History of Makeup

We are always putting on Cosmetics everyday.  From lotion to powder and lipstick, the things we put to enhance our beauty are endless.

Do you know that the practice of applying makeup is very old ;From Ancient Africa and Egypt to the Middle East, makeup was common enough to be mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, and both the Greeks and Romans used it

A bust of Queen Hatsheput, notice the eyeliner with Kohl

In ancient Persia, the king's wives would go through a long beautifying process. In the book of Esther, the candidates for a new companion to King Ahasuerus were required to go through a year-long process of refinement using spices and fragrant ointments.

This likely included using makeup and various effects from all over the world for increasing attractiveness in the eyes of the king.

 In fact, some Greek societies believed that a woman without makeup might as well be nude. A wide variety of supplementary personal care was also performed, including removing unwanted hair from the body and elaborate hairstyles for both men and women.

The first archeological findings of Egyptian cosmetics is dated to 3100BC (ceremonial palette that was used for grinding and mixing of cosmetic ingredients), but more regular artifacts could be found after 1500BC. 

One of such great findings was located in the tomb of the Pharaoh Thutmosis 3 (c1450BC) which featured not only buried consorts of the ruler, but also their fashion items.

Few of those surviving cosmetic jars even managed to preserve cleansing oils that was used to remove elaborate mascaras, lipsticks and eyeshades.

Unguent vases as found in the tomb of Tutankamon at Thebes

(Egyptian Museum, Cairo)
The most important tool in Egyptian fashion was brush. With it they applied almost every cosmetic substance they had. 

An old makeup box, kinda looks familiar doesnt it

The most common brush was made from the salvadorapersica tree, which in addition to applying facial paints was also used as a toothbrush by many. 

Most commonly, Egyptians used black “kohl” as an eyeliner and green malachite as an eye shadow. Mascara was also popular. 

These products were made not only to make wearer more beautiful, but they also protected their skin and eyes from diseases that could be caused by the harsh African desert wind (grind of tiny particles and attacks by wind-blown organisms). 

Oils, pastes and hair colours also contained heavy metals (such as copper and lead) which successfully fought bacteria’s and infections. 

Finally, full body paints that were based on Chalk and white lead pigment were used by nobles who wanted to showcase their pale skin as a sign of aristocracy and position.

We can probably deduce that mascara and the lining of kohl began in Africa, this is also evident in old Nigerian drawings where female figures had faces lined with kohl as a way of beautifying themselves.

As did the art of body tattoos.

Over the centuries, Western women used burnt matches to darken their eyes, berries to stain their lips (lipstick of today ) and young boys' urine to fade their freckles. 

They even swallowed ox blood in some misguided attempt to improve their complexions, yes I know you are probably gagging.

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Women throughout history put their health at risk with many of their homemade cosmetics. In some cultures, for example, women used arsenic, lead, mercury, and even leeches to give themselves the pale appearance deemed beautiful in the old days.

It seems that we haven’t moved much as some of the cosmetics around still contain dangerous cjemicals like mercury and parabens.

In Elizabethan England, for example, people favored a more natural look, with less heavy rouge and lipstick, while in the Regency era, both men and women used rouge heavily.

Cosmetics were also used on the hair; powdered white hair was extremely popular at one point in time, for example.

Substances like henna, kohl, ground gemstones, and various metals have all been used for centuries in preparations of makeup and unguents, and when people started wearing makeup, they undoubtedly used whatever materials were available, from milk to fruits. 

Old Wall painting showing a queen with makeup bottles

Along with makeup, many cultures developed creams to help remove makeup, along with lotions to soothe dry, cracked skin, especially in climates like Egypt.

You can deduce that we have come a long way in using make up. Its proof that the standard of beauty might be evolving but the idea of beauty is forever.

Tell me what you think at divadiarys@gmail.com, meanwhile stay beautiful and healthy next week.


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