Ancient Egyptian Makeup History

Make Up Through The Ages

To understand the history of ancient Egyptian makeup history, we must first go back to the beginning. Makeup and cosmetic products have a history almost as long as long human history. It is human nature to care about how we look and to improve the way we look. Beauty, carries with it many things; possibly the most important among all is power. Throughout history, we have observed people in powerful positions regarded as the image of beauty in the civilization. Following suite, the citizens of these civilizations tried to imitate what powerful people wore. We have found evidence that make up was used over 160,000 years ago in the caves of what is now South Africa.[1]

Ancient Egyptian Makeup History – Tattoos

Perhaps the earliest form of cosmetics is the tattoo. Evidence suggests that people were tattooing their bodies over 70,000 years ago, Tattoos were rites of passage in many African tribes and were used for the purpose of intimidation in battle.[2] Although, more recently we can observe tattooing in ancient Egyptian makeup history.  Tattoos are hard to observe, due to the decay of skin throughout time. However, Egyptian mummification was extremely advanced for its time, and was incredibly good one of preservation. Tattooed mummies were found on women at Deir El-Bahari. However, the tattoos were rather simplistic and consisted of mostly spots and lines used to form geometrical shapes on the chest and arms.[3] Although, tattooing is only one part of Ancient Egyptian Makeup History.

Ancient Egyptian Makeup History – Eye Care

In addition to tattoos, Ancient Egyptian Makeup History also includes eye makeup. The Egyptians primarily used green and black eye paint as an early form of mascara. They created the makeup with ore, led, copper and black kohl. Although, this eye makeup was not entirely cosmetic it had medical purposes as well. The black kohl was placed around the eyes to treat eye infections. The nitric oxide from the kohl would have been absorbed into the skin and would have strengthened the people’s immune systems. The profession of makeup artist dates back to the Egyptian people. While many common people applied their makeup on their own, high class individuals would pay a “professional” to apply their makeup on a day to day basis.

Ancient Egyptian Makeup History – Medicinal Uses

The effects of the eye care were completely medicinal. However, the Egyptians believed that the effects were due to magical effects, not for its medical properties.[4] It could be that the people of Egypt thought the gods saw the kohl around their as eyes as an increase in beauty and thought them more favorably than other people. The Egyptians also used make up for the checks and lips but I will cover that at a further date.

Ancient Egyptian Makeup History – My Thoughts

This could have than led to the make up being applied on a regular basis. However, that thought is complete speculation and there is little to no evidence to prove that to be true. Although, it would make the connection for why we apply makeup today. It would make sense that all of the things we find as cosmetic today once had a medicinal purpose. Or a reason other than being purely with aesthetic appeal. However, we can see that make up was always important to people and is not something we recently started to do.

Ancient Egyptian Makeup History – Today

Perhaps some of the makeup we use today has medical advantages. Although, I do not think that putting led on your face could have lead (pun intended) to healthy skin and could have caused cancer. With exception to the led used in the Egyptian products, some products today are very similar. I hope you enjoyed reading the brief ancient Egyptian makeup history. Comment your thoughts below, if you enjoyed this.


[1] http://www.artisbrush.com/makeup-history-summary/
[2] http://www.pbs.org/skinstories/history/
[3] https://blog.britishmuseum.org/2014/06/26/tattoos-in-ancient-egypt-and-sudan/
[4] http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/cosmetics.htm

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