It's a common thread throughout our lives. It’s the only beauty product we’ve probably ALL bought at some point. It’s the favorite workhorse of artists and editors, and the crown winner of all manner of beauty awards. It’s Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, and I’ve hated it my entire life.
My first memory of Great Lash involves my mother bringing me home a surprise tube from the supermarket when I was 13. I heretofore hadn’t been allowed to wear makeup—but my mom surprised me this day, and I was, truly, excited. I remember rushing to the hall bathroom and tearing off the packaging (which I’m not sure if is best described as a necessary evil or an inconvenient truth. But you can live around it, maybe even learn to love it—it’s the Beast to your Beauty. One of you has to be the beast.)
So there I am, coltish hands trembling, still-not-yet-fully-realized motor skills showing signs of failing altogether, bringing the wand—that age-contraindicated foreign object—to my wide eye, my skin all flushed with youthful innocence and expectation and nose blackheads, about to apply a color speciously described as B lackest Black, awaiting the miracle of mascara.
Now, I didn’t really know what to expect. Maybe that I'd be generally more beautiful. Certainly there was lash. Maybe a great lash. As I recall, there were three distinct great big lashes—the formula was so wet and that “iconic' brush so sparsely grooved that my poor virgin lashes gooped together, huddled and wet, forming three spikes per eye. I would say “spidery,” but eight lashes an eye would be such an improvement. I stepped back from the mirror. My eyes looked like two cartoon explosions. Not great.
My next Great Lash purchase was some years later in early high school, this time in Clear, for both lashes and brows. I figured, if my lashes were going to look wet and glommy, I’d rather have it look like I was Rachel McAdams in the rain or that I’d been emotionally overtaken by a Ryan Adams lyric and teared up a bit (was I the only one 'shipping these two?). Now, Great Lash Clear Mascara is like the training bra of cosmetics—it gets you used to a routine more than a specific product. Later in life, you’ll begin to intuit and appreciate the certain merits of variations, but for now you just have to get excited about the mere prospect of cosmetics and learn the salient motions involved. I think all makeup wearers should start off with two years of Great Lash Clear, like how sushi chefs have to spend years just making rice.
There have been countless mascaras along the way, of course. And I would every so often read that old Great Lash won another award or some perfect model used it and would buy another tube. Mercifully, youthful spontaneity did me some good for once, and I bought another tube in Brown. I’m fair with dark hair, so it’s not as if black mascara looks so dramatic or artificial on me necessarily, but I’ve found that brown mascara makes the difference between looking like I’m wearing mascara and looking like I’m born with it. Unfortunately, the brush still made me the Three-Lashed Wonder.
I thought we were done. I thought I’d just never learn to like Great Lash, much less love it. But, as in all classic rom-coms, we both changed a little and found out we were perfect for each other. Just last week I picked up the latest incarnation of the line, Real Impact! by Great Lash in Brownish Black (‘ Noir Brun’ if you’re nasty). I’ve now joined the throngs of beauty-writing masses in their chorus—this is basically the only product you need. The formula, described on the package as a “Lash Respect Formula' boasting no artificial waxes, is smooth and lustrous (not slick), and doesn’t dry crunchy. I use it on brows and lashes, just like I did with Clear, except I look bushy-tailed instead of damp. Even the package colors, pink and black, are at least 90's-middle-school-punky. So if you’re one of the fellow travelers who hasn’t yet found that Great Lash promised land, consider this deliverance.
Photos by Tom Newton.