History of Mascara

Finding the perfect mascara (making my lashes look thick and lush and gorgeous, but not flaking or smearing or irritating my eyes, and easy to remove, oh, and doesn’t cost a fortune) is damn near impossible, but we have it easier than ladies before the modern mascara tube. Here’s a quick history lesson on mascara! Take notes, as there will be a quiz later.

Eugene Rimmel, a perfumer and cosmetic innovator, invented the first mascara in the 19th century, and to this day, the word “rimmel” still means “mascara” in several languages, including French, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish (source: Wikipedia.com). Yes, it’s the same Rimmel as the brand you can see in drugstores and department stores today. Rimmel remained family-owned until 1949 and is now owned by Coty, Inc.

Modern mascara, however, was created by a chemist named T.L. Williams in 1913, for his sister, Mabel. (I have 3 brothers, and for the record, they have never created a cosmetic product for me. Hmmmph.) His concoction was made from coal dust and petroleum jelly, but Mabel apparently liked it anyway, so Williams began to sell his new product through the mail. Ever heard of Maybelline? The name is a combination of his sister’s name, Mabel, and the word Vaseline!

The tube and wand applicator we are accustomed to (vs. a cake mascara) did not appear until 1957, and credit goes to Helena Rubenstein, a Polish-American cosmetics industrialist. Barely clearing 4 feet, 10 inches, Ms. Rubenstein studied medicine, mixed her own cosmetic creations, and since women at that time could not obtain bank loans, used $100,000 of her own cash to expand into London to build her enterprise. I say she deserves far more credit than simply the introduction of the tube-and-wand mascara applicator!

So, there you have it, a brief history of mascara, and something to ponder next time you pick up your tube of mascara. Hey…could be coal dust and Vaseline!

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3 thoughts on “History of Mascara

  1. Great post! I only makes sense that us beauty obsessed folx know a little of our beauty history. Rimmel….never kneeew!

  2. I picture that guy making mascara for his sister, and I think it’s so sweet! There are really funny stories about Ms. Rubenstein, too, that I found while researching her. Who knew the cosmetics industry has such characters?

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