The evolution of makeup throughout centuries has been tremendously exciting. It has reflected the cultures and interests of the people of certain times; their preferences and vulnerabilities, their beliefs and life situations, as well as the contributions they have made in the advancement of standards of beauty, culture, entertainment, theatre, and life in general.
Today, makeup and cosmetics are an essential part of many leading industries related to media, sexual orientations, and professions. Today, though makeup and its evolution have taken a dramatic turn, its involvement in social institutions of society is still the same. Ancient Geishas of Kyoto, Japan; the upholders of a cultural legacy of the Japanese, were professional entertainers and had their special way of using cosmetics to distinguish themselves from common women.
Opera singers in large Victorian theatres used makeup techniques to make their facial features and expressions distinguishable for performance in a play. Women of different cultures already used many beauty techniques to sharpen their features, enhance them, and emulate the beauty standards and traditions of their cultures. It is beautiful if you experience the history and evolution of makeup and cosmetics. You will be surprised by the diversity and differences in standards of beauty in different parts of the world. The logic behind a certain standard, with something as minute as a twirl of a brush to use of color, could mean many things. It is also mind-boggling when you consider makeup usage as being a choice or necessity. It almost makes you question the ancient ideas of freedom and love and commitment when you hear the application of makeup being a determinant of someone’s character. Being quite a makeup geek myself, with a dreamy obsession with the classical era, I was determined to find out more about other cultures and their standards of beauty with the involvement of cosmetics and makeup. Let me take you down the memory lane of these brushes and pigments that are scattered on your dressing tables. It will be an eye-opening experience for you.
- Egyptian Makeup Trend: (c. 3150-31 BC)
The Egyptians were pioneers of streamlining cosmetics and makeup among the women of the nation. Cleopatra; being s strong feminine figure of that time, known for her wealth and beauty, was owning it when she used coal to outline her dark eyes. The eye shadows used were flashy green and blue. Popular lip colors used were red, magenta, and blue-black. Braided- hair; almost like cornrows but with loose braids was considered to make an Egyptian woman look pretty. An Egyptian woman lauded with these trademarks would look exotic, very flashy, and intense; reflective of the demeanor of women of that time.
- Greek Makeup Trend: (c. 800-500 BC)
Coming to famous Greece, the famous Greek beauty standards would surprise you. Contending with Egyptians, the dear Greeks loved their natural features, curves, and contours, and highlighted them instead of painting over them. When I say natural, think of the most rustic and natural ingredients and trends you could possibly think of. You are looking at a bushy thick unibrow beginning from one end of the face and ending at the other. Now, not everyone is born with a unibrow. That’s when the parting in the middle was filled with animal hair glued to the skin. Light pink eyeshadows were used for the eyes. Lips were tinted with berries’ tints.
- Venetian Makeup Trend: (c. 1775-1789)
My most favorite of all these makeup trends were of the Venetian era. That was a true contribution to the evolution of makeup looks by the French. Though the logic, ingredients, and the stories behind almost all the beauty standards of this era would horrify you, they are romanticized in all the films made on this era and makeup fools like me wish they were part of that lifestyle. Besides the huge wigs of pale hair, they would redden their cheeks with rouge; some condiment used in that time. Rouge means red in French.
Pale skin and slimmer limbs and torso were so valued that Venetian women would starve themselves and would powder their entire body to appear paler. They would paint fake veins to enhance their paleness. They would emboss grease to highlight their pale shiny lips. As gross as it sounds, any woman not looking pale or using rouge was considered ugly.
- Elizabethan Makeup Trend: (c. 1558-1603)
Since we are in Europe, lets hit the Elizabethan era. “Four-heads” is a term used to make fun of people with large foreheads, just like “four eyes”. Anyways, back in Queen Elizabeth’s time, large foreheads were a sign of beauty. Women used to shave their natural hairlines, eyebrows, and anything else in between the eyes and hair. They would use prickly white powder and smudge it as a base on their faces, necks, and down to the chest. They would not redden their cheeks but would use the rouge on their lips. The wigs were a fashion trend in all Europe, so smaller wigs than those of the Venetians; preferably red, almost like a perm were prevalent among all fashionable women.
- Victorian Makeup Trend: (c. 1837-1901)
Queen Victoria, on the other hand, was an upholder of righteousness and piety. She denounced all contemporary trends used to enhance beauty or arouse the opposite sex. Women were forced to make a tight bun, with all, not a fringe out of place. They were not allowed to use any cosmetics and a monotone skin was considered a symbol of nobility and piety. The only thing they could do to add some color to their faces was to pinch the cheeks. That way, they would appear to blush.
- Geisha Makeup Trend: (mid 1700s)
Now that we have covered Europe, lets come to Asia. Asia was also famous for prominent beauty trends. Had it been left to the Elizabethan era, the process of evolution of makeup would have taken a step back. The Geishas of Japan had a unique way with cosmetics. Besides their Kimono, they used pale white paste to paint their face with beautiful designs covering the lower part of their neck which was exposed. The different designs had meanings associated with them and were considered very sensual and arousing. The lips were painted in deep shades of pink or red in the shape of a pouty fish. It means a small portion of the lip was painted. The underneath of their eyes was also lined red. They had huge wigs pinned to their heads and embellished with ornaments and brooches.
- Indian Makeup Trend: (c. 320-550 AD)
Coming back to my side of the world, south Asians; Indians in specific would use coal to line their eyes. Darker and warmer shades were used for lip colors. Flowers were the mandatory embellishments used by women for their hair buns. A distinctive cultural beauty trend was the use of bindi which could be glued or dotted on the forehead. It was also symbolic of a married woman.