Beauty Science: What is Mascara Really Made Of?

Let's put this rumor to rest, once and for all.

Caitlin M.
ByCaitlin M.

There's so much more to beauty products than meets the eyes. With cutting-edge technology, powerful ingredients, and innovative breakthroughs, there's a lot that goes into our beloved skincare, hair, and makeup products. We're taking a deep look at the amazing ways our favorite beauty go-tos work and why. Our first topic? The always classic mascara. We tapped Dr. Victoria Fraser, Director Scientific Communications Consumer Beauty at P&G to divulge the inner workings of mascara. (For anyone who's heard talks of mascara being made of bat droppings, it's time to set the record straight!)

1. What are the key ingredients in mascara that give it the inky consistency we love?

"Mascaras typically get their black inky color from combining different types of iron oxides, to give shades from black through to browns. The particle size of iron oxides (also known as pigments) can also impact the color and so finely milling the pigments can enhance the richness of the color."

2. Different formulas of mascara boast different results (volume, length, no clump), how do the ingredients differ among these formulas? 

"Lashes are often thickened by increasing the ‘bulk’ of the mascara with clays and waxes; in addition, the waxes give women the ability to sculpt their lashes to the shape and style that they want (CoverGirl Lash Blast). To get transformative lash length, the best way to do this is to add tiny little lash lengthening fibers, such as we have in CoverGirl Super Sizer Fibers. Because the fibers are incorporated into the formula itself, you can extend the fibers beyond the length of your natural lashes in one easy step and not be limited by what you were born with. Finally, avoiding clumps is a function of the formula and the brush. If the bristles are spaced right and are smaller than the average size of a clump, then the clumps cannot form in the first place—this is the secret behind CoverGirl Clump Crusher’s outstanding performance."

3. How on earth did the rumor of bat droppings as an ingredient in mascara get started?

"It appears that ‘guano’ and ‘guanine’ have got confused along the line! Guanine is an ingredient that is sometimes used in mascaras to opacify the color, but has nothing to do with bat droppings." (Editor's note: WHEW!​)

Consider yourself schooled in the science of mascara!

What mascara are you using right now? Share with us your favorite picks in the comment section!

About the Author
Caitlin M.
Caitlin M.
Runner. Music lover. All things nachos. Follow me on Instagram: @caitlinsmiller