All Made Up

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Women and men have always used paints, powders, dyes, and perfumes to decorate their hair, faces, and bodies. From earliest times, colorful makeup was used to frighten enemies, to show social rank, for religious ceremonies, in puberty rites, to make magic, and to protect the skin and eyes.

A Brief History of Cosmetics

Egypt and Rome, 1,000 B.C.

Lipstick was first manufactured in the U.S. in 1915. Kiss-proof lipstick came out in 1925. Purple was the color of the '60s and white lipstick was popular in the '70s.

  • Women and men both used rouge, lipstick, and nail polish.
  • Black and green eye-shadow was used to protect the eyes from the desert sun.
  • Women traced the veins in their skin with blue paint.
  • Black kohl was used as mascara, eyebrow darkener, and eye-liner.
  • Body moisturizers included sesame, olive, palm, and almond oils.
  • Perfumes were made of musk, thyme, myrrh, and frankincense.
  • Hair dyes were made from henna, the blood of black cows, and from crushed tadpoles in warm oil.
  • The first frosted look in makeup was achieved by pulverizing ant eggs and adding them to face paints.
  • The Romans used crocodile excrement for mud baths, barley flour and butter for pimples, and sheep fat and blood for nail polish.
  • Roman men and women frequently dyed their hair blonde. The dyes were so caustic that many people lost their hair and had to wear wigs.
  • In the Middle Ages, European society women painted their faces white or were bled (actually had some of the blood drained out of their bodies) to achieve a pale complexion.
  • In China and Japan rice powder paint was used to paint faces white. Eyebrows were plucked, and teeth were painted black or gold.
  • In Europe in the Middle Ages, beauty patches worn on the skin had meaning. Adhesive fabrics cut in the shapes of stars, hearts, and crosses were worn in the following manner: one to the right of the mouth meant the woman was flirtatious; one on the right cheek meant she was married; one on the left cheek meant she was engaged; and at the corner of an eye meant she was passionate.
  • In Elizabethan England dyed red hair was the fashion. Women also slept with slices of raw beef on their faces to get rid of wrinkles.
  • European men stopped using perfumes and wearing cosmetics during the Victorian era in England.
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