History of How Maybelline Great Lash Came to Be the World’s Most Recognizable Mascara

That iconic little pink-and-green-tube has quite the backstory.

Even the most casual cosmetics dabbler is acutely aware of the most famous mascara of all time: Maybelline New York Great Lash. The brand’s iconic lash lengthener debuted in 1971 and remains its top seller, with one of the pink-and-green tubes crossing a cash register scanner somewhere around the globe every 2.5 seconds. It’s earned the Allure Readers’ Choice Award 20 years in a row and remains the company’s best-selling product to this very day.

Beauty historians know that the lore of Maybelline itself begins with mascara — the very first one, in fact. In 1913, young Chicago chemist Thomas Williams had an older sister, Mabel, who was in love with a man who was in love with someone else. Her unrequited feelings proved the perfect impetus for a makeover, much like in every rom-com worth watching. 

Mabel did her best with what was available: She used Vaseline on her lashes and brows to enhance them for a sultry stare. Her brother had the idea to amp up the effect by adding carbon dust to the Vaseline, which darkened her lashes and brows more dramatically. The product worked, and in 1915, Mabel scored her suitor and Thomas founded what would become the global industry giant, Maybelline (a combination of “Mabel” and “Vaseline“).


Two years later, Williams introduced Maybelline Cake Mascara, which was the first modern eye cosmetic intended for everyday use. Though cake mascara was initially available only via mail order, it was so popular that women began to ask for it in drugstores. In 1932, Maybelline began selling its Cake Mascara in a variety of retailers responding to overwhelming demand. Now a collectors’ item, the original product sold for 10 cents.

In the early 1960s, Maybelline became the first brand to bring automatic technology — a single tube housing both the mascara formula and the brush applicator — to the public with its Ultra Lash. And then in 1971, Maybelline New York Great Lash was born, further solidifying the company’s standing as the mascara authority.

A cosmetic gateway drug for many who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara is perhaps one of the most easily-recognizable beauty products in history. Its now-iconic neon color scheme was no doubt partly what got it noticed when it debuted, but it was what’s inside the tube that proved to be a real game-changer in the marketplace in the early 1970s. 

The formula is water-based, which was groundbreaking and revolutionary when the product launched,” says Amy Whang, Maybelline’s senior vice president of marketing. “At the time, most mascaras were solvent-based and tended to repel water, making it difficult to remove without an oil-based remover.” 


While the tube and first-of-its-kind formula were flashy, the product’s name was intentionally less so. In part, that owes to the fact that the clever copywriting we’re accustomed to today was simply not a priority in the 1970s. After all, there were not only far fewer brands in the beauty market, but there were also far fewer product options available to consumers. For Maybelline, this straightforwardness reigned supreme. “The name was meant to be simple,” says Whang. “A great formula, an easy application and a natural lash look — Great Lash was born.”

The mascara’s easily-identifiable packaging (just try to lose it in the cavern of your makeup bag) was inspired by then up-and-coming designer Lilly Pulitzer. “At the time, makeup trends were all about color,” says Whang. “[The color scheme was] in line with that and the décor and fashion themes of the time. It is so recognizable, and of course remains to this day.”

But the enduring popularity of Maybelline Great Lash is that consumers do, indeed, find the formula itself to be, well, great. “It’s truly an American icon and that’s why it remains Maybelline’s number-one mascara year after year. The Great Lash formula has not changed since the original blend. It’s one of the most closely guarded formulas in makeup,” says Whang.

It’s been posited recently that mascara is losing its ground and waning in importance to beauty companies, but in fact it seems that the opposite may be true: Many brands are doubling down and working with their respective R&D departments to perfect their formulas, bring new technology to the space and generate the kind of excitement for mascara consumers showed for Great Lash’s first 1971 drop.

Glossier, for instance, released its first mascara in May of 2018, more than three years deep into its successful tenure in the marketplace. It took a reported 248 tries to get it just right. Then there’s Chanel’s new Le Volume Revolution, the first mascara to bring 3D printing technology to lashes with its carefully crafted brush. In fact, of any color cosmetics category, mascara is perhaps the one that offers the most opportunity for continued ingenuity and advancement. And for Maybelline, it absolutely remains a key focus. “Mascara is definitely the core of Maybelline New York and a big priority for our internal labs,” says Whang. “The goal is to innovate and break through; we’re the leader on mascara, so the teams work on new formulas and brushes as a priority.”

FASHIONISTA

History Of How MAC’S RUBY WOO Became One Of The Best-selling Lipsticks In The World

Some of the best things in life have been the result of happy accidents. MAC Cosmetics Retro Matte Lipstick in Ruby Woo, the brand’s iconic red shade that launched in 1999, also happens to fall under the accidental genius category.

The 21-year-old lipstick has been one of MAC’s best-selling lip colors since its debut. But the brand’s product developers never actually set out to create it; instead, they were trying to tweak the formula of the brand’s other well-known scarlet shade, Russian Red, which was the best-seller at the time. (Madonna wore it all throughout her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, after all.) 

“In the late ’90s, MAC made the decision to make all of our formulas globally compliant,” says Gregory Arlt, the company’s director of makeup artistry. “So if you were in Japan or Germany, and you wanted to buy Russian Red, it would be the same formula [across the board], as opposed to what’s compliant for each country.” With this reformulation came an ever-so-slight change to the texture, making Russian Red a little less matte and a little more comfortable to wear. “Fans revolted, saying they missed that ‘drag your lips off’ dry, matte feeling,” recalls Arlt, who has been with the brand since 1993. “So we quickly ran back to the labs,” he says, and MAC returned to Russian Red’s original formulation, never touching it again. Lesson learned.

However, during the initial reformulation process, the new, slightly less matte version of Russian Red caught the eye of the team. “When product development showed [then-Creative Director] James Gager and Jennifer Balbier (who’s still the senior vice president of global product development) the new shade, they were both like, ‘Oh my God, that’s an amazing color.’ And that’s how Ruby Woo was born. The product development team really tried to match Russian Red. It’s the same combination of pigments, just put into a different base,” says Arlt. “But it was a little brighter and more dynamic, and it just became a standalone color.”

When Ruby Woo launched in the late ’90s, it was part of a line called Retro Matte Lipsticks, along with five other shades (which have since been discontinued). Ruby Woo, however, became an instant success. “Customers would flock to the counters, saying they needed Ruby Woo because they didn’t have another red like it,” says Arlt. “And they didn’t realize it was actually supposed to be Russian Red.”

Decades later, Ruby Woo hasn’t been tweaked since its release. It remains MAC’s best-selling shade in the U.S., and the brand’s second-best-selling shade globally (Chilli currently holds the top spot), with seven tubes of Ruby Woo selling around the world every minute.

I actually grew up dancing, and long before I began my career as a makeup artist, I was wearing Ruby Woo onstage and for performances,” says makeup artist and founder of Beautifoles, Brittney Foley. “From the time I started competing in elementary school, all the way through college, Ruby Woo was the lip color of choice of all of my directors and coaches.” These days, Foley still reaches for it when working with clients. “Other red lipsticks can definitely be more ‘trendy’ if they get too deep or bright, but Ruby Woo is able to transcend years of trends and always be classic and current. It can’t be defined by a time period.”

Aside from its legions of devoted customers and makeup artists, Ruby Woo is also a celebrity favorite, with everyone from Janet Jackson to Rita Ora to Taylor Swift (who allegedly reaches for a trusty tube of Ruby Woo before concerts) relying on the formula. “I’ve used it on Dita Von Teese and Angelina Jolie,” says Arlt. “I actually used it on Angelina for the September issue cover of Vanity Fair in 2017, and it created a little bit of a frenzy. Everyone was like, ‘What is that red lip?‘” Of course, “it was good ol’ Ruby Woo.”

So many celebrities started to talk about Ruby Woo, and it eclipsed poor Russian Red,” says Arlt. “It’s what we call in the industry a clean red. There are blue-reds, orange-reds and brick-reds. There’s no other color to influence the state of Ruby Woo. Like, if you’re looking at a color wheel, the red — which is a primary color — is basically Ruby Woo.”

FASHIONISTA

Dig Out Your Blue Eyeshadow – It’s Trending Again

There was a time in the late ’90s and early noughties when blue eye make-up reigned supreme. In schools up and down the nation, eyes were ringed with the cool colour in every shade – inspired by Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera, and Christina Ricci in Buffalo 66. While the craze did eventually die down, now blue is back and trending again. In fact, sales of the frosty blue MAC Tilt Eyeshadow ballooned to two and a half times what they had been between March and May this year, according to sales statistics from John Lewis.

“There is definitely a desire in beauty to wear less make-up but with more interesting shade choices, hence why a wash of fresh colour is becoming more desirable than heavily structured neutrals,” says director of make-up artistry at Mac Cosmetics, Terry Barber. “Blue eyeshadow is one of the shades undergoing a renaissance, and it’s being reinvented as something flattering and chic, rather than the kitsch, clownish image it might have had in the past.”

Whether it’s a sheer veil of a matte blue shade or a full-on molten blue disco hue, the world of blue eyeshadow is yours for the taking. A stellar recent example of the trend could be seen recently on Nicola Coughlan, who wore a striking cobalt blue to the BAFTA TV Awards. The make-up artist behind the look, Neil Young, previously told Vogue that he loved the shade as “it’s the perfect antidote to black and yet it still defines the eye, makes every eye colour pop ,and works on every single skin tone”. He added that you can wear it graphic and bold, or in place of a traditional black eyeliner.

So how to make the look work? Barber believes it’s all about creating a painterly, low-maintenance appearance, rather than anything too “structured” or overly technical. “That leads to an immediately retro ’80s look when there is blue involved,” he says. “It’s also important when wearing blue on the eyes that you don’t use colour elsewhere, as it can make it look garish or dolly.” He recommends pairing with a bronzed cheek and a fresh nude lip or clear gloss, to create the ultimate low key ’70s look, as well as several coats of mascara.

When it comes to colour, seek out tinted eyeshadows with a soft, shimmery finish and those with a more delicate colour pay-off (these are more likely to suit all skin tones and eye colours). While strong shades like cobalt are great for statement red carpet looks, Barber is a fan of soft, glamorous shades like duck egg, bluebell, Wedgewood and teal for daytime eyes, or for those who like to keep things minimal.

Below, British Vogue’s edit of the blue eyeshadow shades to try now.

VOGUE article

Ruby Woo – the History of One of the Best-Selling Lipsticks in the World

The 21-year-old lipstick has been one of MAC’s best-selling lip colors since its debut. But the brand’s product developers never actually set out to create it; instead, they were trying to tweak the formula of the brand’s other well-known scarlet shade, Russian Red, which was the best-seller at the time. (Madonna wore it all throughout her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, after all.) 

“In the late ’90s, MAC made the decision to make all of our formulas globally compliant,” says Gregory Arlt, the company’s director of makeup artistry. “So if you were in Japan or Germany, and you wanted to buy Russian Red, it would be the same formula [across the board], as opposed to what’s compliant for each country.” With this reformulation came an ever-so-slight change to the texture, making Russian Red a little less matte and a little more comfortable to wear. “Fans revolted, saying they missed that ‘drag your lips off’ dry, matte feeling,” recalls Arlt, who has been with the brand since 1993. “So we quickly ran back to the labs,” he says, and MAC returned to Russian Red’s original formulation, never touching it again. Lesson learned.

However, during the initial reformulation process, the new, slightly less matte version of Russian Red caught the eye of the team. “When product development showed [then-Creative Director] James Gager and Jennifer Balbier (who’s still the senior vice president of global product development) the new shade, they were both like, ‘Oh my God, that’s an amazing color.’ And that’s how Ruby Woo was born. The product development team really tried to match Russian Red. It’s the same combination of pigments, just put into a different base,” says Arlt. “But it was a little brighter and more dynamic, and it just became a standalone color.”

Have you tried this color? What about Russian Red? Did you know about the history behind this iconic shade? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below!

FASHIONISTA article

Audrey Hepburn’s Lipstick In “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

My all-time favourite film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “Because nothing bad can ever happen at Tiffany’s…” right? I wholeheartedly agree!

The iconic lipstick that Audrey Hepburn (Holly) wears throughout the film has been on the minds of beauty lovers for decades! And luckily for us, it can still be found and purchased today.

The legendary shade comes from non-other but Revlon, the pioneer of makeup industry at the time. Their creme lipstick in the shade “Pink in the Afternoon” is the historic item being reapplied throughout the course of the film at least five times, enough for the audience to fall in love with it.

Have you wondered about her lipstick shade before? Are you inspired to run out and grab one for yourself? Do you want me to research into other famous lipstick shades? Let me know in the comments below!

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