When I Googled 'abyssinia oil', the only results that I got were for Korres Abyssinia Oil Volumizing/Strengthening Mascara. Did this mean abyssinia oil is yet another of those ingredients that exists only in the imaginations of cosmetic marketing people? It was a disappointing thought, especially as I rather liked the look this Korres mascara ($20) was giving my lashes - longer, visibly much more defined whilst being lightweight and natural - and it would be a great bonus if abyssinia oil was, as Korres promised, also strengthening them.

Happily, a search on the botanical name listed in the ingredients, crambe abyssinca, was much more successful. It turns out that crambe oil is one of the richest known sources of erucic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid. That sounded promising until I discovered that erucic acid is toxic in large doses and is regulated in Europe in oils intended for human consumption. Furthermore, omega-9 is found in animal fats and vegetable oils, most notably olive oil. Interestingly, the oil made by our skin glands is the same omega-9 fatty acid found abundantly in olive oil, oleic acid. The reason why olive oil is good for us is due to its high polyphenol content, not the omega-9.

It turns out that the best use of erucic acid is to make molded plastic and, for this reason, crambe is becoming a more popular crop for industrial agriculture than rapeseed. Korres' claim that my mascara was brimming with fatty acids was technically true, but it doesn't look as if I can rely on abyssinia oil to strengthen my lashes.

Of more benefit is bamboo extract. It is rich in natural silica, a trace mineral that is essential for strong, healthy hair. In fact, bamboo extract is one of the richest sources of natural silica containing over 70%. So much for the good, after this Korres mascara basically goes downhill.

Methylpyrrolidone is a solvent that is considered a reproductive toxicant in the state of California and Europe. O-Cymen-5-OL is a preservative that is approved by the CIR for use in cosmetics up to .5% concentration. However, in the European Union, it is only approved for use up to .1%. Studies in Japan, some dating back to 1956, found O-Cymen-5-OL to be neurotoxic in animals and have led to heavier restrictions on its use in cosmetics there. Phenoxyethanol is an irritant and, according to tests on animals, a neurotoxin.

I can count on my Korres mascara to do what most mascaras do, but without clumping or feeling heavy. I am not relying on it for lash strengthening. Still, I have learned a thing or two about fatty acids.

Ingredients in brown:

Water, Sorbitan Olivate, Glycerin, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Stearic Acid, VP/VA Copolymer, Sorbitol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Bambusa Vulgaris Leaf/Stem Extract, Benzyl Alcohol, Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Dimethicone, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Isopropyl Myristate, Methylpyrrolidone, o-Cymen-5-ol, Panthenol, Phenoxyethanol, Polyurethane-2, Tocopherol, VP/Hexadecene Copolymer, [+/- (May Contain) Mica, Iron Oxides, Ultramarines, Carmine, Titanium Dioxide, Ferric Ferrocyanide].