What Is Hair Mascara?

T. Alaine

Hair mascara is a versatile tool that is used to temporarily change the color of small sections of hair. This hair product comes in a narrow tube, much like eyelash mascara, and it has a similar wand-like applicator inside. The product inside the tube can have a variety of purposes, such as covering gray hairs or roots, adding highlights or adding brightly colored or unnaturally hued streaks to the hair. Using a hair mascara will have only temporary results because the product does not penetrate the cuticle and will rinse away when the hair is washed.

Hair mascara can be used to touch up roots.
Hair mascara can be used to touch up roots.

The aesthetic similarities between hair mascara and eyelash mascara are quite substantial, so it is easy to compare the two. Hair mascara is sold in packaging similar to eyelash mascara, so the two might be difficult to differentiate at first glance. Application is also similar, because both products distribute product by means of a thin wand with a round, bristly end. Despite these apparent similarities, these are two very different products, and it would not be wise to use hair mascara and eyelash mascara interchangeably.

Hair mascara is convenient for quick root touch ups or fixes.
Hair mascara is convenient for quick root touch ups or fixes.

Different types of hair mascara serve different purposes. One variety can be used to add temporary highlights to the hair by streaking it with a lighter hue. The small applicator makes it easy to apply the product very precisely, so the highlights can come out as natural-looking as possible.

Hair mascara typically washes cleanly out of healthy hair.
Hair mascara typically washes cleanly out of healthy hair.

A hair mascara also can be used to touch up roots in between hair colorings. If people dye their hair, as the new hair grows in, there can be an obvious difference between their natural hair color and the dyed shade. Some brands of hair mascaras feature a wide variety of shades to match multiple hair types, meaning that it usually is possible to find a color that can sufficiently hide roots until a new dye job can be performed.

Apart from natural hair color shades such as blond, brunette, red or black, some types of hair mascara are available in less-traditional shades. These products can feature every color of the rainbow and can be used to add a pop of interest or edge to an otherwise normal hair color. Hair mascaras do not impart permanent color, so these products require no commitment and, consequently, create no regret.

Just like eyelash mascaras, hair mascaras do not dye the hair. There are no active ingredients that penetrate the cuticle and actually change the color of the natural hair. Instead, they coat the strands with temporary color that will stay on the hair only until it is washed out.

Different types of hair mascara serve different purposes.
Different types of hair mascara serve different purposes.

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Discussion Comments


@simrin-- Of course, hair mascara isn't going to give you the same results as dyeing your hair with permanent color. I have a couple of tubes at home but I don't use them regularly. It's kind of a quick fix for times you can't have your hair done like @alisha said.

It's also a nice way to bring about a change in your look for a short while. I really like the bright colors for this like purple, pink and blue. I have dark brown hair and a streak or two with one of these colors makes things so much fun. It's also great for special events and holidays like Halloween.

If you're worried about the stiffness, you can try it with an updo. It kind of works like hair spray that way and will keep your look together in addition to adding color.


@simrin-- Yea, some hair mascaras tend to be sticky and make the hair kind of stiff. Others can make the highlights look unnatural even when it's close to your hair color.

But there are also hair mascaras that work really well, that are not sticky and that keep the hair soft. You need to get a better brand that costs higher. I personally use one from a well-known hair product brand and it works really well. I use it to cover grays and also when I don't have the time or money to have my highlights redone at the salon.

I think you need to try a few more higher end brands. I'm sure you'll find one that works for you.


I've been wanting to try blonde highlights for a while. But I couldn't muster the courage to get permanent highlights at the salon because I have several friends that aren't happy with theirs. One of my friend actually got her hair burnt because of highlights that were too light for her. Plus, highlights costs so much.

So instead of getting permanent highlights, I decided to try a hair mascara instead. Because if it turns out bad, I can always wash it out. I bought one I saw at the beauty store in a dark blonde shade. I was really excited about it but the results weren't as good as I expected.

The mascara itself was really gunky while applying and when it dried, it made my hair very stiff. I tried to brush my hair after I used the hair mascara and it was impossible. It did wash off during my shower, but it was hard to get it all off. I had to really work on it with the shampoo.

I don't know if all hair mascaras are this way or if it's just the brand I tried, but I don't like it.

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