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Home > World of Beauty > Evolution in Cosmetics
21st century Evolution in Cosmetics

Cosmetics today have a vast evolution in todays times. It has evolution in the sense that it has had growth in all ways and means. Cosmetics have made way to progress in the form of revolution. Today there have been immense changes in the cosmetic industry. There is revolution in the sense that there are many products of different companies being produced. The markets for products have grown in the sense that competition has made way to these many changes. The ways and means of looking beautiful have never been the same through the centuries.

Lets take a walk into the history and chronicles the evolution of makeup and its perception from the ancient to the present.

There were no shopping malls or air-conditioned boutiques. Nor were there any brands that made women choose one cosmetic over another. But there was the concept of beauty and methods of enhancing it artificially. This was more than two thousand years ago and one is still not certain if the historians would wish to take it even further into the past. Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemies, was credited with writing a book of beauty secrets, an art that she was universally acknowledged as mastering. The powders and ointments she developed were somewhat crude by todays standards, but her formulas were an effective aid that perpetuated the longevity of her beautiful radiance that she was so famous for. Although cosmetics were occasionally applied to the lips and mouth, it is difficult to envision an image of an ancient Egyptian lacking the characteristic eye-make up. This make up was most typically Mesdemet, deriving either from Galena (lead sulphide) or from Stibnite (antimony sulphide.) This eye-make up had magical uses: it protected against the evil eye.

The Greeks differed in their conception of beauty enhancement. Their methods of application and choice of colours were also a bit removed from the usual. They used colours like reddish brown on their lips but their eye sockets were generally dark green. Alongwith wigs and headdresses, the practice of using makeup was common among both the sexes. Instances of both men and women using makeup are found till as late as the 16th century. Much later in the Elizabethan era, red and blonde hair colour came into fashion. Ladies from the royalty used to dust their hair with gold and had tight curls.

The use of white lead paint as a complexion lightener also started during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England as the ladies assumed they looked prettier with a white face. In the 18th century the use of white lead paint became more rampant. Despite the awareness of its poisonous properties, many stage actresses used it on their face and neck to look beautiful and succumbed to it.

Queen VictoriasDuring the 19th century, Queen Victorias reign saw fashion and makeup become formal and decorous. Modesty started being considered essential for all respectable women irrespective of their social status. Improvements were made in the use of white lead paint and many other steps were taken in making the look natural and yet beautiful and pretty. Trends in makeup and beauty have changed with every passing age and newer styles and concepts overwrite the earlier popular standards. In the early 20th century maturer look became fashionable and the use of lipstick and bright colours were minimized. As the modern industrialized era dawned and progressed in the 1930s, 1940s and 50s, makeup and beauty trends kept changing with minor or major alterations. Blonde was still in demand in the American film and fashion industry - stars like Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor made it big with their looks. The 1960s were known as the flower shower reign as flowers were in fashion for hairstyling. The lips became extremely pale and eyes were given more strength and power - an absolute must for 1960s look - this was a very theatrical look with heavy shading in the eye sockets and plain colour or none on the eyelids.

During the 70s the shiny doll look became famous. Even men wore their hair long, though it was not popular at the work place. By 1975, an unconventional or rather radical look commonly termed as "punk" caught the fancy of the youth, which swept away all the traces of 60s. Heads were fully or partly shaved, safety pins were worn through pierced noses, and earrings often adorned a single ear. The looks were almost statements of revolt against the prevalent social norms. Tattoos became fashionable and girls had pale faces with no makeup or heavy eye makeup. Come 1980s and it was time for the punk style to make its exit. This time, it was the Gothic look with faces painted white once more, heavy eye makeup and the hair gelled to make it stick up. Hairstyles became big priorities for women to match their designer clothes. The importance of makeup became quiet pronounced for women, and pink seemed to have become fashionable for the eyelids. The last decade of the 20th century was more of nostalgia with fashion adopting looks from the past and revamping and adopting them as its own. The models on the catwalk went swiftly through past, reliving its memories by wearing false lashes, eyebrows being shaved off and line pencilled in.

The evolution might not have stopped in the new millennium, nor will it ever stop. New concepts and trends will get thrown up - new shades and colours will come up as a result of mixing, blending and shading. An ever-germinating facet of aesthetics, makeup has no such words as always or never - its parameters are open-ended on both sides, being driven by human imagination and subjective choice. If recreating the trends of the Cleopatra age can catch the fancy of the 21st century once again, can there be credible dividing lines between the past, present and future of makeup?

Perhaps Shakespeare would have said, to like or not to like, that is the question.

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