Were other civilizations concerned about appearance as much as we are? Here we will take a look at the evolution of cosmetics throughout the centuries.
To the ancient Egyptians, appearance and hygiene was very important. Being beautiful was thought to bring you closer to the gods. Egyptians would underline their eyes with black Kohl or green malachite to create the famous almond Egyptian eyes. To cool down the eyes they would apply a green mineral like jasper or serpentine mixed with water. Most of the Egyptian makeup consisted of malachite, green ore of copper and kohl and it was kept in little linen or leather bags to be ground into fine powder. The makeup then would be poured into vases where they would extract it with a stick to be applied. The malachite was brought in from the Nile valley and Galena was brought in from Upper Egypt or the Red Sea coast. Lip gloss was possibly made from fat and red ochre. This red color was also used to give color to the cheeks. These ten thousand year old formulas were considered to be a luxury because the minerals came in from afar. Aside from making the Egyptians look beautiful, cosmetics also had other functions. They were used as repellent against insects to protect the skin from climate and were believed to help prevent eye diseases. Egyptians believed the dark colors helped ward off evil spirits.
Greeks also thought appearance was important but did not believe this brought them closer to the gods. The high class women in Ancient Greece stayed in their homes and were rarely in the sun. Women used cosmetics very lightly to look like they stayed in the shade. In Ancient Greece, skincare consisted of honey that was used to moisturize the skin and Olive oil to protect the skin and give it shine. For the eyes, charcoal was grounded and mixed with olive oil. Redding was mixed with bees wax to create a lipstick.
The Romans also used cosmetics but it was for vanity and even less for spiritual reasons. Romans used ingredients like powdered
chalk to make cosmetics. Iron oxide was used to achieve red coloring for lips and add color to the cheeks.
19th Century to Present
In the 19th century, a tan complexion was associated with the working class, while a pale complexion was a sign of high society. Men and women used hydroxide, carbonate, and lead oxide to achieve a pale look. This is now known to be toxic. Later on in the 19th century, zinc oxide was used as a healthy substitute. Cosmetics were also used for a younger appearance. They did not want people to know they needed help to look beautiful. Another item that became popular was powdered paper. These pieces of paper were sold in books and were used to blot the skin to take away the shine. Women used charcoal on the ends of matches for mascara and flower petals for the lips.
Use of cosmetics decreased around World War II because of the lack of resources. When the war was over people began to spend money and purchase cosmetics again. In the eighties and nineties several companies began creating purer formulas that did not have as much filler and toxic ingredients. The popularity of using natural products and the search for healthier formulas still continues today. The cosmetics business is a multi-billion industry today. People like to feel good and look good. Consumers continue to become more aware and educated about what is actually put on the skin.
Title: Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt
Author: Prof. Hamed A. Ead
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