Sunday, 12 January 2014

Flashback: Mascara in the 20th Century

In 1915, a 19 year old Tom Lyle Williams noticed his sister, Mabel, applying a (rather scary sounding) mix of Vaseline and coal dust to her eyelashes. Using his trusty chemistry set, he produced a formula that would go on to be one of the best selling beauty products of the early 20th century: Maybelline Cake Mascara.


For almost 40 years, Cake Mascara was the go-to product for darkening and enhancing the look of your eyelashes. Presented in a little metal box, and coming with a toothbrush-style applicator, the blocks were largely composed of carbon black, coconut oil sodium soap, and palm oil sodium soap (only slightly more advanced than the original coal and petroleum jelly concoction).

To apply, one would moisten the brush and buff it on the block until it had picked up sufficient product. Over time, however, they came to be known as 'Spit Blocks', as often women would use their saliva rather than fresh water. Yummy.


It wasn't until 1957 that the first "Automatic Mascara" was created by Helena Rubenstein. First called the "Mascara-matic" the formula and packaging was soon adopted by the major cosmetic companies, and wand mascara was born. Initially it came in a tube, and the product was squeezed on to the spiral brush, but before to long, tubed mascara as we know it was hitting the shelves and replacing the outmoded cakes and liquids.



Over the years, mascara wands have evolved more and more. From the traditional nylon bristle brushes, to comb brushes, and more recently, brushes made with thermoplastic, such as Max Factor's Lash Perfection.


New plastic brushes have begun to sweep the market, from high-end to drugstore mascaras. The plastic tends to pick up less product, and in doing so allows for a more even, gentle coverage. The eyelashes are further separated and coated more precisely, and products such as Covergirl Clump Crusher attest to it's performance.

We've come a long way, baby.

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