on mascaras (1/3)… a brief history

July 13, 2010
By

The eyes have it… or so we strongly believe. Do you?

For the longest time, our eyes have often been described as the mirror of our soul, and it’s practically universal. Not only the English-speaking peeps have such a saying, the Chinese too have something similar, and of course, there’s that French saying, ‘Les yeux sont le miroir de l’dme’(yea, we just gotta say that, keke, there’s something sexy about sprouting French!)

From a long, long time ago, women (and in fact, some men too!) have been doing much to enhance the beauty of their eyes. And the almighty mascara is an all-important tool. In fact, we’ve done lots and lots and lots of surfing and when asked about which makeup item they simply cannot live without, more than half the women would typically say ‘mascara!’

Let’s take a moment to backtrack and check out the history of mascara, shall we?

Pray tell, what IS mascara?
Well, mascara is a cosmetic used by women to enhance eyes and draw attention to them. Mascara darkens, thickens, defines, emphasizes, curls and even lengthens lashes. These days, mascara is available with tube and wand applicators, and can come in different colours. Mascara brushes may be straight, or curved, with fine or thick bristles. Water, preservatives, wax thickeners and film-formers are some of the ingredients in mascara.

Who Invented the First Mascara?
This is interesting… There are two versions that about the history of mascara.

According to some, the first mascara product was invented by Eugene Rimmel in the 19th century. Yes, that RIMMEL from London, and is currently under Coty, Inc. Up till today, Rimmel is still rather well-known for the fine mascaras they make.

Did you know that the word ‘rimmel’ also means ‘mascara’ in many languages, including Dutch (rimel), Persian (rimel) Portuguese (rímel), Romanian (rimel), Turkish (rimel), etc?

Maybe there really is SOME element of truth in the saying that Rimmel invented the first mascara?

But there’s also another version that says… back in 1913, T.L. Williams, a chemist, created the mascara for his sister, Mabel. This early mascara was made from coal dust mixed with Vaseline petroleum jelly.

The story goes that the product was eventually a success, and the name of his company was ‘Maybelline’, which was a combination of his sister’s name and Vaseline.

And today, MAYBELLINE is still one of the top players in the mass cosmetics segment, and is rather famous for its mascara.

History of Mascara
Mascara is one of the oldest cosmetics known today, dating back as far as 4000 B.C. when it was used by the early Egyptians. Women used natural ingredients from native plants and animals to create black pigments, which they then applied to their eyes to draw attention to themselves. (Did you realize that lots of beauty products and beauty rituals have their roots in Egypt…!)

The practice was also observed by the ancient Greeks and the Babylonians, and later picked up by the Romans. Even when cosmetics in general went out of fashion after the Roman empire, the Arabs continued to use eye cosmetics. The use of mascara, as well as other cosmetic products, came back into Europe during the Renaissance era.

The Early Mascaras, of Powder & Cakes…
The first mascaras were in pressed powder or cake forms, much like today’s blushes and foundations. They were made by sifting a powder pigment into a mixture of soap chips and running them through a mill to turn them into powder. The pigment would be used throughout much of the history of mascaras. The powder was then pressed to create compact cakes. The product was applied with a moist brush to dissolve the powder and help it cling to the lashes.

Sounds awfully messy and troublesome to use, if you ask us!

Then Came the Creams!
Another early mascara was the cream type, which had the consistency of a lotion and came in small tubes. The mascara ingredients remained the same, with the addition of natural waxes to get the required consistency. The cream was squeezed onto a small brush applicator, a process that proved too messy and led to the invention of the wand applicator in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Ahhh… (finally!) the Modern Mascaras
The liquid mascara is the newest and most commonly used form today. The lighter consistency makes it easier and cleaner to apply and allows a range of additions to come into the mix.

Liquid mascaras can now come with glitter, dyes, and even eyelash extensions using fibre, rayon, etc etc etc. The now-patented design is considered a milestone in mascara history and features a grooved rod that could be slipped in between the lashes for more even application. Most mascaras now come in straight tubes with the wand applicator built into the cover.

How the Mascara Has Evolved…
The only ingredients in mascara that were used in the first mascara were coal dust and petroleum jelly. While mascara was developed over the years, new mascara ingredients were added. For example, instead of petroleum jelly, wax thickeners were added for better effect. There are even mascaras of many different, exciting colours these days!

What is Mascara Made Of?
The active mascara ingredients are used for giving shape to the eyelashes, and thickening and darkening them. A mixture of special ingredients are added to the mascara, the main aim of which is to design and hold the shape and color of eyelashes. The basic ingredients in mascara includes water, film formers, wax thicker and preservatives.

Waterproof Mascara Ingredients:
Basically, waterproof mascara is made using volatile solvents. They mostly have a substance called isododecane. They also have waxes which are extracted from animal oil, vegetable oils and minerals. Apart from these some pigments, filmifying polymers and thickeners are also used. Mascaras are free from chemicals as they are water based cosmetics. Waterproof mascaras are highly resistant to sweat, tears, and rain. Once applied, they can be removed only by using a strong makeup remover.

Non-Waterproof Mascara Ingredients:
Non waterproof mascara are based on water, soft surfactants like triethanolamine stearate, animal derived waxes, vegetable based waxes like rice bran wax, carnauba wax and candeilla wax, mineral original waxes, pigments, thickening polymers like gum arabic and preservatives. These mascaras are not resistant to tears or sweat but are easily removed with some soap and water. These are light mascaras which are less lasting than the waterproof ones.


This is the first of a three-part series on mascaras. The second part will touch on how to apply mascara to achieve the best results. As for the last part, we will be doing product review, so look out for it!

Yours in PINK,
The Shiny Happy Peeps

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6 Responses to on mascaras (1/3)… a brief history

  1. joyce on July 25, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    wow…first time saw about mascara history…is very interested..
    nowadays, lots of people used mascara but never think beyond the history of mascara…
    i had learn more and more.
    add oil and good night…

  2. lyred on July 25, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    hope you guys keep posting Sasa sale promotions here : ) !

  3. bb ♥ on July 25, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    hi hi joyce,

    thanks for reading, and also thanks for taking the time to leave us an encouraging comment ^^ yea, do look out as there’s more parts to this series, including a product review!

    have a great sunday!

  4. bb ♥ on July 25, 2010 at 5:37 PM

    hi hi lyred ^^

    yea, we will be talking about the latest brand and product launches, promos on the blog, as well as on facebook and twitter, so do follow us there too!

    in addition, we will also be holding exclusive online promos and activities for peeps who communicate or follow us on the blog, facebook and twitter ^^

  5. What’s In Your Bag(?!) | on August 1, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    [...] here it is… We were wondering if Shu Xin would lend more testimonial to what we’ve said HERE about how most women can’t do without their [...]

  6. [...] Interested to learn about the history of mascara? Click HERE to read how this indispensable makeup tool has evolved over the [...]

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