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Makeup and It’s Long and Complicated History

Today makeup is a huge part of our daily life but there was a time when the idea of makeup was frowned upon, and our ancestors didn’t spend hours getting eyebrows shaped and hair-styles set. How much do you know about makeup and its origins? Here’s what you need to know about the history of makeup…

6,000 BCE

Creator: clu | Credit: Getty Images

The Ancient Egyptians were among the first people to use makeup daily, using unguents and minerals as available to paint their faces. They stained their lips, darkened eyes, and rouged their cheeks.

4,000 BCE

The Ancient Greeks and Romans never plastered their faces with makeup. People were discouraged from wearing makeup on their faces, as being vulgar and eccentric. But many men and women from higher classes did powder their faces or add some colour to their lips. But it was all understated, as a woman’s place was at the home rather than be desirable.

15th Century

During this period, wearing makeup was taboo as early Christians believed that altering your true appearance was deceptive and the devil’s work. Women taught to be very fresh-faced, but many women made efforts to make their faces look very pure with skin concoctions to remove blemishes and create flawless finishes.

16th Century

Creator: clu | Credit: Getty Images

During this Elizabethan period, Venice became the epicentre of human existence with everything shrouded in extravagance; those wishing to make a statement had to stand out in the crowd. Because of this exposure, makeup became the rage. Women and men’s faces were painted white, eyebrows were darkened, and bright red blush used on cheeks. But this makeup was made with toxic lead powders, which caused toxic health problems.

19th Century

Although makeup was used for centuries before Queen Victoria’s reign, the Queen who was rather plain herself, decided that makeup should not be worn by the masses being vulgar and unladylike. So, women were encouraged to throw out their makeup and opted to show-case their natural beauty and looks. Yet, they did have their own methods to look more appealing, by pinching their cheeks to give themselves a little pink tone, and bite their lips to make them plumper and redder.


IN 1913, just before WW-I broke out, the Suffragettes were the rage in society, agitating for women’s rights, and doing everything to break taboos and show-case women power. Due to this, they said during their many marches and protests to once again put on makeup on their face. Choosing to not cover themselves, they applied bright red lipstick to stand out.


Creator: Frances McLaughlin-Gill | Credit: © CondÈ Nast Archive/Corbis

During the 1920s, and after the Great War, the people wished to forget their drab and dreary lives and were enthralled with the beautiful stars from Hollywood. Their glamorous lives were splashed about in the news, for all to see, and their larger-than-life posters were splashed on our walls. To make themselves stand out from the competition, the Hollywood actresses tried out new and exciting makeup secrets to look alluring. But makeup was unavailable for the masses. Women resorted to buying makeup secretly, as the idea of applying makeup on the face was rather embarrassing.

Since the 1920s, makeup has become much more acceptable in society.  With mass marketing methods in vogue, makeup is a useful everyday addition to brighten our lives.

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