Cosmetics have become part of us. We use them to enhance our looks and to boost our appearance. They are used for health reasons as well with many using them to treat skin damage. Cosmetics have amazing results when they are used correctly. They, however, have undesirable effects when they are not used in the right manner.
The use of cosmetics stretches back to the ancient times. They have been used to enhance beauty, to promote skin health and for traditional rituals. They were also used as an indicator of class with the Royals wearing different cosmetics to the locals. In this article, we trace the history of cosmetic use from ancient civilization to the modern times.
Ancient Egyptians wore cosmetics in the form of scented oils and ointments that they applied on their skins to soften it and to mask body odor. The oils were used by both male and female Egyptians to enhance the appearance of their skin and to protect their skins from the hot sun and dry winds.
They also used perfumes made from natural products for their religious rituals. Some of the ingredients that were used to make the perfumes include thyme, chamomile, myrrh, lavender, and peppermint.
The Chinese started painting their nails as a way of enhancing their looks. Finger paint was also used as an indicator of social status with the Chou dynasty Royals and the lower class people using different colors for their nails. The finger paint was made by mixing beeswax, egg white, gum, and gelatin. The Royals wore silver, gold, and red paint with the locals forbidden from wearing paint in these colors.
The Grecians used chalk and lead powder to whiten their facial appearance. They also decorated their lips using ochre clay mixed with red iron.
100 – 400 CE.
The people of Rome used butter and barley flour to treat pimples and other skin blemishes. They decorated their nails with blood and the fat from sheep. It is also during this time that mud baths gained prominence with adult Romans using them to nourish their skins.
Henna was used to dye the hair by Indian women. They would also use it to decorate their hands and feet. They would draw designs on their hands and feet using henna,especially when attending important social functions such as weddings. Henna was also used in some parts of Africa for beauty.
1200 – 1300 CE.
The use of perfumes increased in Europe during the middle ages with most Europeans importing them from countries in the Middle East.
The people of England would also use dye to color their hair. Ladies from the high society would smear egg white on their face in an attempt to attain a paler appearance. There are those, however, who did not use cosmetics at all claiming that they might clog the pores on the skin thereby prevent it from breathing.
1400 – 1500 CE.
The use of cosmetics spread to Europe with France and Italy the earliest pace setters. The use of cosmetics was a preserve of the ruling class with the commoners and local workers forbidden from wearing them. France and Italy began manufacturing cosmetics in large scale and they would sell them locally and abroad.
They manufactured scents and other cosmetic products using natural ingredients but this turned to be a labor-intensive process with poor yields. They abandoned this process and turned to chemicals to create cosmetics. Different chemicals were combined to give the desired scent and texture.
English women used various cosmetic products to enhance their looks and to reverse the effects of aging. They would use white lead paint to lighten their skin and to deal with blemishes on their skin.
The use of cosmetic products increased in Europe with many women embracing it. Zinc oxide was used to make facial powder. The use of hair products increased as well with women using a mixture of honey, black Sulphur, and alum to style their hair.
There was much more pressure on women to appear young and this increased the use of cosmetics. Beauty salons became common and women would visit the salons for their beauty procedures.
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