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Posted by: Review Website on 06/01/2020

History of Makeup

History of Makeup

There might be a great uproar from the older generation regarding the heavy use of makeup among teenagers and young adults, but the same has been happening for longer. In fact, makeup was here before Jesus came as quoted in 2 Kings 9:30-37 (for the Christians) and many other ancient bible verses. Not much is said about Muslims and makeup, but the use of it is not prohibited; exposing the same to strangers is considered haram, but wearing it is allowed. 

These days, women from all walks of life with different religious beliefs or even cultural backgrounds have taken to wearing makeup as part of their beautification process. While some people joke that the same is used by less appealing women to hide their flaws, one can argue that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Overall, every woman wants to look good, and the fact that makeup has been around for hundreds of years means the modern woman is not wrong for embracing this culture. 

Perhaps it is the application that varies, seeing some women are famed for overdoing or adding not-so-subtle touches of a specific shade. Makeup is not just a beautification product, but a billion-dollar industry. Lately, almost every celebrity has a makeup brand with the most prominent and profitable being Iman Cosmetics by Iman, Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty, Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics, and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. 

Even Kenyan celebrities are endorsing their own makeup brands such as Huddah Monroe’s Huddah Cosmetics, Pauline Cosmetics, Canvas Cosmetics, and Suzie Beauty Cosmetics, to mention a few. As you can see, a lot of women are not only looking to apply the best makeup but are also creating their own brands based on their preferences. With that in mind, here is a more in-depth look at the history of makeup as well as some of the first people to ever wear makeup.

Who first invented makeup?

A lot of people in Europe might have some of the best makeup products, but that art of beautification originated from Africa. The first recorded use of makeup was recently traced back to ancient Egypt. Yes, it is the ancient Egyptians that receive the credit for introducing the use of makeup to the world; a ritual that millions if not billions of women go through every day as part of their beautification routine. Excavations done on ancient Egyptian tombs show multiple makeup kits and canisters next to the deceased. 

Egyptians usually believed that they needed a lot of the things they had in life for their journey in the afterlife. It’s no wonder even Pharaohs were buried with lots of Gold as well as slaves and in large and secret tombs. The first female Ptolemaic ruler of the Kingdom of Egypt, Cleopatra, was famous for using lipstick. Back then, that was a luxury only the who-is-who in society could afford. The same was not expensive, too, seeing it was made from ground carmine beetles.

While Cleopatra’s options were extensive, other women had to settle for a mixture of water and clay to beautify their lips. Kohl was also used as part of the beautification process in ancient Egypt by both men and women. Kohl was made up of burnt almonds, ash, metal, copper, and lead and applied around their eyes. Remember the colorful shades seen on the face of most Egyptian royals in movies? That is Kohl, an ancient Egyptian makeup. 

However, aside from the beauty, it gave to its wearer, Kohl was also believed to be effective in repelling dangerous spirits and warding off an 'evil eye.' Kohl was also vital in deflecting the harsh weather conditions in the desert area that was ancient Egypt, such as extreme heat. It was also used to help ward off some of the diseases that were regarded infectious at the time. The lead was an effective bacteria killer but was also dangerous if used over a long period.

It is not just the Egyptians that were famous for using makeup; a few years later, the Romans and the Greek picked up the art. However, as opposed to the meticulously made ancient Egyptian makeup, the Greeks and Romans used ground-up minerals, which were not as colorful or impressive as Egyptian makeup. Also, as time went on, more royals, as well as the influential figureheads in society, shunned makeup as it became a less colorful affair, literally, over the years. 

What is the history behind makeup?

As aforementioned, makeup was reserved for queens and prominent people in the society during the early years of its inception. As a mark of beauty, makeup products were respected, and a lot of women admired their counterparts who could afford and wear makeup in public. However, things took a turn for the worst during the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th Century when makeup started being associated with lower-class women and prostitutes.  


In fact, the latter were the only women in society known for wearing lipstick, perhaps as a mode of identification. Many communities also started bashing the use of makeup and advocated for a natural look. However, women had already seen the importance of makeup and how it transformed their look. Around the 19th Century, the prostitutes who used makeup only applied the same on their eyes, lips, or cheeks.

In a bid to separate themselves from being associated with prostitutes, other women started applying makeup on their chests, necks, and faces. Remember the ancient British dresses that exposed a woman's bust as well as a large part of their neck? Well, makeup was essential if all these areas were to look appealing when stepping out of the house. Rumor has it that Elizabeth 1 of England got her big forehead after the lead used in makeup made some of her hair fall off. 

Her pictures represented the makeup culture at the time, considering she was exceptionally 'white' in all paintings, which was not the case in real life. This look went on to dominate multiple European cultures for decades on end. A lot of women these days complain about the effects of the ingredients found in many makeup products of late, but the products used by prominent women in the early years of civilization had far worse effects. 

For starters, the lead found in most ancient makeup products was responsible for causing muscle paralysis or even death in some instances. Modern modifications, as well as the increase in knowledge and technological innovations, have made it easier to get a less potent combination when making makeup products. However, some makeup products still have adverse effects on some women's skin. Perhaps the trick is finding the right brand and avoiding the one with the ingredients that cause a reaction on your face.

The late 1800s saw the introduction of portrait photography, which was a wee bit pricey at the time and required some saving up. However, once the funds were available, women opted to use makeup to ensure their beauty was captured perfectly. At the time, mirrors also started becoming less expensive, meaning more women were now able to get a personal opinion on how they looked as opposed to tasking someone else with the beautification procedure. Mirrors and portrait photography were instrumental in the evolution of makeup.


As the 20th Century kicked in, more makeup products started hitting beauty parlor shelves. It was not only lipsticks that were made available, but nail polish and mascara, as well as a variety of other beauty products. This evolution was also boosted by the introduction of motion pictures as well as the mainstream use of makeup products. Actors did not require a lot of makeup when shooting plays, but motion pictures were a different story altogether. 

What was the first brand of makeup?

In 1914, a man called Max Factor developed the very first greasepaint foundation. Before the discovery, Max was in charge of supplying Hollywood studios with wigs for their actors and actresses. According to Max, his invention was one of a kind seeing it would not crack or cake up. The foundation was well-received by actresses, and even actors and the former used it both onscreen and off due to its perfect nature.

Max realized that he had stumbled upon a revolutionary product and decided to try his luck in the cosmetics industry. A few years later, Factor developed a line of lip gloss and eyebrow pencil while popularizing the overall term for the same, which we now know as makeup. By the 1920s, Factor was a leading cosmetologist and had a line of makeup products that were greatly revered by both the prominent and the normal people in society. 

Max used the perfect marketing pitch when selling his products to the general public after conquering Hollywood. He said, if the public bought his makeup products, they would look like their favorite movie stars. A few years later, one of the biggest makeup brands, Maybelline, was founded by T.L. Williams. Williams’ Maybelline Company distilled coal dust and petroleum jelly to create a cake-like product that was an instant success with the public. Competition in the makeup industry started becoming stiff as more companies identified products to sell. 

Nail polish became even more popular as vehicle companies found a solution to fast-drying paint. Charles Revson, the co-founder of Revlon, is responsible for making different shades of lipstick and nail polish a hit in the United States around the 1950s.

What ingredients does makeup have?

By then, the globe was already aware of makeup use, and every company was claiming to use better ingredients in a bid to lure more customers. However, as seen on most makeup products, the ingredients are almost the same. These include oil or wax, fillers such as talc for smooth distribution, iron oxide, and water, to mention a few. A few tweaks were also required considered not everyone had the same type of skin. 

For starters, people with dry skin were encouraged to buy makeup products with ingredients such as Jojoba oil or salicylic acid if they have acne. Eyeliners also started coming with ingredients such as iron oxide for better pigmentation. Eye shadows also use different pigments, but common base fillers and binders such as kaolin clay or talc are evident in almost every eye shadow product. Mascara, a famed makeup product, also has iron oxide and carbon as part of its ingredients, which aid in improving the dark color seen in the same.

After decades of trying different ingredients, the makeup industry has blossomed and is one of the most profitable sectors in some economies. The best thing that happened as far as makeup is concerned was the intervention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sometime around 1938. The FDA helped regulate the ingredients used in most makeup, making the same more people-friendly while limiting the risk of adverse skin reactions, muscle paralysis, or death, as witnessed in the early years of makeup use.

How long has makeup been around?

Makeup has been around for centuries on end. The main reason why some people are against the use of makeup is their lack of education on the same. Hell, even our African ancestors were notorious for using makeup. The only difference was it was not overused at the time, and most of it did not include any harmful chemicals. For starters, Maasai women have been painting their faces using a mixture of various ingredients such as red clay for eons in a bid to beautify themselves or for religious or tribal rituals. 

Modern makeup use is criticized because women are using over-the-counter makeup products, which in some instances have reacted negatively with some users. The Zulu tribe in South Africa as well as tribes from countries such as Gabon, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, to mention a few have also been using makeup for years, though in the form of face painting. However, as aforementioned, the earliest recorded use of makeup was in Egypt, which is a part of the African continent. 

Technology and civilization have shed some light on makeup use and has greatly aided in the creation of safe makeup products. As we speak, a lot of celebrities are eager to release their own makeup products, a tactic almost similar to the one used by Max Factor when he was popularizing makeup use in Hollywood. It is not just a multi-billion dollar industry, but one of the best things to ever happen to women.

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