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What is the goal of cosmetics? A broad definition of makeup could be described as substances we put on our faces to emphasize facial features and improve our general appearance.

One’s desire to adjust his or her appearance is inherent. Basically, it’s in our blood to want to look better. Pre-history tells us that before cosmetics, men and women would use ornaments like rings, bracelets, and necklaces to stand out. Egypt came up with the idea of oils for the face and perfume for the body. Egyptian women were the first to paint their faces to draw attention and enhance their looks. But rumor has it that the use of cosmetics originated in the African Middle Stone Ages.

Painted eyes with kohl in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt plays a key role in the history of cosmetics. Egyptian women were the first to use kohl to paint their eyes. The mix was made of burnt almonds, metal, ask, copper, and lead. Women would use a very small stick to draw lines on the upper eyelids to emphasize their eyes. Centuries later, the famous line is better known today as “the cat eye look”. The techniques makeup artists use today are meant to widen the eye, make it bigger and more prominent.

Middle East & China

The Middle East we know today was once known as Persia. Kohl became extremely popular in the Arab world, where women started using it as an eyeliner. But when the countries forming the Middle East converted to the Islam religion, makeup was banned. The cosmetics industry had no other choice but to move on to China and Japan. In China, 3000 BC, women started painting their fingernails first. The colors used were meant to split the people in different social classes. Bright colors were forbidden to the lower classes. 

Moving on to Japan, geishas began wearing lipstick and eye contour made of a special type of wax. The lipstick they used was made of safflower petals. Soon enough, the Japanese moved on applying different rice powder colors on the faces. Rouge contours were meant for the eyes and nose.

Cosmetics in the 17th and 18th century

In the early 17th century, women started gaining an interest in feminism. For a while, they didn’t use any makeup, which led to the anti-cosmetics movement. The role of cosmetics declined, and the Western populations put a stigma on women that applied makeup on their faces. Things changed dramatically in the 18th century, when the “natural look” was adopted.

Little by little, women were allowed to use cosmetics as long as they didn’t exaggerate with the color blends. As the interest in make-up grew bigger and bigger, non-allergenic products emerged. Developments in creams, foundations, and eye shadow drew a lot of attention. Women became extremely interested in diversifying the colors used for their lipstick. Shades of lilac, silver, and even green became extremely sought-after.

Blush & the development of the cosmetics industry

Blush made an entrance in the 1980s, and Revlon and Avon were among the first cosmetic brands to gain international exposure. Blush was a makeup product used for the cheeks, chin, and forehead. A brand new make-up trend emerged around the same period – face contouring. Highlighting the face to give it a fresh, uniform appeal became an international trend that is still widely used today.

Avon was the first cosmetics company to introduce the sophisticated makeup saleswoman. The industry boomed, and little by little other companies began seeing potential in the cosmetics business. Inventors, entrepreneurs, promoters, and distributors changed the whole industry, splitting it into different branches and trimming it into all sorts of categories.

Today’s beauty industry, with an emphasis of cosmetics, is a billion-dollar business. The most basics products have roots dating back to the Egyptian Stone Age, whereas some originated in the 17th and 18th century. Regardless, at this point 4 in 5 women around the world use some sort of make-up, whether we’re talking about mascara, natural face primer, foundation or blush. The goal is no longer to stand out, but to give the skin a clean allure, emphasizing on the eye, lips and eyebrows to make the face look beautiful.