You know that black goop you smother your eyelashes with each morning? Well, do you know where it came from? Don't worry, I'm about to let you know.
Mascara, my personal favourite beauty product, has taken many different forms over the years and it's been made from a huge (and quite disgusting) array of ingredients. Mascara is used world wide and all for the same purpose, to make eyes look larger with lashes looking thicker, longer and curved up towards the sky.
Mascara is created with a mix of oil, wax and pigmentation. Oils used vary from mascara to mascara but the most commonly used are mineral oils, castor oil, lanolin and sesame oil. Waxes used are paraffin, carnauba and beeswax. They are dyed with Carbon Black chemical for black mascaras and iron oxides are used to create brown mascaras. Ultramarine Blue pigment is added to create blue and purple mascaras. Dodecane is used in waterproof mascaras and cerasin, gum tragacanth and menthol cellulose are used to harden and dry mascaras once applied. But these are all just words really.
To get a better idea of why mascara was created in the first place, lets take a look at the phenomenon of creating larger eyes on a bigger scale.
Dating back to 4000BC both woman and men were using a lead based powder called 'kohl' to darken their eyelashes, eyebrows and around their eyes. It was first used to ward off evil spirits from entering the soul and made from a mixture of charcoal, soot, animal stool, lead, copper and water. Once the colour had been created it was thickened with honey and applied too the eyes (I know, right? And you think your make up feels heavy..).
Moving up a few eras, women in the Western world never even considered putting any form of cosmetic enhancement on their face, it was dirty and unclean (yeah.. probably because it contained animal stool..). It was looked down upon and women were punished for it. It wasn't until the Victorian era that the whole thing shifted.
All of a sudden women were spending half of their waking hours on a beauty routine and trying to enhance their natural features. The first step towards cosmetics that Western women made was an attempt at longer, darker eyelashes. Many attempts were tried, the most common being heating a mix of soot and elderberry juice and applying the warm liquid to the eyelashes.
And then along came Eugene Rimmel, a French man living in London (I picture him to look exactly like Eugene Levi). In 1913 Eugene Rimmel took the newly formulated petroleum jelly and mixed it with coal powders to make a brush on liquid that he called 'Rimmel'. In fact, 'Rimmel' is still the translation for 'Mascara' in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Serbian, Persian, Greek, Romanian, Turkish and Portuguese today.
At the same time, in New York, T. L. Williams was creating a similar product for his sister, Maybel. Four years later, after the products success with Maybel and around his home town, T. L. Williams started a mail order business for the product and called it 'Maybelline'.
Even through the success of both these products, the cosmetic still had it's issues. It was messy, it took time to apply and would slip off the eyelashes during wear. In an attempt to create an 'easier to apply' product, a black dye mixed with cake soap was produced. The user would rub a wet brush against the soap and apply it too their eyelashes. While this product was far lighter to wear than a petroleum jelly based product, it was still messy.
All this changed when Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden stepped into the cosmetics scene. Both women had been observing the way mascara was used in European countries, primarily in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. Mascara (still known as 'Rimmel') had launched and women were going crazy over the messy, goopy product.
As American consumers became desperate for something new, the two women released their own line of cosmetics, both included a cake mascara. Both brands became an immediate success in America and the women became powerhouses in the American cosmetics industry.
It wasn't until years later, in 1957, that Helena Rubenstein produced lotion based cream mascara that was sold with a brush. The cream was applied to the brush and applied to lashes. A couple of years later the mascara was released in a thin tube with the brush attached to the inside of the lid, the same way mascara is sold today. Mascara was now formulated with a mix of waxes, oils and pigmentation and it's still formulated like this today.
From there on, the formulas of mascara and the shape of brushes have changed from year to year with consumers continuously wanting something more, something better than they've used before.
The biggest innovation in mascara in most recent years was in 2005 with Procter and Gamble created a mascara want that was made of thermoplastic rather than nylon. The first mascara to use the brush was the Max Factor Lash Perfection, but many brands have followed their lead and have released their own mascara with a plastic brush.
So there you go, a history lesson you weren't expecting.
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