c. 500,000 B. C.E. Cave dwellers in Africa and South America cover their bodies with mud applied in decorative patterns. The mud also functions as an insect repellent.

c. 3000 B. C.E. Egyptians use more than thirty different types of cosmetic balms and ointments made from ingredients such as beeswax, vegetable oil, and animal fat. Moisturizers are considered so essential, they are routinely distributed to workers and farmers.

Egyptian women have elaborate makeup chests, equipment, and products. They give themselves egg white facials, use complexion cream, and apply perfumed oils. Women paint their faces with a (deadly) powder made from lead carbonate and water. Nails are painted with henna, and lipsticks are available in several orange-based shades. The use of red is banned, as it is considered magical. To outline the eyes, they use either powdered kohl or crushed ant’s eggs. Eye shadows in red or green are created using plant stems. Other makeup tools include stone pestles for grinding, bronze or silver mirrors, ivory or alabaster spoons, bronze jars for holding face cream, linen, razors, ivory combs, and pumice.

c. 2000 B. C.E. An Egyptian papyrus includes formulas for removing wrinkles, pimples, age spots, and other blemishes. One mixture includes bullock’s bile. Egyptians who want to get rid of wrinkles are told to apply a mixture of incense, olive oil, crushed cyperus, and wax to the face and to leave it on for six days.

Overseers stop all work on the pyramids until makeup supplies (kohl, green malachite, and galena) that help to protect the eyes of workers from the sun are delivered.

c. 2500 B. C.E. Sumerians invent the first tweezers to get rid of unwanted hair and use a flat bone to push back cuticles.

c. 1800 B. C.E. Gold dust is used by Babylonian men to powder their hair.

c. 1500 B. C.E. Egyptian women use body oils scented with frankincense and myrrh to moisturize and protect their skin from the dry, dusty climate.

Mesopotamian soldiers are paid in bottles of oil and perfume, which are more highly valued than cash.

c. 1200 B. C.E. Egyptians of this era are wearing a full face of cosmetics. They create eye shadows out of malachite, a copper ore that has a greenish tone, to line their bottom lids. Eyelashes and upper lids are darkened with powder made from lead ore.

c. 600 B. C.E. Makeup and lavish clothing is worn by all Babylonians of rank. An ambitious warrior named Parsondes was said to have complained to King Nebuchadnezzar about the governor Nanarus’s focus on beauty rather than on government. When word got back to the governor, Nanarus ordered that the warrior shave all his hair and wear makeup and perfumed oils.

c. 400 B. C.E. Women from various cultures use powders made from crushed minerals, such as ocher, hematite, and white lead, to color their skin.

FIRST CENTURY B. C.E. Roman women use saffron or wood ash as eye shadow and antimony to darken their lids, lashes, and brows. Fucus, a purple pigment, is mixed with saliva and used for rouge and lip color. Blue paint is used to outline veins, which are seen as a sign of beauty. Nails are buffed with sheep’s fat. Pumice is used to whiten teeth.

SECOND CENTURY A. D. Women in Palestine apply a mixture of starch, white lead, and crimson dye to their faces as an early form of blush.

THIRD CENTURY A. D. Talmudic law forbids Jewish women from applying makeup on the Sabbath.

636 The first glass mirror is invented. Women hang them, placed in elaborate cases, on a chain from their girdles, and men keep theirs under their hats.

1370 Charles V of France receives a gift of Hungary water, a body rub made of an alcohol base with rosemary, cedar, and turpentine. Soap is a luxury, but the use of these waters sweetens the smell of the body.

c. 1400 Cosmetics, including a white paste made of flour to cover the face, become increasingly popular among the French aristocracy. Women pluck their hairlines and even remove their eyebrows in the name of beauty.

c. 1500 Renaissance women use a mixture of honey and egg whites to condition their skin. White lead is applied to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Mercuric sulphide is used for rouge. To keep complexions clear, some wash their faces in urine or a mixture of rose water and wine. To reduce ruddiness, raw veal soaked in warm milk for several hours is placed on the affected area.

c. 1550 Catherine de Medicis uses a skin tonic made from crushed peach blossoms mixed with almond oil.

1597Gerard’s Herbal is published. This is one of the first printed publications to include recipes for various skin creams, including one for acne.

c. 1600 To soothe chapped lips, it is recommended that sweat from behind the ears be applied to the affected area.

1603 Queen Elizabeth I dies and is rumored to have an inch and a half of makeup on her face at the time of her passing. This is not uncommon in an era when no one washes their faces, and makeup is used to cover the horrible scars left by smallpox.

LATE 1600s A doll-like look with a pure white face and scarlet cheeks is all the rage. A foundation of white ceruse, which contains lead, is mixed on a palette with water or egg white and applied to the skin. Rouge is commonly applied by rubbing a piece of Spanish felt or wool that has been dyed scarlet onto dampened cheeks.

LATE 1600s TO 1700s Silk taffeta or thin leather patches in shapes like flowers, stars, and moons become a popular product to temporarily conceal smallpox scars on the face. More than just cover – ups, however, the patches signal a woman’s availability if placed near the lips. Engaged women wear them on the left cheek and switch to the right after marriage. Some even carry small patch boxes with them to social events to replace any that fall off. Small scenes are sometimes pasted over an eyebrow, and profiles of family members are sometimes worn on the face.

c. 1830 Women put a few drops of belladonna into their eyes to dilate the pupils, creating a dreamy look. Belladonna is a plant extract used since ancient times as a poison.

1846 Pond’s Extract, a commercial cold cream, is introduced.

1867 The department store B. Altman and Company opens a “making up” department to teach women to apply rouge, powder, and eyebrow pencil.

1886 Avon, the door-to-door cosmetics line, is founded by David Hall McConnell, a former door-to – door book salesman.

c. 1900 Guerlain introduces the first lip colors to come in stick form

1891 Polish-born Helena Rubinstein opens the world’s first modern beauty salon, in Australia. She sells a simple face cream inspired by her mother’s beauty cream. The product is an instant hit among Autralian women. In 1902 Helena expands her business to London, followed by Paris in 1906 and New York in 1912.

1908 Actresses are the only people who know much about makeup, as it is used exclusively for the stage. No woman dares to go out in public with more than the lightest dusting of rice powder. Rice powder makes the face appear lighter but also swells up in the pores of the skin, enlarging them. Helena Rubinstein starts to produce a tinted face powder that is more natural looking, does not have harmful side effects, and has a broad appeal.

1909 Rubinstein’s lifelong rival, Elizabeth Arden, opens her Fifth Avenue salon.

1909 The Russian immigrant Max Factor opens his first makeup studio in Hollywood.

1909 Eugene Schueller, a French chemist, opens the French Harmless Hair Dye Company, selling the first safe commercial hair dye product. A year later, he renames his product L’Oreal.

c. 1910 The first pressed compact powders—complete with mirrors and puffs—are introduced.

1910The Daily Mirror Beauty Book is published. The makeup hints and recipes for homemade lotions reflect the fact that cosmetics have become publicly accepted for the first time in almost one hundred years. The little booklet includes references to a device that curls lashes, a homemade eyebrow darkener, and astringent lotion, and it suggests using a pencil line to elongate the eyes.

1910 Tattoos are extremely popular in Britain. George Burchett, a famous tattooist, practices his art on men and women alike. His card indicates that he can tint and shade complexions and remove moles, blemishes, and other marks.

1914 After seeing his sister Maybel apply petroleum jelly to her lashes, T. L. Williams formulates the first mascara. He forms a company, named Maybelline after his sister, to manufacture the new product.

c. 1920 Coco Chanel makes tans chic, calling a suntan an important “fashion accessory.”

1920s The flapper Clara Bow is everyone’s favorite “it” girl. Her look includes heavy eyeliner and ultrathin eyebrows.

The opening of chain stores, in which products and prices can be examined by all, make inexpensive cosmetics available to everyone.

1922 Elizabeth Arden opens a salon on Bond Street in London.

1930 When she finds that her new cream can heal and improve the skin in a matter of hours, Elizabeth Arden names the product Eight Hour Cream It remains a best seller to this day.

1932 Revlon launches its first nail enamel.

1939-1945 World War II restricts the manufacture of cosmetics. Petroleum and alcohol, two principal ingredients used in makeup, are needed for war supplies.

1940s Joan Crawford’s heavily penciled-in, arched eyebrows become the trademark look for the 1940s career woman.

1943 Estee Lauder launches her company with a line of six products.

1952 Revlon’s Fire and Ice, an all-out sexy red lipstick color, is launched and becomes an instant success.

1960 The Color Additive Amendment requires that coloring ingredients in cosmetics be tested for safety and approved by the FDA.

1967 Estee Lauder launches a new line called Clinique, which emphasizes scientific skincare and cosmetics.

1967 The supermodel Twiggy popularizes a dramatic eye look; she draws lashes around the eye with a pencil and applies numerous false lashes, creating a doe-eyed effect.

1970s Natural makeup is all the rage.

Models to know: Veruschka, Marissa Berenson, Lauren Hutton, Margaux and Mariel Hemingway, Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson.

Beauty icons: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bo Derek, Farrah Fawcett, whose poster was the top­selling poster in history.

1972 Ilana Harkavi, a former professional dancer, launches Il Makiage. The line is positioned as “the makeup artist’s makeup.”

1974 Lauren Hutton becomes the first model to sign an exclusive cosmetics contract. Revlon signs her for $100,000.

1975 Trish McEvoy launches a line of makeup brushes to fill the demand for high-quality makeup tools.

1977 Calvin Klein launches a line of cosmetics, which relaunches in 2005.

1980s Makeup is strong and exaggerated. Color trends are bold—lots of blues and fuchsias. Avon and Mary Kay create palettes to take the guesswork out of choosing a color scheme.

Models to know: Rosemary McGrath, Pat Cleveland, Esme, Lisa Taylor, Jerry Hall.

Beauty icons: Madonna, Grace Jones, Jane Fonda, Pat Benatar.

1984 Canadians Frank Toskan, a makeup artist and photographer, and Frank Angelo, a hair salon owner, launch Make-up Art Cosmetics, or MAC. Their line, which is originally designed for use in fashion photography, wins a wide following with its socially conscious motto: “All ages, all races, all sexes.”

Make Up For Ever is launched by Dany Sanz and Jacques Waneph to meet the unique needs of the stage and fashion industries.

1985 Paulina Porizkova signs on as the face of Estee Lauder for six million dollars.

1990 Hollywood makeup artist Carol Shaw launches LORAC, a line featuring oil and fragrance-free foundations.

1988 Ultima II relaunches the Naked Collection.

1990s Makeup is all about looking natural.

Models to know: Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tatjana


Beauty icons: Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez.

1991 New York makeup artist Bobbi Brown launches Bobbi Brown essentials with ten brown-based lipsticks at Bergdorf Goodman.

1994 Kate Moss appears on Calvin Klein Obsession perfume ads and billboards Jeanine Lobell launches Stila cosmetics.

Fashion model Iman launches IMAN, a line of cosmetics for women of color.

Francois Nars launches NARS with twelve lipsticks at Barneys New York. In 1996 he shoots his first advertising campaign for his brand, and continues to do so today.

1995 Frustrated by the lack of bold, vibrant colors, Vincent Longo launches his own line.

1996 Creme de la Mer, a potent cream developed by aerospace physicist Max Huber, is relaunched. Laura Mercier launches her line of cosmetics.

1999 Sonia Kashuk launches the Sonia Kashuk Professional Makeup collection for Target. This marks the first partnership between a high-profile makeup artist and mass-market retailer.

2000s-Present Fake tans, sun beds, and tanning products are all the rage, mineral-based makeup enters the marketplace, and makeup brands explode.


Updated: July 27, 2015 — 5:59 am