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I Worried I Was Weird for Hating Great Lash Mascara, But It Sucks

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Maybelline’s iconic mascara doesn’t live up to its name, because it’s terrible.

Photo: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

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The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing makeup wearers that Great Lash by Maybelline is a good mascara that works well and should be put onto their eyelashes. NEWS FLASH: Great Lash mascara by Maybelline isn’t a good product, it doesn’t work well, and it shouldn’t be put onto anybody’s eyeball hairs.

I’ve hated Great Lash since I first encountered it in the gym locker room before a middle school dance. My friends and I had showered after a soccer game and changed into the requisite bell-bottom jeans and spaghetti-strap tank tops, the official circa-2001 uniform of adolescent girls about to slow dance with boys half their height. We made our way to the mirrors to apply the makeup we weren’t totally sure how to use.

Great Lash mascara by Maybelline.
Photo: Maybelline

“What is that pink and green thing in your makeup bag?” I asked one of the savvier girls in my class, who definitely had an older sister.

“It’s mascara,” she said.

“Can I use some of it?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

I didn’t know what putting on mascara was supposed to feel like, because I was in sixth grade and generally cared more about climbing trees than boys, so trying to make myself attractive wasn’t super high on my list. But I was pretty sure it shouldn’t have been as unpleasant an experience as Great Lash was providing: The wand stuck to my eyelashes rather than smoothly coating them, the stuff took a few applications to actually show up at all, and it clumped up around my eyelids. Between that and the eyeliner I laid on too thick, I ended up looking like a raccoon. When my mother picked me up after a few hours spent evading the grabby hands of 12-year-old males, she was rightly horrified.

I always thought my inexperience was to blame for my bad encounter with Great Lash, because people love this stuff. Since making its debut on the market as the first waterproof mascara in 1971, it’s flown off the shelves: It had 49.4 percent of the market segment in 2014, doing close to $50 million in sales. Of the 519 reviews on Amazon, it’s gotten 4.3 out of five stars. People write things like, “I've used this product for over 40 years. Maybelline has never let me down in all that time,” and “works as good if not better than any higher-end or department store brands.” It’s won Allure’s Reader’s Choice award every year for the past 20 with the exception of 2011.

I’ve spent my life feeling guilty for not liking Great Lash, the same way I felt guilty at that dance for not really liking the Spice Girls that much. Okay, fine, “Wannabe” is a banger, but in sixth grade I honestly couldn’t tell you any other song they sang, and I had no interest in finding out. Peer pressure, however, is a hell of a drug; I didn’t want to be the weirdo who thought a Cool Thing was bad, so I lied about my lack of interest and pretended I wanted to be Sporty. I also kept my mouth shut when it came to my negative Great Lash opinions.

I’ve held onto the belief that I was the moron and that Great Lash is truly great for about 15 years. I’d see it in drug stores and nod begrudgingly, aware that I was the problem, before buying L'Oréal Voluminous, a mascara that is the goddamn truth. I’d glance over at women’s makeup bags at the gym, see the familiar garish pink and green, and turn away in shame, embarrassed that I couldn’t love something so universally adored.

A few weeks ago, however, everything changed. I was getting ready for work in my bathroom at home, tried to pick up my mascara, and lost my grip. I fumbled it a few times before I managed to drop it directly into the toilet.

I can safely say that you don’t know the true depths of misery until you’re staring at a brand-new tube of your favorite mascara as it sits at the bottom of the toilet bowl when you’re already running late. There are some things that you can drop in an empty toilet and still use, of course: I’m pretty sure I’ve dropped sunscreen in there before, fished it out, washed it thoroughly, and used its contents.

But you guys saw Knocked Up, right? You know that scene where all of Seth Rogan’s roommates get pink eye because they farted on each other’s pillows? Of course you do, which is why you’ll understand that I was not about to take any chances by putting something that had been in a toilet near my eyes.

So now I had two problems: I had to reach into my toilet, and I had to buy new mascara. I was supposed to be in a video for work that day and I wasn’t about to show up bare-lashed in front of the entire sports internet (and by entire sports internet I mean the small population of people who know I exist and watched me talk about The Bachelor on Facebook Live).

I ducked into the somewhat janky pharmacy next to my apartment rather than go slightly out of my way to a Duane Reade or CVS. And, to make a shitty morning even more shitty, wouldn’t you know it: The only kind of mascara they sold was Great Lash.

I stared my nemesis in the face and considered leaving empty handed. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I gritted my teeth, brought it up to the counter, and swiped my card in one of the the more painful purchasing experiences of my life. I consoled myself by hoping that maybe there’d be a silver lining to my terrible, no good, very bad morning: Maybe I would finally get over my unfounded hatred of this product.

Well, folks, I’m here to report that 12-year-old me was super right. This stuff is terrible. As I put it on in the office bathroom, I was transported back to my middle school experience: Not only does Great Lash snag on your lashes as you apply it, it clumps at the base, requires at least seven coats, and somehow gets all over your top lid when you put it on. When I tried to take it off later that night, it stubbornly stuck to each lash, eventually migrating its way down to my lower lids, where it sat like shadows of sadness until I used five sheets of makeup remover to convince it to get off my damn face. I think I ended up pulling out 15 eyelashes as I tried to scrub my eyes clean.

Listen: I’m 28. I’ve had enough years of putting on good mascara by now to finally realize that the stuff should go on easily and not feel like medieval torture to remove. By now I am confident enough in my own opinions and experiences to finally announce that it’s not me, it’s you, Great Lash. In fact, not only am I sure of its terribleness, but I have also developed a conspiracy theory that everyone — from Allure’s scheming readers to my sixth-grade classmates — must be deep in the pockets of Big Mascara. That’s the only reason I can possibly come up with to justify how the hell this piece-of-shit product has managed to sell so well for so many decades. Maybe everyone is just a cog in the machine that is the Mascara Industrial Complex.

I was right about there being a silver lining, however: Since getting myself to a Duane Reade to buy a new tube of my beloved L'Oréal, I now appreciate how smoothly it goes on more than I ever have before. And I’ve finally been able to shed years of mascara shame thanks to my discovery that Great Lash is, as I always suspected, truly trash.

But perhaps the real takeaway here is that dropping something in a toilet could be the best method for flushing away your ill-conceived convictions. Maybe all of us are only ever one swirlie away from the truth.