Makeup Fact #1: In the Beginning, There was Ancient Egypt

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August 11, 2014 by brianakling

Hello readers and followers! How would you feel about getting a daily makeup fact? I hope you said yes because I am giving you one anyway!

Makeup Fact #1

Cosmetics have been used for as long as there have been people to use them. Face painting is mentioned in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 23:40) and eye shadow was used in Egyptian burials dating back to 10,000 BC (Llewelyn). The word “cosmetae” was first used to describe Roman slaves whose function was to bathe men and women in perfume. (Keville, Green).


The earliest historical record of makeup comes from the 1st Dynasty of Egypt (c.3100-2907 BCE or around 10,000 BCE. (**Dates vary due to resources). When men and women of Egypt wanted to feel fresh, they used various oils and ointments to soften their skin and mask, what I believe to be, horrible body odors. Without the use of soap, homemade oils and ointments were placed in clay jars to keep for a longer period of time.

Homemade dyes and paints were made to color skin and their hair. In order to get plump lips, brighten up their cheeks, or get the nail polish color of their dreams, they used henna to rouge their lips, cheeks, and stain their nails.

The Egyptian eye makeup look has been achieved throughout our history. Heavy eyeliner and color on their eyes, make up novices and experts have created their own take on this Egyptian look. But have you ever wondered how Egyptians managed to get that heavy lined look? Well, they used Kohl.

Kohl: A dark-colored powder made of crushed antimony, burnt almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ochre, ash, malachite, chrysocolla (a blue-green copper ore) or any combination thereof.
Today, kohl makeup would have raised the blood lead content in their bodies which could cause lead poisoning, convulsions, lowered IQ, anemia, retardation, and death.


Using a small stick, the upper and lower eyelids were painted in a line that extended to the sides of their faces for an almond effect. It was believed that the black kohl eyeliner could restore poor eyesight and reduce any eye infections or disease that might have come about. Kohl was kept in a small, flat-bottomed pot with a wide, tiny rim and a flat, disk-shaped lid. (Carnegie Museum).


Cosmetics with a prominent part of Egyptian hygiene and health. Oils and creams were used to protect the people from the hot sun and dry winds. Herbs and spices such as myrrh, thyme, rose, chamomile, lavender, lily, peppermint, rosemary, cedar, aloe, olive oil, sesame oil, and almond oil provided the basic ingredients for most perfumes and oils. These perfumes and oils were not only used to mask body odor or protect skin, they were used in religious ceremonies and to embalm the dead. (Cohen).

As for the lips, cheeks, and nails, a clay called red ochre was ground and mixed with water while henna was used to dye fingernails yellow or orange. Women and men would store all their makeup in special jars which was stored in special boxes. Women would carry their boxes of makeup around with them to parties and store them underneath chairs while men just kept it home for their own pleasure.


Egyptian makeup practices are really interesting to learn about. The amount of herbs, spices, and metals used in their makeup is phenomenal. Unfortunately, the makeup was not safe for the face or body. Whose to judge though. Many people go tanning or use horrible chemicals to enhance their skin, face, or body everyday. The Egyptians didn’t have tanning bed or botox, they relied on the powers of natural chemicals, herbs, and spices. How bad could that be?

I hope you enjoyed the makeup fact of the day!




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