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Who Invented the First Commercial Eyeliner?


Although it is difficult to say who exactly invented the first commercial eyeliner, it is safe to say that eyeliner started to gain mass popularity in the early 1900’s, initially using the same formulation that it was traditionally made in during the ancient Egyptian times, using kohl and animal fat.

The Evolution of Eyeliner

The popularity and acceptance of commercially made eyeliner started when the members of the Russian ballet performed in London in 1909, appearing on stage with defined and dramatic eye make up. Incidentally, this is also the time that the demand for mascara and eye shadow increased immensely as well.

Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, two of the most prominent purveyors of commercially manufactured cosmetics in the early 1900’s were inspired by the Russian ballet dancers and thus created eye make up to emulate the looks they have seen on stage.

Helena Rubenstein is also credited with having invented a special kind of kohl or eyeliner to make then movie star Theda Bara’s eyes look more dramatic on the big screen.

Commercial Eye Makeup

Other types of eye makeup were also manufactured commercially in the early 1900’s such as mascara and the eyebrow pencil. Commercially-made eyebrow pencils were said to have risen to popularity in the 1920’s when it was made using hydrogenated cottonseed oil, making its application easier. Commercially manufactured make-up is attributed to Max Factor, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden.



Azoulay, Elisabeth, Angela Demian, and Dalibor Frioux. 100,000 Years of Beauty. Paris: Gallimard, 2009. Print.

Riordan, Teresa. Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations That Have Made Us Beautiful. New York: Broadway, 2004. Print.

“A Brief History of Makeup.” Beauty Artist Hall of Fame – Home. Web. 04 Jan. 2011.

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