By Mary N. DiZazzo

Mascara Yesterday and Now

Ciao bella,

It all started with the evil eye -- in Italian mal occhio. The Egyptians would apply a circle or oval around the eye and that practice protected them against the evil eye. Kohl was also used by Iraqi men and women for the same protective purpose. Its dark chemical base was antimony, a metal, burnt almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ochre, ash, malachite, and chrysocolla (a blue-green copper ore). When mixed together these produced a dark, blackish powdery substance. Prepared by soothsayers, it was applied with a small stick and kept in a flat-bottomed pot with a wide tiny rim and flat disk-shaped lid.

Practically speaking, darkly painted circles around the eyes absorb sunlight and minimize reflections.

Today many baseball and football players use black grease under each eye before games for the same reason.

The early Egyptians, spending considerable time in the harsh desert sunlight, may have discovered this secret and produced mascara for both practical and superstitious purposes.

The word mascara derives from the Italian word maschera, which means mask.

Mascara is also the old name for the city Muaskar in Algeria.

Modern mascara was introduced in 1913 when a chemist, T. L. Williams, made some for his sister Mabel who was trying to impress her boyfriend Chet. It was a mixture of coal dust and Vaseline petroleum jelly and it was a hit. It led, naturally, to the founding of the "god of Lashes" company, Maybelline.

It was first produced in cake form. Williams sold his product only by mail.

Margot Fonteyn danced with the Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1930s London. Greasepaint for make-up had to be exaggerated. Since false eyelashes were unobtainable, one melted the black wax in a spoon over a candle and applied it carefully with a hairpin, building big blobs at the end of each lash. They sometimes fell into one's eye during the ballet.

The modern tube and wand applicator appeared first in 1957 by Helena Rubenstein.

In 1971 the legendary Maybelline introduced Great Lash mascara. Its still one of the best mascaras out there. How good is it? Maybelline said it sells one of those iconic pink-and-green tubes every 1.9 seconds in the U.S.

So flutter those lashes girls and get your man like Mabel.

Buona giornata and God bless the United States of America!

Have you missed any of Mary's columns in the Post-Gazette? Read prior weeks' "All That Zazz" columns on her website She is a third-generation cosmetologist and owner of Mary for Nails, etc. natural nailcare salon in Andover, and a Massachusetts distributor of Kosmea brand rose hip oil products. She may be contacted at (978) 470-8183. She also sees select clients by appointment in Boston at (617) 742-6881.