Cosmetics have been around for millennia. The earliest examples of makeup that historians have found come from Ancient Egypt, at least 7,000 years ago. So how did the evolution of makeup occur, and how did we get to the wide range of products available today? Let’s look at historical makeup trends to see how makeup has changed over the years.
Ancient Makeup Product Trends and Their Ingredients
How long has makeup been around? Long enough to include these ancient items as products and ingredients:
Kohl: Ancient Egyptian men and women wore kohl, a thick, dark type of ancient eyeliner made from a range of ingredients that varied depending on a person’s socioeconomic status. Some poor Ancient Egyptians used soot and animal lard to make kohl, while the upper classes tended to use copper oxides and ochres, along with luxury ingredients such as crushed pearls and galena. It gave their eyes nice, symmetrical almond shapes, and some of the ingredients used prevented eye infections. Kohl has survived since its ancient heyday, however—you can find a modern version of it in Captain Jack Sparrow’s signature guyliner look in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series.
Rice Powder: Chinese and Japanese men and women used rice powder to whiten their faces around 1500 BCE. They would apply intricate henna stain patterns to their hair and faces.
White Lead: People used many ingredients for makeup over the years, and some of them were toxic. White lead is perhaps the most well-known of these toxic ingredients. Women wore white lead to whiten their faces first in Ancient Greece. It remained a popular makeup ingredient up through the 1800s, when scientists discovered how toxic it was. For several centuries up through the 19th century, women used a white lead foundation mixture called ceruse. Extensive use of ceruse led women to experience paralysis, facial tremors, and even death.
Arsenic: Another toxic beauty ingredient. Arsenic sometimes replaced lead in white face powder in Renaissance Europe. Like white lead, it appeared in beauty products until the 19th century. It may seem unusual that such toxic beauty ingredients were so popular for so long, but people in those centuries were used to using and wearing many more toxic ingredients in their daily life than we do now. People in the 1800s resisted warning labels on many products, including makeup and household items, that included toxic ingredients.
These ingredients and trends just scratch the surface of the history of makeup. Many different cultures have used different ingredients and trends to meet their societies’ beauty standards.
When Did Modern Makeup Emerge?
Modern makeup as we know it emerged in the early 20th century. After a long period of not using makeup due to Queen Victoria’s distaste for it, society ladies began using cosmetics to appear youthful when they hosted gatherings during the Edwardian Era. The modern lipstick tube was invented in 1915, and T.L. Williams began selling Maybelline Mascara (named after his sister, Mabel) in 1917. But Hollywood brought makeup into the American mainstream. Cosmetics creator Max Factor, Sr. (birth name: Maksymilian Faktorowicz) created cosmetics specifically for use in motion pictures, including modern pancake makeup in 1935. In fact, Factor coined the word “makeup” with his son in 1920. At the same time, women began favoring tan skin to mimic their favorite starlets and fashion designer Coco Chanel. Modern makeup was beginning to resemble the products we know and love today
The History of Nail Polish
We’ve only discussed the history of face makeup so far. Let’s take a brief look at the history of nail polish. People have dyed or stained their nails since about 3000 BCE in China. Back then, they used a stain made of gum arabic, beeswax, gelatin, and egg; they added color to this stain, and each color was restricted to a specific social class. For example, the emperor and his immediate family could stain their nails gold and silver, while lesser royals used red and black, while commoners were forbidden from staining their nails with bright colors. Later on, people used dyes to color their nails until the 1920s, when the first liquid nail polish was invented. Liquid nail polish became the norm, and Revlon used pigments instead of dyes for the first time in 1932. Revlon introduced the concept of seasonal nail polish colors, which is still a beauty industry norm today.
Connect with us today to enroll in our esthetics program, where you can learn more about makeup and skin care techniques.
Makeup Styles Through the Decades of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
Once makeup reached its modern state, certain trends emerged over the last ten decades:
1920s: The flapper makeup look emerged in the 1920s. This look featured red lipstick and nail polish, dark eye makeup, and tanned skin.
1940s: Leg makeup became a trend during World War II as the Western world experienced a shortage of stockings and hosiery. Women would color their legs to give the appearance of stockings or hosiery.
1960s: False eyelashes became popular with women, including models, starlets, and everyday people. Natural makeup ingredients, such as carrot juice, appeared during this decade.
1980s: Brightly colored eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick blossomed during this decade and have maintained popularity in every decade since. Smoky eye looks first emerged during this period.
2000s: The smoky eye trend reached its peak during this decade. Regulations and governing bodies for makeup also emerged here.
2020s: In the past decade, online beauty influencers have helped generate beauty trends. Makeup tutorials are now a major part of YouTube, and all the major beauty brands have online and social media presences.