This Is How Dramatically Women’s Makeup Has Changed Throughout History

A diverse group of women show just how much women’s makeup has changed through the ages.

1. Makeup, in some form, has been used in almost every recorded society in history. We looked back and wondered: how has makeup changed throughout time?

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2. Ancient Egypt (c. 3150 - 31 BC)

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Eyes - Lined with kohl; often wore green or blue eyeshadow
Lips - Popular lip colors included orange, red, blue-black, and magenta
Hair - Braids framed the face

Women in Ancient Egypt lined their eyes with kohl, a substance made of soot, metal, and fat. Kohl was thought to help prevent the eyes from blindness, and doctors carried it in their bags. Green and blue eyeshadows were made naturally, with the mineral malachite. Lipstick in ancient Egypt symbolized status - both men and women of the upper class wore it.

3. Ancient Greece (c. 800 - 500 BC)

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Eyebrows - Unibrows
Eyeshadow - Natural shades
Skin - Pale

The goal of ancient Greek cosmetics was natural beauty. Unibrows were the popular eyebrow style for ancient Greek women. Those who couldn’t grow one naturally would either glue animal fur between their existing brows, or create one with kohl. Women commonly wore lead-based face cream to lighten their skin.

4. India’s Gupta Age (c. 320 - 550 A.D.)

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Eyes - Lined with kohl
Hair - Often worn in a bun or braid, and decorated with fresh flowers
Skin - Married Hindu women wore a bindi during this time
Lips - Lip rouge

Indian women have lined their eyes with kohl since ancient times, and this continued during the Gupta Age. Women commonly wore their hair either in one long braid down the back, or in a low bun decorated with fresh flowers. During this period of time, the bindi was specifically worn by married Hindu women.

5. Elizabethan Era (c. 1558 - 1603)

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Skin - Powdered to appear pale
Forehead - Shaved eyebrows and hairline to create a larger forehead
Lips - Lip rouge
Hair - Auburn red was a popular shade

Queen Elizabeth I dictated style during the Elizabethan era. It was popular for women to either pluck or shave their eyebrows and hairline in order to create a higher forehead. Women wore a lead-based powder called ceruse in order to appear more pale. Since Queen Elizabeth had naturally red hair, others dyed their hair or wore wigs to match the shade.

6. Japanese Geishas (c. mid-1700s)

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Skin - Heavy white foundation
Lips - Bold red lips
Eyes - Red and black lining around the eyes
Hair - Worn in a chignon; decorated with combs and hairpins

Geishas became an integral part of Japanese society during the mid-18th century. They were - and still are - skilled entertainers who sang, played musical instruments, danced, and wrote poetry, requiring at least three years of training. Geishas at different levels of training vary in the amount of makeup they wear.

Immaculate makeup is essential to the geisha tradition. Heavy white foundation is applied on all visible skin except the nape of the neck, which is revealed in a graceful ‘W’ shape. First year geishas only wear red lip color on their bottom lip, while fully trained geisha paint their lips in the shape of a budding flower. Eyes were lined with charcoal, and outlined in red.

Geisha traditionally wore their hair in a Shimada style chignon, decorated with kogai and konzashi combs and hairpins.

7. Pre-French Revolution (c. 1775 - 1789)

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Skin - Powdered pale, with black beauty spots
Cheeks - Reddened by rouge
Lips - Kept shiny with grease
Hair - Tall, extravagant, powdered white

Makeup in pre-Revolution France was highly inspired by Marie Antoinette, who reigned with her husband until the Revolution. Women powdered their face, neck, and shoulders to look as pale as possible, even drawing on blue veins to appear even more pale. Women applied black silk beauty spots of varying shapes and sizes to their faces.

Hair was worn piled into heights equaling the size of the face. Women often did not have enough natural hair to reach these heights, and would wear wigs. Whether natural or wig, hair was powdered white.

8. Victorian Era (c. 1837 - 1901)

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Skin - Clear, lightly powdered skin
Cheeks - Pinched skin to create natural flush
Hair - Long, worn up in a chignon

Queen Victoria of England set the tone for the 19th century, publicly stating that wearing makeup was impolite. Because of this, skin was very important to Victorian beauty. Women lightly powdered their skin, but lip and cheek color was considered scandalous. Women often resorted to pinching their cheeks to gain color. A woman’s long hair was a symbol of her femininity, but hair was worn up in a chignon.

9. Swingin’ Sixties (c. 1960 - 1969)

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Lips - Paler pink lip color
Eyes - Experimental eyeshadow colors and fake eyelashes
Cheeks - Cheeks contoured to look hollowed
Hair - Large bouffant wigs

The liberation movements of the 1960s created an experimental atmosphere that extended to makeup. Women wore any and every color eyeshadow, heavy eyeliner, and big false eyelashes; sometimes those lashes were a wild color, or even beaded.

The black beauty industry boomed in the late 1960s; before that, makeup designed to complement black women was limited.

10. What look will be idealized next?

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