Cosmetics or makeup are described as care substances primarily used to enhance both the appearance and odor of the human body. Such substances are often made from a mixture of chemical compounds derived from natural materials like coconut oil.
The word cosmetics come from the Greek word kosmetike or kosmetikos, which translates to ‘technique of dress and ornament.’ The history of cosmetics can be traced to ancient Egypt and Greece and its application is considered one of the earliest forms of human rituals.
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Cosmetics are prevalent in almost every social strata in the world. Whether it is to symbolize status or merely to hide flaws, the use of makeup is oftentimes considered one of the greatest factors in defining what beauty is for certain parts of society.
And, just like beauty, cosmetics, and their use thereof, have also undergone an evolution that eventually shaped how one should utilize these beauty enhancing tools.
In the four-minute video that has gone viral over the Internet, you will be taken on a journey throughout history and be given a glimpse of how cosmetics were used to define what was beautiful for both men and women in different eras and societies.
Ancient Egypt (c. 3150- 31 BC)
Lipstick and Kohl were the primary makeup tools for both men and women in Ancient Egypt.
Women often wore kohl made from soot, metal, and fat. Its purpose was to prevent blindness and was constantly carried by doctors around.
Kohl was often worn with green and blue colored eyeshadow made with the mineral malachite. However, as lipstick was a sign of status in society, only men and women from the upper class wore it.
During this time, Egyptians, particularly women, also braided their hair and they styled it in a way that their tresses framed their faces.
Ancient Greece (c. 800-500 BC)
If you think having a unibrow now is bad, people in Ancient Greek thought of the opposite.
Makeup was seldom used in Ancient Greece as there were strong emphasis and celebration of the natural beauty. Women’s faces were often bare save for the unibrow. Those who were not born with this type of eyebrows glued animal fur between their brows or lined it with kohl.
Pale skin was also highly regarded in Ancient Greece and as a result, women often smothered their faces with lead-based face cream, which in today’s standards is highly dangerous.
India’s Gupta Age (c. 320-550AD)
Kohl, fresh flowers and lip rouge are the top three things that women can’t live without in this specific time and age in Indian society. Kohl has been used by several women in societies to give strong emphasis on their eyes. Unlike Egyptians, Indian women placed their hair in a bun or in a long braid and gave it a refreshing twist by decorating it with fresh flowers.
Lips were tainted with lip rouge and the bindi, which is a jewel, was specifically worn by married Hindu women on their forehead to indicate their status.
Elizabethan Era (C. 1558-1603)
The particular style for this Golden Age in British History was dictated by none other than the famed monarch Elizabeth II. Known for her brains and good looks, Queen Elizabeth gave strong emphasis on three essential things to complete her look and these are red or auburn colored, hair shaved eyebrows and shaved hairline.
Pale skin was also deemed favorable at this time and age in society and they used a lead-based powder called ceruse to achieve their deathly-white complexion. As a higher forehead was highly desirable on women during these days, they plucked or shaved off their eyebrows and even their hairlines to pull off the look. Women who did not have naturally red hair often dyed their own hair or their wigs red.
Japanese Geisha ( c. mid 1700s)
Heavy white foundation, bold red lips, and red and black linings completed the most desirable face in Japan’s ancient times. Geishas, the Japanese term literally translates to ‘artist’, were the epitome of this look. And, even until now, they are still highly regarded as an integral part of Japanese culture.
The amount of makeup the geishas used determined the length of their training and immaculate makeup was essential for them. This was achieved by heavily applied white foundation slathered on all visible skin of the face and the neck, except the nape, which was only revealed by a ‘w’ shape.
Geishas in training wore lip rouge, painted on their lips in the shape of a budding flower. Their eyes were lined with black and red kohl, while their hair was put up in a Shimada style chignon and decorated with various kogal and kanzashi combs and hairpins.
Pre-French Revolution (c. 1775 – 1789)
This was the time of the infamous French queen Maria Antoinette. Tall hair, fake beauty marks, and red lips were all the rage during this time period.
Women would powder their face, neck, and shoulders to achieve a pearly white complexion. Beauty marks such as veins or moles were painted on the skin to give emphasis to a person’s pale complexion.
Hair, then, were pulled up, more often than not, to equal the height of the women’s faces. Whether women wore wigs or not, women often puffed their hair with powder to make it look white.
Victorian Era (c. 1837-1901)
After centuries that gave strong emphasis on makeup, natural beauty was highly priced by the conservative Victorian society. For them, wearing makeup was simply impolite as the skin was very important during this era.
Women made sure that they had clear skin that was only lightly powdered. Cheeks were pinched to achieve a natural blush, as it was regarded to be highly scandalous for women to color them. Women also only had their hair up in a chignon, as hair was also considered very precious by Victorian women.
Swingin’ Sixties (c. 1960 – 1969)
The liberation movement characterized by the 1960s paved the way for an experimental atmosphere that also touched on the application of makeup.
Women had the freedom to choose various shades and colors for their eyeshadows and they put on fake eyelashes. Pale pink colored lips were all the rage and cheeks were contoured to achieve a hollow look. Their hair was usually hidden underneath large bouffant wigs.
This decade also saw the rise of the black beauty industry, which led to the manufacture of makeup to complement the beautiful skin of black women in society.
The natural look seems to be all the rage for women in today’s day and age.
Makeup is now often used to merely emphasize and highlight a woman’s beauty rather than alter them to one specific look. With the fast-paced lifestyle and the advocacy for natural beauty on the rise, people are starting to appreciate the real beauty underneath all the layers of makeup.
Cosmetics have played a vital role in how women carry themselves all throughout history. From the video above, you can see that women initially used cosmetics to emphasize certain physical attributes before completely altering their whole look. Throughout time though, natural beauty has become highly appreciated and celebrated, as society recognizes the unique individuality possessed by every woman all across the globe.
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