Mascara is a cosmetic commonly used to enhance the eyelashes. It may darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define the eyelashes. Normally in one of three forms—liquid, powder, or cream—the modern mascara product has various formulas; however, most contain the same basic components of pigments, oils, waxes, and preservatives. The most common form of mascara is a liquid in a tube.
The Collins English Dictionary defines mascara as “a cosmetic substance for darkening, lengthening, curling, coloring, and thickening the eyelashes, applied with a brush or rod.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) adds that mascara is occasionally used on the eyebrows as well.
The OED also references mascaro from works published in the late 15th century. In 1886, the Peck & Snyder Catalogue advertises, “Mascaro or Water Cosmetique… For darkening the eyebrow and moustaches without greasing them and making them prominent.” In 1890, the Century Dictionary defined mascara as “a kind of paint used for the eyebrows and eyelashes by actors.” And in 1894, N. Lynn advises in Lynn’s Practical Hints for Making-up, “to darken eyelashes, paint with mascara, or black paint, with a small brush.”
The pigmentation for black mascara is similar to that used by the Egyptians and Victorian women. Black and brown mascaras typically are colored by use of iron oxides. Some mascaras contain ultramarine blue.