When Was Waterproof Mascara Invented?

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Arguably one of the most important components in every girl’s cosmetic bag is mascara. Mascara enhances the eyes by darkening, lengthening, and volumizing lashes. It makes the eyes look bigger and brighter, and more youthful.

The only issue with mascara is that heat, sweat, tears, and water can turn your well-polished look from fabulous to a horror show as it streaks down your face. Enter waterproof mascara.

Mascara has been around for thousands of years, dating back more than 4000 years, but when was waterproof mascara invented? Waterproof mascara was invented in the late 1930s. But that depends on how you define it! We’ll discuss this product evolution, and why it matters, below.


Mascara – A Brief History

Eye of Horus

Kohl was used by both men and women in ancient Egyptian times to darken eyelashes, eyelids, and eyebrows to mask the eyes.

It was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the soul.

The use of kohl as mascara and an eye cosmetic carried on throughout the Babylonian, Greek, and Roman empires. It fell out of favor in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire but continued to be used in the Middle East.

The Victorian Era brought about an emphasis on cosmetics. And women tended to be very preoccupied with beauty.

The mascara of the day was a mixture of ash or lampblack and elderberry juice heated on a plate, then the heated mixture was applied to the eyelashes.

The more modern version of mascara that we know today was not developed until 1835. Chemist Eugène Rimmel developed the first ‘modern’ mascara using petroleum jelly mixed with coal dust.

The name Rimmel became so synonymous with mascara that “Rimmel” still literally translates to “mascara” in Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Romanian, and Persian today.

While Rimmel launched his product, a chemist from New York named T.L. Williams, on the other side of the ocean, created a mascara for his sister Maybel, also using vaseline and coal dust.

This product became vastly popular in the US at the time. His company Maybell Laboratories, later became Maybelline – a hybrid of his sister’s name ‘Maybel’ and ‘Vaseline’. 

A major breakthrough in the history of mascara happened in 1958 when Helena Rubinstein launched Mascara-Matic. It was a metal tube, the size of a pen, which contained a grooved metal rod that was used to apply the formula to the eyelashes.

It was the first appearance of the combined mascara wand-in-tube that we all now associate with mascara.

When Was Waterproof Mascara Invented?

Waterproof Mascara

Now technically speaking Ancient Egyptians, you could argue, made the first waterproof mascara… or at least smudge-proof mascara.

The kohl they used was composed of galena, malachite, and charcoal or soot. The Egyptians started adding crocodile stool and honey to keep the kohl from running. (Yes, that’s weird! Maybe this is part of the source of the bat poop rumor?)

Fast forward to 1933. It wasn’t until then that there was another attempt at waterproof mascara in the form of an eyelash dye.

Lash Lure

Lash Lure was manufactured in Los Angeles and only available in salons. Lash Lure used para-phenylenediamine, an extremely toxic chemical, as the dyeing agent.

Lash Lure was responsible for over a dozen women developing ulcers on their eyelids leading to blindness and the death of one woman due to a bacterial infection from the product.

Hmm, maybe the crocodile stool was a better choice after all…

The only good to come out of the Lash Lure fiasco was that it led to Congress granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the right to regulate cosmetics.  

Okay ancient Egyptians and the toxic lash dye of the early 30s notwithstanding, if you wanted to know – when was waterproof mascara invented? – like, officially recognized: it was December 29, 1938.


A Viennese actress, Helene Viethaler Winterstein, patented the world’s first waterproof mascara. It was spawned by having mascara run down her face under the hot glare of stage lights.

This new waterproof version of mascara took the form of a cake, which was applied by a brush, like regular mascaras at the time.

Her formula mainly consisted of waxes, an emulsifier, and turpentine oil, which is a toxic chemical and has an extremely strong smell.

Mascaras have come a long way since then. Not only is the composition of modern-day mascara completely safe from toxic chemicals, but they’ve also evolved to include a whole host of lengthening, volumizing and thickening formulas.

The best of these actually care for your lashes!

How Do You Take Off Waterproof Mascara?

What makes waterproof mascara great, also makes it harder than regular mascara to take off. Oil-based products tend to be the most effective at removing waterproof mascara. That having been said, there are a few makeup removers that are plant and water-based that also do a pretty good job.

Micellar waters are the best of both worlds combining tiny oil micelles in a water base, so they are light, great at gently cleansing, and don’t leave your face feeling greasy.

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Purifying Micellar Water and Cleansing Water-Proof Makeup Remover, 11.3 fl. oz
Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Purifying Micellar Water and Cleansing Water-Proof Makeup Remover, 11.3 fl. oz
Cleanses skin by targeting all skin impurities like excess oil, dirt, and makeup.; Leaves skin soft and healthy looking.
Body Drench Micellar 3-In-1 Cleansing Water – Removes Waterproof Makeup, 8.5 fl oz
Body Drench Micellar 3-In-1 Cleansing Water – Removes Waterproof Makeup, 8.5 fl oz
Removes waterproof makeup; Soothes and refreshes the skin; Perfect for face, eyes, and lips
$9.05 Amazon Prime

Step 1:

Use a cotton pad with your remover of choice and hold it against your eye for 20-30 seconds. It’s important to give it time to loosen up your mascara. Rubbing vigorously will just tug at your lashes and cause undue strain and stretching of the skin around your eyes.

Mother Nature will catch up to you soon enough – no need to speed up that process.

Step 2:

Gently wipe the cotton pad in a downward motion.

Step 3:

Fold the cotton pad in half and wipe the underside of your lashes to remove any remaining mascara.

Step 4:

Sweep the cotton pad across the top of the lash line on your upper eyelid and across the lash line underneath your bottom lashes to remove and mascara you may have wiped onto your skin.

Step 5:

Repeat the process on the other eye with a new, clean cotton pad.

Best Waterproof Mascaras

Best All Around: Maybelline Lash Sensational Waterproof Mascara 

Maybelline Lash Sensational Waterproof Mascara, Lengthening and Volumizing for a Full Fan Effect,Very Black, 1 Count
  • Lash Sensational Mascara: Exclusive...
  • Define Your Eye: No eye makeup look is...
  • Maybelline Is The Eye Expert: Whatever...
  • Create any look with Maybelline;...

Lash Sensational went viral on Tik Tok about a year ago, and with over 13 million views, there are no signs of this mascara falling out of favor anytime soon.

Beauty aficionados regularly referring to it as “best mascara ever” say they are obsessed with its lash lengthening super powers, and its straight lash volumizing capabilities.

Best All Around – Runner Up: Tarte Lights, Camera Splashes Mascara 

Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Splashes Waterproof mascara lengthens, curls, conditions, and volumizes your lashes, so you’ll be ready for your close-up.

Best Drugstore: Covergirl LashBlast Volume Mascara 

Covergirl Lash Blast Volume Waterproof Mascara, Very Black
  • MAX OUT THOSE LASHES: Designed to max...
  • MEGA VOLUME IN AN INSTANT: Instant blast...
  • PICK YOUR SHADE: Available in 4...
  • ZERO CLUMPS: This volumizing mascara...
  • CRUELTY-FREE: Covergirl products are...

LashBlast Volume Mascara gives you instant volume and fullness with its patented brush and waterproof formula.

Best Volumizing: No products found.

No products found.

Lancome’s Hypnose doll eyes mascara has long been a celebrity cult favorite and has just recently released their waterproof version. It provides so much super dramatic volume that it might be just a little too over the top for everyday wear.

Best Curling: Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara 

Benefit Cosmetics Roller Lash Super Curling & Lifting Mascara in Black 0.3 oz
  • A water-resistant and easy-to-remove...
  • Features an instant curve-setting...
  • Helps grab, separate, lift and curl up...
  • English (Publication Language)

The patent-pending ‘Hook ‘n’ Roll’ brush makes this waterproof mascara our top choice for best curling mascara because it applies its satiny finish evenly and lifts, separates, and curls in one fell swoop.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).