Whether to drive away evil spirits or to enhance and attract, the uses of mascara over its 6,000 year history have been as diverse as its ingredients.
Colours to ward off evil spirits
Egyptian records from around 4,000 BC describe a substance called kohl, which women, children and men used to darken their lashes, eyes and eyebrows to protect them against evil spirits. Back then, the colour was produced by pulverised minerals such as antimony, galena, manganese oxide, black iron oxide and magnetite. Even soot was among the substances that were incorporated into greases to produce the black substance. However, kohl truly did have a protective effect. The evil spirits that it warded off were what we today know as bacteria. The mineral components of kohl had an antibacterial effect and therefore provided protection against bacterial eye diseases, which were extremely common in Egypt due to the hot, dry climate.
As long and dark as possible
While black painted eyes were a part of everyday life in the Near East, in Western culture, any colour on the face was long regarded as heathen and scorned. This situation only changed at the end of the 19th century when the ladies of high society developed a taste for the thickest, longest and darkest eyelashes possible. To achieve this effect they coloured their eyelashes with a mixture made from coal dust and elderberry juice.
Irresistible at rendezvous
A somewhat more elegant version of mascara was developed in the USA in 1913 by the brother of a young girl named Mabel who wanted to look irresistible for a rendezvous with her sweetheart Chet. Her brother, T.L. William was a chemist and created a black substance for his big sister to apply to her eyelashes by mixing together coal dust and vaseline. The plan worked, or at least Chet and Mabel were married a year later. In 1915, T.L. William established the company Mabelline with his product and offered his mascara in tubes. He also sold brushes onto which women wanting to apply the mascara could squeeze out the black substance as though onto a toothbrush. Another of William’s developments was the first compact mascara in block format. As you had to moisten the ink before being able to apply it with a brush, this became known colloquially as spit mascara.
Packaging is key, but not everything
Now all that remained was the step in which mascara took on its current form. This was taken in the mid 1950’s by Helena Rubinstein (1870 – 1965) from Krakow. She had the idea of filling small bottles with a liquefied version of mascara. These bottles were sealed with lids and had an integrated brush. Today, the exterior shape has barely changed, we still buy mascara in bottles with a brush. The differences are found in the the contents, and are well worth a much closer look. The Dr. Hauschka mascara which was launched onto the market in 1999 is free from synthetic chemicals, petro-chemicals, fragrances and preservatives (parabens). Medicinal plant extracts from eyebright, black tea and neem leaves complement the base ingredient of natural wax. The sensitive eye area loves it.
How often should you replace your mascara, natural or otherwise?
Once every 3 months. I give myself a calendar reminder for 3 months from purchase.
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