A Brief History Of Makeup

For those of us who enjoy knowing more.

women enjoying a book It's fun to look back at the history of makeup and say "Can you believe women used to do that just to be beautiful?" I imagine women in the future will be looking at some of the things we do today and wonder what were we thinking in our quest for beauty.

The natural cosmetics women used in the past were based on natural ingredients found in everyday life. Through the years we have learned that not all natural ingredients are safe to use. We are also learning that some of the ingredients being used in our skin care today are causing problems and in some cases are even considered toxic.

For thousands of years, women have used all kinds of different ingredients as beauty products. Nothing has changed. We have always wanted a little help to make us feel good about our looks. Nothing wrong with that.

Learning from the past has helped create today's natural cosmetics which can help us feel beautiful and can actually be good for our skin.

Beauty Through The Ages

A prominent time in the history of makeup belongs to the Egyptians who were among the first to develop a wide assortment of cosmetics. Their desire for beauty was not only to look good for themselves but it also had spiritual meaning. They believed beauty was pleasing to the gods.

Makeup could also protect them from evil. Kohl, a dark colored powder made by grinding burnt almonds, lead and copper ores, ash and ochre was applied to the eyes with a stick to give the eye an almond look which was considered very desirable.

Red clay and water was used for lips and cheeks. Henna, a plant material, dyed the nails and hair. Just picture Cleopatra and you get the idea.

Many of the nut and seed and essential oils being used today were used during these times to prevent dryness against the hot Egyptian sun and winds. Almond, olive and sesame oils along with essential oils like lavender, peppermint, chamomile, rose, myrrh and thyme were commonly used.

red pigment Throughout makeup history each culture that followed had their versions of natural beauty. Dyes from plants, blood, fat, insects, clays and mineral ores were used, often the look of the times depended upon what ingredients were locally available.

The Pale Look Was In.

To me the next prominent time in the history of makeup occurred when pale complexions became popular with many cultures during the 1400's to the 1800's. In China and Japan, rice powder was applied to the face, eyebrows were shaved and teeth were painted gold or black.

While in European countries the pale look was achieved sometimes by using egg whites or a potentially deadly combination of carbonate hydroxide and lead oxide to make a face powder. Lead which provided a white look and arsenic because it gave a metallic luster could also be found in eye shadows and lip tints.

Can you imagine choosing leeches to bleed the skin to make it look paler? And to compliment that pale look, belladonna, a poisonous herb, was dropped into the eyes to dilate the pupils and give them a dreamy look. It wouldn't be until years later that the safety of some of these natural materials was known.

When we look at the history of makeup we see that being pale became a sign of wealth and was very much the desired look for many years, how different from today. If your skin was tanned it meant you had to work outside not something wealthy women did.

Going To Extremes For Beauty is Nothing New.

We can only imagine how many medical problems some of these methods caused but we can guess that at the very least it could have led to muscle paralysis and death from lead poisoning.

By the late 1800's the history of makeup shows that zinc oxide was found to be a safer alternative to lead for creating that much desired a pale look. This is one of the natural cosmetic ingredients that is commonly used today both in makeup and for sun protection.

retro woman

Enter The Big Cosmetic Giants.

As interest in creating cosmetics was growing and ways to preserve them were being developed the big names we still know today were starting their own lines of makeup. Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden and Max Factor opened cosmetic salons in the early 1900's. Some of the looks that inspired these early cosmetic giants was makeup seen in the theatre and ballet of the times. Now the commercialized use of makeup really took off.

The industrial age saw a rise in the creation and use of chemicals for many different products. Cosmetic manufacturers worked with chemicals to easily create beauty products that not only worked well but also lasted on the store shelves.

Cosmetic sales grew as women found they could achieve beautiful new looks easily and affordably.

These cosmetic giants led the way as each new decade is defined by it's own particular style from the classic look to the 50's to today's natural appeal and of course Hollywood continues to have a big effect on cosmetic trends.

Today's natural beauty is a reflection of how we are wanting to live our lives. Just as we have seen in the history of makeup how each period of time's idea of beauty reflects their interests, desires and the kinds of ingredients that were available.


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