Throughout history, cosmetics have been used for aesthetic and practical reasons. We use it to feel more beautiful and confident. And, also, as protection from the sun, pollution, and other elements that are harmful to the skin if directly exposed. Makeup was first seen in ancient Egypt, when it was used as a symbol of luxury that was thought to appeal to the gods.
COMMON MAKEUP IN ANCIENT EGYPT
Through Egyptian art, we can see that the most common and prominent feature of Egyptian makeup is the dramatic eye makeup on both men and women. The minerals found in their makeup usually contained kohl, malachite, and red ochre. These minerals are then grounded into powder and mixed with animal fat or other carrier fat or oils for them to stick to the skin in order to make it easy to apply and stay on the skin.
After the eyes, drawing attention to the lips was also as important. The act of wearing lipstick was proof of their social status and went to the extent of using red dye (red ochre) that can result in serious illness. Cleopatra was said to use a unique mixture from insects, flowers, and crushed fish scales.
VANITY OR PRACTICALITY?
The ancient Egyptians went to tremendous pains to maintain their good looks. You can tell, as they’re the first documented users of makeup, that they put in a lot of effort and research into their formulas and techniques. However, the significance of their cosmetic use extends beyond their desire to be attractive.
The use of a lot of eyeliner around the eyes, for example, would have helped to lessen the glare from the sun. Although poisonous, recent studies are exploring the angle that the lead-based mineral used in the solution for their eye makeup may have produced antibacterial properties when combined with the moisture from the eyes.
IMPACT TO MODERN SOCIETY
We inherited the formulas and the techniques, both of which we have been refining through the ages. It can still be a symbol of wealth and status, but makeup is more accessible now than it has ever been. More than a proof of financial capacity, makeup remains to be a tool to amplify and enhance physical features and improve mood and confidence in the process.
Some say that makeup can be a double-edged sword because while it boosts confidence, it can also reinforce standards of beauty that are widely unrealistic and unattainable. But that’s a discussion for a different day!