Mascara is a cosmetic used to darken, colour, thicken, lengthen, or define eyelashes. Mascara comes in three forms: liquid, cake, and cream. It also comes in many formulas, tints, and colours. Mascara is available in tubes with wand applicators. Ingredients in mascara include water, wax thickeners, film-formers, and preservatives. Mascara brushes can be straight or curved, to curl eyelashes, with fine or thick bristles. Some mascara wands contain rayon or nylon fibers to lengthen eyelashes.


The first mascara product was invented by Eugene Rimmel in the 19th century. The word "rimmel" still means "mascara" in several languages, including Portuguese (rĂ­mel), Turkish (rimel), Romanian (rimel), Italian (rimmel), Persian (rimel) etc.

The word mascara derives from the Italian maschera, which means "mask" from Middle Latin masca or from Old Occitan masco. Modern mascara was created in 1913 by a chemist named T. L. Williams for his sister, Mabel. This early mascara was made from coal dust mixed with Vaseline petroleum jelly. The product was a success with Mabel, and Williams began to sell his new product through the mail. His company Maybelline, whose name is a combination of his sister's name and Vaseline, eventually became a leading cosmetics company.

Mascara is used to darken and thicken lashes, and was composed of colorants and carnauba wax. Users wet a brush and rubbed it over the cake, then applied it to the eyes. Mascara is used to enhance the appearance of the eyes as well as draw attention to them.

The modern tube and wand applicator was more appealing to the market than the old "cake" mascara. Max Factor was the first to create a mascara with a wand applicator in the product tube, which started the modern mascara products available today.


Modern mascaras can be divided in two groups: water resistant mascaras (often labeled waterproof) and non-water resistant mascaras.

Water resistant mascaras have a composition based on a volatile solvent (isododecane - an isomer of dodecane), animal-derived waxes (beeswax), vegetal based waxes (carnauba wax, rice bran wax, candelila wax), mineral origin wax (ozokerite, paraffin), pigments (iron oxide, ultramarine) and filmifying polymers. These mascaras do not contain water-sensitive moieties, offering an excellent resistance to tears, sweat or rain. As a result, these mascaras can only be removed with a specific make-up remover, able to dilute the dried mascara film.

Egg whites are often used in colored mascara.

Non water-resistant mascaras are based on water, soft surfactants (like triethanolamine stearate), animal-derived waxes (beeswax), vegetal based waxes (carnauba wax, rice bran wax, candelilla wax), mineral origin waxes (ozokerite, paraffin), pigments (iron oxide, ultramarine), thickening polymers (gum arabic, hydrophobically modified cellulose) and on preservatives. These mascaras can run under the effect of tears, but are easily removed with some soap and water.

Polymers in a water dispersed form (latexes) can bring some level of water resistance to the group of normally non-water resistant mascaras.

Waterproof mascaras are similar to oil-based or solvent-based paints. Non water-resistant mascaras behave like water based paints. For intermediate water sensitivity, mascaras and latex-based paints (acrylates) contain polymer dispersions.

Mascara may be used on all eyelashes, from inner to outer corners. The mascara wand is dipped into a clean tube of mascara, applied close to the base of the lashes and worked out to the tips. Mascara wands are made of plastic and should never be shared. Mascara can be applied to the top eyelashes for a 'heavy-lidded' look, or to the bottom lashes to widen the eyes. It is usually applied to curled lashes and may be preceded by a lash primer.

The desired lengthening effect is achieved by reapplication of the mascara in 2-3 minutes. The moisture in some mascaras and primers can cause lashes to uncurl during application, which is easily solved by using a waterproof mascara with a drier formula. Waterproof mascara should be carefully removed in order to limit eyelash breakage.

Mascara that contains nylon fibers can give lashes a fuller and longer appearance because it clings to the lashes like mini extensions. Provitamin B5 in mascara acts as a conditioner for lashes, giving them a softer and more natural feel. For safety and health reasons, mascaras should be discarded 3 months after opening, especially if the color or smell changes.