Makeup history – where did it all begin?

Makeup has become such an integral part of our lives, but do we have any idea of the makeup history?

For the avid make-up wearers amongst us, I don’t think a day goes by without this very important ritual taking place. Okay, maybe a day here or there, but make-up has become such a big part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine life without it. Well, once upon a time (like LONG ago), there was actually a time where make-up didn’t exist. Shock horror! Let’s take a quick peek at how make-up started and evolved into the cosmetic-must that it is today.

makeup history

So the first records we find regarding the use of make-up is between 3100 and 2907BC in Egypt. Tombs have revealed jars with unguent – a substance used for moisturizing and anti-wrinkling purposes. It emerged that women also decorated their eyes by applying a dark green colour to the under lid, blackening their lashes and applying kohl (a metallic element) to the upper eyelid. Yes, it’s true – if a girl wants to look pretty, she will find a way!

Romans were known to use cosmetics by the middle of the first century AD. Once again kohl was used for darkening eyelashes and eyelids, chalk was used to whiten the complexion and rouge was worn on the cheeks. Some women even wore chalk on their faces and Persian women started dying their hair and faces with henna dyes in the belief that it enabled them to summon the majesty of the earth.

During the European middle-ages, having a pale skin was considered as a sign of wealth. Many women were so desperate to achieve this look that they bled themselves in the hope of it working.

The Italian Renaissance and French Restoration brought in an era of excessive and “out-there” make-up and heavy make-up was used as a means to contradict the pallor from being inside due to illness epidemics. However, people in other countries were really put off by the excessiveness of it all and claimed that the “painted French” had something to hide, hence the use of such excessive make-up.

Some of the most dangerous beauty aids during this time includes arsenic, white lead and mercury. Besides ruining the skin it also caused hair loss, stomach problems, shakiness and some even death.

Times started to change though from the 1930’s to 1950’s when various movie stars proved to be models for current trends in make-up. The hippies brought a more liberated make-up look in the sixties and during the seventies and eighties the heavy eyeliner and a wide range of eye shadow colours continued to be popular.


Our trends today seem to have reverted back to the more natural look with a blending of styles from the past. The modern-day woman has hundreds of cosmetics – literally – to choose from and the colour and use options are endless.

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