Just How Old is Makeup?

What's the history of beauty products?

Find It Out

Have you ever wondered...

...just how old is makeup?

...has it always been a feminine thing?

...has it just been used for cosmetic purposes or other purposes as well?

Even though in present day society, cosmetics can seem like a modern luxury, women and men have been wearing makeup in various forms for thousands of years.In Ancient Greece, women were considered more attractive if they had a unibrow. Women who couldn't grow one would draw one in! These women also used a lead based paste on their skin to lighten the color, which we now know is an extremely toxic substance. Many of these women also lightened their hair using vinegar and sitting in the sun. Ancient Egyptians frequently wore green eye paint and black eye kohl used to line the eyes. Dye created from the henna plant was used to paint fingernails and color the hair. The Tang Dynasty of China had seven steps for cosmetic application: powdered base, rouge, eyebrow darkening, drawing a symbol on the forehead, painting the dimples, and adding lip color.

Both sexes in Ancient Egyptian society wore makeup because it was used as a status symbol for the wealthy and religious. In Ancient China, makeup was used more commonly for women, but not always. Lip colors, however, were used exclusively by women.

Ancient Egyptians believed that their makeup held magical qualities more so than medicinal, but studies in recent years have found that the kohl used prevented certain eye infections that could be contracted from the water of the Nile. The bright red lip pigments of the Tang Dynasty were used because they were thought to please the gods. There are many examples of the changing styles of lip painting in the various dynasties of China.

Try it out!

  • Curious to see some old makeup products up close? Many museums have fashion and beauty sections displaying artifacts that were used in the makeup creation or application processes.
  • Interesting in recent makeup history? Watching movies can be a great way to see the evolution of makeup preferences in certain societies and cultures. Watch an older movie like Metropolis and a newer film like Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
  • Want to try on older makeup styles on yourself? Look through photos or artistic renditions of people from the past and try to emulate their makeup. A few examples to work with are given below.