The color additive kohl is not approved for use in the United States. Kohl contains salts of lead or antimony and has been linked to poisoning in some people.
Mascara is a cosmetic (a beauty product) applied to the eyelashes to make them look thicker, longer, and darker. Mascaras have been used since ancient times. As far back as 4000 b.c.e., both Egyptian men and women used makeup to outline and decorate their eyes. The Egyptians used soot or mixed eye powder with animal fat to make eye cosmetics. The powders were usually made from green malachite (copper ore) or dark gray galena (lead ore). The present-day name for galena is kohl.
The Babylonians and ancient Greeks also used eye cosmetics, as did the Romans in later centuries. After the fall of the Roman Empire (476 c.e.), the use of cosmetics declined, although eye cosmetics continued to be used in Middle Eastern countries. During the Renaissance (fourteenth through sixteenth centuries), cosmetics were again used in Europe.
Before the 1900s, American women did not commonly wear cosmetics. Cosmetics were generally associated with prostitutes or other "sinful" women who painted their faces. However, as women fought for the right to vote and other opportunities that men enjoyed, such as to become lawyers and doctors, they started wearing makeup to assert their independence. In 1913, a chemist, T.L. Williams, created the first mascara out of Vaseline® petroleum jelly and coal dust, subsequently establishing the company Maybelline, named after his sister Mabel and the ingredient Vaseline®. In 1917, Maybelline produced the first modern mascara, a cake mascara, which was applied to the eyelashes with a dampened brush. Helena Rubinstein (1871–1965) developed the first waterproof mascara in 1939. In the early 1960s, Maybelline produced the Ultra Lash Mascara, the first automatic mascara. Instead of a cake, the mascara came in a tube along with a grooved brush. When pulled from the tube, the brush was already coated with the mascara for easy application.
There are many different formulas for making mascara. All contain pigments (coloring substances). The United States prohibits the use of pigments derived from coal or tar in eye cosmetics. Therefore, manufacturers have to use natural colors and artificial pigments. Most mascara formulas use carbon black for the black pigment and iron oxide for brown colors. Some recipes use the ultramarine blue color.
One common type of mascara consists of an emulsion of oils, waxes, and water. Oils may be mineral oil, lanolin, linseed oil, castor oil, oil of turpentine, eucalyptus oil, or sesame oil. The waxes used include beeswax, carnauba wax, or paraffin. Some formulas use alcohol. Lotion-based formulas contain stearic acid and stiffeners, such as ceresin and gum. The gum used may be gum tragacanth or methyl cellulose. Some mascaras have fine rayon fibers, which make the product more viscous (thick and sticky).
The Manufacturing Process
There are two main types of mascara manufactured. One type is made using the anhydrous (without water) method. Mascaras that have a lotion base are made using the emulsion method.
1 The ingredients are carefully measured and weighed. They are then put into a mixing tank or kettle to make a small batch of 10 to 30 gallons (38 to 114 liters) of mascara. Heat is applied to melt the waxes, and the mixture is stirred using a propeller blade. The stirring continues until the mixture reaches a semi-solid state.
2 Water and thickeners are combined to make a lotion or cream base. In a separate container, waxes and emulsifiers are heated, and pigments are added. The lotion base and wax-emulsifier mixture are combined in a homogenizer, or mixer. Unlike the tank used in the anhydrous method, the homogenizer has a closed lid that keeps out the air and prevents evaporation. The homogenizer blends the ingredients at a very high speed, breaking down the oils and waxes and holding them in suspension in the water. The homogenizer may contain as little as 5 gallons (19 liters) or as much as 100 gallons (380 liters) of mascara. The blending continues until the mixture reaches room temperature.
3 This step is used for both methods of manufacture. After the mascara solution has reached a semi-solid state (anhydrous method) or a cooled state (emulsion method), it is transferred to a tote bin. The tote bin is rolled to a filling area, and the mascara is poured into the hopper (a receptacle that holds the mascara) of a filling machine.
4 The filling machine pumps a measured amount (about 0.175 ounce, or 5 grams) of the mascara into glass or plastic bottles. The bottles are usually capped by hand. Samples are removed for inspection, and the rest are packaged for distribution.
Some beauty salons offer "permanent" eyelash and eyebrow dyeing by using hair dyes for coloring. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), no natural or artificial color additives have been approved for such use at home or at beauty salons. When misused on eyelashes or eyebrows, hair dyes could cause serious reactions, including blindness or even death.
Factory inspectors check for quality and purity at various stages of the manufacturing process. The ingredients are checked in the tank before mixing begins to ensure that the correct ingredients and proper amounts are in place. After the batch is blended, it is checked again. After bottling of the mascara batch is completed, samples representing the beginning, middle, and end of the batch are taken. These samples are tested for chemical composition, as well as for impurities from microorganisms.
Interestingly, the federal government does not require mascara manufacturers to seek approval or review of their products before selling them to the public. Manufacturers may use any ingredient, except for color additives and a number of prohibited ingredients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can regulate these products only after they are already in the market. If a certain product proves dangerous after consumers have used them, the FDA has to go through the Justice Department in order to take action, including inspecting the cosmetic factory and collecting mascara samples.
BEAUTY ON THE RUN
Applying mascara while driving is a very dangerous practice. Aside from the obvious hazards from being preoccupied with something other than driving, a person can easily scratch her eye with the mascara wand. If untreated, the scratched eye could develop an infection, which can lead to loss of lashes, ulcers on the cornea, or even blindness.
Cosmetic companies do not seem to run out of creative ideas when it comes to mascara. Today, mascaras not only darken, lengthen, and thicken, they also curl, soften, and condition lashes. Some boast of having ingredients that fight bacteria that may invade the eyes. Ingredients found in hair products, such as vitamin E, panthenol, and ceramide, are being added to mascara formulas. Aside from the standard colors of black and brown, other colors are available, such as burgundy, blue, green, and violet. This assortment of colors and pearlized mascaras are popular with young women. Some companies have even come out with mascaras that thicken the lashes to give the impression of false lashes.
- cake mascara:
- A mascara that comes in the form of a dry pressed cake and is applied to the eyelashes with a wetted brush.
- A preparation that is applied to the face to make it more attractive.
- A suspension of small beads of one liquid within another liquid with which the first liquid will not mix; for example, oil in water.
- A cosmetic used by women, especially in Asia and the Middle East, as an eye makeup. It usually consists of salts of metals, such as lead and antimony.
- A coloring substance.
- A mixture of very fine particles of solid in a liquid, but in which the solids are not dissolved in the liquid.
- Resistant to water penetration.
For More Information
Kunzig, Robert. "Style of the Nile: Re-creating the Chemistry and Cosmetics of Queen Nefertiti." Discover. (September 1999): pp. 80–83.
Lewis, Carol. "Clearing Up Cosmetic Confusion." FDA Consumer. (May–June 1998): pp. 6–11.
"Eye Products." U.S. Food and Drug Administration.http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-821.html (accessed on July 22, 2002).
Illes, Judith. "Ancient Egyptian Eye Makeup." Tour Egypt Monthly.http://www.egyptmonth.com/mag09012000/mag4.htm (accessed on July 22, 2002).
"On the Teen Scene: Cosmetics and Reality." U.S. Food and Drug Administration.http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-813.html (accessed on July 22, 2002).
Mascara is a cosmetic applied to the eyelashes to make the lashes thicker, longer, and darker. It is one of the most ancient cosmetics known, having been used in Egypt possibly as early as 4000 b.c. Egyptians used a substance called kohl to darken their lashes, eyebrows, and eyelids. Egyptian kohl was probably made of galena or lead sulfite, malachite, and charcoal or soot. The Babylonians and ancient Greeks also used black eye cosmetics, as did the later Romans. Cosmetics of all sorts fell out of use in Europe after the fall of Rome, though eye cosmetics continued to be important in the Arab world. The use of cosmetics was revived in Europe during the Renaissance.
Early mascara from the modern era usually took the form of a pressed cake. It was applied to the lashes with a wetted brush. The ingredients typically were 50% soap and 50% black pigment. The pigment was sifted and combined with soap chips, run through a mill several times, and then pressed into cakes. A variation on this was cream mascara, a lotion-like substance that was packaged in a tube. To apply it, the user would squeeze a small amount of mascara out of the tube onto a small brush. This was a messy process that was much improved with the invention in the 1960s of the mascara applicator. This patented device was a grooved application rod that picked up a consistent amount of mascara when pulled from the bottle. The grooved rod was soon replaced with a brush. This new ease of application may have contributed to the increased popularity of mascara in the late 1960s.
There are many different formulas for mascara. All contain pigments. In the United States, federal regulations prohibit the use of any pigments derived from coal or tar in eye cosmetics, so mascaras use natural colors and inorganic pigments. Carbon black is the black pigment in most mascara recipes, and iron oxides provide brown colors. Other colors such as ultramarine blue are used in some formulas. One common type of mascara consists of an emulsion of oils, waxes, and water. In formulas for this type of mascara, beeswax is often used, as is carnauba wax and paraffin. Oils may be mineral oil, lanolin, linseed oil, castor oil, oil of turpentine, eucalyptus oil, and even sesame oil. Some formulas contain alcohol. Stearic acid is a common ingredient of lotion-based formulas, as are stiffeners such as ceresin and gums such as gum tragacanth and methyl cellulose. Some mascaras include fine rayon fibers, which make the product more viscous.
There are two main types of mascara currently manufactured. One type is called anhydrous, meaning it contains no water. The second type is made with a lotion base, and it is manufactured by the emulsion method.
- 1 In this method, ingredients are mixed in tanks or kettles, which make a small batch of 10-30 gal (38-114 1). The ingredients are first carefully measured and weighed. Then a worker empties them into the mixing tank. Heat is applied to melt the waxes, and the mixture is agitated, usually by means of a propeller blade. The agitation continues until the mixture reaches a semi-solid state.
2 In this method, water and thickeners are combined to make a lotion or cream base. Waxes and emulsifiers are heated and melted separately, and pigments are added. Then the waxes and lotion base are combined in a very high speed mixer or homogenizer. Unlike the tank or kettle above, the homogenizer is enclosed and mixes the ingredients at very high speed without incorporating any air or causing evaporation. The oils and waxes are broken down into very small beads by the rapid action of the homogenizer and held in suspension in the water. The homogenizer may hold as little as 5 gal (19 1), or as much as 100 gal (380 1). The high-speed mixing action continues until the mixture reaches room temperature.
The following steps are common to both types of mascara.
- 3 After the mascara solution has cooled or reached the proper state, workers transfer it to a tote bin. Next, they roll the tote bin to the filling area and empty the solution into a hopper on a filling machine. The filling machine pumps a measured amount (typically about 0.175 oz [5 g]) of the solution into glass or plastic mascara bottles. The bottles are usually capped by hand. Samples are removed for inspection, and the rest are readied for distribution.
Checks for quality and purity are taken at various stages in the manufacture of mascara. The chemicals are checked in the tank before the mixing begins to make sure the correct ingredients and proper amounts are in place. After the batch is mixed, it is rechecked. After the batch is bottled, representative samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the batch are taken out. These are examined for chemical composition. At this point they are also tested for microbiological impurities.
Some mascaras on the market today boast all-natural ingredients, and their recipes vary little from products that might have been made at home 100 years ago. One development that may affect mascara manufacturing in the future, however, is the development of new pigments. Researchers in the plastics industry have developed bold, vivid pigments that have recently been introduced to lipsticks. Plastic-derived pigments may be of interest to mascara manufacturers as well.
Where to Learn More
Angeloglou, Maggie. A History of Make-up. The Macmillan Company, 1970.
Aucoin, Kevyn. The Art of Make Up. Harper Collins, 1994.
Schemann, Andrew. Cosmetics Buying Guide. Consumer Reports Books, 1993.
Wetterhahn, Julius. "Eye Makeup," in Cosmetics: Science and Technology. M. S. Balsam and Edward Sagarin, ed. John Wiley & Sons, 1972.
Iverson, Annemarie. "Pigment of the Imagination." Harper's Bazaar, May 1995, pp. 160-164.
Named after the Spanish word for "mask," mascara is a type of makeup that is applied to the eyelashes to make them appear darker, longer, and thicker. Though women, and occasionally men, have applied darkeners to their eyelashes for centuries, modern mascara was first created and sold around 1915, the beginning of a time when cosmetics were becoming increasingly popular.
At many different times women have used substances to alter their appearance according to the fashion of the day, so the idea of mascara is not new. For example, around 400 b.c.e. ancient Greek women rubbed powdery black incense into their eyelashes for a dramatic appearance. In the post–American Civil War (1861–65) United States, wealthy northern women shocked older society by wearing mascara on their eyes as a sign of prosperity. Mascara first became socially acceptable during the early 1900s, as women began to express their independence and seek an energetic, sexy new fashion. Along with the traditional dark mascara, made fashionable by popular film stars of the time, there was also brightly colored mascara with applicators that looked like crayons.
In 1915 an American named T. L. Williams noticed that his sister Mabel colored her lashes with a petroleum jelly called Vaseline, mixed with coal dust for color. He began to package and sell the product, calling it Maybelline. Williams sold his mascara successfully through the mail until the 1930s. Then, the heavy use of cosmetics had become so fashionable that more and more women wanted to buy mascara. In 1932 Maybelline created a special package of mascara that sold in stores for ten cents.
Early mascara was packaged in cakes with a tiny brush for applying it. A woman would wet the brush and then rub it on the cake of mascara to create a paste to carefully brush over the lashes. In 1957 famous cosmetics manufacturer Helena Rubenstein (1870–1965) invented a liquid form of mascara that came in a tube with a brush inside.
For women who use cosmetics, and for some men, such as rock musicians, who wish to create a dramatic impression, mascara has remained popular into the twenty-first century. Though the general use of mascara to thicken and darken eyelashes has remained the same, there have been various improvements, such as the creation of waterproof mascara, non-irritating mascara, and mascara that curls the lashes.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Maybelline. http://www.maybelline.com (accessed on August 18, 2003).
Peiss, Kathy Lee. Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1998.
mas·car·a / maˈskarə/ • n. a cosmetic for darkening and thickening the eyelashes. DERIVATIVES: mas·car·aed / -ˈskarəd/ adj.