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The History of Mascara: A Visual Timeline

MNY_Banner_The History of Mascara A Visual Timeline

Did you know that the eyelash-defining mascara is approximately 6,000 years old?

Since the time it was first used by ancient civilizations, the mascara has had a long history of wondrous transformations. Egypt, Rome, Europe, and Hollywood were all witnesses to how mascara evolved dramatically from one period to the next.

However, the turning point was the unexpected discovery by Maybel Williams and her brother, Thomas Lyle Williams. That kitchen accident eventually led to the Williams siblings' creation of the Maybelline line of mascaras. More on that interesting story later in this post! 

Today, mascara is a must-have beauty item in a makeup kit. This cosmetic staple from a tube more than makes up for its tiny size, considering what a big difference it can do to your makeup look. With a simple and quick application, your lashes instantly become fuller or longer—or both.

Curious about who invented mascara or when was mascara invented? Here's an infographic that chronicles the history of mascara through the years in a visual timeline.


The History of Mascara: From Ancient Civilizations to Modern Cosmetics

Besides Queen Cleopatra, ancient Egypt is known for promoting the use of dark, long eyelashes. In fact, the 6,000-year-old history of mascara dates back to when the ancient Egyptians used eye cosmetics, including lashes, for aesthetic and practical purposes.

For the Egyptians, painting the area around their eyes served as protection against the intense glare of the sun—which meant both men and women darkened their eyelashes. To do that, they would grind stones like kohl and the green-colored malachite to produce pigments.

From 753 B.C. to 476 A.D., the women of Rome had a unique perception of dark eyelashes. They strengthened their eye hairs to prevent them from falling out, as there was a belief that lush lashes were a sign of a woman's chaste character. Aside from natural stones, ancient Romans used everything from cork wood and rose petals to date pits and ashes to maintain their lashes.

It's a different story for women in the Middle Ages, though. The look during this era was about highlighting the forehead as the most important part of the face, while eyelash and eyebrow hairs were plucked.

The Elizabethan Age from 1533 to 1603 started the trend of dyed eyelashes, inspired by the Queen's colored hair. However, the practice wasn't favored, so women who wanted reddish lashes had to dye them secretly. They crushed berries and collected soot from fireplaces to come up with dyes. In instances when toxic ingredients were used, women had to deal with lashes falling off. 

By the 19th century, the world's first commercial mascara was already available, thanks to French entrepreneur Eugène Rimmel, a perfumer that worked for Queen Victoria. He combined petroleum jelly—which was new at that time—and coal dust to make a mascara that made eyelashes look plump.

The new cosmetic was in cake form and came with a brush for scraping the mascara. Although the application could be messy since it involved dampening the brush with water (some even used saliva) to scrape the black-colored substance, the product sold well. It became such a huge hit that Rimmel's name became synonymous with mascara in countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Romania, and Iran (Persia). 

Maybelline's Historical Contribution to the Development of Modern Mascara

Here's an interesting trivia about Maybelline: the label came from Maybel, the name of one of the brand's founders, and the petroleum jelly brand Vaseline.

When Maybel Williams accidentally burned her lashes and brows while in the kitchen, a homemade mascara with coal dust, burnt cork, and Vaseline provided an instant remedy. 

Her brother, Thomas Lyle, saw a business opportunity out of that kitchen accident and improved Maybel's concocted formula using the ingredients he ordered from a drug supplier. It was also Thomas who changed the finished product's name from Lash Brow Line to Maybelline.

From there, Maybelline went on to become a household name in cosmetics, earning distinctions for products like the Ultra Lash Mascara and Great Lash—the first-ever tube mascara and water-based mascara, respectively. Now, women can wear eyelashes in any style, color, length, or volume. Maybelline's wide range of mascaras can help you recreate various looks for different occasions.  

With a hot and sunny typical weather here in the metro, it’s best to use the Maybelline Hypercurl Waterproof Mascara as your everyday mascara because of its low water content. Even with a shift to humid climate, your mascara is sure to withstand anything.

For short straight lashes, you can get an instant lash lift with Maybelline Falsies Lash Lift Mascara! Without wearing falsies, apply this and you get a lash extension in a tube.

Pro tip: Mascara's shelf life doesn't go beyond three months, so choose one that you can wear every day for maximum value. It will also prevent you from potentially exposing yourself to bacteria that may have accumulated in the mascara tube.

Then and Now: The Wonders of Mascara

No doubt, the history of mascara is full of interesting discoveries and transformations. Regardless of how or where a specific type of mascara originated, the fact remains that it can help you achieve whatever look you want. 

How to make your eyes pop with makeup? It takes little effort for your mascara to create a contrast between your eyes and eyelids. Fancy a bold, daring look? Go for the blackest of black mascara—your eyes will look great either way. And so will you.

Know a mascara lover who might be interested in the origin story of this makeup kit essential? Tag them on social media!

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