Mascaras are used to thicken, lengthen, color, curl, and provide volume to eyelashes which helps accentuate the appearance of eyes. Currently marketed mascaras include water-resistant, waterproof, and volumizing types, formulated as oil in water, water in oil, and anhydrous formulations.
Waterproof formulations normally are water in oil or anhydrous formulations which require an oil-based cleanser for removal. They also tend to dry very slowly, making them prone to smudging until the film is dry to the touch.
By far the most common type of mascara formulation currently sold is a lamellar gel network (LGN) based oil in water emulsion, stabilized using soluble polymers. These formulations are quite versatile and can provide good application, functional performance, wear/wash resistance, and rapid drying.
Typically, these compositions are comprised of:
|Material type and quantity||Ingredients|
|Water as a carrier|
|Palmitic, Stearic, Isostearic, or Oleic acid neutralized using Triethanolamine, Tromethamine or Aminomethyl Propanediol
Potassium Cetyl Phosphate
some coated versions are also used
|Film formers/waterproofing polymers (1-5 percent solids)
|Acacia Senegal Gum
Ammonium Acrylates Copolymer
Acrylates/Styrene/Ammonium Methacrylate Copolymer
Ethylenediamine/Stearyl Dimer Dilinoleate Copolymer
Ammonium Acrylates Copolymer
Sodium Dehydroacetic acid
Magnesium Aluminum Silicate
|Lash lengthening fibers/volumizing powders
The most common emulsifying systems are fatty acid soap-based systems using Palmitic, Stearic, Isostearic or Oleic acid. These types of formulations have been popular for over 60 years.
Fatty acid soaps act as the high hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB) LGN emulsifiers to help swell commonly used low HLB emulsifiers such as:
- excess fatty acid (not neutralized)
- Steareth 2
- Glyceryl Stearate
- Glyceryl Behenate
- Stearyl alcohol
Other high HLB non-soap emulsifiers used include Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Ceteareth 20, Steareth 20/21 and PEG 200 Glyceryl Stearate. These emulsions typically aren’t stable unless a water-soluble polymer like Xanthan gum or Hydroxyethylcellulose is added.
The role of waxes
The primary role of waxes is to increase the thickness of the product film on lashes to help provide volume. Typical waxes used include:
- Synthetic Wax
- Hydrogenated Jojoba/Palm Oil
The most common pigments used in mascara formulations are black, yellow, and red iron oxides. Other pigments are normally added to the water phase with a dispersing agent prior to emulsification, and include:
- Titanium Dioxide
- Chromium Oxide Greens
- Chromium Hydroxide Green
- Manganese Violet
- Ferric Ferrocyanide
- D&C Black No2 (carbon black)
Mascara film formers
Film formers used include water soluble/dispersible and oil soluble polymers. Key properties are the ability to form fast drying, flexible, non-tacky, wash/wear resistant films that contract when dry to help curl and provide lift to the lash. They also help prevent the waxes from flaking off of the lash. Representative water soluble/dispersible polymers used include:
- Acacia Senegal Gum
- Ammonium Acrylates Copolymer
- Acrylates Copolymer
- Polyurethane 35
- Polyvinyl Alcohol/Acetate
Representative oil soluble polymers include:
- VP/Eicosene Copolymer
- Behenyl Methacrylate/T-Butyl Methacrylate Copolymer
- Pentaerythrityl Hydrogenated Rosinate
- Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer
Often several different types of polymers are used together in formulations to provide the optimal film forming effects. These can include mixtures of water soluble/dispersible polymers and oil-soluble polymers.
Incorporating effective pigment dispersing agents is important to get good color development and uniform coverage. Typical ingredients used include Lecithin, Sodium Polymethacrylate and Sodium Polyacrylate. Lash lengthening/volume building fibers frequently used include Nylon 6 and Rayon.
Preserving mascara formulations can be quite challenging since the wand/brush, which is used to apply product, goes back into the tube when done. This can contaminate remaining product with micro-organisms. If inadequately preserved, contaminated product can cause eye infections and subsequent product recalls.
Consequently, most marketed formulations from major companies are well-preserved and extensively tested to avoid problems. I also recommend doing an in-use consumer test and doing microbiological testing at the finish of the test. Frequently used preservatives and potentiators include combinations of Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, 1,2 Hexanediol, Disodium/Trisodium EDTA and Sodium Dehydroacetic acid.
Mascara packaging is an important factor that controls performance. The wand design is critical to achieving optimal mascara performance since it controls the amount of product applied, speed of drying, and assists in separating/coating individual lashes during product application. Different designs should always be evaluated whenever new formulations are developed. I believe that the wand design is probably one of the biggest factors in determining mascara performance since most marketed formulations are technically very similar.
- Lamellar Gel Network Technology: A Primer
- From the Bottom Up: Contemporary Foundation Formulations
- A Touch of Color: Historical and Contemporary Lipstick Formulation
The views, opinions and technical analyses presented here are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of UL, ULProspector.com or Knowledge.ULProspector.com. While the editors of this site make every effort to verify the accuracy of its content, we assume no responsibility for errors made by the author, editorial staff or any other contributor. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without prior authorization from Prospector.