Makeup and skincare have been around almost as long as humans. Some of the first human societies used paint to draw images onto cave walls and then used the same paint on their facial features. Sometimes they used this to make themselves stand out in the wild or to look more threatening to rival groups. Let’s dive together in the history of skincare.
How the history of skincare started
Some of the first recorded cases of makeup and skincare use come from Ancient Egypt. Egyptians frequently used cosmetics for multiple reasons. In Egypt, in 3000 BC, you would show your wealth with cosmetics and would likely spend several hours each day to look your best. Makeup was used for aesthetic purposes and to bring out your features. It was also applied to protect the skin from the beating sun and intense heat.
The ancient Egyptians were creative when it came to materials, using semi-precious stones or ground-up metals as “eyeshadow” because they would catch the light and project a shiny radiance. Their “eyeliner” would be a mix of lead, almonds, soot, animal fat, and copper.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans borrowed from the Egyptians and also placed a high value on skincare and makeup. Honey was used as a moisturizer, and oils and sand were used as a natural sunscreen. A day at the baths would include extensive care for all parts of the body, with fragrant oils and perfumes to soothe and gloss the skin after bathing.
Across the way in China, the first recorded skincare use was in 1760 BC during the Shang dynasty. They valued a natural pale look at the time and used face powders made from lead and skin lighteners as songyi mushrooms to get the desired look.
The popularity of pale skin spread across Europe, and the demand for lead-based skin and makeup products increased. European women, including Queen Elizabeth I, used lead mixed with vinegar to make a whitening foundation to remove freckles. During the Elizabethan Era, bathing was not in fashion. In fact, men and women rarely washed their faces and body. To keep their skin looking pale, they would just add a new layer of powder over the old. As the cosmetic layer became difficult to wash off, people started experimenting with everything from rainwater or donkey’s milk to red wine or urine to take their makeup off.
The skincare of today
The skincare of today was largely shaped by the establishment of the FDA and its regulations and rules in the early 20th century. Brands such as Maybelline, L’oreal, Elizabeth Arden paved the way and shaped the industry to what it is today.