carefully I put it on I always end up with mascara all over my eyelid…any help on this matter would be super appreciated! What am I doing wrong??!!

    Anyway, I was very kindly given DiorShow as a gift and I thought it was absolute rubbish! I have probably tried 100 different mascaras over the years and Loreal voluminous is the bees knees. Been using all of it’s various incarnations for 15+ years. I Especially heart Volume Million Lashes Luminizer for Hazel Eyes, that tiny amount of tint really brings out the green in my eyes.

    So to sum it up I would marry Loreal Volume Million Lashes in a heart beat.

  • Steph

    I only wear waterproof because it holds the curl all day long and doesn’t flake off like regular mascara. I have tried many samples of the expensive brands and have been disappointed time and time again until I found Lancome hypnose and some fancy YSL one with a lovely brush. But my favourite to this day is covergirl lashblast (the orange one) in waterproof. Always does the trick, never disappoints and my eyelashes are always complemented when I wear it! And it’s only $7!

  • ally schmidt

    deluxe lights, camera, lashes™ mascara by tarte is the best mascara known to man. Used along with the picture perfect™ eyelash curler you’ll be sure to have the best eyelashes in all the land. Also, I do not work for tarte.

  • I always associate mascara with eye curler : they make me cry and make me beautiful at the same time.

  • Michelle

    I start with the ever so PoPaLaR CoverGirl LashBlast Volume and put on about two or three coats (Mind you, I went through a high-school stage where taking off my mascara was done by pulling it off with my fingertips .. cringe ..). I then move onto Dior’s DiorShow which is sort of a bit pricey but really helps with the volume aspect. Definitely a pain to take off after a long night but the combo really gives you some thick, long, and curled lashes. P.S. don’t pull your eyelashes off – they don’t come back. Fo eva.

  • L’Oreal Telescopic does it for me. Natural and non-clumpy!

    Second best feeling to applying a good mascara… removing a good mascara and sadly Telescopic is not the easiest to remove when you’re desperate to hit the pillow!

  • EQP

    There are a few including sephora version that apply like mascara and create tubes over the last lash. Washes off in little bits with just warm water and never smudges. Every other mascara I’ve used smudges and it’s such a bad look!

  • Abbeylinn

    I wasn’t exactly the lashes in the bottle type until a friend of mine brought it to my attention that without it, I do indeed look like a naked mole rat, Nice huh? But willingly accepted, Which brings my conclusion to the ever famous 2 words and 4 syllables of agreement thanks to the one and only Mr. West:

    Uhhuhh Honey!

    Now I can’t let go of my oh so beautiful Este Lauder bottle of lashes. That’s for old people right? I know… and thanks grandma!!!

  • SairaMac

    L’oreal lash architect in midnight black or Benefit They’re Real! Slathered on thickly! So much so that I like to be able to have a haze of mascara obscuring my vision slightly.

  • Sophie Bly

    I (along with my mom) will always love dior diorshow mascara

  • Maya A

    Use the Somaluxe Face Wash – thats the only thing that is able to remove mascara without having to be rough on my eyes. I have been using Somaluxe for 2 months now, and my skin is the happiest in years. . .