The term “cosmetics” is derived from the Greek word kosmetikos, meaning “skilled in adornment” (Sage 33). The evolution of cosmetics has seen changes in how they are applied and the reasons for their use. In ancient times, Roman philosopher Plautus remarked that beauty was as essential as salt in food, emphasizing the timeless pursuit of beauty. Historical artwork and illustrations depict both men and women adorned with makeup.
The use of cosmetics has transformed and differed across numerous cultures throughout history. This includes the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, French, Italians, and Americans. Ancient Egypt holds the earliest archaeological proof of cosmetic usage dating back to around 3500 BC. Even prominent individuals such as Nefertiti, Nefertari, and Tutankhamun possessed makeup. The Ancient Greeks and Romans similarly employed cosmetics which sometimes contained toxic substances like mercury and lead.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, specifically in 2 Kings 9:30, it is mentioned that cosmetics had an influence on the ancient kingdom of Israel. This is illustrated by the act of Jezebel painting her eyelids around 840 BC. Additionally, beauty treatments are described in the Book of Esther. Moving on to the Middle Ages, despite disapproval from Church leaders, many women continued to use cosmetics. During this time, a popular trend among women was to have a fair complexion. This was attained by applying mixtures of lead, chalk, or flour, or by engaging in bloodletting.
In Western history, the use of cosmetics, such as white lead pigment referred to as “ceruse”, was disapproved. During the 19th century, makeup was mainly associated with prostitutes, prompting Queen Victoria to publicly denounce it as improper and vulgar, allowing its use only by actors. Adolf Hitler went as far as likening face painting to clownish behavior, claiming it was unsuitable for women belonging to the master race. Additionally, women in the 19th century aimed to be perceived as delicate ladies, often comparing themselves to fragile flowers and highlighting their femininity.
They always strived to appear pale and captivating. Occasionally, women subtly applied a small amount of blush on their cheeks, and utilized “belladonna” to enlarge their eyes for a more striking appearance. Generally, the use of makeup was discouraged, particularly during the stricter social norms of the 1870s. Nonetheless, actresses were permitted to wear makeup, and renowned beauties like Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry could be seen with powdered faces. The majority of available cosmetic products during this time were either of questionable chemical composition or derived from food colorings, berries, and beetroot.
By the middle of the 20th century, cosmetics were extensively used by women in almost all industrial societies worldwide. Cosmetics have been employed for centuries, but the lack of regulation in their production and usage has resulted in detrimental consequences such as deformities, blindness, and even death throughout history.
Historical instances of these outcomes include the widespread application of ceruse (white lead) to mask the face during the Renaissance and incidents of blindness caused by the mascara called Lash Lure in the early 20th century.
The annual expenditures for cosmetics worldwide currently amount to $19 billion . L’Oreal, the largest company in the industry, was established by Eugene Schueller in 1909 under the name French Harmless Hair Colouring Company. Presently, Liliane Bettencourt and Nestle own 26% and 28% respectively, while the remaining 46% is publicly traded. Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Max Factor played a significant role in establishing the market in the USA during the 1910s. Shortly before World War II, Revlon joined these companies, followed by Estee Lauder soon after.
There is now a wide range of beauty products available from online retailers that exclusively operate on the internet. These retailers have been joined by major department stores and traditional physical beauty retailers that have expanded their operations online. Cosmetic companies, like many other industries, oppose regulation by government agencies such as the FDA and have consistently opposed it. The FDA does not need to authorize or review cosmetics or their ingredients before they are sold to the public.
The FDA regulates the allowed colors in cosmetics and hair dyes, but not injuries caused by these products or their recalls. The rise in popularity of cosmetics, especially among young American girls, has led to criticism and controversy. This trend affects companies catering to a younger consumer base, including both affordable brands like Rimmel and more luxurious options.
Estee Lauder has addressed the increasing market demand by launching a collection of flavored lipsticks and glosses, while also incorporating glittery and sparkly packaging. Additionally, their marketing campaigns now feature young models. This shift towards appealing to younger audiences has attracted significant media attention, with various groups such as feminists, Islamists, Christianists, animal rights activists, authors, and public interest organizations expressing concerns and criticisms towards the cosmetics industry.
Increasingly, consumers are seeking cosmetics free of harmful substances such as petroleum, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and parabens. Numerous studies have raised concerns about the safety of specific surfactants. SLS has been associated with various skin issues, including dermatitis. While rare, parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in individuals with allergies. Animal testing suggests that parabens exhibit a mild estrogenic effect and function as xenoestrogens.
Regular use of cosmetics can lead to decreased eyelash thickness. Many consumer products contain artificial fragrances, which have been found to cause allergies during patch testing. Manufacturers of cosmetics have been criticized for making unsupported claims about their products. The cosmetic industry has grown extensively since the 20th century, driven by increasing demand for beauty salons, and it continues to thrive.
Selfridges, a salon established in 1909, brought about a revolution in the cosmetics industry by openly showcasing products instead of concealing them. This shift empowered women to feel more self-assured and less preoccupied with societal judgment as long as they presented themselves attractively. To view applying makeup as an artistic endeavor, one must acknowledge the profound influence of the performing arts, notably ballet, on the realm of cosmetics. Fashion designer Paul Poiret was inspired by the arrival of the Russian Ballet in London and introduced a dynamic and vivid aesthetic.
And that appearance was mirrored in cosmetics, not only in clothing. Today, those socialite hostesses no longer needed to constantly visit the beauty salon. They now had the option of permanent cosmetics. They could get their lips, cheeks, and eyebrows tattooed with vibrant color that would not fade or require replacement. Even today, permanent cosmetics remain quite popular. As time passed, the use of cosmetics waxed and waned. In the 1930s, lipstick featured hues of dark red, with a constantly evolving range of shades.
Those who were unfaithful to their partners faced an issue with the bold-colored lipstick. It left a noticeable stain, arousing suspicion among wives. This led them to seek explanations for the well-known “lipstick on the collar”. Fingernails also embraced audaciousness like lipstick, adorned in different shades of deep crimson. Meanwhile, toenails opted for a lighter hue of pink. During World War II, there was a decline in the availability of cosmetics due to ingredient shortages. However, once the war ended, people started spending money again and women gained freedom to buy unlimited amounts of makeup.
Over the past few decades, the cosmetics industry has experienced significant growth and increased competition. Women now have a multitude of choices when it comes to makeup products, including mascara, eye shadow, and eye liner. Facial cleansing systems have also expanded to include options such as cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Nail polish is now available in various colors and designs, while lotions, lipsticks, skincare products, and powders offer a wider range of selections. This expansion has led to the cosmetics industry becoming a billion-dollar market.
Various players currently exist in the cosmetics industry, including Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Mac Cosmetics, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, Clinique, L’Oreal, Bobbi Brown cosmetics, and Victoria Jackson cosmetics. Each of these companies is introducing their own product lines into the market. The consumer ultimately benefits from this competition. Regardless of the desired outcome – whether it involves concealing, highlighting, illuminating, minimizing enhancing or perfecting – today’s cosmetics can help you achieve it. Even during economic downturns, cosmetics remain highly sought-after products. Women will always find a way to afford their makeup.
Men benefit from women’s efforts to enhance their beauty throughout the years. They should be grateful to the ancient Egyptians for their strange beauty formulas, as many of these ideas have survived and evolved into today’s cosmetics. So when you see your special lady with her perfectly-applied cosmetics, you should greet her with admiration and say, “Wow!”
Thu, 09/11/2008 – 04:41 — James Martell
Are we too obsessed with our physical appearance in society? Do we have more pride than the average person when it comes to how we look? To answer these questions, it is important to establish what is considered normal. It’s okay to care about our appearance as long as it doesn’t consume us completely. Our goal is simply to be attractive and presentable. Throughout history, people have focused on enhancing their looks, which is why the history of cosmetics spans a significant amount of time. This article will explore the evolution of cosmetics and compare them to ancient Egyptian civilization dating back approximately 10,000 BC. The Egyptians had a wide range of cosmetic products.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that their appearance was directly linked to their spirituality, so it was crucial for them to look and smell good. They saw cleanliness as a reflection of their spirituality and believed in the importance of maintaining a presentable or even fabulous appearance. With their painted faces, the Egyptians aimed to create a striking and classic look. Their resourcefulness also played a role in finding ways to enhance their appearance.
The Egyptians were remarkably innovative during ancient times, especially in the field of cosmetics. They excelled at creating natural formulas to address different skin issues. It is astonishing that even as far back as the fifteenth to tenth centuries BC, they had cosmetic products capable of eliminating stretch marks, reducing wrinkles, getting rid of scars, and promoting hair growth. This achievement is truly impressive when compared to the multitude of modern products claiming to achieve similar results. Nowadays, extensive research and development programs appear necessary to attain comparable outcomes.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for natural cosmetics after all. The Ancient Egyptians also used other cosmetics such as eye makeup, face creams, and body oils. They were skilled in mixing ingredients and had a wide array of perfumes and fragrances. These cosmetics were essential for Egyptian women to look good. Hence, they invented a cosmetic called mesdemet to fulfill this necessity.
Mesdemet, a makeup used by ancient Egyptians, was created using copper and lead ore. Although not the safest option for applying to the face, it served its purpose. The Egyptians applied green to their lower eyelids and black or dark gray to their eyelashes and upper eyelids. These dark colors not only improved their appearance but also protected them from the power of the evil eye, adhering to their spiritual beliefs. Additionally, mesdemet acted as a great disinfectant and repelled insects. Since life on the Nile was often plagued by annoying insects, this eye makeup served a dual purpose.
The cosmetics made by the ancient Egyptians had a wide range of ingredients and were used for both beauty and medical purposes. One of their products, called kohl, was made from a combination of burnt almonds, oxidized copper, different-colored copper ores, lead, ash, and ochre. This mixture was turned into a dark-colored powder and applied in an almond shape around the eyes using a small stick. To enhance their appearance further, they also applied a combination of red clay and water to their lips and cheeks. Even their nails received attention in their beauty rituals.
They used henna to color them orange or yellow. Quite a vibrant image, don’t you agree? However, that was precisely their intention at that time – something similar to today, perhaps? Moreover, the Egyptians excelled not only in creating natural products. A study conducted by L’Oreal, in collaboration with scientists from the Louvre in Paris, unveiled that the black eye makeup utilized during ancient times contained synthetic ingredients, as no natural source could be identified. Additionally, the research indicated that mesdemet achieved its silky texture due to its fat content ranging from 7-10%.
That’s just the same as many of the eye cosmetic products on the market today. Are we really advanced, or just living in the past? The purpose of cosmetics hasn’t really changed over the years. Way back – I mean, way back – like in 10,000 BC, cosmetics were used to enhance the beauty of the female countenance. And by the way, men used them, too. Back then, all Egyptians bathed either in the river or from a basin at home. They used cosmetic cleansers made from vegetable or animal oil mixed with powdered lime and perfume – probably not much different from some of the soaps we use today.
During the ancient times, when the air was hot and dry, people used perfumed oils to maintain the softness of their skin. These oils served as protection against the climate. As different cultures merged through invasions and migrations, the significance of cosmetics underwent a profound transformation. The Egyptians believed in the spiritual connection between their cosmetic makeup and their spirituality. However, when the more liberal Greeks arrived, attitudes towards cosmetics shifted. Although the use of cosmetics remained prevalent, their association with spirituality diminished.
The Greeks used cosmetics primarily for aesthetic purposes. Unlike the Egyptians, they focused on looking good for each other rather than for the gods. As a result, they adopted Egyptian cosmetic practices and products. However, when the Romans arrived centuries later, their indulgent and hedonistic lifestyle influenced the use of cosmetics. The Egyptians’ cosmetic formulas were adapted for less spiritual purposes, such as aphrodisiacs. Nevertheless, vanity remained a concern, so cosmetics continued to be applied not only on the face but also on the body.
According to Platus, a Roman man, it was once remarked that “a woman without paint is like food without salt.” The Romans lived a lifestyle with no limitations, which also extended to the ingredients they used in their cosmetics. For instance, they would use a combination of fat from a sheep and blood as nail polish. Additionally, they did not hesitate to prioritize their lives by bathing in mud blended with crocodile excrement. Disgusting! For centuries, having a pale face was the preferred appearance as it signified one’s social standing.
The individuals who worked outdoors in the fields were known for their tanned and tough skin. These individuals belonged to the working class and were not associated with the upper class, who had fair skin. People with fair skin were considered wealthy enough to not have to work. To attain this appearance, both men and women utilized a powder consisting of hydroxide, carbonate, and lead oxide. Unfortunately, there were consequences for this pursuit of an “appropriate” look – lead poisoning. Consequently, a substitute was sought after. Eventually, in the 19th century, an alternative facial powder made of zinc oxide was discovered. This is the same powder that is still in use today.
In the 20th century, as the cosmetic industry entered Hollywood, the white face aesthetic gradually gave way to a desire for a tanned appearance. This shift led to the creation of artificial tanners and a whole new line of cosmetic products. In 1929, advertisements were promoting tanning liquid and powder, offering individuals the opportunity to achieve bronze skin even if they couldn’t tan naturally. Furthermore, cosmetics were utilized to achieve a more youthful appearance, particularly during the Edwardian society days around 1900. Middle-aged women who frequently entertained as hostesses sought to appear as young as possible.
These society women required assistance to counteract the consequences of their luxurious lifestyles, such as unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, and the prevalence of air pollution during that period. In order to maintain their youthful appearance and compensate for their extravagant ways, Edwardian women heavily relied on cosmetics, particularly face creams and anti-aging products. Visiting beauty salons was another popular method in which women aimed to achieve a naturally youthful and appealing look. The House of Cyclax in London was renowned as one of the most well-known salons.
Because the women wanted to keep their need for assistance in looking beautiful a secret, they would enter the salon through the back door. They would arrive in their carriages and quickly disembark, wearing veils to conceal their complexions, before rushing inside. Mrs. Henning, the proprietor of the House of Cyclax, discreetly offered face creams and blush to the ladies. Among her products was papier poudre, a colored-powdered paper that the women would apply to their faces to eliminate any shine. These papers were sold in book format and are still available for purchase today; one such company that sells them is Avon.
In addition to using papier poudre, women also utilized charcoal on the end of burned matches to serve as mascara and flower petals for lipstick. These natural cosmetics were highly trendy. Helena Rubenstein, another salon owner, saw a surge in business from her wealthy clientele. These women were willing to spend significant amounts of money on their appearance. Initially, Rubenstein offered a face cream with sun protection, but later expanded her line to include lipstick and face powder. Nowadays, Helena Rubenstein offers a comprehensive range of cosmetics. The cosmetics industry truly flourished in the 20th century.
The cosmetics industry gained establishment and popularity as beauty salons became more popular in the early 20th century. This growth began with the opening of Selfridges salon in London in 1909, which made cosmetics readily available to the general public rather than being hidden away. As women became more confident, their concern about others’ opinions diminished, as long as they appeared attractive. The performing arts, particularly ballet, played a significant role in shaping the cosmetic industry, if one considers makeup application as an artistic endeavor.
When the Russian Ballet performed in London, designer Paul Poiret took inspiration from the Russian style and introduced a fresh and vibrant look. This new look extended beyond clothing and influenced the cosmetics industry. It provided an alternative for society hostesses who no longer needed frequent visits to beauty salons. They could now opt for permanent cosmetics that involved tattooing their lips, cheeks, and eyebrows with long-lasting vivid color. This eliminated the need for regular touch-ups. Even today, permanent cosmetics remain popular. Over time, the use of cosmetics has had its ups and downs.
From the 1930s onwards, lipstick came in various shades of dark red, leaving noticeable stains. This posed a problem for cheaters, as wives questioned the presence of “lipstick on the collar”. Similarly, fingernails adopted the same crimson color as lipstick, while toenails sported a lighter pink shade. During World War II, cosmetic usage declined due to ingredient shortages. However, once the war ended, people resumed their lavish spending habits. This allowed women to freely purchase as much makeup as they desired.
And the competition was heating up, too. The cosmetics industry becomes the foundation of fashion Throughout the last few decades, women’s choices of cosmetics greatly increased. There were many companies selling many kinds of makeup. Cosmetics now included eye makeup, like mascara, eye shadow and eye liner; facial cleansing systems, including cleanser, toner and moisturizer; nail polish, every color and design you can think of; lotions, lipsticks, skincare products, powders – the list goes on and on. Perhaps that’s why cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry today.
There is a wide range of players in the cosmetics industry now, including Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Mac Cosmetics, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Avon, Clinique, L’Oreal, Bobbi Brown cosmetics, Victoria Jackson cosmetics. Each of these companies has their own lines of cosmetics. However, the ultimate winner in this competitive game is you, the consumer. Regardless of the specific look you desire – whether it is for coverage, emphasis, illumination, minimization, enhancement or perfection – today’s cosmetics can help you achieve it. Interestingly, the demand for cosmetics remains strong even during a recession. Women will always prioritize spending on makeup products.
Men appreciate the efforts women have made over the years to enhance their beauty. We have the ancient Egyptians to thank for their unconventional formulas that have influenced cosmetics today. So, guys, take a moment to acknowledge the amazing transformation women achieve with their perfectly-applied cosmetics. Author Arden Mellor is a seasoned freelance writer who simplifies complex topics, including cosmetic products, haircare products, and ladies jewelry. Benefit from the wisdom presented in Arden’s articles to make life simpler.