Makeup changes through history
When makeup is in question, trends change the same as in the fashion, from season to season. What’s now “in” in just a few months becomes “out”. Though sometimes these changes don’t seem to be that dramatic, when analyzing a longer period, we realize just how huge changes happened in the make-up world following the change in the concept of beauty which also took some weird twist and turns throughout history. Just take a look at your old photos, 10 years ago for instance, and you almost won’t believe it is you at those photos – the clothes, shoes, hairstyle, make-up, everything. Imagine then what must have happened to urge such changes in the history of make-up. The notion of beauty, evidently, wasn’t always the same, and from the current perspective, some of the trends would not even be characterized as “beautiful”. However, make-up always had one role underlined – to beautify, and here is a brief overview of how make-up trends have changed throughout history that took place in make-up history /evolution.
First recollection of this period, for most of us at least, refers to Cleopatra, an Egyptian Queen who used to bathe in goat’s milk to preserve her smooth and soft skin. And, her irresistible charm combined with makeup tricks she practiced to emphasize her beauty seduced even Marc Antony, a Roman general whom she used (some historians claim) to save Egypt from Roman occupation. Romance aside, let’s talk about makeup. Ancient Egypt makeup was all about the eyes. Eyelids, eyelashes, and eyebrows were colored in black with kohl (a black paint with a texture somewhat thicker than today’s eyeliner and softer than a classic eye pencil) while coal was used as an alternative. Archeological research of pharaoh’s tomb discovered a perfumed ointment, of a solid nature, used both by women and men for skin care, i. e. to ensure that skin is moisturized and to prevent wrinkles during heavy hats. Yes, even Egyptians were deadly afraid of wrinkles! It is also believed that the Jewish people adopted precisely Egyptian make-up techniques and some of these records can be found in the New Testament.
A famous comediographer Plautus described make-up as follows: “A woman without paint is like food without salt”. We may argue that his point of view is a little extreme, but given his works which showcase him as an excellent connoisseur of characters, we may at least admit he was on to something. Kohl was also popular in Rome and it was used to highlight the beauty of eyes. Chock was used for painting the face, it had a powder-like role and a blusher was applied to cheeks. Hair removal (depilation) was also a must in the ancient Rome.
The Middle Ages
During popularly called “Dark Ages”, extremely pale skin was a sign of wealth, it was a feature by which one could identify aristocratic and common people. Common people were forced to cultivate land so, naturally, their skin was more damaged due to sun exposure etc. Noble women avoided the sun and sought drastic measure to achieve pale look by bleaching their skin.
During Renaissance, women used products containing lead to lighten their skin. However, this lead is a toxic heavy metal which can in time (and it did!) cause serious problems with fatal consequences. One interesting beauty technique was advocated by Queen Elizabeth Tudor I who used egg white to achieve pale complexion but also to hide wrinkles. This porcelain look was a popular look at that time and denoted health as well as beauty.
Regency era (1795 – 1820)
This period in the United Kingdom is, for many reasons, interesting in the overall history of make-up. Powder blushes were very common in the Regency era and it was literally used by everyone. Eyebrows needed to be prominent and hair colored. Since at the time high forehead was a sign of intelligence, women had some rather unusual (and unpleasant) rituals to achieve this so they wore a hair bandage soaked in vinegar and cat’s excrement because they believed this would help them stop hair growth on the forehead. Furthermore, recipes found in newspapers, ladies’ magazines and similar were also very popular. These beauty recipes included ingredients like herbs and other flowers, ointment, vegetables, spring water and crushed strawberries in particular. Porcelain skin was still an admirable feature and was a sign of sheltered aristocracy. In order to main pale complexion, women covered their entire body with clothes, even during bathing! They also wore wide brim hats. However, women still used poisonous skin products which “ensured” them that pale look, most notable being lead- and mercury-based products. Some of the side-effects of such products are hair loss, strong stomach pain, tremor and finally, death. But the danger in such cosmetics became widely recognized only after some tragic events took place, such as the death of a prominent British courtesan Kitty Fisher, who apparently died from lead-based cosmetics. Though a death like this was an eye-opening when it comes to harmful substances in make-up, some women continued to use lead-based products. Bright eyes were a desirable feature of the 18century woman so this look was encouraged by the use of eye drops known as “Belladonna” (they caused pupils to dilate) that caused blurred vision and prolonged use reputed to lead to blindness. Bright eyes were a desirable feature of the 18th-century woman so this look was encouraged by the use of eye drops known as “Belladonna” (they caused pupils to dilate) that caused blurred vision and prolonged use was reputed to lead to blindness.
A twist in the make-up history hit the scene during the Victorian Age, especially because the use of makeup, in general, was something to be frowned upon and was considered a vulgar way of embellishment used (and suitable for) only by prostitutes. Yet, this did not mean that make-up had “died” during this period, instead, a more natural look was sought after. Victorian women used homemade masks prepared from oat, honey and egg yolk. A mixture of rose water and aromatic apple cider vinegar was used as a facial cleanser. Back then, women pluck and shaped their eyebrows and nourished eyelashes with castor oil. Though women did not use rouge, but they used lip salve to enhance the appearance of their lips. Also, they would drop lemon juice in their eyes considering it a cleansing method and a way to attract somebody’s attention.
A number of ups and downs took place until the early 20th century when a true revolution in the history of make-up had happened. First mascara as we know it today was created by Eugene Rimmel and was marketed by a cosmetics company Maybelline which is popular even today. In the year 1914, Max Factor launched the first flexible makeup for a film (greasepaint) to make actors appear more human; this product developed and remained its best selling product up today. Soon after appeared first blusher and rouge in the packaging as we know today. Furthermore, popular Nivea crème entered the world of cosmetics in 1911 in Germany. Somewhere between 1930 and 1950 numerous Hollywood movie stars were hired to advertise new make-up lines, one of them being a movie icon Audrey Hepburn. During the 60s of the last century when hippie culture movement began to spread all over the world, along came a more liberal attitude towards wearing make-up. Carefully painted eyes with a palette of eye shadows were an absolute hit of the age and this trend continued until the 80s of the 20th century.
Modern age entirely transformed the concept of make-up into a field of art. There is such a broad spectrum of makeup products available today which can with relative ease significantly enhance our looks without the “assistance” of aesthetic or plastic surgery. The results can really be miraculous. Numerous types of makeup products, as well as numerous cosmetic companies in rising, despite the growing popularity of more enduring invasive beauty technologies, signify that make-up world has many more stories to tell and after all, it will always be a more affordable way to enhance our looks to the most of us.
However, what one likes and dislikes may vary, but one thing is certain: Eyes are the mirror of the soul and sometimes, no matter how much you try to embellish what’s outside, if it is not complemented with that inside, it is only a matter of time when the façade will reveal its true face.
Translation: G. Dujmović