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Women have always known that the eyes are wickedly potent tools of attraction — hence the ongoing quest for the perfect eye makeup. Fashions in cosmetics come and go, but some things never change — glamour girls are still on a mission for the perfect smoky eye, just like the infamous empress, Cleopatra. Science and technology may be close to bringing us never-fail mascara and the liner of our dreams, but the simple truth is, girls just want to look cute.

Egyptian Beauty Secrets

The first Dynasty of Egypt is credited with the earliest implementation of eye makeup. In addition to using waxes and oils on their skin, Egyptians painted their eyes with kohl. Kohl was an elaborate concoction of ash, burnt almonds, antimony, copper malachite and ochre, which was not only to beautify but to prevent infection and protect the eyes from the harsh glare of the African sun. Talk about a multitasker!

Grecian Glam

After the Greeks invaded Egypt, they appropriated the Egyptian knowledge of sacred oils and medicinal cosmetics for their own, less philosophical purposes. Grecian women of the 7th and 8th centuries expanded on the idea of kohl with their version of eyeshadow, called fucus. This colorful pigment was created from crushed stones such as malachite, ultramarine and lapis lazuli, in vivid shades of blue and green. The Greeks then passed these beauty tools to Roman women, who followed suit, adorning their eyes with the seductive hues.

Japan’s Makeup Magic

In the 11th century, inventive Japanese women used natural resources to decorate their eyes. They used crushed flower petals, rice flour, and even bird droppings to make a shadow for the eyes. Their eye-shadow brushes were made of wax and were used to paint and elongate the entire eye.

The Pioneers of Pretty

In the 1800s Europe — and Victorian England, in particular — makeup was shunned, though lemon juice was used as an eye brightener and belladonna — a toxic herb — was ingested to make the eyes more luminous. In the early 20th century, American women began to use petroleum jelly and beads of hot wax to enhance their eyelashes. Eugene Rimmel, a London chemist, created the first nontoxic European mascara in the late 1880s. An American chemist, T. L. Williams, created the first mascara in the United States for his sister Mabel in 1913. He later named it Maybelline, an amalgam of his sister’s name and the Vaseline — as well as soot — from which it was made.

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