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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Mascara (and Then Some!)

Pop quiz: When was mascara invented? 

You might be surprised to learn that mascara as we know it—a product in a tube with a wand brush applicator—has only existed since 1958. We’ve come a long way in those 65 years, with dozens of formulas to choose from now. 

That doesn’t mean mascara is some newfangled invention, though. Whether you want to lengthen, curl, volumize, add color, or all of the above, it all started with history’s favorite makeup maven.

A Brief History of Mascara

Ask any beauty guru about their “stranded on a desert island” makeup must-haves, and there’s a good chance most will say mascara. Few other products can help you feel pulled together so quickly. 

And while no one knows for sure who invented mascara, there’s a good chance Cleopatra would agree that it’s a beauty essential. Already an icon for her heavy kohl eyeliner, an early form of mascara was also part of the Queen of the Nile’s signature look. Even men used crushed kohl to darken their lashes to block the desert sun, so it’s possible that the first mascara was more about practicality than vanity. 

By the Roman Empire, long, curled lashes were in fashion, and women applied kohl using burned cork to enhance their eyes. But it wasn’t until the 1800s that the first commercial mascara hit the scene. Cosmetics legend Eugene Rimmel, a perfumer to Queen Victoria, developed a mixture of coal dust and petroleum jelly, which was sold in pancake form with an applicator that looked like a tiny modern toothbrush.

Mascara really took off in the 1920s when a woman named Mabel Williams improved on Rimmel’s formula to add more sheen. By the 1980s, we had water-based formulas, clear mascara, mascara in nearly every color, and wands in every shape, size, and style for lush, gorgeous lashes.

How to Apply Mascara Without Smudges

Whatever type of mascara you use, the correct application technique gives you the best results. These simple steps will have you batting your lashes without clumps, streaks, or smears:

  • Curl your lashes: Lifting and lengthening them makes it easier for mascara to adhere. 
  • Apply mascara: Start at the base of your upper lashes, wiggling the wand back and forth to coat them, then pull the wand up to cover the rest of the lashes. Try rolling the applicator out to help set the curl. To coat your lower lashes, use just the tip of the wand and run it back and forth. 
  • Separate your lashes: Hold the wand down at a diagonal, and brush the tips of the lashes to remove clumps. 

More Mascara Tips? Yes Please!

Double Duty

In a pinch, mascara can work as eyeliner. Use a small eyeliner brush to apply a thin line of product to your lash line. This is the perfect opportunity to tightline, or focus on the area right at the base of your lashes for maximum definition with minimal product.

Try a Lash Primer

Applying a coat of lash primer thickens your lashes and helps colored mascara pop. Even if you’re committed to classic black, priming will boost your mascara’s volumizing potential and staying power.

You can also try using a product you probably already have: translucent powder. Dust a little on your lashes in between coats of mascara for serious volume and grip. 

Layer for Long-Lasting Lashes

Want that voluminous falsies effect without the sticky “spider eyes'' look? Curl your lashes and apply a thin coat of mascara. Let it dry fully before applying another layer. Trust us; it’s worth the time: Layers of wet product only lead to clumping, but being patient results in dramatic lashes. 

Think Outside the Tube: The New Way to Wear Mascara 

You know we couldn’t talk about mascara without talking about the latest TikTok trend: anti-mascara.

This trend is all about using mascara in fresh, creative ways. Have fun with it! Some beauty creators are using their mascara wands like markers, dotting on designs using the end of the brush, while others use the brush itself to create one-of-a-kind looks on their lids. The bristles create uniquely textured abstract shapes. If you love graphic eyeliner, give this wild technique a try.

No matter how you decide to wear your mascara, stay true to your personal style! Whether you want full, fluffy lashes or a colorful fringe that makes your eye color pop, applying mascara is an opportunity to bring some creativity into your glam. Show off your style on Instagram, and check us out on TikTok for a peek at the next great trend.

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