Thousands of patents
“Mascara is an area of intense innovation,” announces right away Jean-Louis Mathiez, independent consulting engineer, President of Cinqpats, a company specializing in packaging innovation. According to Mathiez, who has been taking an interest in the mascara market since 1983, the number of patents in connection with the designing of mascara is simply stunning. “As far as intellectual property is concerned, this business looks more like a minefield, which makes it quite complex but also very interesting,” confirms Aurélie Émond, Albéa’s creative marketing & innovation manager.
In France, the L’Oréal Company with more than 300 patents on this product, with 1/3 of them coming from the inventor Jean-Louis Guéret, is regarded as the main patent filler in this area. But the French cosmetic giant is far from being the only active player in this market, there are actually more than 2,500 patents filled worldwide, be it for packaging, formulas or for new features, each one more innovative than the last, to apply mascara. All ideas have not been translated into a product, at least not yet. “There are some patents on the use of airless packs for mascara, which have to date not been marketed but that meet requirements for maximum protection of fragile formulas,” explains Mathiez. Even companies not directly involved in cosmetics sometimes file a patent on this product. “Moulinex filed a patent in 1976 for a rotating mascara with a spring. Now, leading electronic manufacturers like Samsung or Matsushita have made their debut in the arena, with some patents on vibrating, heating or rotating systems,” he adds.
Competition is fierce and innovation windows are narrow but sufficient to continue to see new products emerging on the market. “Patents from competitors are not necessarily a barrier to innovation, ideas can emerge from them too,” says Mathiez. And it is true that researchers never run out of ideas to offer products that are attractive to women.
Fibres or injected materials?
Products launches carried out since the early 2000s enable to identify some major trends on the materials used for brushes.
"In 2000, L’Oréal proposed fibre brushes reworked with special treatments and cuts for the filaments. It was an immediate success and the group took hold of more than 50% of market shares. Coty, in turn, responded by launching a mascara in the form of a pen with a comb applicator under the brand name Rimmel with as a bonus a 16% market share. In 2002-2003, to challenge patents filed by various actors, particularly L’Oréal, on fibre brushes, appeared plastic elastomer injected brushes. In 2005-2006, dual mascaras swept the market with the possibility of achieving two effects with only one product: volume and well separated lashes, care and colour... As of the 2008s, it is the rise of mascara devices, like vibrating mascaras, launched by Lancôme (Oscillation), followed by vibrating mascaras from Bourjois and Dior… Several brands also developed heated mascaras (patents published) but have not marketed them so far... Today, we’re back to the basics, with more product simplicity and a research focusing on consumers’ core values: easy application and volume effect,” recalls Mathiez.
Last year, the market was equally divided between mascara brushes and injected fibre brushes. In addition, some patents on fibre brushes have fallen into the public domain, hence the scope of applications in this segment is opening up again.
Volume effect and active ingredients
Launches in 2012 put huge emphasis on volume, but also on the active effects of mascaras.
A volume multiplied by 8 with maximized claims for the mascara Volume Glamour from Bourjois who offers a maxi brush, a maxi pack, a maxi formula, maxi precision, a maxi black and volume activator actives. Mega Volume Collagène by L’Oréal, enriched in collagen biospheres and equipped with an extra large patented brush promises, too, a disproportionate volume and a 24h efficiency. But they are not the only ones to ride this trend. There is also Rimmel’s Volume Accelerator with a brush equipped with spikes which are inserted in such a way that they sheathe the eyelashes. Volum’Express, The Colossal Cat Eyes by Gemey-maybelline is equipped with a brush shaped like a curved cat’s tail making it possible to apply some product onto the outer corner of the eyelid thus ensuring a complete coverage of eyelashes. The Mascara Volume Curl & Shock by Biguine with its exclusive curved brush promises to “insure a finish that will cut the breath out of the most perplexed women.”
“Volume effect unquestionably represents the biggest demand,” testifies Pauline Starck, Make-Up Business Developer at IL Cosmetics. But according to Albéa’s Aurélie Émond “from one country to another, from one brand to another, the desired make-up result and associated with the term volume is not always the same. In the U.S., volume is associated with a very marked make-up result, eyelashes loaded with product while in Europe the volume will be more defined with amplified eyelashes.”
Subcontractors concentrate on volume
All the sub-contractors who are active in the field of mascara are focused on this theme. Geka launched in spring 2012 a collection, King Size Collection for Eyes with three types of brushes: Super LASH™ with a very high density of polyamide fibres and a large diameter, lashSEDUCTION™ featuring wide spacing between each bundle of fibres for a maximum reservoir effect and flirtaciousEYES™ combining special cuts and innovative fibres. As for Albéa, it got itself talked about late 2011 with the launch of two elastomer-based references shorter than conventional brushes Nano Hollow™ et Nano Disco™ and with a tank in the middle to trap even more formula and ensure a generous application. Since then, this injected empty brush technology has been diversified into three new brushes, Venice™, Corset™ and Dolce Vita™ allowing in addition to the volume, to get either a better definition, more length, or a better curbing effect. But they are not the only ones and all of them, be they Mascara Plus, Ancorotti, Brivaplast, Luxcos IL Cosmetics agree on the fact that volume is a recurring request and that the synergy between the brush and the formula is essential to achieve the desired effects.