Some History of Cosmetics

It might seem like women’s cosmetics is a pretty modern social norm, but the practice of make-up is really an old concept. Here is some interesting history that might help explain why women are always having to wear make-up now.

Did you know that billions of dollars are spent every year worldwide on cosmetics?! We may find ourselves asking, “How did it get to this point? When did it become the norm for me to get up every day and paint my whole face before I can leave the house? Surely a woman back in the earliest years didn’t just wake up one day and feel she needed to apply false eyelashes, paint her lips, mark her eyes with eyeliner, apply foundation for cover, and sweep on blush! No, it was, like so many things, a culmination of things from the past. Remember the Egyptians? That was over four thousand years ago. Cleanliness and appearance were very important to the Egyptians. They believed the aesthetics was directly related with the health of the soul. They aspired to always look and smell good. With a society who placed so much value on their appearance, it goes without saying that there were people who would try to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

The Egyptians, being the inventive people they were, used cosmetics for reasons that were more clever than just trying to look good.

Mesdemet was the earliest kind of eye shadow- a substance which was made of copper and lead ore. They believed the dark shades would ward off evil eyes! Interestingly, it was also a great insect repellent and a disinfectant. Kohl was a dark powder substance that was also applied in an oval shape around the eyes. It was a mixture of lead, ash, ochre, copper, and burnt almonds. To further elevate their appearance, they would apply a combination of water and red clay to the cheekbones. They would paint their nails colors of orange and yellow with a substance called henna.

As time marched forward and cultures were exposed to each other further, the Greeks began to adapt many of the Egyptian’s techniques of using cosmetics. They would give themselves a pale color with a foundation
that contained lead in it. This unfortunately proved fatal on more than one occasion! As the Romans began to also adapt to remodeling the cosmetics practice, the pursuit of beauty became less about functionality and endeavored towards much more exotic routes. The Romans painted their nails with a mixture of sheep’s blood and cooked body fat. An ancient Roman man once said, “A woman without paint is like food without salt.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *