Mascara has been around since the ancient Egyptians, yet still remains a cornerstone in cosmetics today. Read below for interesting facts about the history of mascara.

Mascara wand and tube.
Mascara history includes an interesting journey beginning with the ancient Egyptians. Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

If you were going to be stranded on an island, what make-up product would you take?  I would grab my mascara! I love the eye-highlighting, lash-lengthening cosmetic.

Mascara originates from the Egyptians.

Mascara dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, c. 6000 – c. 3150 BC. They were at the forefront of cosmetics, using them not only for beauty but for medicinal purposes as well.  They used kohl to make their lashes darker and to protect their eyes from the sun.

In the Victorian Era of the late 1800s, mascara was taking on more of the shape as we know it today. Queen Victoria’s perfumer, Eugène Rimmel, used coal dust and petroleum jelly to make women’s eyes stand out. His mascara was sold commercially, but most women were still using homemade formulas at that time.

Vintage cake mascara. Image by Vintage Make-Up Guide.
Vintage cake mascara. Image by Vintage Make-Up Guide.

Maybelline invents the modern-day mascara.

In 1913, Mabel Williams worked with her brother, Thomas Williams, a Chicago chemist, to create a more user-friendly formula to darken eyelashes and eyebrows. This formula was made of carbon dust and petroleum jelly. By 1915, the mascara was commercially marketed and sold as Maybelline. The name was cleverly united from Mabel + Vaseline. It was sold for 10 cents. It was originally sold by mail order, then due to demand, it was sold in drug stores. Maybelline would continue on for decades as the leader in mascara.

Vintage Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ad. Image by The Giki Tiki.
Vintage Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ad. Image by The Giki Tiki.

Creamy mascara makes an entrance.

Initially, mascaras were pressed cakes, not the creamy formulas that we know today. The cake mascara was flat and looked more like an eye shadow container.  A small, wet brush was used to apply the cake mascara to eyelashes.

In 1939, a man named Frank Engle had the first mascara wand patent.  However, his patent expired without production, most likely due to the U.S.’s entrance into World War II. Also in 1939, the first cream mascara with a built-in wand was sold in the U.S. by Parfum Ronni, Inc. of New York.  Again, the U.S.’s involvement in WWII may have been the reason the product did not take off at the time. 

In 1957, Helena Rubinstein debuted the Mascara-Matic. Her product contained a cream mascara with a wand inside a tube with a lip. The amount of mascara on the applicator was key to coating lashes successfully. Rubinstein’s product did a wonderful job of keeping the right amount of product on the wand.

Le Volume Revolution de Chanel mascara. Image by Chanel.
Le Volume Revolution de Chanel mascara. Image by Chanel.

Mascaras of today.

In 1971, Maybelline began selling the classic Great Lash Mascara. It was the first water-based mascara (verses solvent-based). It was a game-changer. It quickly became the best-selling mascara of all time. A tube of Great Lash Mascara is sold every 2.5 seconds around the globe. Fun fact: the pink and green packaging was influenced by the bright and fun prints of then up-and-coming designer Lily Pulitzer.

Today, we see mascara evolving through technology. In 2018, Chanel introduced Le Volume Revolution.  The applicator is made with 3D technology. Chanel says it improves how the mascara adheres to the lashes.  The 3D technology ensures serious volume while avoiding clumping of the lashes.

Also, in 2018, Glossier’s Lash Slick Mascara debuted. This smudge-resistant mascara is made with biotin and flexible polymers to strengthen and separate lashes. Glossier says it’s a little “like an extra strength hair gel.”

Mascara is hands-down my favorite make-up product. I’m looking forward to seeing where technology continues to take the industry and cosmetic customers.