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Tuesday, 8 March 2016


An Ancient Egyptian woman would have had an extremely complicated selection of make-up in many different colors.

Egyptian cosmetics box from the Bronze Age, Hecht Museum, Haifa. By Golf Bravo Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

In ancient China and Japan rice powder paint was used to paint faces white. Eyebrows were plucked, and teeth were painted black or gold.

Make-up is mentioned in the Old Testament, such as in 2 Kings 9:30, where Jezebel painted her eyelids—approximately 840 BC—and in the book of Esther, where beauty treatments are described.

“A woman without paint is like food without salt," wrote the Roman philosopher Plautus.

During the 18th Century, there was a high number of incidences of lead-poisoning because of the fashion for red and white lead make-up and powder. This led to swelling and inflammation of the eyes, attacked tooth enamel and caused skin to blacken. Heavy use sometimes resulted in death.

Zinc oxide became widely used as a facial powder in the mid nineteenth century, replacing the more deadly mixture . Other poisonous substances were still being used in eye shadow (lead and antimony sulfide), lip reddeners (mercuric sulfide), and to make one's eyes sparkle (belladonna, or deadly nightshade).

Heavy make-up was not considered socially acceptable during the Victorian era and reports were published warning women of the dangers of using lead and vermilion in cosmetics applied to the face.

An 1889 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a woman applying facial cosmetics

Technology during the silent movie era forced actors to wear multi-colored makeup so the camera could capture their faces properly

Theda Bara, an American actress of the silent film era (Cleopatra, Salome), caused a sensation when she appeared on the screen heavily adorned by the cosmetics of Helena Rubinstein. Rubinstein developed mascara, as well as the concept of colored powder. She borrowed the idea of color-shaded eyes from the French stage and accentuated mouths by reddening them.

Bara in The She-Devil (1918)
Before the 1920s it was social suicide for respectable Western women to wear make-up. Lipstick and eyeliners were associated with actresses and prostitutes. Rouge meant sex and sin. But thanks to Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein and the female longing to imitate the dream images of glamorous movie stars, cosmetic use became acceptable.

In the 1970s, women in the Marine Corps were issued makeup kits and had to wear the makeup when they were in uniform.

Today's Western make-up claims to be a melange of past styles with a new emphasis on the natural look.

According to a 2004 survey 53% of American women will not leave the house without make-up.

Here is a list of songs with make-up in the title

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