Humans have used cosmetics and makeup to embellish their looks and cover up blemishes since times immemorial. The life-like bust of Queen Nefertiti is perhaps one of the best-known portrayals of the makeup skills of the ancients. But the Egyptians were not the only ones to use various natural products to highlight their best features.
Al Zahrawi, a teacher in ancient times in Persia, authored a medical encyclopedia that had an entire chapter dedicated to cosmetics and their proper use. The Chinese painted their nails and adorned their faces with delicate designs. The Japanese actually had a kind of makeup foundation made from wax plus lipstick from safflower petals and other cosmetics. In every part of the world, we can find evidence that modern makeup has evolved from roots that were very much in existence even in ancient times.
The Egyptians Show the Way
Although the first account of ‘face painting’ can be found in the Old Testament, true credit for giving cosmetology and makeup its due attention, for the very first time, goes to the Egyptians. Even back in 10,000 BC, Egyptian men and women knew about oil massages and creams to make their skin soft and supple. The use of perfumes, body lotions, kohl, face colors, and many other cosmetic items was very popular with these ancient people.
The Egyptians believed that to be accepted by the Gods in their afterlife they needed to look good. This explains why we find beautifully painted faces on the sarcophagi unearthed from Egyptian pyramids. Busts and friezes of reigning pharaohs and his consort were also artistically decorated so that facial features were heavily highlighted to match the real person’s regular makeup. The religious connotation attached to one’s appearance ensured that perfect makeup and skincare was a very important activity in daily Egyptian life.