A History of Cosmetics, Part 3


 A History of Cosmetics, Part 3

A history of cosmetics, Part 3
by Candice Malcolm

In the 1960s, women sought to blur their natural beauty lines in an effort to create a more idealized sense of femininity. These woman believed that beauty was defined by how closely one resembled society's standard for what it meant to be beautiful. When looking for these looks, they often turned to what were called 'natural' products such as vegetables (e.g., carrots) and plants (e.g., cucumbers). One example is the placenta product made from crushed and powdered animal placentas used in perfumery formulas since the 18th century. Other plant materials such as crushed egg shells, crushed eggshells together with herbs, and other substances were also used to provide color or balance the appearance of the face.

In the late 17th century, women began turning to mineral cosmetics such as olive oil and chalk. These substances were mixed with water in a way similar to that used for creams today. Those using these products believed that as some minerals alter skin texture and coloration, applying them made it possible to replace them with more desirable ones. For example, in 1855 Caroline Herschel received many letters from women who wanted blonde hair but who did not want to be "as light in complexion" as their husbands by using animal fat or oils on their hair and skin.

1913 advertisement for Vanishing Cream.

Some of the early forms of beauty products were also made from animal parts. Castor oil was used widely in the 19th century for its supposed healing and beautification properties, though it was known to be poisonous.

Non-organic compounds and their relation to skin damage are still a concern today. A study by Dr Neutrogena showed that only 1% of 1000 women interviewed understood what natural means on a cosmetic label. In fact, there are no official or legal standards defining the term "natural." The European Parliament has passed legislation banning some artificial ingredients, but the EU scientific committee is still working on defining what exactly is meant by "natural.

Until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cosmetics were not mass-produced; they were made at home. In the late 19th century, the first commercial products were available. Estée Lauder launched her company in 1946, selling homemade bath soaps from her kitchen stove. In 1906, French chemist Eugène Schueller developed a water-resistant liquid makeup called ‘L’Oréal’ which is sold today in over 130 countries and generated sales of $2 billion in 2008.

Before the mid-20th century, blackface was considered comedic and was often featured in cartoons, theater productions, minstrel shows and vaudeville acts. Women began to use dark brown and kohl eyeliner to make their eyes appear larger and more exotic. They also used bismuth powder to lighten their hair color.

From the 1950s through the early 1960s, red lipstick became extremely popular, and was worn by both men and women. Almond-shaped sunglasses became popular as a sun protection tool rather than just a fashionable item. Men would wear several pairs at once for further protection against sunlight. The lenses of these glasses were usually red, but women often preferred green or amber colored lenses as they tended to be less noticeable from a distance.

Currently, the social reflection of cosmetics has evolved from a trend to being seen as more of a necessity for women in society. Products are constantly under scrutiny and many companies have been petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of various products. Unfortunately, even after approval is given by the FDA, there is still pressure from other groups to bring the item "under review" due to health concerns. This is often seen in many types of makeup including lipstick and eyeliners because there has not yet been enough research done about their long-term effects on health.

A History of Cosmetics, Part 2
by Candice Malcolm
The history of cosmetics spans centuries and continents. The earliest references to cosmetics come from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Sumerians. The earliest written records of cosmetics are from ancient Egyptian medical papyri (dating back to the third century BC) and Babylonian texts that mention cosmetic ointments. The Greeks also used makeup. Papposilas, which was a paste made out of flour boiled in oil that was used to color the skin.

The Roman lady's use of cosmetics included face powder consisting of white lead and silver nitrate (to whiten the skin), ear powders, vermilion (red coloring), balsam (the resin of Mediterranean species of fir trees), and various fragrances. Cosmetics were frequently used to hide the appearance of scars, and to create the illusion of a healthy complexion. Artificial eyebrows were made from goat or sheep hair, or a mixture of hairs from various animals. These were colored with black lead (a type of graphite) or animal hairs dyed black with boiled walnut juice.

In Ancient Rome women would dye their faces purple and red using cosmetic products like Powder of Rha and Faces in order to disguise their age and exalt their beauty because it was a sign of youthfulness. Women's faces often glittered in bright sunlight due to applying crushed gemstones on the skin which included emeralds, peridots, diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Natural, chemical and artificial ingredients were used as hair-dyes. The recipe of the dye was to mix “honey in heated vinegar, adding a little oil to make it thicker and then adding black weld (a type of plant) to give the hair a deep black color.”

By 500 BC the use of cosmetics was noticed by philosophers and religious leaders. In Deuteronomy 23:5, the Bible mentions that women should not put on cosmetics because it was viewed to be vain and sinful. For men, their primary cosmetic was zinc oxide used for body painting in both India and Europe. In Europe during the Middle Ages, men wore cosmetics to make their skin darker and deeper in order to enhance their appearance. Black creates a heavier contrast with light hair, so men would use coal dust or very dark green leaf powder, which was mixed with oil and applied to their faces. During this period, the idea of beauty was linked to the role one had within society. For example, “beauty proclaimed that a woman was youthful and attractive enough that she should be unwed – most often a virgin – for her beauty alone would attract suitors” (Klapp 2004a).

From the 17th century (1660s) on, cosmetics were developed as makeup came into fashion for both men and women.

Cosmetics are used to make ones physical appearance look more appealing. People use color, texture, and form in order to better their outward appearance. In pre-historic times, cosmetics were used for protection from the sun and harmful elements of nature. A person who uses cosmetics is typically judged on his or her makeup application skills and her ability to naturally enhance their beauty through cosmetic application techniques. They are also judged on how natural the makeup looks and whether or not they have contoured their face correctly because if they do not contour properly it takes away natural beauty and it makes a person look older than they normally would without makeup on due to poor blending skills.

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