Vibrating mascara wands. Mineral powder foundation. Diamond-infused shine. With all of the attention-getting makeup techniques and products available, one might thing that makeup is a brand-new craze that women just now discovered. Wrong. Makeup has been used by both women and women for thousands of years.
Archaeologists have found jars of makeup products in Egyptian tombs dating back to about 3000 BC. Egyptians combated the baking heat of the desert lands with something similar to today’s lotion in order to soothe dry skin and help prevent wrinkles. Women also used kohl, which comes from the element antimony, to line their eyes. Men and women alike used eye shadow, typically green.
Although we now know the toxic properties of lead, people in ancient times did not suspect that their makeup was poisoning them. In the remnants of Babylon, researchers have found white lead that was probably used as a foundation to make the face appear paler. Grecian women also utilized white lead for “improving” their complexions.
Even up until the mid-19th century, women (and some men) preferred the look of pale faces. For them, it was a symbol of the upper-class who did not have to go out and work in the fields-and get tan and freckly in the process. In the extreme circumstances, women had themselves bled in order to make their faces pale. Of course, there was still white paint and powder to help as well.
Starting in about the 1600s, the popular look included not only pale skin, but also red cheeks and lips and bright eyes. Rouge of either brown or red was applied to the cheeks and lips, but achieving big eyes was another toxic concept. Women ate arsenic; they flushed their eyes with acidic juices such as orange or lemon juice. In more extreme cases, the hallucinogenic belladonna from the deadly nightshade plant was drawn into the eyes to dilate the pupils for a dreamy, doe-eyed appearance.
Finally, beauty subscribers learned why they were slowly getting poisoned: toxic makeup. Thus, in the 20th century, medical experts finally began regulating the ingredients of makeup so that the wearers were not ingesting poison or letting lead soak into their skin.
The creation of cake mascara arose from the still-popular brand Maybelline. With the second rise of popularity for dark eyes, the suffragette movement also bought along bright red lips. Also, the pale-skin look lost favor in light of tanned, golden skin. After seeing Elizabeth Taylor’s kohl-lined eyes and huge eyelashes in Cleopatra, many women opted for false eyelashes. Twiggy, the famous fashion model with her trademark doe eyes, also popularized the look.
As with fashion, anything goes in the 21st century. However, with the advent of nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, wrinkle fillers and facial reshapers such as Botox have become increasingly popular. Women can get injections that do not take very long, yet they can look years younger.