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The History of Mascara

Jessica Assaf

Before women used synthetic dyes to color their eyelashes, they mixed ingredients like ashes with elderberry juice in their homes to create a natural colorant. Things didn't change until 1830, when a French perfumer moved to London and began developing cosmetic products, starting with perfume. His son, Eugéne Rimmel, mixed coal dust and Vaseline petroleum jelly to create the first mascara product on the market. Eugéne's product was widely used across Europe and the word "rimmel" became synonymous with "mascara." 

In 1917, Maybelline (a product from Maybell Labs) introduced the "cake mascara." This was the first product that was presented with a small brush, to be used with a mixture of sodium stearate soap and pigments. Maybelline became a market leader in cosmetics, later bought by L'Oreal and renamed Maybelline New York. They continued to develop new, innovative products, focusing on eye products like eyebrow pencils and mascaras. 

In 1933, women used Lash Lure eyelash and eyebrow dye to enhance their eyes. Advertisements for Lash Lure Eye Lash and Brow Dye promised their "new and improved mascara will give you a radiating personality, with a before and an after". Lash Lure contained a dyeing agent that was extremely toxic to the body. Many women became permanently blind after using Lash Lure, and one woman died. Several states banned eyelash dyes after multiple incidents. Finally, in 1938, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act became a law. 

Revlon launched the first mascara in a tube in 1958, which included the spiral brush that is still used today.

Our cosmetic safety laws have not significantly changed since 1938.