Archaeologists found 164,000-year old makeup in a South African cave. The makeup, consisting of 57 pieces of ground-up rock that would have been reddish- or pinkish-brown, is called one of three hallmarks of modern life found at the site, and is one of the earliest hints of “modern” living. Previously, scientists believed that humankind of this time period weren’t advanced enough for this type of behavior, believing that modern living began approximately 40,000 to 70,000 years ago.
Humans are painting their bodies using plant and earthen materials. Sometimes the decorations were to imitate nature [e.g. animals], and other times the patterns were from natural formations.
Men and women in Egypt use scented oils and ointments to clean and soften their skin and mask body odour. 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.
Egyptian women apply galena mesdermet [copper and lead ore mix] and malachite [green paste of copper minerals] to their faces for colour and definition. They employ a combination of burnt almonds, oxidized copper, different-coloured coppers ores, lead, ash, and ochre [the mix is called kohl] to adorn the eyes in an almond shape. Women carry cosmetics to parties in makeup boxes and keep them under their chairs.
Records of makeup and cosmetics are found in tombs dating from this period. Jars with unguent have been found. Unguent was a substance extensively used by men and women to keep their skin hydrated and supple and to avoid wrinkles from the dry and hot atmosphere.
Chinese people begin to stain their fingernails with gum Arabic, gelatin, beeswax, and egg. The colours 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 colours on their nails.
Grecians whiten their complexion with chalk or lead face powder and fashion crude lipstick out of ochre clays laced with red iron.
Many of the nut and seed and essential oils being used today were used during these times to prevent dryness against the hot Egyptian sun and winds. Almond, olive and sesame oils along with essential oils like lavender, peppermint, chamomile, rose, myrrh and thyme were commonly used.
Makeup was believed to protect one from evil. Kohl, a dark colored powder made by grinding burnt almonds, lead and copper ores, ash and ochre was applied to the eyes with a stick to give the eye an almond look which was considered very desirable.
Egyptians decorated their eyes by applying dark green colour to the lower eyelid and by blackening the lashes and upper eyelids with kohl, which was made from antimony or soot. References to this type of makeup being worn are recorded in the New Testament section of the Bible.
Red clay and water was used for lips and cheeks. Henna, a plant material, dyed the nails and hair.
Romans used cosmetics extensively. Kohl was used for darkening eyelashes and eyelids, chalk was used for whitening the complexion, and rouge was worn on the cheek.
Depilatories were utilized during this time. The Roman men also used to remove excess hair from their bodies, even if it seemed to be a feminine habit. This practice was so common, that a slave was assigned to the baths exclusively for to assist in male depilating.
Teeth were viewed as objects of vanity, and searches were conducted for materials to make them more beautiful. Toothpastes were made by blending pumice powder (variety of light spongy volcanic rock used as an abrasive), “Chio putty” (a metallic powder), baking soda and sodium bicarbonate (salt in the form of powder used as a key component in baking powder and self- rising flour). Bad breath was relieved with miraculous pills that Romans sold in the markets by perfume makers.
Women wore white lead and chalk on their faces in Greek and Roman society. Persian women used henna dyes to stain their hair and faces, believing the eyes enabled them to summon the majesty and power of the earth.
Beauty cases were crafted using cherished woods and containers made of hand- blown glass. Glass pastes or fragrant amber was used to mold them together. The final product would be a beautifully encased cosmetic case lined with an array of lipsticks, and several varieties of eye makeup. Each individual case had a special purpose. Some shapely perfume vials were safely kept in the case. The vials were melted by fire to seal them shut, having to be broken at one end, in order to be opened.
Ancient woman used to prepare recipes with whatever they had at their disposal; some whipped concoctions made using a waxy substance called “Biacca,” [a white lead called cerise] which was melted into honey and then added to any fatty substance. The Roman ladies were aware that biacca was highly toxic, and so, they had some worry as to what long term effect it might have.
“Curls, makeup, cosmetics, greasepaint, and teeth you could buy, and with the same money you could have even purchased a new face.” quoted Lucilio in his book “Satire” (Book XVI) 2 AD.
Black hair was enhanced by using minerals derived from Black Antimony (a metallic element) that was mixed with animal fat, absinthe’s ash (wormwood herb) mixed in rose oil or cypress leaves brewed that were then saturated in vinegar. Red hair was managed by pulverizing leaves in the “Lawsonia Inermis” (or true henna) family. Blond hair was maintained by a potion arriving from Gallic origin. It was made of goat’s fat and Beeches Ash. It was also possible to obtain the hair color of a carrot orange- red or a deep blue perhaps obtained by the indigo plant. These colors were very becoming on the prostitutes or Rufae (meaning red).
In Rome, people put barley flour and butter on their pimples and sheep fat and blood on their fingernails for polish. In addition, mud baths come into vogue, and some Roman men dye their hair blond.