This History of Mascara

Mascara is a cosmetic used by women to enhance eyes and draw attention to them. Mascara darkens, thickens, defines, emphasizes, curls and even lengthens lashes.

Mascara comes in several colors and is available with tube and wand applicators. Water, preservatives, wax thickeners and film-formers are some of the ingredients in mascara. Mascara brushes may be straight, or curved, with fine or thick bristles.

Eugene Rimmel invented the first mascara product in the 19th century. The word “rimmel” also means “mascara” in many languages, including Dutch (rimel), Persian (rimel) Portuguese (rímel), Romanian (rimel), Turkish (rimel), etc.

T.L. Williams, a chemist, created modern mascara for his sister, “Mabel” in 1913. This early mascara was made from coal dust mixed with Vaseline petroleum jelly. As you can guess, the product was a success and the name of his company was “Maybelline”, which was a combination of his sister’s name and Vaseline. Today “Mabelline” is the leading company in the production of cosmetics and makeup (including mascara).

Until 1957, mascara presented itself in the form of a cake (wax mixed with mascara pigments). Women had to wet a brush, dip it in the cake, and then apply it to their eyelashes. The modern tube and wand applicator was introduced and founded by Helena Rubinstein in 1957.

Max Factor was the first to create a mascara with a wand applicator actually in the product, which is what you see in the mascara products available today.

Some of the chemicals that are added to the modern mascara could be potentially harmful, so please be cautious in your selection of products. It might be advisable to use “natural” cosmetics and makeup.

By D.L. Downey

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With political activists as parents, Stephanie learned gender politics at an early age and embraced stiletto feminism in high school. As a marketing professional, she’s written for a variety of publications. She founded to be a voice for the sex-positive alpha female.