A Brief History of Makeup

As Gwyneth Paltrow once said, "Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or kick-ass red lipstick." While I've never been a true artist by any means, I've continuously found huge amounts of inspiration in women's cosmetics. I get excited about neutral lip liners, oil free foundation, and crease proof eyeshadow- all of which are so much more than just color swatches. I love the confidence that comes from makeup, and I love the science behind it. Besides learning more chemistry from a tube of mascara than my actual high school Chem class, there is always something artistically striking by "kick-ass red lipstick".

0410-01-01 15:51:49

Middle Ages

While cosmetics were not popular, "paleness" was associated with the upper class. Tan individuals were generally people who worked out in the fields. As a result, women would look for ways to whiten their faces.

0650-01-01 17:55:13

Japan: Geishas

Geishas have had a long and extensive history in Japan. Rice powder or bird droppings would be used to whiten their face. Red lipstick was very iconic, and contouring would be created with rouge. Also, their traditional application of eyeliner was originally used with charcoal (today, they use current beauty products)

1200 BC-01-01 09:39:11

Surrounding Middle East

Kohl eyeliner and other facial treatments were also used in the Middle East. Some regions only restricted cosmetics if it mislead others of your appearance, or caused harm to your body.

1350 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Ancient Egypt

Archeological proof shows that Egyptians utilized kohl and henna in their beauty regimens. One of the best examples is the bust of Nefertiti, which shows her wearing eyeliner.

1900-01-01 00:00:00


A huge time period for makeup- cosmetics became popular early in the 1900's due to the resurgence of ballet in France. Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal were only a few of the companies founded during this decade. Sunscreen and synthetic hair dye were also created early on. In the 1920's, the flapper revolution took over cosmetics with dark eye makeup and red lips. Nail polish also became particularly popular, but only in soft pink shades. Any girl who wore nail polish darker than "baby pink" would be rumored to have extensive sexual experiences.

1960-01-01 00:00:00


The rise of feminism inspired women to go without makeup during this decade. Women viewed the use of makeup to identify themselves as sex objects. In the 70's, makeup companies began producing makeup for African American women. Previously, most makeup shades were not rich enough or were too pale, limiting African American women of their choices.

2000-04-01 17:50:41

Cosmetics Today

Currently, makeup is readily available both online and in a variety of stores. In the past decade or so, other international markets have emerged in the cosmetics business. Currently, Japan is the second largest market in the world. Also, to some surprise, Russia has emerged as the fifth largest and fastest growing market as of 2012.

3000 BC-01-01 06:00:10

Ancient China

Upper class Chinese citizens would use natural, bright pigmentations to color their nails. Also, they wore bright colored robes in red or yellow (also only reserved for the upper class).

A Brief History of Makeup

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