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Make Up History

Makeup is a part of our image and as such has been around for nearly 6,000 years playing an important role in nearly all cultures. Women throughout history put their health at risk with their homemade beautifying products. In some cultures women used poisons arsenic, mercury, lead, and even leeches to give themselves the pale appearance to look more beautiful. Thankfully, it’s long gone and our makeup products are now not only safe to use, but often beneficial to our skin. The methods, brands and approach to makeup were changing, evolving over time and has become integral part of our lives and true art.


In ancient Egypt women use unguent to moisturise their skin and prevent wrinkles and used kohl to blacken their lashes and upper lid and copper and lead ore to create the world's first cosmetics.


Persian women used henna to dye their hair and faces.

1 century

Ancient Romans use chalk to whiten their skin, kohl around their eyes and rouge.

6 century

Women use leeches to bleed themselves to appear whiter.

Middle Ages

Using cosmetics is not accepted by Church as nurturing vanity (1 of 7 Deadly Sins)


Rich women use face powder ‘’Aqua Toffana’’ which included arsenic (causing sometimes husbands death)


Rouge and lipstick is used and eyebrow and hair dying products derived mainly from natural plants and herbs (sometimes using toxic ingredients as mercury causing illness and sometimes death)


Mainly men use cosmetics, shaving, tweezing single facial hair, using chalk or rouge, setting new standards of personal hygiene similar to those of the early Roman Empire.


Queen Victoria publicly denounced makeup, calling it vulgar and declared use of it acceptable only by actors. Regency women limited themselves to tweezing eyebrows, castor oil massaged into eyelashes and rice powder. Ladies relied more on clothes and natural aids, such as flowers.


Ladies cosmetics are allowed to return, but only masqueraded as healers

Creams from Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden are sold as “Healer for removing spots”


Selfridges in London decides to sell powder and rouge openly -hugely popular with women, though not with men. As the suffragette movement struggles to win the vote, they also fight for the right to look as they please and wear red lipstick as a symbol of feminine defiance. The work of women during World War I soften MPs' opposition and the right to vote is won - only for women aged 30 and over - in 1918

Max Factor (born as Maximilian Faktorowicz in Poland) moved to Los Angeles is credited for term “makeup” created cream form of makeup suitable for film industry that went on thinner and, unlike theatrical grease paint, would not crack. The new makeup became popular.

L’Oréal is founded by French chemist Eugène Schueller, who developed a hair-color formula. Schueller manufactured his own products and then sold them to French hairdressers

make up courses in London UK


Liberated women are free to experiment, eschewing the natural look for daring styles for example 'la garçone”, a masculine look inspired by novel and typified by short hair and vampy make-up. Stylish women begin plucking their eyebrows and wearing kohl around the eyes. Coco Chanel establishes the must-have beauty accessory of the century - the tan.


Cinema, the most popular medium of news and entertainment, brings first screen celebrities to our doorsteps. Hollywood sets standards for beauty, and everyone wants to look like movie stars, who have their signature look tailored by Max Factor.

Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein also establish popular cosmetic ranges.

Max Factor creates new products, including liquid nail enamel in and lip-gloss.

As part of its Luxury Products division, L’Oréal owns Lancôme, which starts in 1935, focusing on fragrances. In 1936 the company had expanded its offer including makeup and skin care products.

Make up courses London


Max Factor introduces stocking cream in response to shortages. Red lipstick is worn and seen as a symbol of patriotism, as women defy hardship by maintaining their appearance.

Estée Lauder with husband Joseph Lauder in 1946 create cosmetics in New York


A shortage of men encourages women to try to look as beautiful as they can in the hope of 'catching' a husband.

Luxury beauty industry flourishes -led by Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Avon is born and the door-to-door cosmetics rep remains the bored housewives' best friend for the next 20 years.



Elizabeth Taylor stars in Cleopatra, setting new fashion trend of 'Cleopatra eyes', with dramatically extended kohl pencil lines.

'Swinging London' style kicks in -the model Twiggy promotes the look –with stronger eyes and false eyelashes becoming a must-have item.

Mary Quant’s hair is cut into the revolutionary five-point 'bob' by Vidal Sassoon.

Diana Ross and the Supremes define the elegant style of young, black America celebrated in the first black beauty magazine, Ebony.


Max Factor creates the first waterproof makeup.

It is also an era of increased political activity, the women's liberation movement emerges against the concept of prettying oneself to please men. Women also realise that the beauty industry is governed by and perpetuated by men and this inspires anti-establishment look, bras are burned and women stop shaving their armpits and legs.

Iman, a Somali-born diplomat's daughter, becomes the first black supermodel.


Materialism and consumerism are the buzzwords and a super-glam look symbolises the “get-rich-quick” philosophy of the times. Vanity is celebrated; well applied make-up is a symbol of the high-maintenance trophy wife.

The 'Princess Di' becomes the most popular hairstyle of the decade.

The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick aims to source cruelty-free and natural ingredients for cosmetics as a response to increasing profile of animal rights groups and proves that conscience shopping can be a commercial winner.


Consumers become more sophisticated. A desire to enhance natural beauty with less visible formulas results in a scientific approach to cosmetics.

Cosmetics no longer only cover-up but are 'light-reflecting' and 'wrinkle-defying', too. The battle against cellulite with expensive creams starts, while the growing interest in celebrity looks sees top make-up artists such as Bobbi Brown launching highly successful independent ranges.

Supermodel Iman, frustrated by the lack of ranges to suit women of colour, succeeds with her own make-up brand.

Isabella Rossellini launches her Manifesto range, designed to for women of all ages.

21st century

Ageing population feels the urge to remain youthful and the anti-ageing cream becomes a top seller. Cosmetic surgery is accepted as risk free. Quick-fix treatments, such as collagen, botox and even breast enlargement injections, can be performed in lunchtime.

Airbrush makeup and body painting is performed by makeup artists.

Permanent makeup in a form of tattoo is introduced to enhance “natural” look.

Short makeup history, by Beauty Training Studio