The History of Makeup Artistry

Updated February 21, 2017

The history of make-up artistry is indelibly tied to the history of make-up all over the world. Many cultures have used make-up over the centuries, but only a few have documented their use of make-up to show its importance in culture and society. The foundation for modern make-up artistry began over 6,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians, notorious for their vanity, painted their faces regularly. By the Middle Ages, a completely different look became popular, and make-up followed the trend. When Max Factor introduced "pancake makeup" to Hollywood in 1914, modern make-up artistry was born.

Ancient Egyptians

Dating as far back at 4000 B.C., Egyptian wall carvings and motifs display facial make-up on both men and women. History shows that using kohl for eyeliner was an accepted practice for both males and females. Eye make-up was applied most often with a small, smooth stone; like obsidian. According to the Minnesota State University at Mankato eMuseum, Egyptians first used a green colour around their eyes and eyebrows, made from an oxide of copper. In time, black became the colour of choice for the eye area. According to Makeup, ancient Egyptians also ground carmine beetles, to make a red powder used for lips and cheeks. This was applied with a brush. They also wore white make-up to protect their faces from the sun.

Middle Ages

Pale make-up, which produced an extremely pale skin tone, was a sign of wealth and the aristocracy in Europe during the Middle Ages. The use of make-up is well documented in Greco-Roman history where women used chalk to lighten their skin, according to according to Duke University Libraries. Like the Egyptians before them, Greeks and Romans also used kohl for black eyeliner.

The "Sick" Look

The history of make-up artistry took a strange turn in the 1900s when women began buying make-up and cosmetics that would help them look sickly. TB was rampant in the United States in the early 1900s, and many women who had TB looked pale and gaunt. The "look" caught on, and make-up in this era created dark under-eye circles, and crimson lips to accentuate pale skin. Duke University Libraries indicated the make-up and skin lighteners used in the 1900s were made of toxic chemicals. Lipsticks were made of mercuric sulphide, a poisonous substance. The common skin lightener had a lead-based ingredient that could result in sickness and even death.

Max Factor

An immigrant from Poland, Maximillian Faktorowicz first introduced his make-up line to Hollywood studio executives in 1914. Max Factor, as his make-up line became called, invented a type of foundation that worked well with the industry's Technicolor film. Called "pancake make-up," the foundation actually caked less and showed less cracking than the make-up used prior to Max Factor. Hollywood make-up artistry also reversed the trend from pale faces to tanned skin. Many tanning products and make-up that added a bronze glow were sold in the 1940s and 1950s.

Modern Makeup

Modern make-up artistry finds inspiration from society's obsession with youth and vitality. Most modern make-up contains sunscreens and moisturisers to appeal to the health-conscious consumer. Mineral make-up is one of the newer breakthroughs in the make-up industry today. By using safe, finely ground minerals, fine lines and wrinkles can be hidden more effectively, and skin is able to breathe; causing fewer breakouts and skin damage.

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About the Author

Ekaete Bailey began writing professionally in 2005. She has experience in journalism, copyediting, Web content, marketing, creative writing and public relations/communications, with an emphasis in travel writing. Bailey writes for a variety of print and online publications. She earned a Master of Science in public-relations management from State University of New York College at Buffalo.