Everyone has weaknesses. Mine are pretty straightforward. Shopping (naturally). Diet Coke. Carbohydrates. And black mascara. My attachment to black mascara might not be quite up to Tammy Faye Baker levels, but it’s close. There are probably less than a half dozen people in the world who have seen my naked eyelashes (sounds naughty, doesn’t it!) in the last 15 years. For the record, my eyelashes are perfectly fine … apart from being practically colourless. Ahh, the joys of being a readhead! But it’s okay – nothing that 3 coats of mascara can’t fix. The blacker, the better.
Good for you, you might think, but so what? Well, recently I was re-reading an old issue of Vanity Fair when I came across an article about Bette Davis. I love stories about Old Hollywood and its movie stars, who always seem so much more fabulous than their present-day counterparts. Maybe part of the mystique owes something to the fact that the stars of old didn’t have to contend with the modern trappings of fame, like TMZ and up-skirt camera shots, but maybe it’s more than that. Too bad they don’t make them like that anymore.
Anyway, it turns out that Ms. Davis had very specific ideas about mascara. As she emphatically put it:
“Do you want to know the secret of my success? Easy. Brown mascara.
I always wear brown mascara. Fair actresses should never use black mascara
if they want their eyes to show up. It’s the opposite of what they think — that black
mascara will make them show up more. … The secret is, if you are fair, black
mascara and dark eye shadow will make you look like a clown, or a harlot.”
Hmm … brown mascara?
I smell an experiment!
How would my beloved black mascara stand up against the brown advocated by one of the greatest screen legends of all time? Have I been – gasp! – laboring under an egregious error all these years, thinking that black mascara was my friend? Time to find out.
First stop, the drugstore. Right off the bat, I ran into somewhat of an obstacle. Drug store brands do not carry plain old brown mascara. Surprising? Perhaps. The closest I could find was “black brown” or “brownish black”. I decided to stick with my favourite brand of mascara (L’Oreal Voluminous), and bought 2 new tubes – one in “blackest black” (“noir profond”) and one in “black brown” (“brun foncé”), hoping that there would be some degree of difference between them. Still, I was not entirely satisfied. So, I decided to head out to the Bay, to see if the department store brands would offer a more comprehensive selection.
Let me just say that advancing the progress of science turned out to be pricier than I originally thought. Sure enough, I was able to find a brand (Lancome) that carried not one, but two, different shades of brown mascara. The price tag: an eye-opening $31 (plus tax). [As an aside, the downtown Bay was sold out of every brown Lancome mascara except Definicils. Take that as you will.] Whew! My L’Oreal mascara, made by the same company that produces Lancome, set me back a mere $6.99 (on sale). But, let’s not quibble about money – you, dear readers, are worth it!
Finally, I had my contenders. How did they fare? See for yourselves.
L’Oreal “blackest black” mascara
L’Oreal Voluminous “black brown” mascara
Lancome Definicils “brown” mascara
In the interests of disclosure, I will mention that I wore the same eye-shadow in each case, and put on exactly 3 coats of mascara each time. Sadly, I’m not as expert with my camera settings as I am in piling on eye make-up, so there are some unavoidable lighting differences among the photos. [I’m pretty sure that my eyes don’t change colour.] Here is another look:
L’Oreal brown Lancome brown
My verdict: colour-wise, there was not a huge difference among all 3 mascaras … nor, I dare say, in overall appearance. I’m relatively certain that I did not look like a clown, or a harlot for that matter, wearing any of the 3. The Lancome mascara probably resulted in the most natural look, but only by a slim margin. I did end up liking the Definicils’ formula quite a lot (good lash separation and definition, no clumping or flaking), but I won’t likely be shelling out $30 again any time soon. I will be enjoying the tube I bought, though.
The lesson? Buying your make-up at the drugstore won’t leave you looking like a clown … and the secret of Bette Davis’ success will probably never be found at the bottom of a tube of mascara. We’re not that lucky.