Julia Dantas
Julia Dantas

A history of makeup

Beauty by Julia

Julia here – it’s crazy to think I’ve now been in the beauty industry for over 6 years. But let me take you back to the beginning. While I studied makeup in school, we learned the history of the cosmetics industry which gave me a newfound perspective and love for the craft. Makeup is ever-changing; from new trends, seasonal makeup, theatrical looks, and even festive creations for the holidays. But today, we are going to strip that way back, and talk about the history of makeup, because it’s pretty fascinating after all, and maybe like me, it will give you a newfound appreciation for the beauty industry.  

The Cosmetic industry is worth over $500 Billion – wowzers! If there was ever a time to work in this industry, it’s now! But, the industry as we know it today did not come to light until after WW2, which at time, the USA was the largest cosmetic producer in the world.

Throughout history, makeup has been an ever-changing element in why, how, and when it was used. Each period in time has had its own unique take on what has led us to what we know today. 

Before modern makeup, women, and even men, used a variety of items in lieu of makeup such as coal, soot, chalk, lead, and Henna – they got creative with whatever they had available. 

Fun Fact: The earliest record of makeup used dates back to the First Dynasty of Egypt (c.3100-2907 BC). They believed wearing coal around their eyes would protect their souls and ward off any evil.

As time went on, the uses and meaning behind makeup evolved. During the Middle Ages, pale skin was a sign of wealth and pink makeup was worn by prostitutes. Although, later on, pink makeup was a sign of money as it meant you could afford artificial makeup. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, women used to wear egg whites all over their faces to give the illusion of “glass skin”. 

By the 18th century, makeup was changing. Many of the ingredients used in makeup and other cosmetics were lethal and caused immense damage to anyone who wore them. White lead and mercury were the main culprits in these products. They were used to keep the skin looking pale to show status as tan-skinned meant you were poor and worked outside. Most women however, did not care and continued to use the lighteners to maintain their status and “beauty”. During this time makeup was not being produced by large companies in factories but rather by pharmacists. 

By the late 1800s, makeup began to be frowned upon and was reserved solely for prostitutes and actresses. Eventually, makeup began to make a comeback but, only natural tones, anything more was distasteful. By the early 1900s, women started making their own ‘mascara’ by using Petroleum Jelly on their lashes. This led to the first modern mascara created by what is now known as Maybelline – still one of my favorite drugstore brands.

In the following years, more “traditional” makeup started to come about such as compacts and tubes of lipstick. Permanent beauty started to become a trend with getting lipstick tattooed. In the 1920s red lipstick became a symbol of empowerment to free women and was worn at women’s rights movements. Elizabeth Arden even contributed by handing out lipsticks at rallies! Makeup became more common again and by the end of the ’20s, lipgloss was created. 

Throughout the rest of the 1900s, as more products were produced, each decade started to have its own signature makeup look. 

Audrey Hepburn’s cat-eye from the ’60s, heavy eyeliner from the ’70s, and bright colours from the ’80s and ’90s. Into the 2000’s we have adapted and evolved these now-classic looks and forged them to the makeup we know today. Women now have access to hundreds of brands, products, and colours to choose from. The cosmetics industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world with continuous expansion and exploration of different opportunities. 

It’s interesting how society determines your worth by the products you wear on your face. In the 1800s wearing makeup was frowned upon. Then in the 1920s, Elizabeth Arden was empowering women to wear red lipstick. 

I think this proves that you can’t mold into what society tells you is right or wrong, because something or someone will always have something to say. If you love the power of makeup, then do what makes you happy. Because after all, it’s a magical creation of art. 



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