Beauty throwback: The evolution of mascara

Mascara: What would we do without it?

It's a staple in many a makeup bag, sometimes the only thing women grab when they're in a rush. You might not have time to do a full face of makeup, but there's always time for a few swipes of mascara, and it will always make you feel great. There's just something about a defined lash that gives a girl the confidence to be the best version of herself.

Mascara can be traced to the Ancient Egyptians. During this time, both men and women were using a substance called kohl (typically composed of galena, malachite and soot) to darken their eyes. They would use the kohl to line their eyelids, and also mixed it with crocodile dung, water and honey to form a sort of paste for their eyelashes. The Ancient Egyptians felt that the eyes were the window to the soul, so they used these products to darken and conceal the eyes in an effort to protect them from evil spirits and bad energy.

Evolution of Mascara
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Evolution of Mascara
A woman applies makeup using an eyelash stencil.
A woman combing her eyelashes as she looks in the mirror.
Actress Port Kelton demonstrates the latest mascara, which had its own sponge for easy application and removal.
A French advertisement for mascara, showing voluminous curled lashes.
A woman applying mascara in Milan, Italy.
British Actress Moyra Fraser is given an application of mascara by a beautician at one of Helena Rubenstein's salons.
A woman looks in the mirror to apply mascara.  She wears a protective drape, to shield her clothes from excess makeup or possibly hair product.
A model curls her lashes.  We still have these eyelash curlers on the market today!
Jane McBurney brushes her eyelashes with a small tool.
English supermodel Twiggy set off an eyelash craze, women everywhere wanted her long, full lashes.
A woman in a lacy peignoir applying mascara, with the easy-to-use brush developed in the 1950s.
A telephone operator in Warsaw, Poland, applying the always necessary mascara at work.
Every girl's worst nightmare! Lisa Lemole in the movie "Drive-In," has a serious case of the black tears.
A woman having taken off her Burqa has make up on her eye lashes by a local beautician in a beauty parlor in Kabul, Afghanistan. 
A model has mascara applied backstage before the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
A model gets false eyelashes applied backstage at the Diesel Spring 2006 fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week.
A model has drastic eye makeup applied to celebrate the opening of the new Shu Uemura eyelash bar in Sydney, Australia.
The lash queens, all of the Kardashian sisters are known for their big bold lashes.  
We're not surprised to see Nicki Minaj with these crazy false lashes, the star has been open about her love (and attachment to!) fake lashes and bold lipsticks.
With new developments every day, we can all experiment with new looks.  Katy Perry dials up the fun with these UK flag-themed lashes.

Kohl continued to be used for many years by other people as well, such as the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire, however, some regions abandoned eye makeup. Many countries in Europe stopped using it, while those in the Middle East continued to darken their eyes for religious purposes.

In the 1830's, the Victorian Era brought elaborate beauty practices back into the mainstream. The use of mascara was revived, and women often spent hours on their beauty routines. Many would experiment and make their own concoctions at home, mixing ashes (typically the soot from an oil lamp) with elderberry over a fire.

MascaraWhen petroleum jelly was created and patented in 1872, many industries changed for good, and a mainstream mascara industry started brewing. It wasn't until 1917 when Eugene Rimmel and T.L. Williams both created a form of the mascara we know today. Williams witnessed his younger sister mixing Vaseline and coal dust to apply to her lashes, and decided to make a formula in his lab. Though initially called "Lash-in-Brow-Line," he later changed the name to Maybelline -- a combination of Maybel and Vaseline.

The mascara in 1917 was known as a "cake" mascara, in which a damp brush was rubbed against a cake with soap and black dye, then applied to lashes. It was the first "modern" eye cosmetic for everyday use, and quickly evolved. In 1933, some women chose to permanently dye their lashes. The process was highly dangerous, causing several women to go blind and resulting in at least one death.

In 1938, the first waterproof mascara arrived. Don't rejoice just yet, because this version was made of 50% turpentine, and caused a lot of allergic and negative reactions on skin. Also, apparently it had an absolutely disgusting odor. Following the first World War, Helena Rubenstein created a lotion-based cream, packaged in a tube and squeezed onto a brush. While it was still messy, it was a huge step in the direction of the products we have today. The 1960's saw a huge boom in the desire for lashes, as model Twiggy became a style icon.

Needless to say, there have been ups and downs in mascara's lifetime, but eventually we would end up with the wonder product we all know and love. So slather it on, ladies, and be glad you're living today -- using mascara without tar or coal in the ingredients.

Click through the gallery above to see mascara through the years!

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