mascara composition


I was recently on the hunt for a new mascara to try out. During all my searching I found myself asking what really made the difference in all these brands and types. I understood the basis of having different colors and formulas, but I wasn’t sure exactly what makes up these popular cosmetic products. So in natural cosmetic composition fashion, I did some research to find out exactly what makes mascara, mascara.


Mascara has been used throughout history since the ancient Egyptian times where users would utilize dark powders, such as charcoal, to create eyeliner and mascara formulas. Throughout time chemists have created a variety of mascara formulas using a variety of products such as pressed powders, soap chips, coal, petroleum jelly, etc. It has been cited that Eugene Rimmel was the first creator of mascara, which occurred in the 19th century. Rimmel developed the modern mascara that we know by combining petroleum jelly and black charcoal pigments. While the application of mascara has also changed throughout history, the modern use of the bristled brush has been around since the 1960’s. For a great look at just how far this makeup staple has come check out this 1956 commercial for Maybelline mascara!


image from Glamour Daze


If you’re interested in how mascara is made, How It’s Made has a great video explaining the process. I would highly recommend watching this video because it’s a really simple and interesting process (in my nerdy opinion).


According to, the average mascara product contains 31 ingredients. However, I’m here to break that down a bit for you. The main ingredients used in mascara are water, waxes/oils, color pigments and balancing ingredients. Water, waxes, and oils are used as the formula base for mascara because they provide the product with its waxy texture that allows it to build up on your lashes. The FDA regulates the color pigments used in mascara heavily so only organic and inorganic pigments are allowed. Examples of the colors commonly used are carbon black, iron oxides, and ultramarine blue. Balancing ingredient can include emulsifiers, pH balancers, and preservatives. Since mascara is composed of water, wax and oil, all of which have different densities, an emulsifier must be used to create a homogenous mixture. The pH balancers are used to make sure the formula stays in a stable and safe state for usage. Finally, preservatives are used so that the formula can maintain a shelf life while remaining free from microorganisms. The shelf life of mascara is around three to six month, so it’s generally a good idea to switch it out with each season.


According to mascara is perfectly safe to use. As you have seen above, the ingredients being used are common cosmetic ingredients and have been highly regulated and tested. The FDA strongly regulates the color pigments being used because of mascara’s close application to the eyes. The long history of mascara and it’s popularity in the market shows just how highly studied this product is. Manufacturers of mascara have been shown to follow Quality Assurance and Good Manufacturing Practices, making this product very safe to use. If you wear contacts or have sensitive eyes many companies, such as Almay, have developed formulas specifically for you.


One of the ways that scientists and marketers have been able to keep this staple product relevant for so many years is the variations that the formula allows for. By changing the pigments being used the mascara can be any color. Lengthening mascara formulas are achieved by adding short fibers and/or rayon fibers.  Waterproof formulas can be created by lowering or completely eliminating the water content of the product.

Hopefully, this cosmetic composition summary helps you understand more about mascara and appreciate all the work that’s been put into it the next time you decide to rock some intense lashes! Comment below if you have any questions/comments!



my current mascara stash





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