History of make-up: changes in the world of cosmetics from antiquity to the present day

History of make-up: changes in the world of cosmetics from antiquity to the present day

Do you know the history of make-up, its origins and the changes it has undergone over time? Here are the main developments in a journey through the centuries.

We've seen the history of lip gloss and the history of Powder, we've discovered interesting facts about mascara, about eyeliner and about lipstick, now it's time to delve into the history of make-up, through a journey through time from antiquity to the present day.

The origin of make-up in Egyptian times

The history of make-up begins in ancient Egypt. Here make-up had mostly a religious and ritualfunction. It was believed that beauty was pleasing to the gods and could therefore protect against evil. For this reason, mixtures and body oils specially made by priests were used. In addition, black lines were used to enhance the eyes, giving them an elongated, almond-shaped appearance, using what we know today as Khol or Kajalmade from metals, powders, minerals and animal fats.

The history of make-up in the classical world

In the classical world, the Greeks attached great importance to beauty and aesthetics, so much so that there were fines for women who dared to appear in public looking neglected. There is evidence of skin care products made from natural ingredients such as olive oil and milk. To give colour to the skin, they used the red of lead oxide, the red of the plant Anchusa tinctoria (henna), phukos (seaweed) or dried blackberries.

But the most widely used cosmetic in ancient Greece was white lead (basic lead carbonate), which gave the skin a pale complexion: the white colour was a symbol of purity and virtue for women. However, white lead was extremely poisonous and its constant use could even cause death.

Following the conquest of Greece, the Romans also learned to take care of their appearance and adopted some of the customs of the vanquished people. Beauty manuals were even published in Rome, such as Ovid's De medicamine faciei feminae , which (among other things) recommends the use of white lead from Rhodes to conceal skin imperfections.

The dark ages of the Middle Ages

Inthe Middle Ages, the history of make-up also went through a dark period. In this period, body care and cosmetic practices were not very popular, and make-up was only applied on special occasions. This was also due to the fact that the Church condemned these practices and considered them futile, or even dangerous for spiritual integrity.

Of course, make-up had not completely disappeared! And some women still dedicated themselves to the care of their face and hair. The basic ingredients of face make-up were a poisonous concoction of lead powder, vinegar and honey, which gave the complexion an opaque white colour, but over time corroded and disfigured it.

The revenge of make-up in the Renaissance

During the Renaissance, thanks to the revival of the arts, cosmetics also took off again. The taste for the classical and for beauty, understood as perfection and harmony, returned through the search for a perfect complexion and the enhancement of forms.

Everything had to symbolise opulence, wealth and abundance. Gradually everything became exaggerated, not only the clothes and hairstyles, but also the make-up (for both men and women): the complexion was white thanks to the use of white lead, the lips and cheeks were red and even the blue veins on the body were emphasised with a lapis lazuli pencil.

Cosmetics in the Victorian era

The Victorian era was a period dominated by a strict moral code, religious values, modesty and sexual sobriety. Between 1700 and 1800, new cosmetic trends wanted a diaphanous face, a very pale look with porcelain skin. However, theexcessive use of make-up wasfrowned upon by the upper classes, and was the exclusive preserve of actresses and prostitutes. In short, the perfect Victorian lady was naturally pale, subdued, delicate, and used make-up without exaggeration.

In addition, cosmetology underwent considerable refinement in the second half of the 19th century, mainly due to developments in chemistry.

The early 1900s and the birth of cosmetics companies

In the 20th century we see a real revolution in the history of make-up. It was in the 20th century that the first cosmetic companies were founded and that aesthetic standards changed completely. No longer were women pale and unassuming, on the contrary! The idea that a natural complexion (as opposed to the cadaverous one caused by consumption, the disease of the century) was a symbol of health and vitality began to spread. And in 1913, the cosmetic use of lead white lead was banned.

The first coloured foundations were introduced as we know them today. Initially designed for the film industry, they soon became the favourite products of women of all social classes.

In the 1950s, with growing post-war optimism, there was a real explosion of colour. This was the period of cosmetics sold door-to-door, the first make-up artists and light cosmetics.

In the second half of the 20th century, the history of make-up went hand in hand with the socio-cultural history: make-up became a symbol of female emancipation, youth protests and then the consumer hedonism of the 1980s.

Finally, in the 1990s there was a return to a minimalism dictated by the economic crisis, uncertainty about the future and even the spectre of AIDS. There was no more exaggeration and no more bursting beauty: suffice it to say that the 90s icon par excellence, Kate Moss, flaunted an almost emaciated look thanks also to her exasperated thinness.

In addition, make-up for dark and Hispanic skin types was introduced: these women had been little considered until now, but the model Iman (of Sudanese origin) decided to fill this gap by launching a line of foundations designed specifically for this sector of consumers.

What's new in the 21st century

The changes of the 2000s are also evident when it comes to the cosmetics industry and the history of make-up. Nature and technology take over.

With the new millennium make-up is becoming increasingly natural, not only in its final effect but also in the use of raw materials. Mineral make-up has made its appearance, as has the lighter, easy-to-apply mousse formulation. Finally, great news also from the East: first of all, the BB cream, the all-in-one product that combines the characteristics of a face cream and a foundation.

In general, much more attention is paid to respecting nature and the skin. Cosmetics must perform well, but without harming us or the environment.

And the idea of beauty is changing too! It is no longer about achieving a canon of perfection and harmony, but about enhancing our beauty and highlighting our features.

And then what? Well, times change and trends run fast. Stay tuned for more trends to come!

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