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A Brief Illustrated History of Makeup

A Brief Illustrated History of Makeup

Women of the ancient world, uneducated about safe beauty practices, often went to extreme lengths for the sake of beauty. While using berries to darken the lips was a safe enough practice, some homemade cosmetics involved the use of mercury, lead, arsenic, and even leeches to achieve the pale beauty deemed appropriate during those times. It's safe to say that we have long since recognized the need for safe products for our beauty needs and general health.
Egypt, oft-cited birthplace of so much, was also a pioneer of cosmetics-use, as the practice was embraced by most of the population to modify and enhance their appearances as apropos to their own unique sense of fashion, to say nothing of the various medicinal benefits found and made use of during this time period.
Cosmetics served a very important place in the social hierarchy, as their creation and use were refined over thousands of years, and used by members of various social classes to demonstrate not only their station and status, but also as a marker of wealth. Beauty products and treatments were sought after commodities, and used by almost anyone who could get their hands on them, because they were considered an essential part of society. (As opposed to today, where only half the population is Expected to use them, while also being Villified for doing so.) Cosmetics were so central to this cultural identity, that their use extended to religious ritual and ceremony. Even the Gods were not exempt from their use. And the priests who knew the secrets to creating cosmetic items guarded them zealously.
Evidence for use of cosmetics have been found stretching back five thousand years. A pharaoh’s tomb included not only his various Consorts, but also their attendant fashion and beauty products. (Someone took “Take your Beauty Secrets to the grave” Far too literally.) These items included cleansers used in antiquity meant to remove eye shadows and lipsticks. (...Am I the only one who would kind of want to try them?)
All things were applied by the Brush, typically made from the salvadorapersica tree. Eyeliner, a very common worn style, was Most often made of Kohl. Also often used was Mascara, originally intended to protect eyes from diseases, thickening the lashes to help protect against particles and bacteria. Precious metals and stones were used as colouring agests in pastes, eyeshadows, oils and even hair colours, further aiding in their anti-bacterial cosmetics campaign. However, for the ultimate mark of pale nobility, chalk was used in foundations and full-body paint, showing that the upper class didn’t have to go out into the sun nearly as often, (While Ironically also claiming that their right to rule came at least partially from association to the god of the sun.)
One wonders if Queen Elizabeth I, reported to believe that lipstick had healing powers so strong that they could also ward off death. (Also regent of another society that claimed both aristocratic paleness and divine right to rule from a sun based deity.)
I would wear that shade of lip color. Immortal Red, Anyone?
In 1770, a law was allegedly passed by British Parliament condemning lipstick due to an association with witchcraft. This law stated that women who “seduced” men into marriage through the use of cosmetics could be found guilty of Sorcery.
(While this is no longer enforceable legally, the popularity of a certain “Swimming on a First Date” or “False Advertising” Meme, shows that this mindset is still around as a stereotype as far as society is concerned.)
The Victorian era was truly the time where the ladies of Europe began to embrace makeup and cosmetics. Ladies of Leisure would often dust on rice powder to hide blotches, redness, and freckles. Zinc oxide and pearl powder was used to create a powder highly popularized by the sophisticated ladies of the time.
An early form of lip balm, (a clear pomade much like beeswax,) was applied to the lips every morning not only to protect against the elements but also add shine. Eyepaint, (or as we know it, eyeshadow,) was also a popular choice during the Victorian era, although respectable women were very subtle with the amount of eyeshadow that they used at any given time.



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