Makeup History Timeline
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.
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.
“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.
Males were not left behind when hair- dying broke into fashion. At one point it was blond everyone wanted; it was the fashion, and referred to as “Alla Gernana” or “German Style” and this was big during Roman Emperor Commodo’s times (even the Emperor used to sprinkle his head with gold powder).
During the European middle ages, pale skin was a sign of wealthy lifestyle. Sixth century women sought drastic measures to achieve that look by bleeding themselves. Spanish prostitutes wore pink makeup.
Thirteenth century affluent women donned pink lipstick as proof they could afford synthetic makeup.
In China and Japan, rice powder was applied to the face, eyebrows were shaved and teeth were painted gold or black.
During the Elizabethan period in England, women wore egg whites over their faces for a glazed look.
During the Italian Renaissance, lead powder and paint was used to lighten the face, which was very damaging to the wearer. Aqua Toffana was a popular face powder made from arsenic, belladonna and lead and named for its creator, Signora Toffana. Signora Toffana instructed her rich clientele to apply the makeup only when their husbands were around. Signora Toffana was finally accused of over 600 deaths [mostly husbands of clients] linked to her powder and liquid poisonous “beauty” concoctions.
English Dandies painted cheeks and lips, blackened eyebrows, and perfumed themselves.
During the English Regency era, the most important item was rouge, which was used by most everyone. Eyebrows were blackened and hair was dyed. To prevent a low hairline, a forehead bandage dipped in vinegar in which cats dung had been steeped was worn. Most of the country dwellers’ makeup recipes made use of herbs, flowers, fat, brandy, vegetables, spring water and, of course, crushed strawberries. During this era, white skin signified a life of leisure while skin exposed to the sun indicated a life of outdoor labor. In order to maintain a pale complexion, women wore bonnets, carried parasols, and covered all visible parts of their bodies with whiteners and blemish removers, and most formulas were eventually lethal.
The most dangerous beauty aids during this time were white lead and powdered mercury. They not only eventually ruined the skin but also caused hair loss, stomach problems, the shakes, and could even cause death. Even though the danger was known, most women continued to use the formulas to achieve the desired “look”.
Up to this date, both men and women wearing makeup was completely socially acceptable. George IV spent a fortune on cold cream, powders, pastes, and scents. But some men began to see the wearing of makeup as a sign of social indifference to the working classes, and many looked upon a man with rouged cheeks as a dandy.
For freckle removal: squeeze the juice out of chick-weed, add three times its quantity of soft water, then bathe the skin for five to ten minutes morning and evening.
Complexion enhancer: one teaspoon of flour of sulphur and a wine glassful of lime water, shake well and mixed with half a wine-glass of glycerin and a wine-glass of rose-water. Rub on the face every night before going to bed.
Remove gray from hair: four ounces of hulls of butternuts are infused with a quart of water, to which half an ounce of copperas was added. Apply to hair with a soft brush every two to three days.
Wrinkle removal: melt one ounce of white wax, add two ounces of juice of lily-bulbs, two ounces of honey, two drams of rose-water, and a drop or two of ottar of roses and use on the skin twice a day.
Guerlain supplied lip pomades for both men and women.
Victorians abhorred makeup and associated its use with prostitutes and actresses (many considered them one and the same). Any visible hint of tampering with one’s natural color would be looked upon with disdain. At that time, a respectable woman would use home-prepared face masks, most of which were based on foods such as oatmeal, honey, and egg yolk.
Skin cleansing: rosewater or scented vinegars were used.
Beauty regimen: a woman would pluck her eyebrows, massage castor oil into her eyelashes, use rice powder to dust her nose, and buff her nails to a shine. Lipstick was not used, but clear pomade would be applied to add sheen. However some of these products contained a dye to discretely enhance natural lip color.
Healthy Skin look, red beet juice would be rubbed into the cheeks, or the cheeks would be pinched (out of sight, of course).
Bright eyes: a drop of lemon juice in each eye would do the trick.
Colourful makeup begins to resurface, full makeup was still seen as sinful, although natural tones were accepted to give a healthy, pink-cheek look.
Zinc oxide was found to be a safer alternative to lead. This is one of the natural cosmetic ingredients that is commonly used today.
Women made their own form of mascara by adding hot beads of black wax to the tips of their eyelashes. Some women would use petroleum jelly for this purpose.
The first modern commercial mascara formulated was named after Mabel, the sister of its creator, T. L. Williams, who mixed petroleum jelly and carbon soot together. This mascara is known today as Maybelline.
Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden and Max Factor opened cosmetic salons in the early 1900’s. Some of the looks that inspired these early cosmetic giants was makeup seen in the theatre and ballet of the times. Commercial makeup really starts to come of age.
Vogue featured Turkish women using henna to outline their eyes, and the movie industry immediately took interest. This technique made the eyes look larger, and the word “vamp” became associated with these women, vamp being short for vampire.
The first pressed powders were introduced and included a mirror and puff for touchups. Pressed powder blush followed soon after.
The first liquid nail polish, several forms of modern base, powdery blushes and the powder compacts are introduced.
The lipstick metal case, invented by Maurice Levy, became popular.
Lipstick was tattooed onto the lips by George Burchett, who was also known as the “Beauty Doctor”. This method did not always work, and you can imagine the terrible consequences.
The vamp look wasn’t just for women. Rudolf Valentino [The Sheik] and other male movie stars of the time made the dark, outlined eyes a sexy expression.
Pan-cake makeup, originally developed to look natural on color film, was created by Max Factor.
The earliest version of an acid peel was utilized at this time, which was a combination of acid and electric currents applied to the skin.
Nivea cold cream made its appearance in Germany, and companies, in order to compete with its success, began creating creams consisting of Vaseline mixed with fragrance.