History of Mascara - Invention of the Mascara

Mascara Cosmetics

Eyes are the window to the soul, and ever since the dawn of modern human civilization, people wanted the way to make their eyes and eyelashes more beautiful. Early examples of those attempts can be found in the archeological digs at several ancient civilizations (such as Mesopotamia and Assyria, where dust of grinded precious stones was used to decorate women lips and eyes), but the true revolution of mascara (eye related cosmetic) products came from Ancient Egypt.

There, harsh desert environment forced the population (and especially wealthy aristocracy) to find some solution to protect their face and body from unforgiving outside elements. After centuries and millennia, Egypt society slowly built fashion that has very closely integrated not only with their medicine, but also with their religion. They viewed fashion as a way to honor their beliefs, and majority of population used it on regular basis. Eyelash and eyelid products that appeared there around 6 years ago speak of the substance called kohl (one of the most widely used cosmetic products in both ancient and modern Middle East, then made from charcoal or soot, honey ,water and strangely enough, from crocodile stool). They used it to darken eyes, eyelashes, and eyebrows, protect their eyes from harmful dust and microorganisms that were blown by the wind, and off course, this substance and accompanying applying ritual was a part of their religion (most often it represented preservation of wearer soul against harmful evil spirits).

With the Egyptian influence and advancements in the field of chemistry and cosmetic production, it was not strange to see that their products managed to spread beyond their borders and find home in Greece and Rome. There, they were welcomed as an integral part of their fashion and religious ceremonies. Sadly, after the fall of Rome, Europe fell into dark ages, a time when cosmetics were viewed as vanity items of rich and powerful. This changed during the reign of English Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901, fashion style continued to live until 1912) where cosmetic products and elaborate clothing became the integral part of woman life of mid and high social classes. Elaborate beauty regiments, complex fashion styles, and public promotion of cosmetic forced women to spent several hours a day applying makeup on their faces. Mascara represented very important part of every woman cosmetic collection, and illusion of dark and long eyelashes became their obsession.

Ironically, mascara packaging that we know today was released to the public only after era of Victorian fashion was at its very end. It was in 1913 when French chemist and perfumer Eugène Rimmel devised first industrial made non-toxic mascara. This product was not perfect, it was messy and inconsistent, but it managed to become insanely popular across the Europe, where several countries still call mascara products as “rimmel”. Worldwide acceptance of mascara came from the mind of T. L. Williams who devised very similar packaging and formula as Rimmel, but he managed to market it better and eventually form his company “Maybelline which is even today famous for their mascara.

Modern mascara gained popularity only after relentless promotion and marketing by Helena Rubinstein (1870 - 1965), one of the richest women of 20th century. Her influence, and constant promotions by various movie actresses of 1930s ,40s and 50s made mascara socially acceptable in any situation, and important part of almost every fashion style.