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The History of Cosmetics

Vanity, self esteem, and covering our imperfections are just a few of the reasons Americans are obsessed with cosmetics. The cosmetic industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Although cosmetics and treatments have changed over the centuries, the purpose remains the same- to improve and enhance our appearance. Cosmetics not only provide us with more beautiful features, flawless skin, and less wrinkles, they have become a part of who we are.

The practice of makeup and cosmetic application first originated in the era of the Ancient Egyptians around 4000 BC. (“Timeline“) The most famously known woman for her makeup during this time was the Last Pharaoh, Cleopatra. The Egyptians not only used makeup for aesthetic reasons, but also for protection from various harmful environmental substances. (“Egyptian Make Up”) “The Ancient Egyptians, both men and women, wore distinct eye make up, rouge and perfumed oils that softened the skin and prevented burning in the sun and damage from the sandy winds.” (“Egyptian Make Up“ 2) The Ancient Egyptians took a holistic approach to the concept of eye makeup. It wasn’t only decorative and ornamental, but the practice also served medicinal, magical and spiritual practices. (Illes)

The next landmark period of time in which cosmetics were used, was in the middle of the 1st century AD, with the Romans. “A woman without paint is like food without salt.” -Roman Philosopher, Plautus. (“Timeline 2”) In Rome, the higher the status of the woman, the more makeup they wore. Women had no particular way they dressed; but the amount, and how elaborate their makeup was established their wealth and higher social status. (“Roman Make-Up”) The first layer of makeup that the women ...

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