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How is mascara made? Process shocks beauty fans

Jul 29, 2023



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As “mascara cocktailing” grows in popularity, some beauty enthusiasts may be surprised to learn how mascara is made.

Cocktailing fans pair several mascara formulas for a more defined lash. In the Science Channel’s YouTube video “How It’s Made: Mascara,” a narrator explains that while formulations for the eyelash cosmetic may vary, the basic ingredients are wax, water, pigment and binders.

“Every formulation is comprised of an oil-soluble phase and a water-soluble phase,” the narrator continues in the five-minute clip.

Four kinds of wax are combined for the oil-soluble phase: carnauba wax, candelilla wax, beeswax and glycerol stearate. Glycerol stearate is an emulsifier that “helps ingredients blend well.”

Liquid vitamin E gives mascara a smooth texture and conditions the lashes. A chemical compound called Pelemol D-2000 makes the mascara water-resistant.

This mixture of ingredients is heated and blended once the wax starts to melt.

“Wax is a thickener,” the narrator explains. “This calculated combination of four different waxes produces a semi-liquid gel that coats lashes with a shiny film.”

The water-soluble phase is performed separately, with a technician heating up cold water before adding an emulsifier.

The narrator notes that this solution will “bind the water and oil phases when they’re combined later on.”

“Without an emulsifier, oil and water solubles would naturally separate,” the narrator says.

A cosmetic-grade black iron-oxide pigment is the next ingredient to be added. The color is black to make black mascara, and the mixture is blended until the color is uniform.

An organic compound called TEA is added to balance the pH level to ensure it isn’t too acidic or alkaline.

A cosmetic powder makes the mascara silky, and another chemical provides extra water resistance.

The oil phase is added to the water phase to complete the formula.

Mascara needs to pass quality-control tests prior to being packaged.

Thickness is measured with a machine called a viscometer to make sure the mascara isn’t too runny or gooey, and pH levels are also tested.

Packaging begins by pouring the mixture into a filling machine that will keep it hot while simultaneously mixing it to ensure it stays in liquid form and doesn’t clog the nozzles.

“A mascara bottle typically contains about 2 ounces of mascara,” the narrator explains. “As it cools in the bottle, it transforms into a semi-liquid gel.”

The bottle is sealed with a rubber stop. The cap with a built-in applicator is screwed on.

After the bottles are labeled, sealed and packaged, they’re ready to hit the shelves.

Commenters were blown away by the process.

“This is one hell of a chemical soup!” one person quipped.

“Was literally wondering how mascara is made last night. This is neat!” another exclaimed.

“I had no idea it was so sophisticated,” someone mused.

“Knowledge, even useless knowledge is power,” another joked.

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