How Does Mascara Make Lashes Longer? (Answered)

Not all of us are blessed with naturally long, fluttering eyelashes. That’s why many people turn to mascara, to make their lashes look longer and to draw attention to the eyes. But how does mascara actually make lashes appear longer?

woman applying mascara to her bottom lashes in dim lighting

Mascara makes eyelashes look longer by adding color and volume to the tips of your eyelashes, which tend to taper off naturally. Mascaras which are marketed as lengthening mascaras also contain polymer fibers that stick to your natural lashes when applied, making your lashes look longer.

That’s the short answer. Now let’s take a closer look.

What Are the ingredients In Mascara?

The main ingredients you’ll find in mascara are:

  • Water, with the exception of waterproof mascaras, which usually contains emollients like isododecane.
  • Waxes, such as beeswax (cera alba), carnauba, and rice bran wax. These serve as a thickening agent, help promote volume and curl and hold pigment well.
  • Oils, which serve as an emollient, thin out the formula and prevent clumps.
  • Pigments, usually iron oxide (not the same kind as that in rust) or natural pigments such as berry pigments or black tea. Sometimes carbon black, which contains actual carbon. Although FDA-approved, the use of this pigment is still controversial, so maybe stay away if you’re concerned.

How Does Mascara Make Lashes Longer?

Mascara uses a mixture of water, waxes, oils, and pigments to coat each eyelash with a black paste.

This gives the illusion of thicker, longer, and more defined eyelashes. It often makes eyelashes look longer because it adds color and volume to the tips of your eyelashes, which tend to taper off naturally.

Not all mascaras are specifically marketed as lengthening mascaras, however. Many mascaras focus on adding more volume or fullness to the lashes, or separating and defining them.

Mascaras which are specifically marketed as lengthening mascaras usually contain one key additional ingredient: namely, polymer fibers.

What are Polymer Fibers?

Many ‘lengthening’ mascaras don’t actually make your lashes grow longer. Instead, they work by attaching tiny synthetic fibers to your eyelashes.

When you brush on lengthening mascara, these small fibers attach from the root of your eyelashes, upwards to the tips which extend their length at the tip.

These so-called ‘fiber mascaras’ include synthetic fibers, made of rayon, nylon, or silk in their formula. The tiny fibers also help with water resistance.

If you apply a second coat of this mascara, the lengthening effect increases.

Because of the tiny fibers in lengthening mascaras, however, they are more susceptible to clumping, so it’s best not to apply more than two coats.

Many lengthening mascaras are advertised as such, but you can also tell by looking at the ingredients list.

If you see ‘copolymer’ in the ingredient list, it means there are fibers in the mascara.

If copolymer is really high up in the ingredients list (such as second) it means the mascara is probably a tubing mascara.

Tubing Mascara

Tubing mascaras are different from traditional mascaras.

Rather than coating your lashes with wax and pigments, the mascara works by wrapping each lash with a polymer blend.

This blend surrounds your lashes with a narrow black tube that extends beyond the actual lash.

This gives the appearance of longer, thicker-looking lashes.

Because of their unique formula, tubing mascaras are resistant to water and humidity and don’t cause any flaking or smearing, unlike traditional mascaras.

They are long-wearing, able to withstand tears and allergies, and you can wear tubing mascara on your lower lashes easily because it won’t smudge.

Tubing mascara is easy to remove and doesn’t require makeup remover.

Simply saturate a cotton pad or a washcloth with warm water, and hold it against your lashes for 30 seconds, then gently wipe the mascara away.

It will come away from your eyelashes in little black tubes, leaving no smears behind.

Tubing mascaras are not always advertised as such, but you can tell if mascara is a tubing mascara by checking the ingredients list.

A tubing mascara will usually have copolymers as the second ingredient.

Does Mascara Make Your Eyelashes Grow Longer?

There are many lengthening mascaras available on the market, but they don’t actually make your eyelashes grow.

Mascaras just create the illusion of longer lashes by using polymer fibers that attach themselves to your eyelashes.

How Quickly Do Eyelashes Grow?

Eyelashes usually take around two months to grow, although other factors such as genetics, hygiene habits, your health condition, and infections or injuries can affect the growth of your eyelashes or cause eyelash loss.

5 Best Lengthening Mascaras To Try

L'Oreal Double Extend Lash Extension Effect Mascara

1. L’Oreal Double Extend Lash Extension Effect Mascara

Proof that you don’t have to spend loads of money to get the long, luscious lashes you crave. This drugstore favorite costs less than $10 and instantly creates length and thickness. This double-ended mascara includes a lash primer that conditions and nourishes to keep your lashes healthy.

Maybelline New York Snapscara Washable Mascara

2. Maybelline New York Snapscara Washable Mascara

Snapscara claims to be a new generation of mascara, and the reviews certainly back it up. The wax-free tubing formula glides onto lashes, hassle-free and importantly, clump-free, giving you long, lush lashes ‘in a snap’.

One of the main appeals of this particular mascara is it comes in a range of super-saturated colors, from Ultra Violet and Black Cherry to Deja Blue and Pitch Black, so it’ll really make your eyes stand out in more ways than one.

Essence Lash Princess False Lash Waterproof Mascara

3. Essence Lash Princess False Lash Waterproof Mascara

This cheap and cheerful tubing mascara is a cult classic, with thousands of rave reviews, and for very good reason. It gives you a voluminous, false lash effect that lasts all day and won’t budge, sweat and tears notwithstanding. Yet it can still be easily removed at the end of the day, with warm water or a gentle makeup remover. It’s also PETA-approved as a cruelty-free brand, as an added bonus.

Blinc Amplified Tubing Mascara

4. Blinc Amplified Tubing Mascara

After nearly a decade in development, Blinc created their cult tubing mascara, which provides buildable and glamourous volume and length that lasts all day. Great for sensitive eyes and oily or sensitive skin, it coats lashes with a glossy finish that won’t run, even if you cry or rub your eyes. So, you won’t need to worry about the dreaded panda eyes anymore.

MAC Extended Play Lash

5. MAC Extended Play Lash

This lightweight and glossy formula has a curling, lifting, and volumizing effect that lasts up to 16 hours without smudging.

The slim-line brush has short, dense bristles that grip, lift and separate every single lash, even the short, fine ones. It leaves you with lashes that look defined but still natural and can be easily washed off at the end of the day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is It Good To Wear Mascara Every Day?

It’s good to take breaks from mascara from time to time. However, if you’re a dedicated mascara enthusiast, we’d suggest you avoid most conventional waterproof mascaras as they are difficult to remove, which can cause damage to your lashes. Look for formulas that are easy to wash off, such as tubing mascaras. To keep your lashes healthy, you can moisturize them with natural oils such as castor or coconut oil, or even Vaseline.

What Can Grow Your Eyelashes?

There are many eyelash growth serums on the market, however, bear in mind that Latisse is the only eyelash serum approved by the FDA that has proven results. You have to get it on prescription and it does come with some potential side effects, so you’d need to speak to your doctor first. Alternatively, you could try castor oil. It has not yet been scientifically proven to grow eyelashes, but many swear by it.

Why Are My Lashes So Short?

Some people just have shorter eyelashes due to genetics. But there are also medical conditions that can cause eyelashes to grow shorter, such as blepharitis, an infection of the lash line. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis and certain thyroid disorders can also affect the normal growth cycle of your lashes, causing them to shed at a faster rate than usual.