Historic Beauty Practices
The Egyptians were the civilisation that started it all. The most prominent eye makeup used was green eye paint and black kohl. The green eye paint was made of a green carbonate of copper and the kohl from a dark ore of lead. Face makeup consisted of red stain for the lips and cheeks that was produced from naturally coloured clay to form a red pigment. It was socially acceptable for both men and women to use makeup. So, to summarise, the Egyptians were the inspiration behind the word ‘Fabulous’.
Ancient Greeks are the ones we need to thank for the ‘no makeup’ makeup look. Pale skin was a sign of prestige and beauty. Women painted their faces with white lead or chalk to achieve it. This paint required a smooth foundation so they used creams made with honey. To add more shine, they used a few drops of olive oil. The whole idea was to make the makeup look natural with unnatural means.
Lips and cheeks were gently brightened with tints made from red iron oxide and ochre clays or olive oil and beeswax. Eye shadow was made by mixing olive oil with charcoal.
The one to take away from this era is the fact that they joined their eyebrows with dark powder to form a unibrow as this was a sign of attractiveness. What?
In the middle ages, ethereal beauty was considered attractive. Blonde hair wasn’t appreciated so blonde women dyed their hair with lye. Women had to keep their skins flawless and luminous which was a big challenge in the time of rampant diseases and bad hygiene.
Venice in the 16th century was the fashion capital of the world. Heavy and dramatic makeup was popular for the rich and affluent. Extremely pale skin was seen as attractive and fashionable so both men and women used the infamous Venetian Ceruse to obtain such porcelain skin. This was a deadly mixture of white lead powder and vinegar. Flaming red cheeks were also in vogue and the colour was created using poisonous vermillion from mercuric sulphide. The makeup marred the skin of the wearer over a time and also caused death in severe cases. That’s how seriously they took their makeup- They died for it.
18th century France was a high time for makeup. Makeup in that age was all about status. Only the richest could afford it. Flamboyant blush distinguished aristocracy from the middle class. Red hair was considered unfashionable and usually dyed a different colour. The women painted their skin pale white. Eyeshadow in black, chestnut or blue were popular. Small lips with the bottom lip painted bigger to give women a rosebud lip was in fashion. The best example from this era was Marie Antoinette who still is an inspiration to us for any party where you need to wear a costume. Well, at least to me.
In the Victorian era, makeup was considered vulgar. Only clean, scrubbed skin was considered proper for women. Make- up was a faux pas and women who wore it were considered prostitutes. This led to dangerous practices to make oneself look more attractive. Women used deadly nightshade or lemon juice as eye drops to make their eyes more dilated. They used soot or crushed gemstones as mascara and road tar to shape their eyebrows. In short, the women of that era had to innovate and come up with the best alternatives for makeup. Thank God we’re past that!