A Quick Background to Mascara – Inventors, Innovators and Historical Use

I’m certain that everyone knows what mascara is. But does everyone know the background to the infamous eye product? In this article I will aim to vaguely debrief the history of mascara.

Believe it or not, the origins of mascara can date back all the way to Ancient Egypt where they used a substance called ‘Kohl’ which essentially has the same functions as mascara. Kohl wasn’t used to impress your crush, spouse or friends in Ancient Egypt but rather to protect themselves from believed evil spirits. The belief was so strong that it ran through Middle Eastern religion and even up through the famous Roman Empire. Now you may be thinking about how they stopped it from running like our current day products. Well of course there was no technology back then meaning natural resources such as combining water, honey, charcoal and soot with the natural mineral Galena.

Countries especially in Europe under the control of the Roman Empire (as the empire was derived from European descent as language mainly spoken then was Greek and Latin) used Kohl for appearance and cosmetic use. However, Kohl became a distant cosmetic feature when the Roman Empire gradually fell as the ideology decreased simultaneously. Contrastingly, it was still used immensely in Egypt for religious purposes which spread into neighbouring Middle Eastern countries.

Before the West became the dominant global region, the use of eyeliner products was considered unprofessional and ill-mannered until the widely-recognised Victorian Era (1837) . Promoting the use of makeup and shifts in heavier influence of cosmetics were key in that time period that initially kickstarted the use of long-eyelashes.

Only a couple decades later, chemist Eugene Rimmel started the official development of the well-known mascara by utilising petroleum jelly. Further inventors such as T.L. Williams used the same jelly between 1913-1917 led to the growth of the company known as Maybelline.

However, arguably the most important phase of the development of mascara came from Helena Rubinstein in 1957. She proposed mascara in a lotion form alongside a brush for application. This is similar to modern day mascara, through the use of a brush. She had probably revolutionised the way mascara was applied which gained increasing respectability and acceptance in the USA.

These influential characters in the production of mascara has indefinitely led to one of the most influential eye product around. Although there were many forms and innovations of the product, the common elements used were oils, pigmentation and forms of waxes. The FDA approving of the products used to make mascara is probably a historical event which at the time may have been minor but certainly has left inventors and companies well, well off.

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