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Guthy Renker Corporation

Cosmetics Through the Centuries

How did we as a people get to the point where we spend billions of dollars every year on cosmetics and it became the social norm for women to wear cosmetics everyday Assuredly a female way back in the past did not all of a sudden wake up one day and decide to put on eyelashes, lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, and blush all at once. No, it was, like many things, a combination of things from ages past.

Who remembers the Egyptians? That was over four millenia ago. Good hygeine and looks were extremely meaningful to the Egyptians. Egyptians had faith that the appearance was in direct link with the well being of the spirit. They tried to always appear neat and smell agreeable. And with a civilization who values their appearance, they are assuredly going to have people who are going to attempt to 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.

A combination of lead ore and copper called Mesdemet was the origin of eye shadow. The dark colors they believed would avert evil eyes from their own. It was also a great sterilizer and bug deterrent. Kohl was a dark combination that was put on around the eyes in an oval shape. It was a combination of lead, ash, ochre, copper, and burnt almonds. To further complement their appearance, Egyptians would put a mixture of water and red clay to the cheekbone area. They would also paint their nails hues of orange and yellow with a substance named henna.

A white, pale skin color was also a sign of wealth. If people had enough wealth, then you did not have to work. So it was extremely important for some people to have a light complexion. To get this look, ladies (and men also) would use a combination of hydroxide, lead oxide, and carbonate in a powdered form to put on their faces and skin. Unfortunately, this lead to a sometimes lethal side effect, lead poisoning.To remedy this, chemists in the early nineteen hundreds finally found a combination of zinc oxide that did not block the skin from being able to breathe and kept people out of that annoying lead poisoning sickness. It worked so well that it is still used today by cosmetics makers.

As time past and cultures were exposed to each other more often, the Greeks began to learn more of the multiple practices of the Egyptians way with cosmetics. Greek women would give themselves a pale color with a base that had lead inside. This ended up being lethal more than once. As the Romans began to adapt the cosmetics habits, the effort to achieve beauty became much less about practicality and took a turn into much more unusual routes. The Romans would adorn their nails with a combination of sheeps blood and heated body fat. An ancient Roman citizen once said, A woman without paint is like food without salt.

A light skin tone was the fashion around the world after the Egyptian empire faded. Only women who were low-class and had to work out in the field all day with their husbands had rough, tanned skin. The upper class ladies of course did not have to endure hard labor like that so they stayed inside and had pale skin.

In the Edwardian era of London, around the change of the century of 1900, urban women with a disposable income would have lavishextravagant soirees and do a lot of entertaining to display their wealth. It was extremely important for a woman to be the most beautiful lady there, especially if they were the hostess of the gathering. City and excessive lifestyles with factors like polluted air produced by the cities at that time, unhealthy diets, and little or no exercise aged the women quickly. Anti-aging and facial creams to mask the blemishes were heavily relied upon by women in this time. Routine trips to the salon were also a normal part of the day. It was a little different in the past than it is in the present. Ladies would go into the back entrance of the salons and hide their faces as they went in. One of the most famous of these secret beauty parlors was the House of Cyclax, who would sell foams and rouges to women. Mrs. Henning, who was the owner, sold and came out with many products for her frenzied customers who did not want anyone to know that they were getting old.

The modern day woman is the benefactor of all these years of mistakes with a virtually infinite choice of beauty products for any look they want to accomplish. The beauty product business has become a billion dollar industry with literally thousands of competing companies. Beauty products sell year round and even in times of depression. Therefore ladies, thank your ancestors and their concern for their own appearance for your own that you have nowadays. There were probably mornings when they woke up and didn’t really feel like going through the trouble of putting on their face either.

Guthy Renker Corporation

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