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The History Behind Beauty's Biggest Must-Have: Mascara

We would be nowhere without our secret weapon: mascara. Take a few minutes to relax before you curl your lashes this morning and find out about the historic journey of beauty's biggest must-have.

It's been said, "Inner beauty is great, but a little mascara never hurt." Mascara has been a makeup bag staple since well before we could drive but the history behind this beauty essential is more than meets the eye.

The product we know today is an evolved form of lash enhancers. In 4000 B.C., women wore kohl to darken their eyelashes usually for rituals or other ceremonial purposes. Even Cleopatra wore eye paint to create her dramatic, signature look. It wasn't until mid-1800s (1840 to be exact) that our beloved lash definer was created for the very first time by the one, the only, Eugene Rimmel, who founded The House of Rimmel in 1834. Eugene worked primarily in revolutionizing the fragrance industry but also dabbled in personal hygiene and cosmetics, making his creation one we'd be forever grateful for.



Maybelline came more than 50 years later, in 1913 when American chemist T.L. Williams got creative with coal dust and petroleum jelly. Why coin the product "Maybelline"? His sister's name was Mabel and his petroleum jelly of choice just so happened to be Vaseline, so thus, a legend was born.

The real winner here though is obviously waterproof mascara. A product that allows you to cry during the Notebook and gets you through any and all drama deserves a gold medal as far as we're concerned. Created in 1938, Viennese actress Helene Viethaler Winterstein patented the first ever waterproof mascara, and with all of those stage lights, who's to blame her?

Mascara tears


The tube and wand applicator we know and love wasn't born until the late '50s, creating a revolution of eyelash perfection. Since then, cosmetic companies have changed the formula and focused on added benefits like volumizing or infusing collagen into the product so our lashes can keep getting longer and darker.


Colored mascara first came around in 1960, with Revlon's Brush On Mascara, which came in shades like mauve and dark green. Bright, bold lashes became big in the late '80s and early '90s in the height of the grunge era when there was no such thing as "too much makeup."



There's no doubt that mascara has come a long way. Accentuating our favorite feature with our favorite beauty product just keeps getting more and more fun, with bold colors, new formulas, and new ways of lengthening and defining. What's next for beauty's biggest must-have?

Emily Gregor

Emily Gregor is a magazine journalist, graphic designer, event planner, and world traveler. A firm believer that lipstick can save the world, Emily is passionate about beauty, skincare, and Corgis.

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