Women all over the world have an innate desire to be beautiful. They’ll turn to cosmetics, hair products, and skin care to transform into more attractive versions of themselves. Who would blame them — doesn’t everyone want a way to achieve a healthier look, enhance facial features and feel more presentable?
But before contour kits and lash extensions were just a trip to Sephora away, women (and men in some cultures) would concoct their own cosmetics from whatever materials they had on hand, such as lead, zinc, wax, or chalk. In fact, the practice of applying makeup is believed to date all the way back to 164,000 BC. Archaeologists believe a discovery of ground-up rock makeup in a South African cave suggest an instinctive beauty ritual that was perhaps the first of its kind.
Though the forms and applications of cosmetics have changed significantly since 164,000 BC, the practice of applying makeup and the purpose behind it appears to be consistent. Today’s women have upgraded from ground-up rock to a global beauty market set to reach $750 Billion by 2024, according to Inwood Research. It’s a market that unifies women. Let’s take a look back at the modest beginnings, quirky tricks and discover 20 things you never knew about the history of makeup.
20 Egyptian Traditions Call Us Back To The Pyramids
Ancient Egyptian women — including the legendary icon, Cleopatra — are some of the original influencers of today’s beauty! These women were well known for their prominent features, including striking eyes lined in black kohl.
Some modern archaeologists debate whether the practice was narcissistic or functional.
Scientific research suggests that mixing kohl or lead-based minerals with natural moisture from eyes will create antibacterial properties. While the eyeliner application could have also been used to protect against the glaring Egyptian sun. Or, perhaps the Egyptians were simply way before their time on the eyeliner trend that is still extremely popular today.
19 Greek Goddesses Were Gorgeous
Before tans were in style, ancient Greeks lusted for pale skin. Pale skin was considered a luxury in ancient times because it indicated that a woman didn’t have to spend her days outside working in the sun.
In order to achieve a pale, Greek Goddess look, women would lighten their faces with white lead and sometimes even chalk. To make their pale complexions even more distinct, ancient Greeks would incorporate red colored pastes made from ochre clays mixed with red iron on their lips and cheeks. Kind of like a go-to DIY lip and cheek tint!
18 Not So Dolce Vita
Much like the Ancient Greeks, Renaissance women also idolized pale skin. Italian Renaissance women adopted the use of “ceruse” or a white carbonate of lead ground up into a powder and mixed the paste with vinegar for an all over application on the face.
From there, they painted on raw egg white to achieve a glowing, dewy complexion.
They also exposed their hair (but not their faces or bodies) to get a natural bleaching and lightening effect from the sun. Perhaps they would be intrigued at the popular Anastasia Modern Renaissance Eyeshadow Palette, which features a modern take on traditional renaissance colors.
17 Old Hollywood Glam
In 1914, the beauty pioneer Max Factor saw a motion picture for the first time. He was horrified by the caked on heavy greasepaint that actresses and actors wore which he described as “terrifying!”
As an alternative, he developed a solution called Flexible Greasepaint which became the first cosmetics product made specifically for the film world. From there he created signature looks for movie stars like Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow, and Marlene Dietrich. The brand would go on to create other iconic firsts such as Lip Pomade (1928), Pan-Cake (1935) and Pan Stix (1947). These products would go on to inspire an entire generation looking to replicate the original Old Hollywood Glam look.
16 Power To Powder
Following the success of Flexible Greasepaint, Max Factor focused on making glamour in reach of all women. He developed Pan-Cake, a new water-based powder formula foundation that was less greasy and more natural looking.
It was the first foundation marketed towards everyday women.
The product promised to “add a new delightfulness to your natural beauty” and would also safeguard skin from sun and wind. The name was meant to describe a cake makeup sold it a pan. Pan-Cake can still be found today on Amazon, though the ingredients may have changed since the 1930s. Max Factor has evolved to create new formulas available on their site.
15 Stocking Shortage Means A New Kind Of Leg-Day
In 1939, nylon stockings were all the rage and women across America loved the polished look they provided. However in 1940, when World War II broke out, the production of nylon was reallocated to parachutes, bomber tires, and other wartime materials. It was even considered patriotic for women to hand in their nylon stockings to contribute to the war effort.
But when they weren’t stepping up for their country, women were determined to find an alternative solution — enter leg cosmetics.
This makeup necessity was marketed as ‘Stockingless Cream’, ‘Leg Art’, ‘Liquid Stockings’, ‘Leg Stick’ and “bottled victory-hose.” For extra flair, women would use an eyeliner pencil on the backs of their legs to mimic their stocking seams.
14 Cold Cream Gets Efficient
In the 1940s and 1950s cold cream quickly became a must-have in every beauty-conscious women’s arsenal. Upon facing competition in the space, Dorothy Grey Limited carried out an atomic test to showcase the benefits of their product amongst in-market beauty consumers. They warned that dirt and makeup are likely to clog pores, but Dorothy Grey Limited would remove every trace of makeup for the clean and smooth skin.
In order to prove their claims, they applied radioactive dust to a model’s face, cleansed using the cold cream.
They also used a Geiger counter to confirm their findings.
They stated that Dorothy Grey Limited cleaned 2.5x more efficiently than competitive brands. Want to try a similar experiment at home? Try the e.l.f. Beaut Shield Magnetic Mask Kit.
13 50’s Glamour Steps It Up A Notch
Following the war, the 50’s represented a reemergence of beauty and glamour for American women. Short hair with glamour waves, pin curls, poodle cuts — these were all popular hairstyles of the time. Women opted for arched brows, defined eyeliner, pretty blushes and bold lips.
In 1950, the first long-lasting lipstick was released to the marketplace. No-Smear Lipstick created by Hazel Bishop used bromo and acid dyes to give long-lasting color. The new product posted impressive sales growth from $50K to 1950 to over $10M in 1953. Wowza, that would give Kylie Lip Kits a run for their money.
12 Making A Splash With Kurlash
Women are longtime fans of lovely lash looks. Lash styles have gone through quite the evolution over the years but one tool, in particular, was crucial to getting the lifted and curled look that so many women crave.
In 1931, William McDonnell invented the first eyelash curler: Kurlash.
The product retailed for $1 and promised to make eyelashes appear longer and eyes larger. The lash curler was a huge hit and complemented mascaras with wands already on the market. Lash lifts have since been modernized to include powerful Keratin treatments and serums such as Latisse and GrandeLASH.
11 Cat Got Your Tongue?
With defined brows and curled lashes, it's only natural that eyeliner would become increasingly prominent in the glam routine. Originally inspired by Cleopatra and Egyptian movie stars, the cat eyeliner trend made its mark in the 1950s alongside the new liquid eyeliners that hit the market.
The trend made eyeliner a more defining focal point of the face and helped widen and open eyes. Cat eyes are still a major hit on the runway and have adapted to include different versions such as colored liners, dramatic wings and much more.
10 The Chemistry Behind Concealer
Imagine a world without concealer? Luckily we don’t have to! Lydia O’Leary was a college graduate from New England with a hobby of oil painting and an interest in chemistry.
She was discouraged by a large birthmark that covered her forehead to her chin, so she developed a solution.
Unlike other beauty products that increased beauty, Lydia’s innovation helped her own self-esteem and wowed federal appellate judges who ruled that her discovery was beyond the definition of cosmetics. Her foundation is the first and only to receive a U.S. Patent and her company, Covermark includes a range of options for skin concerns a woman may have.
9 A Fresh Flush With Blush
The first blushes were made with ground-up red ochre (Egypt), red vermillion (Rome), and mulberries (Greece). The product was set to stand a purpose: to stand stark against pale skin.
Christians felt the flushed look was a bit too suggestive, though, as the soft rosy tints became more popular amongst upper-class women or women deemed 'outsiders' to society. Blush is still a major component of women’s makeup bags today, and the Nars brand continues to be a popular go-to.
8 The Quest For Bronze
After centuries of idolizing pale skin, the quest for bronzed skin was bound to arrive and it did in the form of Coco Chanel catching some rays on a yacht in Cote d’Azur.
No wonder it became trendy!
The pale skin had originally signified privilege of not having to work in the outside. But with factories workers sporting pallid tones, the shift to bronze was the new “It thing.” F. Scott Fitzgerald encompassed the trend of the tan in his book Tender is the Night, which took place on the French Riviera. Nowadays, most women pine for some color on a day at the beach or use St. Tropez self-tanning mousse to jumpstart their glow.
7 Lashing Out
For most of history, long eyelashes have been considered fashionable. As women age, eyelashes get thinner and sparser and many look for a solution to revive their fleeting symbol of beauty and youth. Twiggy was one of the main crusaders of the false lash look on both the upper and lower lids.
Manufacturers like Andrea followed suit by creating 20 lash styles and encouraging women to “find their eye-identity!” As a result, a whopping 20 million pairs of false eyelashes were sold throughout the 60s. False lashes are making a comeback and are the biggest beauty trend of 2018 according to Bustle.
6 Maybe She Was Born With It...Maybe It's Maybelline?
The Maybelline brand is a well-known household name. Their Great Lash Mascara is one of the most iconic products in the world. A tube of it is sold approximately every 2 seconds! But before the wildly popular mascara was available, women made their own versions using mixtures of Vaseline and coal dust.
The founder of Maybelline, Tom Lyle Williams, named the brand after his sister Mabel, who did just that.
Talk about a shout out! Maybelline products for eyes, lips, and face can be found at most drugstores like CVS and Walgreens make them an affordable and reliable solution for women on a budget.
5 The Beauty Mecca
Sephora was founded in France in 1970 by Dominique Mandonnaud. It was acquired in 1997 by its current parent company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy and opened its first North American store a year later.
Sephora currently operates 1900 stores in 30 countries and generates $4 billion in revenue a year. The name Sephora is a combination of the Greek word "sephos", meaning ‘pretty,’ according to Byrdie, and the name 'Zipporah’, who was known as the painstakingly beautiful wife of Moses in the Book of Exodus.
4 The Creme De La Creme Of Skincare
Creme de la Mer was created by physicist Dr. Max Huber as a way to treat the burns he had suffered from a lab accident. When he passed away, his daughter contacted Estee Lauder and requested help in recreating the product.
It took a team of scientists a year and a half to replicate and package the formula, which now has a crazy big following.
As a modern optimization, the scientists added in sound waves which helped “vibrate” the substance and speed up the fermentation. The product also contains Miracle Growth a fermented form of sea kelp that is designed to improve the overall clarity of skin.
3 Written In The Stars
Makeup application is something most women do regularly but ever wonder where the word cosmetic comes from? It turns out, ‘cosmetic’ has a Greek origin and was originally derived from the word “kosmos” which means to adorn or arrange, according to zarias.com.
Seems logical, as cosmetics are often things that are collected and arranged on a vanity or bathroom counter. Greeks and Egyptians were very attached to their beauty rituals and treated their products with extra care. Additionally, the women’s magazine Cosmopolitan is also based on the “kosmos.”
2 Geisha Inspiration For The Modern Day Woman
Tatcha, a popular skincare brand, recently launched a Silk Canvas Protective Primer. The product is designed to go on evenly with a soft-focus finish.
It is an ode to geisha women who use primer religiously.
Sephora notes that “the final step of the geisha’s skincare ritual — and the beginning of her makeup — is to press a thin layer of melted Japanese wax called Bintsuke into her skin. This soft layer creates a smooth, poreless canvas to help her makeup last all day and protect her skin beneath.” The product claims to visibly restore youthful radiance and is an excellent addition to any woman’s beauty routine.
1 The One Who Rewrites History
What would makeup be without the influencers? Carli Bybel launched her YouTube channel and started posting beauty tutorials in 2011. She has over 6 million followers and explores beauty trends such as microblading, lip fillers, plus cruelty-free beauty products.
Her videos include product reviews, vlogs, GRWM (get ready with me) and unboxings. She’s even done a video collaboration with Drew Barrymore who was promoting her “Flower” cosmetics line. With such a massive following, one thing is for sure — if it’s on Carli’s radar, it’s likely to become history.
References: Artis Brush, CNBC, BBC, Beautiful with Brains, Huffington Post, Max Factor, Makeup.com, Glamour Daze, DailyMail, Cosmetics and Skin, Marie Claire, Bustle, Vogue, Covermark, Business Insider, Elle, Racked, This is Insider, Good Housekeeping, Byrdie, StyleCaster, Zarias, Sephora, The List