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Beauty Buzz: The Great Eyeliner Hunt – How Does Eyeliner Work?

The authors of some of the other beauty blogs have asked us to explain how eyeliner works. So here’s how ‘liners make you lovely!

Types of Eyeliners

Eyeliners are formulated into two basic types: pencils and liquids. While the details vary, both types use these same basic ingredients.

Basic Ingredients

The Base is the backbone of the formula. In the case of pencils, its the waxy/greasy matrix that forms the core of the pencil; in the liquids its the water/oil emulsion in which the rest of the ingredients are suspended.

Typical base ingredients include waxes and oils, emollients (spreading agents) and in the case of liquid type, water and emulsifiers.

Colors

Colorants used in eyeliners (and other cosmetics used around the eye) must be approved by the FDA (in the United States). Colorants that can be used in products for other parts of the body aren’t necessarily safe enough to be used around your eyes.

Typical colorants include iron oxides and ultramarine pigments. Carmine is another colorant you see from time to time. It’s a red color made from crushed insect bodies. Mmmmm!

Control agents

These are added to eyeliner formulations to make sure the product meets specifications when it’s manufactured and that it maintains high quality afer manufacture. These include chemicals that control the pH, or acid/base balance of the product, and that keep the product free of bacteria and mold. In some oil based formulas, an antioxidant may be added to keep the waxes and oils from going rancid.

Typical control agents include tocopherol (also known as vitamin E) used for its antioxidant properties as well as Citric Acid, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben.

Featured ingredients

Several things can be added to eyeliners to make them more appealing to consumers. These ingredients don’t change the way the product works or the way it looks, but marketers add them because women think they are helpful.

For some reason aloe vera is a very typical featured ingredient.

Now you know, what next?

There are two ways that understanding eyeliner ingredients could be helpful. Let’s say your favorite eyeliner is being discontinued. If you know what kind of base ingredients to look for, you might be able to pick a replacement without having to try so many new products.

On the flip side, if you’re getting irritation or an allergic reaction to your eyeliner, you might be able to figure out what ingredients to stay away from when you shop for a new one.

Now, if you’re really into this, you can practice reading ingredient lists with the following examples of popular brands. Or you just scroll to the end:

Maybelline Line Stylist Eyeliner (Automatic pencil type)

Base:

Isododecane, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Cera Alba/Beeswax, Carnauba/Carnabua Wax, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Glycerides, Isoeicosane, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Isopropyl Palmitate Silica, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate,

Colorants:

Titanium Dioxide, Chromium Oxide Greens, Manganese Violet, Bismuth Oxychloride, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Ferric Ferrocyanide, and Carmine

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Tocopherol

Featured ingredients:

Retinyl Palmitate, Aloe Barbadensis Extract,

Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner (Pencil type)

Base:

Cyclomethicone, Trimethysiloxysilicate, Ozokerite, Polyethylene, Phenyl Trimethicone, Euphorbia Cerifera Wax (Candelilla), Lecithin,

Colorants:

Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Ultramarines, Chromium Oxide Greens, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Bronze Powder, Carmine, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Copper Powder, Manganese Violet, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Sorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tocopherol

Featured ingredients:

Ascorbyl Palmitate

Maxfactor Linemaker waterproof eyeliner (brush applied liquid)

Base:

Water, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Oleic Acid, Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Oleth 20, Bentonite

Colorants:

Iron Oxides, Carmine

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, BHA, Quaternium-15, , Sodium Bicarbonate,

Featured ingredients:

None

Burts’ Bees Two in One Eye Brow and Eyeliner Pencil (Pencil type)

Base:

Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil, Japan Wax (vegetable wax), Carnauba Wax, Zinc Oxide, Beeswax,

Colorants:

May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide, Mica

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Tocopheryl Acetate

Featured ingredients:

None.

L’oreal Intensifique Liquid eyeliner (Liquid type)

Base:

Water/Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Acrylates Copolymer, Diglycol/CHDM/Isophthalates/Sip Copolymer, Alcohol Denat., Trilaureth-4 Phosphate, Xanthan Gum

Colorants:

Iron Oxides Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Chromium Oxide Greens/, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Ultramarines

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Featured ingredients:

None

Almay Intense I-color (pencil type)

Base:

Triethylhexanoin, Ozokerite, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Ricinus Communis Seed Oil (Castor), Synthetic Fluophlogopite, Copernicia Cerifera Wax (Carnauba), Dipentaerythrityl Tetrahydroxystearate/Tetraisostearate, Caprylyl Methicone, Glycine Soja Oil (soybean), Polymethyl Methacrylate,

Colorants:

Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Carmine, Ferric Ferrocyanide

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

BHT, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate

Featured ingredients:

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract

Phyician’s formula Eye definer (automatic pencil type)

Base:

PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Microcrystalline Wax, Polyethylene, Propylene Glycol Ricinoleate, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Magnesium Carbonate, Talc, Silica,

Colorants:

Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide, Manganese Violet, Mica, Ultramarines

Control agents (pH, preservatives):

Tocopherol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben,

Featured ingredients:

None.

The Brains’ Bottom Line:

See, that wasn’t so bad, now was it? Knowing what to look for can help you find the kinds of eyeliners that you like. Let us know if there are any specific products you want us to review.

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