The Makings of Mascara: A History

Sometimes I get curious about where things originated from. Okay, jk, not sometimes, ALL the time. I love to understand why things are the way they are, how we got to this point, and what happened along the way to shape our society, products, pop culture, buying habits, relationships, and more.

Because I like to nerd out on stuff like that and because I have my own blog where I can write about whatever I want, I’m going use some of my posts to explore the past and understand what got us here today.

To kick off this series, I chose to focus on a makeup product that most women would probably tell you they couldn’t live without: mascara.

birth-of-mascara-2Turns out the idea of fluffing up and filling out eyelashes has been around for a long time. I’m talking ancient Egypt circa 3500 BC – 2500 BC. That’s not totally surprising when you think about the fact that ancient Egyptian art depicts Egyptian rulers with heavy eye liner. However, it’s interesting to note that both Egyptian women and men were into the mascara craze. They used Kohl which was composed of different minerals, charcoal or soot, crocodile poop (um, gross), and honey.


Pliny the Elder

The ancient Romans also idealized long, luscious lashes. According to a philosopher named Pliny the Elder (not to be confused with the delicious Russian River Brewing Co. double IPA that shares the same name), having a lot of sex made your eyelashes fall out. Because of this, women fought hard to make sure everyone could see their bold lashes in order to preserve their reputation and protect their chastity. Kohl, soot, burnt rose petals, and ashes were among the list of common ingredients used to make ancient Roman mascara.

During the Middle Ages, makeup was a big no-no. Actually, a woman’s forehead was known to be one of her most beautiful features. Some ladies took that to the extreme and actually removed their eyelashes AND eyebrows. Fingers crossed this look doesn’t make a comeback.


Oh my god, Becky, look at that forehead.

Mascara made a big come back in the Victorian era and women were getting all dolled up to have their portraits painted.

Fast-forward a little to the late 19th century – a guy by the name of Eugene Rimmel (yep, that’s the one), made a mascara concoction out of petroleum jelly and coal dust. This came in the form of a caked powder that women would brush onto their lashes.

Shortly thereafter, Maybel Williams came out with a very similar formula. Years later, she would still have women wondering “Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s Maybelline!”


Darker days were ahead for mascara. In 1933, a “permanent” mascara known as Lash Lure came on the market. Lash Lure used an extremely toxic dying agent which resulted in the permanent blindness of 15 women and the death of another. This horrible accident was actually the catalyst that prompted the FDA to begin regulating cosmetics.

FSWDZ2YFT3KADA2.MEDIUMThe first brush-on tube mascara didn’t make an appearance until the 1960’s. After that, eyelash trends started to get more fun and funky with things like paint brush-stroke lashes (thank you, Twiggy), clear mascara, colored mascara hitting the market.


Today, women rock all kinds of mascara. There’s mascara to make your lashes longer, thicker, bolder, fuller, you name it. Of course, I’m in love with Younique’s 3D Fiber Lashes+ mascara which gives my eyelashes crazy volume AND length.

16730198_10208552486866180_3931974624803536367_n (1)

So what do you think? Do you have a favorite mascara? Let me know in the comments below!



2 thoughts on “The Makings of Mascara: A History

  1. Very interesting! It’s pretty funny that, in spite of the various trends and philosophies that come and go, the history of makeup is more or less us trying to achieve the same goals for thousands of years.

    Chidi Beauty | Green Beauty for All Skin Tones


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