History of the cosmetic industry

History of the cosmetic industry

While some people assume that cosmetic products are a recent invention, discoveries of the use of cosmetics go back thousands of years.

Remains of palettes estimated to be around 100.000 years old have been discovered that contain traces of mixed pigments. These were most likely used for cave art and body decoration, while the Neanderthals even used body adornment to make statements of personality.

Much later on, the ancient Egyptians used scented oils and ointments to clean and soften their skin, protect it from the sun and wind, and even to mask body odours. Heavy make-up around the eyes also became common in ancient Egypt as a beauty statement, as well as to offer protection from evil spirits and improve eye-sight!

Discoveries show that people living in present-day Turkey used creams made of animal fat to soothe the skin as far back as 3000 BC, and the ancient Greeks applied white toxic lead to their face to obtain the pale look that was all-the-rage. The Greeks also painted their lips with a paste made of iron oxide or ochre mixed with olive oil, and used kohl for eye shadow and to connect the eyebrows (the unibrow was considered a beautiful feature!).

Still back in ancient times, Chinese people stained their fingernails with colours to represent a social class. Soon after, they began using rouge for lips and rice powder to make their faces white. Also the ancient Romans made their skin paler by using chalk powder, white lead and a cream made of animal fat, starch and tin oxide.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the beauty industry became an important and viable career path for women, especially African-American women, who created products designed specifically for differently textured hair. Madame CJ Walker and Marjorie Joyner were two African -American entrepreneurs who used their expertise to create a new standard of beauty for their communities.

During the “roaring 20’s” the beauty industry took off in leaps and bounds. In New York, Elizabeth Arden opened her signature salon and began offering “make overs” to her clients. On the west coast, Max Factor created the first foundation for film stars, and Greta Garbo ushered in the era of sophisticated eyebrows and the need for eyebrow pencils and mascara was born.

During the war, the beauty industry took a practical turn, with focus and emphasis on creating sunscreen for soldiers. The basics of sun protection can now be found in a number of different beauty products and is a cornerstone for most facial cosmetics.

In the 1960’s women went “mad” for mod, mirroring the wide-eyed, matte look of supermodel Twiggy, while the 1970’s brought a more natural look to women’s beauty choices. Everything was bigger in the 1980’s, and more complicated hairstyles and treatments brought stylists to the forefront of the beauty industry. The 1980’s and early 1990’s were also the era of the “Super Model”, with women everywhere trying to recreate the iconic looks of Linda, Cindy, and Naomi.

The 1990’s saw a return to a more natural look, with pop culture influences like Grunge and hip-hop dictating beauty trends. Towards the end of the decade, deep, dark lips, nails, and eyes were in vogue- and in Vogue.

Today, the beauty industry has returned to its roots, with science based products doing double and triple duty. Women not only want to look beautiful they want their makeup and hair care products to benefit them as well. Beauty balms, correction creams, intensive serums, and anti-aging formulas are designed to showcase a woman’s beauty, correct any flaws or imperfections, and help her shine both inside and out.

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