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The history of cosmetics spans at least 6000 years of human history, and almost every society on earth.
1 The ancient world
3 The Middle East
4 South Asia
8 The Americas
9 The 20th century
11 See also
The ancient world
Egyptian cosmetics box from the Bronze Age
The first archaeological evidence of cosmetics usage is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics. The Romans and Ancient Egyptians, not realizing their dangerous properties, used cosmetics containing mercury and white lead. Fragrances, particularly frankincense and myrrh are mentioned in the Christian Bible: Exodus 30: 34, Gospel of Matthew 2:11. Ancient Egyptians had a wide extent of make-up utensils. One of them is kohl, which was used to outline the eyes. It is made up of lead, copper, burned almonds, soot, and other ingredients. It was believed that eye make-up could ward off evil spirits and improve the sight. Even the poor wore eye make-up in ancient Egypt. The production of cosmetics during ancient Rome was usually done by female slaves called Cosmetae.
The cosmetic uses of kohl and henna have their roots in north Africa.
The Middle East
Cosmetics were used in Persia and what is today the Middle East from ancient periods. After Arab tribes converted to Islam and conquered those areas, in some areas cosmetics were only restricted if they were to disguise the real look in order to mislead or cause uncontrolled desire. On the other hand, some fundamentalist branches of Islam forbid the use of cosmetics.
An early cosmetologist was the physician Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, or Abulcasis (936-1013 AD), who wrote the 30-volume medical encyclopedia Al-Tasrif. A chapter of the 19th volume was dedicated to cosmetics. As the treatise was translated into Latin, the cosmetic chapter was used in the West. Al-Zahrawi considered cosmetics a branch of medicine, which he called "Medicine of Beauty" (Adwiyat al-Zinah). He deals with perfumes, scented aromatics and incense. There were perfumed stocks rolled and pressed in special moulds, perhaps the earliest antecedents of present day lipsticks and solid deodorants. He also used oily substances called Adhan for medication and beautification.
Henna has been used in India since around the 4th or 5th centuries. It is used either as a hair dye, or in the art of mehndi, in which complex designs are painted on to the hands and feet, especially before a Hindu wedding. Henna is also used in some north African cultures. African henna designs tend to be bolder, and Indian designs more complex.
The use of kohl or kajal has a long history in Hindu culture. The use of traditional preparations of kohl on children and adults has been considered to have health benefits,However in the United States it has been linked to lead poisoning and is prohibited.
Chinese people began to stain their fingernails with gum arabic, gelatin, beeswax and egg from around 3000 BCE. The colors used represented social class: Chou dynasty royals wore gold and silver; later royals wore black or red. The lower classes were forbidden to wear bright colors on their nails.
A maiko in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan, in full make-up. The style of the lipstick indicates that she is still new.
In Japan, geishas wore lipstick made of crushed safflower petals to paint the eyebrows and edges of the eyes as well as the lips. Sticks of bintsuke wax, a softer version of the sumo wrestlers' hair wax, were used by geisha as a makeup base. Rice powder colors the face and back; rouge contours the eye socket and defines the nose. Ohaguro (black paint) colours the teeth for the ceremony when maiko (apprentice geisha) graduate and become independent. The geisha would also sometimes use bird droppings to compile a lighter color.
1889 painting Woman at her Toilette by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
In the Middle Ages, Renaissance and up until the Industrial Revolution, the lower classes had to work outside, in agricultural jobs. The typically light-colored European skin was darkened by exposure to the sun. The higher class a person was, the more leisure time he or she had to spend indoors, which kept their skin pale. Thus, the highest class of European society were pale resulting in...(and so on)
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