History: How Long Has Cosmetics Been Around

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For thousands of years, people have been using cosmetics, and since 4,000 BC. Evidence of this was found in the Egyptian period. Rich and poor all wore eye makeup. The most common was cabbage, which served as eyeliner. This should improve eyesight and ward off evil spirits. The ancient Romans and Greeks also used cosmetics and in ancient Roman times they were made and applied by female slaves named Cosmetae. Cabbage consisted of antimony (a toxic grey metalloid), ash or soot and sometimes saffron, which improves the scent. It was applied with a round stick, first submerged in oil or water and then submerged in the cabbage. Eyebrows were also painted and blacked out with antimony or soot.

Egyptians, with their strikingly painted faces, believed their appearance and fragrant bodies brought them closer to their gods, and they were very proud of their cleanliness and makeup. The Greeks, however, were much vain and it was more important to see and smell themselves well than to present themselves to their gods. Later, the Romans led the cosmetics to a different level, using makeup and oils for their purpose other than their sexual pleasures.

The Romans discovered drug treatments despite their enjoyment and found that epidemics can be combated by burning aromatic chewing gums and resins. The word perfume actually dates back to Roman times: “Per ” is Latin for “by ” and “Fumum ” means “smoke ” and together “Per Fumum ” means the practice of turning a substance into something airborne by atomization.

Over the years, makeup and cosmetics have become increasingly fashionable, and as ballet, theater and later television became popular, the whole world has been influenced by the media and the representations of the ideals of beauty. Images of Japanese geisha, overly made flapper of the 1920s, ‘ Twiggy’s ‘ iconic 1960s look, David Bowie’s 70s ‘ Ziggy Stardust ‘ image, Lady Gaga’s elaborate use of makeup, leads us to wonder why we wear make-up. Should the beauty of nature be enhanced for religious reasons, the opposite sex attract or a work of art on the body is to be created?

Whatever our reasons, the world wouldn’t be the same without the use of our lotions, potions, colours, perfumes and cosmetics. With the creation of the Internet, we do not have to go to department stores for our beauty products, as these are now available online. We owe a lot to the Egyptians, and the creation of cosmetics is one of them that has not only changed the appearance of the human body, but also makes it smell much sweeter!