Collagen mascara is a cosmetic product made with some form of collagen protein that is designed to help strengthen, lengthen, and plump eyelashes. Humans and most other mammals naturally secrete collagen, which is an essential protein enzyme credited with everything from skin elasticity to tendon and ligament strength. When added to cosmetics like mascara, collagen has the potential to help eyelashes — which already contain high concentrations of collagen — appear fuller.
Cosmetics manufactures have been looking for ways to harness the powers of collagen for many years. A collagen mascara is, in most cases, an ordinary eye makeup product that has been augmented with denaturized collagen enzymes. This use of collagen is non-medicinal, which means that the makeup can be sold much as any mascara would be, that is, as a beauty supply, not a health treatment.
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Humans and most other animals secrete collagen on a cellular level. The compound is most prominent in connective tissues, bones, and blood vessels, but occurs almost everywhere in the body to some degree. Scientists are able to extract collagen for cosmetic use by isolating cells with rich collagen concentrations, then breaking them down. Cells from almost any animal can be used, but bovine and porcine specimens — from cows and pigs, respectively — are usually the most common in cosmetics.
Collagen in its natural form occurs as a triple helix. This makes it extremely strong, but the stranded structure also makes it hard to manipulate. Most cosmetics manufacturers denaturize the protein so that each strand separates. When these exposed strands are added to makeup and beauty products, their tendency is to cling or bind to nearby substances. In mascara, this often results in a product that can temporarily thicken eyelashes.
Mascaras are usually made up of various organic and inorganic elements designed to increase and brighten the appearance of the eyelashes. A collagen-enhanced mascara is usually marketed as an extra thickening eye finish. Some are also labeled as super volume mascara products.
A collagen mascara can come in many varieties and colors. Black is usually the most traditional tint, but shades of brown are also popular. Waterproof mascara is a popular collagen recipient, but most any style can contain the supplement.
There is very little scientific evidence showing that collagen mascara is actually able to have a lasting impact on lash strength or plumpness. The theory behind many manufacturers' claims of increased lash volume is a good one, but collagen is rarely if ever absorbed topically. Applying it externally in an eye makeup can give the appearance of improving eyelash density, but this is often more an effect of the mascara’s thickness than the collagen’s binding properties. Results rarely last once the product is washed off.
Nevertheless, collagen mascara is popular in many markets. It is often more expensive to manufacture, which often drives the price up, even if just slightly. Most of the time, collagen mascara is some of the most expensive standard mascara on the market.