The history of makeup and cosmetics is more than 6000 years old. The origins of makeup can be found in every society and its evolution is mesmerizing.
We can trace the history of makeup and learn that cosmetics used to be a form of rituals in our culture. In India, for eg., mothers applied eyeliner to their newborn’s eyes to strengthen their eyes or save the child from the evil eye curse.
The origins, based on archaeological evidence, stem from ancient Egypt and Greece. The Romans described the usage of cosmetics in ancient Egypt saying that castor oil was used as a protective balm. Skin creams were made of beeswax, olive oil and rosewater, all-natural ingredients that are still used today.
We can also find information on the history of makeup in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it is depicted that Queen Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, the King of Israel, painted her eyelids. The holy book tells us that the usage of eyeshadow was relevant as early as 840 BC.
Although cosmetics was also used in ancient Rome, literature tells us that the practice wasn’t popular or liked. They used lead-based formulas to whiten their skin.
Among popular cosmetics, Kohl was used in ancient Rome to line the eyes. The origins of kohl can be found in the Middle East, North Africa and was widely used in the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, West Africa.
It is used as eyeliner, mascara, contour. Women weren’t the only ones using it, it was also applied by men and children.
The evolution of makeup has been great. Although we still stay true to its origins, there is denying that the evolution has gone a long way since its early days.
The history of makeup has a long timeline
The origins and evolution of cosmetics’ materials can be found as early as 164,000 BC.
The history of makeup can be traced back to 164,000 BC. Archaeologists found samples of cosmetics in a South African cave that consisted of 57 pieces of ground rock that had a reddish and pinkish-brown shade.
These were one of the 3 indications of modern life as scientists had previously believed that people at that time weren’t developed enough for that kind of behavior. Modern living was assumed to have begun around 40,000 to 70,000 years ago.
Around that time, people used plants and earthen materials as cosmetics. The patterns they drew resembled nature or natural formations.
Moving on with the history of makeup and cosmetics, both men and women used them frequently in Egypt around 10,000 BC. Scented oils and ointments were used to clean, soften their skin and get rid of body odour.
Since Egypt’s climate was hot, oils and creams were used to protect their skin from dry winds and sun. The ingredients of their perfumes used in religious rituals included myrrh, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, lavender, lily, peppermint, rosemary, cedar, rose, aloe, olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil.
The evolution of makeup in the early stages began when women started applying copper and a lead ore mix, green paste of copper minerals to enhance their features. This was mostly used in 4000 BC. They applied a combination of burnt almonds, oxidized copper, ash and kohl to their eyes in almond shape. Women even started carrying cosmetics with them and kept it under their chairs.
We learn a lot about the history of makeup and its evolution in 3000 BC
The origins of postmortem cosmetics can be found in that era.
Samples of makeup and cosmetics were found in tombs during this period. Unguent, a substance used to spread on wounds, burns, rashes to keep skin hydrated was found in jars.
Unguent resembles ointment, but is more oily. It was also used to avoid wrinkles and maintain young and smooth skin.
During this period, the Chinese began using nail polish, but it’s not the one we know today. They colored their fingernails with gum, gelatin, beeswax and egg.
Nail polish was used to distinguish one’s class. Gold and silver were the colors of the Chou dynasty, subsequent royals wore red or black. Lower class citizens weren’t allowed to color their fingernails bright colors.
The Greeks liked having a lighter skin tone. They used chalk, lead face powder out of ochre clays to whiten their skin.
The Egyptians continued using nut, seed and essential oils to protect their skin from the sun. Kohl also began becoming the norm among them. They used the dark-colored powder to line their eyes to protect themselves from evil. It also showed that the person wearing it is desirable.
Black wasn’t the only color in their makeup routine. Green-colored powder was applied to the lower eyelid, which was made from antimony and soot. Records of these can be found in the New Testament of the Bible.
Henna also became popular. Extracted from plants, it was used to dye nails and hair. Red clay was used to color cheeks and lips.
The evolution of cosmetics also affected men
We learn from the history of makeup and its origins how men were avid makeup consumers.
People continued using kohl, chalk and rouge in their makeup routine, but a new trend was now here. Around 1 AD, depilatories was widely used, specifically among Roman men.
Depilatories are a cosmetic preparation used to get rid of body hair. Although deemed as a feminine habit, Roman men started removing excess hair. This became so popular that slaves were assigned to help them depilate.
The history of makeup isn’t only associated with beauty, but hygiene as well. The evolution of cosmetics is also highlighted in the importance of having clean, white teeth. Scientists researched about materials to whiten teeth and finally came up with toothpaste.
They were made using pumice powder, Chio putty, baking soda and sodium bicarbonate. Perfume makers also created pills that were consumed to eliminate bad breath.
Romans began applying barley flour and butter as a remedy to their pimples around 100 AD. Nail polish was prepared from sheep far and blood. In this period, mud baths also began fashionable, and Roman men started dying their hair blond. Emperor Commodo applied gold powder to his head to acquire blond hair.
The history of makeup and cosmetics during the Middle Ages and Renaissance went through a drastic evolution
The origins of the pale and colorless trend can be found in this period.
The paler your skin was, the wealthier you looked. Women went over and beyond to achieve this look. Some even bled themselves to acquire the all-natural pale look.
To distinguish themselves from other, Spanish prostitutes wore pink makeup. A few centuries later, women wore pink lipstick to show they had money to buy synthetic cosmetics.
China and Japan went through drastic changes during the last century of the middle ages. They went as far as shaving their eyebrows, painting their teeth gold or black. Applying rice powder to their face was also in fashion.
The Elizabethan period in England was singled out by the usage of egg whites over their faces to acquire a glazed look.
The English Regency era was known to have emphasized the usage of rouge. Both men and women were avid users. Pale complexion was still in style.
Body parts were whitened, although they were eventually found to be lethal. They consisted of white lead and powdered mercury. These ruined skin, caused hair loss, created stomach problems and killed people.
Knowing the consequences, people continued using them to achieve the look.
Makeup and cosmetics during the Victorian period became associated mostly with stage performers and prostitutes. Commoners used home remedies to distinguish themselves from the latter.
The evolution and history of makeup and cosmetics went through great changes in the 20th century
Makeup wasn’t that popular in the early 1900s. People continued associating it with actresses and prostitutes. Cosmetics were so unpopular that people could only buy them at theatrical costume stores. Vaseline was popular. It was used on chapped lips, it was a base for hair tonic and soap.
A decade later, makeup became trendy once again due to ballet. Ochers and crimsons were the fashionable colors. The Daily Mirror became the first to suggest eyelash curling in 1915.
Cosmetic tattooing also became popular, and Max Factor opened its first professional makeup studio in 1909. Although it was for stage and screen actors, ordinary women also bought from the store.
The 1920s had the biggest influence on cosmetics. Most of our present-day makeup manufacturers were established during this era. Rouge was out and lipstick was in. They were cheaper and more colorful. The eyebrow pencil also became a thing thanks to new ingredients.
Eugene Schueller, known as the founder of L’Oréal, invented hair dye in 1907 and sunscreen in 1936. Coco Chanel made suntan popular among fashionable women and manufacturers started producing fake tan products.
This was not applied to Asians, as they still continue praising pale skin.
Cosmetics surgeries were also flourishing in the 1920s and 1930s. Plastic surgeons mostly performed facial configuration surgeries due to WWI. Face-lifts were performed during the 20s as well, but it only became popular during the 1960s, around the same time silicone implants were introduced.
By the end of the 20th century, liposuction was the most popular followed by breast implants, eye surgery and face-lifts.
Before the 1970s, makeup for African Americans was limited as they were mostly produced for achieving a pale look. Eventually, makeup companies worked to create makeup for richer skintones.
We’ve come a long way since the early days of cosmetics
The history of makeup and its origins have been the foundation of its evolution.
A decline in men’s makeup usage was detected since the Victorian era. Almost no man used makeup in the 20th century. Nowadays, cosmetic-conscious men use concealers.
This is controversial as people believe that men neglect their traditional roles. Since it’s common for a woman to enhance her features, some believe that it’s okay for a man to do it as well.
The 21st-century woman is more into thick eyebrows and contouring their face. Kylie Jenner made overlined lips fashionable. Having a sun-kissed skin tone is trendy. Both natural looks and overapplied makeup is praised. The cat eye and the smokey eye is considered stylish.
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