We know that for centuries, both men and women have enjoyed the indulgence of face makeup. But the history of face makeup dates thousands of years back to the 1 st Century Egyptians. This is not to say that the Egyptians were the first to use face makeup, rather they were among the first to document the importance of face makeup as an important part of culture as seen in the discovery of ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. Egyptians used natural ingredients such as unguent, a hydrating substance, and kohl, soot, to beautify the skin and appearance. Egyptians were well aware of the beauty of soft skin and seductive eyes. The 1 st century also showed the Roman use of kohl for eye makeup and eyelash makeup. The Romans also used chalk as a skin whitener and rouge. The Greco-Roman and Persian influences added the use of henna dyes to stain the face and hair.
Face makeup continued to evolve as did time. By the Middle Ages European cultures added to the popularity of pale skin. Pale skin became known as a sign of wealth and stature in society. Women went to great lengths to achieve white skin by resorting to bleeding themselves. Adding subtle pink as seen by the 13 th century added a further sign of societal wealth and importance. Only the wealthy could afford pink face makeup. The focus of white skin as a sign of wealth continued into the Italian Renaissance. Again, women went to exaggerated measures to achieve status by using deadly ingredients such as lead and arsenic. By the Elizabethan Age, face makeup began to be associated with poor health. Women turned to egg whites to add a healthy glaze to the face. Heavy face makeup was used to hide disease and illness. Many thanks to the French in the 18 th century for adding life and vitality back to the face by bringing red to face makeup. Red lips and red cheeks became a symbol of health and fun.
A Slight Decline in Cosmetics
Around the time of the Victorian Era, face makeup began to be associated with prostitutes and actresses. Proper women did not allow sun to alter the skin color nor did they change the natural tone of the skin. Visible skin was covered, parasols were used to protect from the sun's coloring of the skin and keep it light. Natural ingredients such as oatmeal, honey, egg yolks, and rosewater replaced apothecary made cosmetics. The eyebrows were plucked and rice powder was used. Women did attempt to add color in secret by pinching the cheeks or using beet juice for color and lemon juice as a lightener.
By the time the 1900's rolled around, it was very popular to have a sickly look. Under eye circles were emphasized, pink cheeks and crimson lips added to the sickly face makeup. Fortunately, this slight decline was not to last very long.
It may be difficult to imagine makeup of the 1900's as modern, but it indeed is the beginning of the cosmetic industry as we see it today. With the rise of mass media, television, cinema pictures, and transportation, the makeup industry grew by leaps and bounds.
While it was still a popular belief in the early 1900's that pale skin was associated with a life of wealth and leisure; tanned skin was associated with the working class, thanks to an old makeup artist, Max Factor, the first perfumed face powder was developed and produced for the public making face makeup assessable to all.
By the 1930's makeup was available to women of al social classes. Women had icons like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich to use as role models. Cosmetics giants like Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, Revlon, and Lancôme flourished. Makeup became both sensual and polished. Women had a variety of shades to use and nail polish to match.