Most of us probably don’t give much thought to our makeup once we find the formulas and shades we like. We take it for granted that the cosmetics we buy will have the consistency, quality and effects that we desire. But have you ever wondered what the earliest types of mascara, eyeliner or lipstick were like?
While enhancing one’s eyes goes back as far as the ancient Egyptians’ use of kohl (a powder made by grinding lead sulfide and other minerals), and the ancient Greeks brightened their lips and cheeks with the roots of various plants, it was the popularization of photography and the glamour of Hollywood in the 1920s that gave rise to the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry. Women not only wanted to look their best in photographs, they began to compare themselves to on-screen beauties such as Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich.
One of the earliest lash enhancers came from Russian émigré Max Factor. A waxy, waterproof substance that was sold in foil-wrapped tubes, Factor’s version of mascara required the user to melt a small slice over a flame then apply to the lashes with an orange stick. Early commercial mascaras were pressed cakes consisting of soap and pigment, which women applied with a tiny brush that they had dipped into hot water. Could they have possibly envisioned the likes of Peter Thomas Roth Lashes to Die for Mascara or Fusion Beauty LashFusionXL? Eyebrow and eyeliner pencils took a huge leap forward thanks to the use of hydrogenated cottonseed oil which helped the pencil glide over the skin.
Early versions of lip and cheek color relied on carmine and various plant roots for pigment, and then shortly before World War I, a synthetic form of carmine was successfully added to an oil and wax base. The next challenge was packaging; lip color stored in paper tubes did not keep or travel well. When it began to be sold in metal cartridges, lipstick became a leader in the package-as–advertisement movement that revolutionized marketing. With all the choices of color and product type (lipstick, stain, gloss, liners and plumpers) available, it is interesting to note that true reds such as bareMinerals 100 Percent Natural Lip Color - Cherries on Top and Fusion Beauty LipFusion Micro Injected Collagen Color Shine Sexy never seem to lose popularity.
As we continue to see innovations in the cosmetics industry, it’s fun to think about the humble beginnings.