The term for a makeup artist in Egyptian hieroglyphic is derived from the root “sesh,” which means, “to write, to engrave.” Makeup application was taken pretty seriously back then: the same accuracy was needed to paint lips as to write out a text. (FYI: By “text” I mean etching symbols into a rock, not typing out a message on your iPhone.)
Perfume was central to Egyptian civilization and was used for both cosmetic and medical purposes. For example, Kyphi, one of the most famous Egyptian perfumes, made from flowers, honey, wine and berries, was also prepared as a drink to cure lung, intestinal, and liver problems. That said, don’t go chugging a bottle of Chanel No. 5 to cure your next hangover.
In ancient Greece, the most sought-after hair color was blond. Not many Greeks were naturally blond, so light hair was probably perceived as beautiful because it was so exotic. Women would lighten their hair using plant extracts or arsenic!
They also washed their locks with a mixture of ashes, olive oil, and water.
People have been playing, “kitchen beautician” since the Middle Ages, when various foods were used as beauty aids. Curdled milk was applied to acne, cucumber juice removed freckles, while boiled nettles produced a smooth, even complexion. Women even attempted to remove wrinkles with the help of ointments made of wax and almond oil, or crocodile fat.
It’s a shame that extensions weren’t available during the Heian Period when a Japanese woman’s beauty was judged by the length of her hair, since the ideal was considered almost two feet longer than her waist. We’re assuming that ponytails were a popular hairstyle back then.
In Renaissance Italy women created the ultimate red lip and cheek stain by mixing cochineal, sandalwood or cinnabar with wax or grease. The application process was complex, but the red color lasted for over a week, even if she washed her face every day
Despite being called the “Golden Age of Spain,” having a tan was a serious beauty faux pas back then. In an effort to maintain a porcelain complexion, young women would eat clay, even though it often caused anemia or chlorosis
. In the late 18th century, members of The French Court such as Marie Antoinette also obsessed over having flawless alabaster skin. They faked it with thick layers of white powder (made out of everything from white lead and talc to pulverized bone) combined with wax, whale blubber, or vegetable oil to give the face makeup a greasy consistency that adhered to the skin.
Lipstick was considered an essential item for female nurses in the armed forces during the Second World War
, both to remind women that they were ladies first and military second, and because it might have a calming effect on the male soldiers. (Although most experts now say that guys get really turned on when a girl wears red lipstick.)
Before L’Oréal launched the first mass market hairspray in 1960, women had to choose between slicking their hair down with a greasy brilliantine or using a mechanical sprayer to coat it with shellac dissolved in a solution of water and alcohol.
A 1991 study showed that female politicians who employed Hollywood makeup artists and photographers were 30% more likely to win elections, simply by grooming her eyebrows, wearing certain colored blouses, and smiling. Too bad that strategy didn’t work for Sarah Palin.