4000 BC The Egyptians: Here we see the first archeological
evidence of cosmetics. It seems
affluent women applied a bright green paste of copper minerals to their faces to
provide color and definition of features. They
used perfumed oils and painted eyebrows on themselves with cream made from
sheep’s fat, lead and soot. It
might seem to some that they used the perfumed oils because of the face makeup.
The East 1500 BC: In China and Japan rice powder was used
to paint faces pasty white. Eyebrows were shaved and plucked, and teeth were
painted gold or black and Henna dyes, were used to stain hair and faces.
In other words, teenagers looked exactly as they look today.
1,000 BC Greece: If you were an upper class Greek you
probably wore a wig to hide the fact that you seldom bathed.
This was true of both genders. Again everybody wanted the “real
white” look given by wearing chalk or white lead face powder. (No report on
what the incidence of lead poisoning was like in ancient Greece). When women
wanted a “little color” they chose ochre clays laced with red iron for
lipstick (Mmmmm, tastes good!) They spread their palms with reddish henna,
supposedly to look younger. These practices roughly coincide with the perfection of soap.
100 AD Rome: Platus wrote "A woman without paint is
like food without salt,"
These super-civilized ancestors put barley flour and butter on their pimples,
and sheep’s fat and blood on their fingernails for polish. Their crowning
contribution to cosmetics was the practice of taking mud baths laced with
crocodile excrement for who knows what purpose. Men frequently dyed their hair blond, supposedly to look like
the young guy in the Dell Computer commercial. The practice of hair dying among
men and women alike was curtailed, as dyes were so caustic as to cause existing
hair to fall out. They had
specially dedicated slaves to apply their cosmetics.
14th Century: Cosmetics were regarded as a health threat
because many thought they would block proper circulation. In Elizabethan England
dyed red hair was fashionable. Well to do women wore egg whites over their faces
to create a whiter countenance and also slept with slices of raw beef on their
faces to get rid of wrinkles. I think some English playwright wrote something to
the effect “A beautiful woman is like a delicatessen…” . Then again, maybe
15th -16th Centuries
In Europe, cosmetics were used only
by the aristocracy. Italy and France became the chief centers of Cosmetics
manufacturing. The French perfected the art of creating new fragrances and cosmetics, by blending ingredients. This
laborious process gave birth not only to the means for producing modern cosmetics, but also for murder, as arsenic was sometimes used in face powder
instead of lead, simply to kill the wearer faster.
17th -18th Century: Cosmetics are now in use by all except
the very poorest classes of society.
Red rouge and lipstick were used extensively to suggest
health, wealth and gayety.
19th Century: France again. They develop chemical processes
to replace fragrances made by the natural methods. Zinc oxide becomes widely
used as a facial powder, replacing the more deadly mixtures of lead and copper
previously used. Other poisonous
substances are still used in eyeshadow (lead and antimony sulfide), lip
reddeners (mercuric sulfide), and to make one's eyes sparkle (belladonna, or
deadly nightshade. Hey, it’s
important to look good!
The 1920s in America: Cosmetics and fragrances are
manufactured, and begin to be mass marketed.
It was now okay for women to drop the Victorian image and dress up and
use cosmetics, because it made money. The
mass appeal and market for cosmetics was assured with the advent of the dime
store/department store/chain stores which proliferated during this decade.
chemical method for permanent waving is invented making it easier for many more
women to have “naturally” wavy hair.
stars such as Mary Pickford, Theda Bara and Jean Harlow begin to influence the
style and use of makeup. Finally the “white look” starts to lose ground to
the Hollywood “tan” look. In 1935 Max Factor of Hollywood introduces pancake
makeup because of the adjustments required for photographing faces for film.
Finally, women with food on their faces again.
1950s: We begin the modern era of the cosmetics business as
we know it. Face powders and
makeup, tanning oils and fragrances are mass marketed to an essentially
“new” post war society that is tired of shortages. Popular sponsors of radio
soap operas transfer their ads to the new medium of television.
1960s: As in
the Fragrance industry, this is a time of change, not necessarily for the
better. Purple lips and Egyptian
eyeliner make a comeback, butterflies show up painted on virtually every part of
the body. Let’s not forget false eye lashes. Food makes a comeback as
botanical, and vegetable (carrot, watermelon) ingredients combine to create a
back to nature look, smell, and attitude.
1970s: Certain ingredients are
banned from use in cosmetics to protect endangered species, and other species
currently used as “lab rats” by some cosmetics manufacturers.
This age of environmental concern fosters the start of many movements
demanding disclosure from the cosmetics industry asking questions like “What
did you do to those poor innocent puppies and bunnies to get this cosmetic
product approved”? “What’s in
it, what does it do, where does it come from”?
1980- Present: The key seems to be “diversity” as new
looks, cosmetics and beauty aids come together to form an enormous industry of
over $20 billion in sales annually. We
are aware of cosmetics, fragrances, hair and skin products every day as we are
heavily influenced by ads in print, and on television.
Now we turn to the Internet.
It used to be that you had to go down to the flower store
to buy flowers, the book store to get a book, the drug store for your
prescriptions, the computer store to get a computer, the car lot to buy a car.
Now items, which we wouldn’t have thought of buying without personal
sales counseling a decade ago, are bought thousands of times each hour, on the
Internet. It is this way with cosmetics, fragrances and colognes.
Whereas your general store, or department store operating
during the first half of the 1950’s might be able to stock 90% of the hot
products and hot brands of the time, and have inventory “in the back” in
case product suddenly ran out on the shelves, things have changed.
There are more products, more brands, more advertising, more disposable
income, and more demand for products advertised in magazines, billboards,
television and the Internet. No brick and mortar (retail store-in-a-building) merchandiser
could have everything all at once. The
name of the game now is “e-tailing”. The
consumer can buy virtually any product, style, color, size, make, brand, price
point; and have it shipped within 24 hours.
This frequently represents less buyer time expended than a trip to the
local mall. The convenience factor
of dealing with your favorite e-tailer means a lot.
Selecting cosmetics is oftentimes less buyer-intensive than
getting the ripe tomatoes from the produce department of your local grocery
store. You don’t have to drive,
squeeze, or wait in line.