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The History of Mascara


Next up in this little “History of Makeup” series is mascara. As this has been around since ancient Egypt starting around 3500 BC to 2500 BC. And like most of makeup’s history it wasn’t always safe. We’re just going to focusing in on mascara though false lashes might be a topic I dive into another day. Currently, I don’t have it on my list for this series but let me know if you would be interested in that.

Credit: Popsugar

In Ancient Egypt, men and women used kohl and ointments to darken their lashes to serve as protection from the sun. It wasn’t just for protection from the sun. They believed the eyes were the windows to the soul, so the application of mascara would ward off any evil spirits and bad energy. Women also used malachite on their lashes as an aphrodisiac. Ancient drawings of Cleopatra suggest that mascara and body painting were widely used for both protection, celebration,war and death practices. This technique was continued to be used in Ancient Rome.

It wasn’t until the Victorian Era (1837-1901) where the first true mascara made an appearance. It was developed by Eugène Rimmel, who was a perfumer for Queen Victoria. The new mascara formula was made from coal dust and Vaseline jelly. Eugéne’s product was widely used across Europe over homemade versions also using coal dust and berries, and soon the word “rimmel” became synonymous with”mascara.” It wasn’t in the form we’re used to using today instead it was a cake mascara, which you can still find today on the market.

Though Rimmel had amass market in selling mascara, most women still made their own versions at home. It wasn’t until 1917 when Maybelline (a product from Maybell Labs)introduced the “cake mascara.” This was the first product that was presented with a small brush, to be used with a mixture of sodium stearate soap and pigments. Maybelline became a market leader in cosmetics, later bought by L’Oreal and changed their name to the brand we know today as Maybelline New York.

In the 1930s, curl curlers were invented and Maybelline sold in drugstores. While there’s discrepancy over who exactly invented the eyelash curler, a 1931 patent claims it was William McDonell who called it the Kurlash. At the same time, women were using Lash Lure to dye their lashes; however, it used a dyeing agent that was extremely toxic and left many women permanently blind. And in 1938 the Food,Drug, and Cosmetics Act became a law. Most of those laws have been unchanged since it was first installed in the United States. Including the requirement to test any new ingredient on animals first before it is released to consumers. I spoke more about that law in my History of Animal Testing post.

In early 1940s,waterproof mascara was introduced into the market. It was 50% turpentine and caused many skin allergies and had a terrible smell. In 1958, Revlon introduced the first mascara package in a tube with a spiral-tip wand. And then in the early 1960s an eye safe waterproof mascara was introduced. Revlon invented the first colored formula with its “Brush on Mascara,” which came in hues like mauve and dark green. At the time, full, dramatic, and slightly-spidery lashes were in and more attention was given to the lower lashes than ever.Women also opted for painted, brush-stroke lashes à la Twiggy. It was in 1971 that cult-favorite Maybelline Great Lash, a water-based mascara, hit the market.

In 1988, Max Factor created No Color Mascara, a clear formula that boasted a smudge-proof finish. Madonna was also at the height of popularity, making full, fan-like eyelashes all the more coveted. In the more-is-more late ’80s and early ’90s, colored mascara also experienced a revival in Rainbow Brite hues. These colorful mascaras are still on market but are not used commonly by people. And since the creation of safe waterproof mascara there haven’t been any major innovations to mascara.But you can find wands of all different styles on the market today.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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