Last time she taught us about appropriate airport attire and this week she will let us in on her true passion: makeup – explicitly mascara.  A born beauty addict, Stephie has made it her mission to find the latest and greatest beauty products out on the market.  So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your “eyes opened” by the beauty savvy, Stephie Rojas.

A while ago my nanny commented that I have “a lot of lip product” when she saw my vanity beset with a cup of 17 Chanel Glossimers.

She had yet to discover that my bathroom is like a Sephora. “Have you seen the lip drawer?” I asked.

So look, I’ll admit it. I’m certifiable. Or am I just a true collector, no crazier than someone who wants to own every Spielberg film or every Madonna CD?

Regardless, the beauty bug bit me a bit late in my tween years, and as with any obsession you discover abruptly instead of growing into, I fell hard.  My mom has always been one to throw things away. The obsession started a when I realized she tossed half-used beauty products that she didn’t totally love; to me these were treasures and discoveries and amazements. As an 11 year old with no need for Estée Lauder toner whatsoever, I remember rescuing it from the receptacle and unconditionally adoring the sight of it on my bath counter, to the extent that when it was empty I filled it with water. The next little miracle I unearthed was Benefit Benetint. To me it was both mature and scientific; so totally grown up. (Do you remember the Benefit brand pre-ostentatious packaging revival?)

At age 12 in 1992, I couldn’t be without what would now be considered a horrifying lipstick in a shimmery salmon. Yes, lipcolor. Applause to women in general for collectively discovering gloss – good group effort.

As an adult, I’ve always said I missed my true calling to be a beauty writer. While I may not have the syntax or the skill, I hang on Jean Godfrey-June’s every word, relish gussying up, and buy tons of color, skincare and bodycare for the purpose of play.

Now, despite my volume of lip, the truth is my heart is in the lash. My obsession has landed unwaveringly on mascara, and for nearly a decade now, it’s been my equivalent of the icing.

As a fair-skinned blonde, a thick, sumptuous, busty, long, dark lash provides the contrast and definition needed to make my head not look like a popsicle stick. It’s a necessity. Take the dog-walking test for example: what do you never leave the house without, even to just get the mutt to the corner for a quickie? For some it’s good shoes or sweet sunnies; for me it’s mascara.

There was long period in my 20s when I wore mascara to bed. I wore waterproof L’Oréal Voluminous, washed my face around it, and slept in it. I’m not alone – I met a bona fide well-known beauty editor who did the same. A good mascara is the equivalent of a boob job and tummy lipo – it somehow makes one more voluptuous. There is just nothing else like it to make a girl instantly prettier.

Speaking of L’Oréal, let’s take the fashion analogy made famous on The City (don’t pretend you didn’t watch). In fashion, you have workhorses and show ponies. You have these in beauty as well. My beloved L’Oréal Voluminous is my workhorse and has been for years. I moved on from waterproof and now wash my face more thoroughly thank you very much, but I can’t get off the Voluminous. The package used to say “3x Fuller Lashes!” and then one day at Duane Reade I saw it evolved to “4x Fuller Lashes!” and just about died. The show ponies are the mascaras that vibrate, shimmer or do tricks. Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara is the only beauty product I have ever returned in my entire life.

I have 27 different kinds of mascara, and many others are excellent. The Lancôme version of Voluminous (called Définicils) is just as good but pricier. Définicils has a patented brush type that has teeny, warpy curls at the end of each miniscule brush-hair that holds tight onto tons of black magic. Benefit Bad Gal and Diorshow are both superlative. I continue to try other mascaras, and many are also just great, but my workhorse gets the job done for a few bucks and is my predictable little stallion. I know how it will react in the rain, through tears of laughter, through a sneeze 15 seconds after application, or 30 or 60 seconds for that matter. I just know it well and love it. But is it unequivocally supreme?

I’m going to test the hypothesis and share the results with you. Let me set expectations: this blog post is about mascara that is black. Brown is for very specific skin colors, gray is for amateurs, plum is for kids, blue is for punks and glitter is for Bieber fans.

To give each mascara the same starting line, I started each test with a good brow job, a swipe or two of neutral shadow, and a thick line of liquid L’Oréal Lineur Intense. This is what it looks like pre-mascara. (For a pencil look, try Chanel Le Crayon Khôl).

My workhorse L’Oréal Voluminous looks like this. It takes seconds to get as much volume as you want – and for me, I lay it on thick as heck. You can see a little bit of clumping as a result of over application, but I actually like that. Some carefully facilitated clumping gives the look of luscious Latissey-ness. There’s length, depth, and curl. When you look at my eye with this mascara, you see richness and luxury and something kind of sensual, not really because of me, but because the eye says, I wanna be noticed.

Next, I tried Lancôme Hypnôse Drama, and almost had a heart attack from reading the package. I have tried all kinds of “carbon blacks” and “blackest blacks” in various mascaras; the promise is neat, and they are blacker, yes, but they smudge since they are made of a different material than mascaras with the “normal” amount of black. The silver lining is that these blacker mascaras are really exciting before they smudge. They are sexy as stilettos and draw you in with otherworldly blackness. This package of Hypnôse Drama said “Excessive Black” and my heart skipped a beat.

And the look – it was thick, lush, and full of sex appeal – and I loved the clumping. Girls, clumping isn’t necessarily bad. Use it to amp up the lusciousness and fake the look of falsies.  Just due the diligence of toning down the lip and cheek to make the composition balanced without sacrificing the drama. This product gets you thickness quickly, in only a few coats. The disappointment was that it didn’t curl the lashes much, as you can see, and of course, within minutes of living my life as usual, it smudged below my eye. But, if I had the energy and gumption to clean it up all day I’d look smokin’.

The next day, I tested Benefit BADGal. It made my lashes long and it did stay on well all day, but I wanted more substance.  More bulk and fatness in the lash would have improved the formula and the effect. It took a very long time to coat and re-coat to get the thickness I wanted. The effect wasn’t bad actually, but it took like 8 minutes of application.

My next adventure was Nars. Their newly opened boutique on Bleecker in SoHo is kind of heaven – and the mascara called my name.

The reason I have more lip (practically infinity) than mascara (27) is that mascara has fewer permutations. Mascara is made up of

  • Formula (color, functionality)
  • Brush
  • Nozzle (it probably has a more technical name, but the thingy that removes the goop from the brush on the way out of the tube)

This particular mascara’s nozzle removes much of the glop – and the brush separates lashes nicely. So, while this look wasn’t the va-va-voom breadth and bulk that my mascara dreams are about, it did make my lashes lengthy and distinct. But at the new Nars store, who cares about mascara when you can die and go to the celestial kingdom of color heaven?

Christian Dior Diorshow made me feel like there are alternatives to Voluminous. Diorshow is an all-around excellent product – the brush is fuzzy and holds plenty, and the formula just works. It applies with a substantial feel, the color is deep without smudging, and the length is something to write to ma about. It covers best at the root as opposed to the Hypnôse, which thickened the length of the lash. Nonetheless it was a little miracle; it kind of actually makes you feel like you are living the metaphor – your lashes look like they belong backstage amongst the buzz of a Dior fashion show about to start. Can’t you just see it out of your fabulous sexpot eyes?

Next I tried something that surprised me. To me, if you can’t tell, mascara is about the sex. There are two ways to instantaneously look more feminine, womanly and sensual. Number one, let your hair down, especially if it’s long. Number two, bat your mascara-glopped lashes. The more the better. A little sweet pink on the cheeks, a little gloss on the lip, and as much mascara as you can get on those darn lashes – that’s how to pump up the sex appeal and give yourself a little dose of lady-magnificence. It was one of the original kinds of makeup; it used to be sold in a flat cake pan that you had to wet with a toothbrush-like applicator and swoop on. Women have been using this magic forever to look sexier to men.

But when I applied Laura Mercier Long Lash Mascara, it made me think about mascara in a new way. It didn’t look sexy, but I liked it. It looked… lovely. It looked nice and grown up. It was kind of perfect and prissy in its lack of any kind of edge whatsoever. It looked matoor. And I felt like a lady.

It brought me back to the day I discovered Benefit Benetint, the first beauty product that to me, was truly grown up. It made me think there was more to mascara, and only made more eager to test drive and review more beauty products… the question is: which one will be next?