Mascara – A Journey from the ’90s to now

Mascara. It’s one of those things that men will never understand and women will spend a fortune and a lifetime trying to find ‘the one’. We want it to build, extend, thicken, multiply and look the blackest of black. We want curly, flirty, long, thick lashes which look fake but aren’t. We want all of this to be smudge proof, tear proof, rain proof and ‘I’ve-had-a-crappy-day-please-don’t-make-it-worse-by-making-me-look-like-a-panda’ proof. That’s a lot to ask from a little tube of black stuff, but then again it does come with a wand and they’re instruments of magic, after all.

It’s hard. There is so much choice! Peruse your local beauty counter and there are any number of brands with any number of varieties all promising different things and with choice inevitably comes sacrifice. Do I want waterproofing over length? Curl over waterproofing? Smudge proof or thickening?

(By the way if any non-mascara wearing men are still here, I congratulate you. Not to stereotype but I fully imagine the beauty counters are to you what the power tool section in B&Q is to me. Confusing, expensive and I’m never sure if what I was looking for is actually what I’m buying.)

I’ve tried many a mascara in my time. When you’re 14 and only have £2.50 to spend then it’s a Collection 2000 electric blue from Gee Tees every time (don’t judge, it was the ’90s and it was essential to wear electric blue mascara a la Baby Spice.) but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a good choice. On more than one occasion I could be seen running (yes, I did say running. That was also essential back in the ’90s if I wanted to avoid being grounded) back from which ever park I’d been hanging around; the rain pouring, the wind whipping around my face and two rivers of bright blue down my cheeks. Such was the intensity of that oh so special shade of blue that unless removed immediately, before it dried, I would be smurf coloured for a good couple of days afterwards. In fact I’m pretty sure it was made from the ground up bones of Papa Smurf.

Through the ‘oh I’m now old enough to drink and therefore go out round town I obviously need a lot of make up’ years I favoured the good old Boots 17. That also came in electric blue but no one needed to know I was a Spice Girls fan until at least 2007 when they were back and retro cool so that was a no no. This time it was clear mascara. Why? I hear you ask. What possible use does clear mascara have? Loads. It doesn’t give you panda eyes when after one too many vodka and Red Bulls you’re snivelling in a corner over some lad who looked at you a few times and then snogged the ugly girl from Wigan College. It won’t smudge when you forget that you’re far too cool to have a bed time and accidentally rub your eyes and even if you do get it on your hands, it’s clear! So no mysterious black streaks on your clothes, duvet, sheets and mum’s best towels. (Ok, so no extra streaks on mum’s best towels, we’ll politely disregard the purple and red stains from the millions of sachets of Shaders and Toners we got through between 1999 and 2002)

The university years were a phase of discovery. Mingling with people from different places, with different accents and different trends meant a slight break away from the old reliable Boots 17 into the realms of ‘designer’ make up. Designer? On a student budget? Really? Yes, really and all without shop lifting. The tried and tested line of ‘I’m allergic to some mascara so I want a really good one and I don’t mind spending a lot but I’d like to try it first…’ works wonders at the Clinique counter. Those little samples of mascara fit nicely into the zippy section of the handbag, last forever and are free! It has to be said that I love Clinique’s waterproof mascara. Although not the greatest for thickening and lengthening it is absolutely tear proof and smudge proof; a winner in my book.

After the scrounging and blagging it’s time to grow up, get a proper job and address the make up bag accordingly. Chuck out all the Barry M glitter, (time to accept that the ’90s are over so probably wise to dig out all those half used bottles of Impulse and those CKone samples we got free with ‘Sugar’ and ‘Bliss’ as well) realise that claret coloured lip liner and nude lipstick is NOT a good look and decide on a decent mascara for work and for going out. Yes, now that a proper job has been acquired, we ’90s girls can afford more than one type of mascara.

In this arena of work vs life it’s essential to have two sets of everything: work shoes and going out shoes, clothes, hair styles and make up. By day you are ‘Serious Career Woman’ with fairly sensible shoes, natural make up and nice hair. By night you are ‘Keep Me Away From The Gin Woman’, who sashays as she walks on impossibly tall heels, who shimmers and smells like a meadow and whose hair is shiny and big and tosses in all the right directions (weather permitting). This woman wears her lashes long and her lipstick red, she wears her eyeliner thick and her cheeks bronzed. This woman needs an extra special mascara to give her flirty, Bambi eyes. She needs lashes a Disney princess would die for and what’s more she can afford to have all that. Thanks to ‘Career Woman’ and her sensible day make up, ‘Gin Woman’ can splash out for her night make up because she knows that the once-a-week application of expensive mascara will be worth it. It will help her forget her working day, it will make her look fabulous on photographs and it might even help to attract ‘Out On The Beers’ man. Yes, ‘Gin Woman’ needs a wonder product.

I actually think I’ve found it. No, really, I do.

After a few years of trying different brands I’ve seriously put time and money into finding a good mascara, for the simple reason that there is just nothing more frustrating than glancing in the mirror on a night out and realising you look as drunk as you actually are. Good mascara is like a good pair of shoes; an investment.

I spotted it as a freebie with a magazine I never usually buy. The magazine went in the bin but I weighed up the cost of the sample size mascara against the full sized version, did some fancy maths and worked out that for the sample size it would cost £9.99 and the magazine was only £3.60. Bargain.
And what is it?

(Drum roll please)

Benefit Roller Lash. I kid you not, it’s bloody brilliant. I could hash out the promo stuff from their website but since they’re not paying me or sending me free stuff, I won’t.

It curls without the need for lash curlers, it makes them look Disney-princess long and twice the thickness. One slick of this little wonder brush and I’m ready to face the world (and the school run) without feeling like I’ve only had 2 hours’ sleep and yes, it’s pretty damn smudge proof! I’d say it’s about as close to the fake-lash-look as you can get without actually, having fakes on. It even comes in a very cute little tube; I can’t fault it. I love it so much I’m even planning on buying a full sized version when my teeny sample runs out.

So there you have it. From electric blue smurf mascara to sexy wonder-lashes. Now I’ve just got to find the ultimate foundation and my life might be complete.