History of Beauty Trends by Lisa Eldridge
Lancome’s creative director Lisa Eldridge is releasing a book about makeup history called Face Paint: The Story of Makeup and she made this video demonstrating the looks from different eras starting with Ancient Egypt and Greece and going well into the 20th century. And although she touches on the classical age with former two, Ancient Rome was very interesting from beauty perspective.
Ancient Roman Beauty Trends
As many cultures, including the ones today, Romans valued light complexions and they even used white lead and other substances to whiten their faces. Various masks and ingredients like swan’s fat and gum Arabic were used to soften wrinkles and blemishes. Sometimes blemishes were disguised as beauty marks.
Lead was widely known to be toxic but was still used as a skin whitener and rouge. Speaking of rouge, it was considered a sign of health and women used all kinds of cosmetic ingredients to get rosy cheeks, from Belgium-imported red ochre to Tyrian vermillion, red chalk, and poppy petals.
While Roman women didn’t really sport any matching lips and tips they definitely paid a lot of attention to the eyes taking a lot from Egypt and Indian beauty. Using ashes, soot, and antimony as well as charred rose petals they darkened their eyes and used burnt cork to paint their lashes as they liked them long and dark. Surprisingly they also liked their eyebrows dark and meeting in the middle.
When it came to hair Romans treated it just like today with women removing it from the body with a resin paste or even a pumice stone and men removing some hair to appear more refined. The hairdos and wigs were very much popular with the ladies of a higher status.
Lastly, Roman ladies thought that a pleasant scent was a sign of good health so they drenched themselves in perfume, which was made of oils and flowers in order to also mask the foul smell of some of the cosmetic ingredients they used, which could include crocodile dung and other animal fluids.
Since makeup took a lot of time and skill only women wealthy enough to own female slaves cosmetae who possessed those skills could wear a full face of makeup or cultus (a Latin word for makeup, perfume, jewelry).
Men who paid too much attention to their appearance were seen as effeminate and wearing makeup for men was considered inappropriate and immoral.
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