Cult Status is our series that highlights an iconic item from brands both established and buzz-worthy. In these features, you'll discover the fascinating history of how one extra-special piece exceeded expectations and became a forever product. This time, the focus is on Maybelline New York’s Great Lash Mascara.
There are few (if any) products that transcend generations the way Maybelline New York Great Lash Mascara has. It’s the iconic pink tube that you, your mother, and your grandmother can confidently spot in a lineup of ever-multiplying beauty newness and share stories of your first swipe. It’s a tube that has withstood the test of time for nearly five decades, flying off the shelves at a mind-blowing pace with one tube sold every five seconds across the globe, the brand shares with TZR. Maybelline Great Lash Mascara is the tried-and-true classic that has confidently maintained its reliable reputation for delivering beautifully fanned, fluttering lashes for half a century.
As Maybelline Great Lash mascara gears up for its 50th birthday in 2021, we’re diving into the fascinating history of what made this tube such a beauty all-star. From its vibrant pink packaging, to its simple and effective spiral brush, this product — which sells 17,000 tubes a day, according to the brand — deserves a spot in the Beauty Hall of Fame. Here are all the beautiful reasons why.
First, let’s dive into the heart-warming backstory that brought this baby into existence. It all started with a young Chicago entrepreneur, Thomas Lyle Williams, who watched his sister Mabel mix Vaseline and coal dust to help enhance her lashes, the brand shares with TZR. Like any awesome brother, Williams was inspired by this scene, and sought out to create an easy-to-use product to help enhance and embellish eyelashes and in 1915, the Maybelline brand was born — named after his sister, Mabel, and her go-to beauty product, Vaseline. Then in 1971, the brand formulated the first water-based, automatic mascara — indicating a single tube that housed both the mascara formula and the brush applicator, the brand explains to TZR — and gifted the world Maybelline Great Lash mascara, changing the beauty industry and our lashes for good.
Now let’s talk design. It’s hard to even mention the word mascara without a mental picture of a pink and green tube flashing in your brain. "At the time, makeup trends were all about color. [The color scheme was] in line with that and the décor and fashion themes of the time," SVP of Marketing at Maybelline New York, Amy Whang, shares with TZR. "It is so recognizable, and of course remains so to this day," she adds. The attention-grabbing pink and green tube was inspired by the bright prints and patterns of fashion designer Lily Pulitzer, and has become a beauty statement piece recognized around the globe. “The green and pink package seems retro-punk now, but when it was introduced, it looked like it belonged in Lily Pulitizer's preppy makeup bag,” Linda Wells, founder of Flesh Beauty and founding editor-in-chief of Allure, shares with TZR.
As for the formula, the creamy texture allows for easy, glide-on application. And it's very conditioning, so lashes remain soft instead of spikey or brittle. “Maybelline Great Lash has been a cult classic for decades for one simple reason: it works,” celebrity makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci shares with TZR. “The small spiral brush gets to every last lash, and the rich formula coats from root to tip. It doesn’t transfer, but washes off easily."
The brush is simple, with compact bristles arranged in a tight spiral that tapers at both ends to naturally complement the shape of the eye. It catches, combs, and separates lashes impressively well, and that’s no mistake. "The applicator’s extra whorls on the wand were designed to find and cover all lashes, even those hidden,” Whang reveals to TZR. A built-in wiper in the tube helps to remove excess formula as you pull the wand out, preventing any goopiness or clumping as you swipe it on. And since the formula dries quickly, you can easily layer applications to build up a thicker flare. It’s also incredibly gentle, boasting dermatologist and ophthalmologist praise as it's hypoallergenic and safe for contact lens wearers.
Maybelline Great Lash mascara sells a whopping 6.3 million tubes a year, the brand shares with TZR, and remains a beloved beauty staple in the makeup bags of beauty fans, celebrities, and beauty experts alike. “For such a specific, basic-sounding product with a simple, direct name, simple plastic package, simple wand that isn't exceptionally bushy or spiky, and classic just-thick-enough formula, Maybelline has been the queen of mascaras for 50 years because of its remarkable adaptivity," Wells shares with TZR. This simplicity also remains part of its undeniable appeal that keeps fans turning to the reliable tried-and-true favorite year after year. “The mascara is a classic in every sense of the word,” celebrity makeup artist, Jamie Greenberg tells TZR. “It has a classic feel, lengthening with an inky black color. It's definitely a go-to in the mascara world."
The allure doesn’t stop there. A quick Google search will surface more than 27,000 4-star reviews with customers publicly singing praises of the iconic formula, and nearly 13% of all social media posts about Great Lash make mention of its iconic status (based on a proprietary consumer study conducted by the brand).
Despite its mass appeal, it has attracted an impressive lineup of celebrity fans across all generations including the likes of Meryl Streep, Kate Beckinsale, Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez. “It's nearly everyone's makeup gateway drug: The mascara that opens a whole world of makeup possibilities for generation after generation. It's one product that actually deserves to be called 'iconic,'” Wells says.
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