Monday, May 9, 2011

Mascara: A History

Last week I posted a picture of an old-school mascara I found at my grandmother's house.  I think you all were as surprised as I was at this mascara formula and old fashioned application!    

It left me wondering, though: in what other ways has mascara evolved over the years?  When did the mascara wand as we know it come into existence?  I did a little research and dug up some answers!


Like most amazing things in the world, the ancient Egyptians had first dibs on the creation and wearing of mascara.   They believed the eyes were the window to the soul, and that eyes needed to be shaded from evil spirits.  Kohl eyeliner and mascara provided a barrier of protection for both men and women alike!  And then everyone realized, "Hey, this makes our eyes look really nice, yeah?" so eye makeup was also worn to attract attention, to celebrate, and to generally look amazing.  Those hot, genius Egyptians! 

Mascara then went in and out of vogue for the next several centuries, falling by the wayside to other such beauty trends as lead based white foundation and blackening your teeth to look just like Queen Elizabeth I (People seriously did that!  It was a status symbol to show you could afford lots of sugary, teeth-rotting treats.  17th century hotness = eww). 

And then came the Victorians.  Despite being prudish and puritanical to the point of ridiculousness, the Victorians did know a thing or two about beauty treatments.  Well brought up ladies were trained to be vain, protect their complexions, and devote entire days to beautifying themselves.  Mascara was revived, DIY-Victorian style.  Women would mix their own cosmetics, from rose salves to rouge, in the comforts of their homes.  A popular recipe for mascara was mixing elderberry with ashes over a hot fire, then coating your lashes with the mixture.

Look at that stylish girl!  I bet she is most definitely wearing mascara.  Now excuse me while I jealously swoon over her clothes and accessories.  I would have no problem dressing like this!  Where are my smelling salts?!

*ahem*  Anyway...

In 1913, the newly created beauty industry was forever changed when a Mr. T. L. Williams concocted a marketable mascara product for his sister Mabel out of coal dust and petroleum jelly (AKA Vaseline).  And that, dear friends, is how Maybelline was born.  Vaseline is a great eyelash conditioner, by the way.  Mr. Williams was on to something good.  It eventually became the solid version like the one that belonged to my grandmother, and a cream formula you'd squirt onto your brush like toothpaste.

Helena Rubinstein saw a way to improve mascara application, and in 1957, designed a tube with the brush already attached!  What a revelation!  This paved the way for an innovation from the legendary makeup guru Max Factor, who developed the first brush that could be directly inserted into a tube of mascara.  Other companies caught on, Maybelline added a spiral brush, and voila!  Mascara as we know today!

I wish ladies in ads today looked that euphoric and excited about their beauty products, don't you?
Of course, now we have volumizing, curling, lengthening, and strengthening formulas to choose from.  We can coat our lashes electric blue, acid green, or ultra violet if we wish.  We have brushes and applicators in every shape you can imagine.  We even have vibrating mascara wands!  In short: we've come a long way, baby.  May the innovations continue!


1 comment:

  1. you should submit this to links a la mode, pretty fab! Didn't Victorian men also wear makeup like rouge? I'd love to see a post on the history of men and makeup