My god, how historical makeup trends have changed over the years. At one point, adorning your face with various substances was socially acceptable. Then, without warning, adding a little rouge to your lips meant you were a working girl. The changes in makeup trends throughout history have depended mainly on culture, how religion has shaped the world around the wearer, and the symbolic nature of each piece.
This is a topic that fascinates me. One, because I love makeup. Two, because I’ll take any chance I can get to learn more about history. So, if you’re ready to see where some of today’s more popular approaches to beautifying yourself began, join me on my journey.
Ancient Egyptians and their love for Kohl makeup
Did you know that a modern makeup lover’s penchant for eyeliner began with the Ancient Egyptians? Both guys and girls loved this historical makeup trend back then, and it has evolved relentlessly throughout the ages. Just like those of us who love to create modern makeup looks, the Ancient Egyptians framed their eyes with Kohl to inject a splash of drama.
Today very little has changed. We still love to create smokey eyes, Gothic images, and on some occasions, subtle eyeliner approaches that make our peepers look bigger than they are. One Kohl eyeliner that’s grasping the beauty world’s attention at the moment is this cost-friendly treat by Lottie London. It comes in an array of shades, so you can up your eyeliner game compared to the Ancient Egyptians’ approach.
A dangerous historical makeup trend: Elizabeth I’s approach to facial bleaching
While her ill-fated mother took the Tudor court by storm with her dark looks, Queen Elizabeth I prized her vibrant red hair and delicate white face. Back in the Elizabethan era, looking pale was a sign of affluence. Only poor people liked to work outdoors, after all.
The way in which good old Queen Liz I went about achieving her pale complexion was a little dodgy, though. Using a blend of white lead and vinegar, she would smear her face in the paste, before moving onto a red lipstick made from beeswax and plant dye. At least she took a creative approach to her historical makeup trend.
If you’re not a fan of your present skin tone, you don’t need to go to Elizabeth I’s drastic lengths. Instead, try a product such as Elizabeth Arden’s Brightening Night Capsules. The aim isn’t to make your skin paler; instead, they’ll even its tone and reduce pigmentation from sun damage.
Historical makeup trends that last: The big hair and white faces of the Georgian era
Okay, so the pale skin thing took a little while to die down. Fast forward to the Georgian period, and aristocratic women everywhere are still striving to keep their faces looking pale, making it one of those everlasting historical makeup trends. As a little addition, they also loved to push out that cleavage and give their hair a boost.
If you’ve ever watched the film “The Duchess,” featuring Keira Knightly, you may have noticed that the Georgian penchant for big hair was fraught with dangers. Said dangers came in the form of it setting on fire, and apparently, this isn’t even a Hollywood exaggeration. To make matters worse, I vaguely remember reading in one of Lucy Worsley’s books that Georgian ladies earned their big bouffants by inserting masses of matted hair beneath their smooth exterior styles.
Fortunately, us non-Georgian girlies don’t have to start gathering masses of hair from our brushes from the same effect. Nor do we need to go to the equal lengths. Excuse the pun. Instead, we can just make the most of the decent volumizing sprays available to us, so we’re confident this is one of the historical makeup trends you can partially ignore.
The days when wearing red lipstick meant you were a ‘working girl.’
As one of the more fascinating historical makeup trends, I’m not sure how we evolved from red lipstick being suitable for a Virgin Queen to its association with ‘working girls,’ but I love its link to sexuality. Apparently, this was so much of an issue; someone proposed a law in parliament in 1770 to make it legal for a man to annul his marriage if his wife wore lipstick before said marriage. Oh, and at some stage, we also started seeing women who were brave enough to hit the stage and let their creative personalities shine as inappropriate too. That’s why I’ve added a pic of Sarah Bernhardt above.
While I was once a huge fan of Ruby Woo, and would, therefore, have recommended it to anybody wanting to emulate this trend, I’ve since grown to dislike how it makes my lips feel dry. Instead, I feel like you should give Laura Geller a whirl. It has excellent staying power, and it doesn’t crack away at your lips.
The super thin eyebrows of the twenties
I’ll happily admit that I am not a fan of today’s pop art eyebrows. How we reached the stage of ‘bigger is better’ in the eyebrow arena is beyond me, but we’re here, and the ‘trend’ isn’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Equally, the thin eyebrows of the twenties are a little toe-curling, but they did provide an excellent platform for shaping and filling in general. In addition to creating uber thin eyebrows, women in this era often aimed for a downward curve.
If, like me, you prefer the more natural look – turn to Shiseido. That way, you’re a little less pop art and can probably work towards being a lot more Cara.
As far as historical makeup trends go, we have a lot to thank our beauty-loving ancestors for. Whether you want to emulate their approaches or try something entirely different, just make sure you do you.