Beauty Products in the Past

Beauty Products in the Past:

Great Lash, in all its iconic glory, may seem like the first drugstore mascara in existence, but there’s far more to the story. Before Maybelline filled its pink-and-green tubes with mascara, it sold “eyelash darkener,” a pressed formula applied to lashes with a mini brush reminiscent of a toothbrush. The darkener was launched in 1917, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that the nickname “mascara” became official. It was sold for about 10 cents — roughly the equivalent of $2 today.


Then: Stoneware hairdryers

We could devote an entire story to the ways people have dried their locks over the centuries, but this might very well be the strangest. These Thermicon glazed stoneware hairdryers are from the U.K., dating from 1880 to 1900.

How, exactly, do they work? Heed the inscribed instructions: “Fill it with boiling water and it dries the hair after washing in a few minutes.” So it’s a hot-water bottle for your ‘do? Okay.


Then: Curling tongs

Downton Abbey devotees will recognize these. As early as the era of the Great Roman Empire, metal tongs like these were used to wave and curl hair on both the head and face (beard curls!). This handy set comes from 1891, and was cutting-edge for its day. (The traveling heating chamber meant you could curl in front of a mirror, not the stove or fire.)

It’s a simple idea: The metal is heated, and then the hair is wrapped just like with a modern curling iron, albeit with a lot more practice required. Just try not to burn your forehead on this set.


Then: Perfume stoppers

The idea of toting their perfumes around would probably make people of previous centuries turn up their noses, since delicate bottles like these were commonplace. A glass stopper prevented the scent from splashing out, but it wasn’t until the atomizer was invented in the late 19th century (for medical purposes, then eventually adopted by the beauty industry) that perfumes became travel-friendly. These bottles are from right around the turn of the 20th century.


Then: The straightening comb

The jury is out on who invented the straightening comb (also called a hot comb). Most say modern versions came from France — but it was Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker who first patented a version of the device in the States. Walker gave the comb more spacing between the bristles, a smart change that helped launch her career. In fact, she’s widely hailed as the first female African-American millionaire in the U.S. That’s what we call a trailblazer.


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