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Home > World of Beauty > History of Cosmetics
History of Cosmetics

Ancient Egypt The first archaeological evidence of cosmetics usage is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics. The Romans and ancient Egyptians used cosmetics containing mercury. "In the 1800s, Queen Victoria publicly declared makeup impolite. It was viewed as vulgar and something that was worn by actors and prostitutes." [1] By World War II, cosmetics had common application in the West (although banned in Nazi Germany). Other notable events in cosmetics history are detailed in the external link below. In Japan, geishas wore lipstick made of crushed safflower petals to paint the eyebrows and edges of the eyes as well as the lips. Geisha as a makeup base used sticks of bintsuke wax a softer version of the sumo wrestlers hair wax. White paste and powder colour the face and back; rouge contours the eye socket and defines the nose. Black paint colours the teeth for the ceremony when maiko (apprentice geisha) graduate and become independent. As of 2005, the cosmetics industry is dominated by a small number of multinationals that all originated in the early 20th century. Of the dominant firms, the oldest and the largest is LOr้al, which was founded by Eugene Shueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company. The true market developers were the 1910s American trio Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Max Factor. These firms established the market and were augmented by Revlon just before World War II and Est้e Lauder just after.

The earliest historical record of cosmetics comes from the 1st Dynasty of Egypt (circa 2920-2770 BC). Tombs of this era have yielded unguent jars, and from remains of later periods it is evident that the unguents were scented. Both men extensively used such preparations, as well as perfumed oils, and women to keep the skin supple and unwrinkled in the dry heat of Egypt. The women of Egypt also developed the art of decorating the eyes by applying dark green color to the under lid and by blackening the lashes and the upper lid with kohl, a preparation made from antimony or soot. It is likely that the Jews adopted the use of cosmetics from the Egyptians, since references to the painting of faces appear in the Old Testament.

RomansBy the middle of the 1st century ad, cosmetics were widely used by the Romans, who employed kohl for darkening eyelashes and eyelids, chalk for whitening the complexion, rouge and depilatories, and pumice for cleaning the teeth. The Crusaders found cosmetics widely used in the Middle East and spread their use throughout Europe. The almost universal use of cosmetics in modern times has grown with the scientific study of the ingredients employed. This research was begun by the French in the 19th century and led to the development of more and better cosmetics at low cost.

Cosmetics have been used for, as long as there have been people to use them. Face painting is mentioned in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 23:40) and eye shadow was used in Egyptian burials dating back to 10,000 BC (Llewelyn) The word "cosmetae" was first used to describe Roman slaves whose function was to bathe men and women in perfume. (Keville, Green) Since the Egyptians, each subsequent civilization invented unique words that referred to cosmetics and fragrance as one science, but the science eroded after Rome. Anthropologists speculate that primitive perfumery began with the burning of gums and resins for incense. Richly scented plants were fused into animal and vegetable oils for ceremonial anointings and for pleasure. From 7,000 to 4,000 BC, the fatty oils of olive and sesame were combined with fragrant plants to create the original Neolithic ointments. When the Egyptians were learning to write and make bricks in 3,000 BC, they were also importing large quantities of myrrh. The earliest recorded Items of Egyptian commerce included spices, gums and other fragrant plants that were reserved mainly for religious use.

EgyptianCosmetics were an inherent part of Egyptian hygiene and health. Oils and creams were used for protection against the hot Egyptian sun and dry winds. Myrrh, thyme, marjoram, chamomile, lavender, lily, peppermint, rosemary, cedar, rose, aloe, olive oil, sesame oil and almond oil provided the basic ingredients of most perfumes that were used in religious ritual and embalming the dead (Cohen) For lips, cheeks and nails, a clay called red ochre was ground and mixed with water. Henna was used to dye fingernails yellow or orange. Makeup was stored in special jars that were kept in special makeup boxes. Women would carry their makeup boxes to parties and keep them under their chairs. (ED 370) Although men also wore makeup, they did not carry their makeup kits with them.

Cosmetics have been used since Egyptian times. They were also commonplace in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The idea of using cosmetics to enhance the appearance has not changed since these times. Using cosmetics is still designed to capture the appearance of youth in perfect health. Colorful cosmetics hide the appearance of pale cheeks, pale lips and fingernails and dull hair.

Many of the cosmetics used contained dangerous ingredients. There was often more importance put on the application of cosmetics rather than washing and cleaning the skin.

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