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Sunday, 27 July 2014


The word “cosmetic” comes from the same root as “cosmos” meaning order or adornment.

The earliest cosmetics known to archaeologists were in use in Egypt in the fourth millennium BC, as evidenced by the remains of artefacts probably used for eye make-up and for the application of scented ingredients

Ancient Egyptians first wore paints, especially around the eyes, as protection from the sun; soon personal adornment became a statement of status.

One of the earliest references to cosmetics is in the Old Testament 2 Kings 9:30, which tells of Jezebel putting on eye make-up.

The immoral and effeminate Assyrian monarch Sardanapalus is reputed to have allowed his passion for cosmetics free rein, thereby emphasizing his penchant to dress and paint himself like a woman; when threatened by the rapid advance of a ruthless enemy, he is said to have ordered a pile of aromatic woods to be lighted and to have placed himself upon it with his concubines and treasures, to be suffocated by the fragrant smoke.

Ancient Greeks kept their cosmetics in intricate boxes. Rouge reddened the cheeks, and various white powders (white lead and chalk) were used for a fair complexion.

The Romans were the most extravagant users of aromatics in history. It was quite customary for men to be heavily perfumed and even the legionaries reeked of the fragrances of the East.

Gladiator sweat and fats of the animals fighting in the arena were sold in souvenir pots outside of the games to improve women's beauty and complexion.

Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century AD encouraged the proclamation of a law to prevent women from tricking husbands into marriage by means of cosmetics.

Cosmetics were regarded in the later Middle Ages as a health threat because many thought they would block vapours and energy from circulating properly. Because men's make-up wasn't as obvious as women's (women wore egg whites over their faces to create a glazed look), it was seen as even more deceptive than women's.

In sober colonial New England makeup was strictly regulated. Tradespeople and poorer citizens were forbidden to wear cosmetics, and those who did were condemned as devil's disciples. Women used chalk, beetroot, crushed rose petals, and ground corn to beautify or protect their complexions.

Men, as well as women, used cosmetics heavily during the mid-18th century. The effect was not a natural one, however, as complexions were made to resemble porcelain. The face was stark white, with lips of bright red.

After the French Revolution the French wanted nothing to do with the aristocracy and gave up elaborate hairstyles and painted faces.

Back in the 1880s, New Yorker David H McConnell spent his school vacations selling Bibles. But he soon realized that the small samples of rose oil perfume, which he gave out with God’s Word, were received with greater enthusiasm than the Bibles themselves. So he founded the California Perfume Company, the forerunner of Avon.

The world's largest cosmetics company is L'Oréal, which was founded by Eugene Schueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company

The California Perfume Company, Inc. of New York filed their first trademark application for Avon on June 3, 1932 with the USPTO. McConnell called it Avon because he had visited Stratford-on-Avon and loved the countryside there.

In 1976 certain ingredients were banned from use by the cosmetics industry because of endangered species legislation that was passed as part of a growing environmental movement.

Of the estimated 1,000 cosmetic companies in 1990, 31 percent of sales were made by the top three--Avon, Revlon, and Estee Lauder.

The average woman puts 168 chemicals on her body every day through the use of make-up and other beauty products.

Europe has banned more than half the cosmetics Americans use on a daily basis due to health risks.

Sources Encyclopedia Britannica, Daily Express, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, The Book of Spices by Frederic Rosengarten

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