Cosmetics History Essay

926 words - 4 pages

Ladies, how often do you apply make-up? Whether it’s just lip gloss and mascara, I’m sure you’re thankful for your cosmetics. And gentleman, I’m sure you appreciate them too. After all, cosmetics do enhance a woman’s natural beauty. But where do they come from? Before the commercial brands we know today, cosmetics were homemade and the ingredients used were entirely up to the wearer. For centuries, women put their health at risks to conform to the idea of beauty. Ingredients like white lead, mercury, and arsenic were common in women’s cosmetics. Thankfully, throughout its history make-up has come a long way from dangerous and toxic mixtures. Though I am no cosmetologist or cosmetic ...view middle of the document...

Though pale skin wasn’t strange on its own, the method of applying white lead to one’s face in order to achieve it was. The toxicity of the white lead paste was not apparent then, but is it now and it may have even shortened their lives. The Greeks valued big bold eyebrows and were even known to use charcoal to connect them to create a mono-brow. They would finish off their look by applying crushed mulberries to their lips. Farther west, in Ancient China, they had far different beauty practices than Ancient Egypt and Greece. Commonly known as the geisha look, women applied rice powder all over their face to enhance their pale complexion, shaved their eyebrows off only to paint them higher on their forehead, and used safflower petals to color their lips.
Back to European society, from the 14th century through the 18th century the desire for pale skin continued to grow. The use of white lead grew during this time period. In addition to white lead, men and women would bleed themselves out by applying leeches to their skin in hopes to achieve a fairer complexion. This was actually a less dangerous method than the white lead and vinegar they used, which combined makes ceruse. This mixture leads to hair loss, hence the high hairlines of the nobility during that time. The nobility even went as far as drawing blue veins on their face to exaggerate their pale complexion. The dangerous methods they used to achieve pale skin covered up their natural blushing mechanism; to fake a natural blush they would sometimes apply mercury sulfide to their cheeks which gave them a deep red color.
Into 19th century Europe, cosmetic usage became softer and less...

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