Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex, one stated that: “A woman’s greatest asset is her beauty.” Since beauty is a rather subjective observation though, there is certainly nothing wrong with enhancing your natural beauty, and, as far as enhancement is concerned, today’s word is a necessity. With a Daily Mail survey reporting that the first thing that 70% of men notice in a woman is her eyes, enhancing this area typically begins and ends with mascara.
For a product that has become so widely known, the origins of the word itself are rather murky. The most probable source of the word is the Spanish máscara, meaning “mask” or “stain;” however, on the Iberian peninsula alone, there are 2 other possible sources, the Catalan mascara and the Portuguese mascarra, meaning “soot or black smear” and “stain or smut,” respectively. Beyond Europe, there are also theories that it originated from the Middle East, via the Arabic maskharah, meaning (oddly) “buffoon,” or the Hebrew משקרות (MaSQROTh) which relates to female eyes and is found in the Book of Isaiah.
Production of Mascara
Essentially, for all of the brands and choices we have, there is surprisingly little difference among them – aside from their price, availability, and advertising. For example, all formulas are different blends of the same types of ingredients: pigments, oils, and waxes. Regarding production, there are only 2 ways that modern mascara is produced: an emulsion method where waxes and oils are heated and pigmented separately then mixed, and an anhydrous method where all ingredients are mixed all at once and heated together.
First mentioned in English via an 1886 edition of the Peck & Snyder Catalogue, mascara has a much longer and broader history than most realize. Considering mascara as something applied to the eyelashes, the origin of this sort of beauty enhancement extends back to 4000BC in ancient Egypt, where a substance called kohl was used by both men and women to ward off evil spirits and protect the soul. As other ancient empires came into contact with Egypt, such as Rome, Greece, and Babylon, the use of kohl spread, but the fall of Rome also saw the discontinued use of the product in Europe. Only in Victorian times, due to changing perceptions and using recipes such as heated ash or lampblack and elderberry juice, did the use of mascara re-emerge in Europe, as can be seen in Neville Lynn’s Practical Hints for Making-up (1894): “To darken eyelashes, paint with mascaro, or black paint, with a small brush.”
Though, thanks to innovations initially started by the likes of Eugene Rimmel and T. L. Williams (Maybelline), mascara, as a product, has become cheaper, more standardised, and better quality, we are still not far removed from a time when many types of makeup to enhance beauty were viewed with suspicion, as is shown in Helena Rubenstein’s 1930 The Art of Feminine Beauty, where she remarks that: “My mother had brought us up to use a little powder on our faces but would have been horrified at the thought of rouge or lipstick, or mascara for the eyes.”