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Guthy Renker Corporation

Cosmetics Across the Centuries

How did we as humans arrive at the point where we spend billions annually on cosmetics and it became the social norm for women to wear cosmetics everyday It is certain a female way back in old times did not just wake up one morning and decide to put on eyelashes, lipstick, eyeliner, base, and blush all at once. As you probably guessed, it was a combination of thousands of years and a lot of learning experiences.

The Egyptians were the first to use cosmetics. That was four millenia ago. Good hygeine and looks were extremely critical to the Egyptians. The Egyptians had faith that the appearance had a direct connection with the health of the spirit. They tried to constantly look and smell good. And with a society who values their appearance, societies are inevitably going to have members who are going to make themselves stand out. But the Egyptians, being the cutting edge people they were, had cosmetics for reasons that were even more intelligent than just trying to look good.

Mesdemet was the most original kind of eye shadow- a mixture of copper with lead ore. The dark colors they believed would ward off evil eyes from their own. It was also a great disinfectant and insect repellent. Kohl was a dark powder that was applied around the eyes in an oval shape. The substance was a mixture of lead, ash, ochre, copper, and burnt almonds. A mixture of red clay and water was added to the cheekbone area to further enhance their appearance. They would also paint their fingernails colors of orange and yellow with a substance named henna.

A white, pale skin color was also a sign of prosperity. A person was not obligated to work if they had enough money. So a light skin color was very important to some members of society. To achieve this appearance, women (and men as well) would use a mixture of hydroxide, lead oxide, and carbonate in a powder form to paint their faces and skin. Unfortunately, this lead to a sometimes fatal side effect, lead poisoning.To remedy this, chemists in the early nineteen hundreds at last invented a mixture of zinc oxide that did not block the skin from being able to breathe and kept people out of that annoying lead poisoning death. It worked so well that it is still used today by cosmetics manufacturers.

Long after the Egyptian empire disappeared, the fashion norm worldwide was a white skin color. Only women who were low-class and had to work out in the field all day with their husbands had dark, sun dired skin. The upper echelon women obviously did not have to endure manual work like that so they remained under the roof and had light complexions.

As time past and societies mixed with each other more and more, the Grecian people began to learn more of the multiple habits of the Egyptians way with cosmetics. Greek women would give themselves a pale color with a foundation that contained lead inside. On more than one occasion this ended up being fatal. As the Romans began to pick up the make-up habits, the pursuit of beauty became less about functionability and took a turn into much more exotic routes. They would paint their nails with a mixture of sheeps blood and cooked body fat. An old Roman man once said, A woman without paint is like food without salt.

Lavish and exotic parties were hosted by urban women with disposable wealth in the Edwardian era of London. It was extremely important for a woman to be the most beautiful lady there, especially if they were the hostess of the function. City and ritzy lifestyles with factors like polluted air produced by the cities at that time, bad diets, and little or no exercise aged the women quickly. Anti-aging and facial creams to mask the wrinkles were heavily depended upon by women in this era. Regular trips to the salon were also a regular part of the day. It was a little different in the past than it is today. Women would go into the back entrance of the salons and cover their faces as they entered. One of the most famous of these secret beauty salons was the House of Cyclax, who would sell foams and rouges to ladies. Mrs. Henning, the owner, sold and came out with many products for her frantic consumers who did not want anyone to know that they were getting older.

The modern day woman is the benefactor of all these years of experience with a practically infinite choice of products for any look they want to get. There are literally thousands of manufacturers who produce products in this now billion dollar per year industry. Cosmetic products sell year round and even in times of depression. Therefore ladies, thank your ancestors and their concern for their personal appearance for yours that you have today. They probably didn't want to put on their face some mornings either.

Guthy Renker Corporation

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