It’s easy to take for granted all the great cosmetic products we have these days, they’re so ingrained in our lives that we can forget these products didn’t always exist! I certainly don’t envy those born in a time without mascara, but sometimes as I’m applying my makeup in the morning, I can’t help but think it’s an odd custom. Makeup is a standard part of women’s (and some men’s) daily routine, but how did it come to be that way?
Lipstick: People have been colouring lips since time began, using flowers, berries, gems or whatever else they could crush to create the desired colour. With her full, white face and bright red lips, Queen Elizabeth was the first to bring lipstick into popularity in Europe. However it wasn’t long before it became incredibly undesirable to wear lipstick, due to its connections with actors and prostitutes. In Britain, 1770, a law was even proposed that a marriage should be annulled if a woman wore makeup before the ceremony!
It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that lipstick came back into fashion, with the first commercial lipstick produced in France by Guerlain. In 1920, (less than 100 years ago!) it became fashionable to wear lipstick in England again. American women were a little quicker to adopt the lipstick trend, around 1915, due to the use of lipstick in photography.
Mascara: In ancient Egypt, both women and men used kohl to darken their lashes, eyes and eyebrows as it was believed to ward off evil spirits. Kohl had been used in European countries purely as a cosmetic, but quickly lost its popularity when the Roman Empire fell (though it continued to be used in Middle Eastern countries for religious reasons). It wasn’t until the Victorian era, when there was a push toward beauty and a greater promotion of cosmetics, that mascara became popular in Europe again.
Eugene Rimmel was the first to create a commercial mascara, and in many languages Rimmel still translates to ‘mascara’ for this reason. Around the same time in America T.L. Williams created a similar substance for his sister Maybel, which quickly grew in popularity and led to the creation of the company Maybelline. These products were applied by rubbing a damp brush on a cake of black soap, and then brushed onto the lashes. Thankfully today it is a much easier, less messy process!
Foundation: Face painting has been around since time began, and is even mentioned in the Old Testament. In ancient Greece and the middle ages, it was popular for both genders, though especially women, to have pale skin due to the association of a tanned skin and working outdoors. Many men and women died from using a mixture of vinegar and white lead, in order to achieve a pale face.
What we would recognise as foundation today, we can thank German actor Carl Baudin for, who created a greasepaint to cover the gap between his wig and forehead. It became very popular with actors, and in 1914, Max Factor created the first commercial foundation ‘Pan-Cake’. It was originally intended for use on film, but the actresses were so taken with it they demanded Max-Factor release it for personal use!
In some ways makeup has been around forever, but in others, the makeup we wear today really hasn’t been around that long. It makes you wonder if people will look back on this time and think our interest in beauty was good, bad, or embarrassing!