Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The beautiful history and evolution of the modern mascara.

Nowadays we wouldn't think twice about picking up our favourite mascara and putting it on, a mere 50 years ago the process was rather different to today's telescopic wands and lash enhancing shades. You wouldn't think to look at that elongated wand and rubberised brush but mascara has certainly come on a long way since it's origins to become one of the most used and competitive beauty products on the market.

Historically mascara has been around for centuries, we can thank the Egyptians for the initial idea of mascara, iconic pictograms from that time are already well known for their kohl laden eyes but did you know that they used a generous layer of kohl as mascara to create those dark sultry eyes? Kohl was used to mask the eyes, warding off evil spirits and protecting the soul, by both men and women.

From there it's a bit of a steep jump in time to the next use of lash cosmetics, with the only reference to Victorian women who used to mix ash or lampblack and elderberry juice to coat their lashes and give the illusion of long eyelashes. But it wasn't until the invention of petroleum jelly that mascara would really come about, yes vaseline, that wonderful multi-purpose salve it turns out was the starting point for commercial mascara!

Invented in 1872, petroleum jelly was the saviour for many in their beauty cupboards, although it would take a few years later for it's use to be harnessed as a mascara. Eugene Rimmel, yes that Rimmel, devised a cosmetic using petroleum jelly as it's main ingredient, a combination of the jelly and coal dust that took a pinch of inspiration from the Victorians to create a mascara. This first commercial mascara was admittedly a little messy to use but it helped to pave the way for the commercial market of mascara as we know it today, a few years later the mascara was reformulated into a much sturdier solid cake like substance.

The application of the first mascara's is rather astounding compared to modern day products, usually housed in a case with a little brush, the brush was dampened (sometimes a little less hygienically using spit rather than water to dampen it) then rubbed into the mascara cake and applied to the lashes. This mascara technique created the more spidery like lashes that nowadays we come to associate with heavy laden mascara, but with time the technique would be perfected to create stunning lashes.

The most iconic mascara of that time, and one which is still heralded today is Maybelline, their take on the product was designed by T. L. Williams for his sister Maybel, and he later went on to sell the mascara through his mail order business. But mascara was let's face it still a rather messy procedure, Helena Rubinstein created a wonderful substance in 1957 that was to reshape the industry and create a product that we're more familiar with today. She turned it from the hard cake substance into a lotion-based cream, repackaged into a tube with a separate brush, the tube would be squeezed to release the mascara and dabbed onto the brush for application, still a little messy at this stage but it was this introduction of the lotion based formula and tube that would come to create the mascara we know and love today.

A grooved mascara wand was designed soon after leading to the iconic mascara shape we see today, it's wonderful to see how it's evolved over the last century to become one of the most used and commercially competitive products in the beauty market. We may all have our firm favourites but if it wasn't for the iconic brands behind the first mascara products then we may not have the mascara that we use so much today.

Cake mascara image:

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