A History of Cosmetics Throughout The Ages

“A woman without paint is like food without salt.”- Roman philosopher, Plautus

Civilizations have used forms of cosmetics — though not always recognizable to cosmetics users today — for centuries in religious rituals, to enhance beauty, and to promote good health. Cosmetic usage throughout history can be indicative of a civilization’s practical concerns, such as protection from the sun; class system; or of its conventions of beauty.The timeline below represents a brief history of cosmetics usage, beginning with the Ancient Egyptians in 10,000 BCE up through the beginning of the 20th Century.

COSMETICS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

10,000 BCE:

Men and women in Egypt use scented oils and ointments to clean and soften their skin and mask body odor. Cosmetics are an integral part of Egyptian hygiene and health. Oils and creams are used for protection against the hot Egyptian sun and dry winds. Myrrh, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, lavender, lily, peppermint, rosemary, cedar, rose, aloe, olive oil, sesame oil, and almond oil provide the basic ingredients of most perfumes that Egyptians use in religious ritual.

4000 BCE:

Egyptian women apply galena mesdemet (made of copper and lead ore) and malachite (bright green paste of copper minerals) to their faces for color and definition. They employ a combination of burnt almonds, oxidized copper, different-colored coppers ores, lead, ash, and ochre — together called kohl — to adorn the eyes in an almond shape. Women carry cosmetics to parties in makeup boxes and keep them under their chairs.

3000 BCE:

Chinese people began to stain their fingernails with gum arabic, gelatin, beeswax, and egg. The colors used represent social class: Chou dynasty royals wear gold and silver, with subsequent royals wearing black or red. Lower classes are forbidden to wear bright colors on their nails.

Grecian women paint their faces with white lead and apply crushed mulberries as rouge. The application of fake eyebrows, often made of oxen hair, is also fashionable. Read more