Natural and Organic Beauty Magazine | Alyaka

Flashback Feb: The Evolution Of Makeup

The beauty products you now have in your stash are the results of research and advanced technology that aim to enhance beauty and promote wellness. Today, you can already access makeup and cosmetics for every type of application. It is also easier to find your faves based on your needs whether you intend to hide signs of aging or simply have your features enhanced.

Life is indeed more beautiful with the range of makeup and cosmetics available now. But have you ever thought about how it was years ago?

The history of makeup and cosmetics have their roots thousands years back. This article shares some interesting stories and facts that will make you appreciate the tools and products you have in your stash now.

Makeup Evolution Explained

True enough, makeup and cosmetics have been in existence since the ancient times. They may seem like a part of the modern world but history tells that men and women have been using them to paint their faces and body, whether as a part of their practice, for aesthetics, and even health purposes.



Dating back to 3000BC men and women in China and Japan have already engaged in ancient beauty practices that can be associated with the modern practices now.

In China, men and women have been painting their fingernails as a symbol that represents their status in the society. People who wore gold or silver belong to the royal class, while red and black represented the subsequent class. Those who belong to the lower classes were not allowed to use bright colours on their nails.

In Japan, safflower petals were crushed to add color to the lips and eyebrows of Geishas. Rice powder was then used for the face.


One of the most iconic leaders in Egypt is Cleopatra, a woman that has brought a lot of men to their knees. Other than that, she is described as a woman of beauty–a fact that may be associated with ancient practices.

According to Romans, Egyptians were described as people who used natural creams made with beeswax, olive oil, rosewater and more.

Furthermore, men and women in Egypt, regardless of class, have been applying makeup on their eyes using kohl or henna. However, this popular Egyptian eye makeup that comes in black, blue or green does more than just decorate the eyes. The kohl used was believed to fend off the evil eye. While this may seem mythical, scientists revealed that the kohl they used actually protected them from bacteria because of its lead content.


Europeans were referred to as ‘picts’ by Romans because of the blue dye they use for their faces. On the other hand, Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military minds in history has been ridiculed for wearing makeup. Aside from aesthetic reasons, the ancient ruler has worn it for health purposes. It helped in keeping the delicate area around the eyes protected from the glare of the sun and even kept flies away.

History has also revealed that while Alexander traveled throughout Asia, he has sent plant cuttings to a friend in Athens. Those cuttings were intended to be propagated to grow a garden intended for beauty products.

There are remarkable differences on makeup use then and now, especially in terms of the tools and beauty products that you’ve come to know of. In the next section, you’ll find more interesting information that depicts the remarkable transition from unconventional to modern cosmetics.



During the ancient times, unguent, a greasy and viscous substance  was used to prevent wrinkles and preserve a youthful and glowing complexion. Now, anti-aging products come in various forms and specifically target a range of skin conditions as well.


Before the rise of sunscreens and other products promising sun protection, the Egyptians used nut, seed and essential oils to shield their skin from the sun.


Gel, foil, shimmery or nail art? You now have a wide range of options when choosing nail polish. But way back in the ancient times, nail polish was totally different. Chinese used gum, gelatin, beeswax and egg to color and add shine to their nails.


A matte, smooth and whiter complexion remains popular to this day. However, this is no longer new. Back in the days, Greeks already have a great preference for a lighter skin tone. But instead of the typical face powder that we now know, they used chalk and lead face powder to achieve a whiter skin. In fact, history tells that a mixture of margarine and chalk was used as foundation during the ancient times.


A daily essential for most women today, did you know that even in the ancient times women already appreciated the burst of color that it adds. Aside from biting their lips to reveal a reddish color, beetroot was also used to stain their lips.


Use of makeup can be traced back to the ancient times. Unconventional ways have been followed to add color to the face. Kohl was used for eye makeup while red clay was used to brighten up the color of the cheeks and lips. Before mascara became popular, boot polish was used to accentuate the eyes.


Want to know more? Let us take you to a trip down memory lane to further understand and appreciate the evolution of makeup.

  • Ancient Times – Makeup was worn by both men and women to impress the Gods and drive off evil.
  • Medieval Times – People have gained awareness about the power of makeup. During this period, people have started using makeup and cosmetics to enhance their look and disguise signs of aging.

  • 16th Century – The use of potent powder to achieve a well-defined white face was popularized by Queen Elizabeth I. However, this is also the era when toxic chemicals have found their way in makeup as the powder contained a mixture of lead, water and vinegar.
  • 19th Century – It was during this period when makeup was regarded as vulgar by Queen Victoria. However, most women have been drawn to its aesthetic effects. In spite of the label imposed, women have resorted to less conventional ways to still achieve the effects of makeup.

Fun Fact:

During this period when makeup use has been demoralized by the Queen, women used to pinch their cheeks and bite their lips to achieve a nice flush of color similar to the effects of makeup.

  • 1900s – At the start of the 1900s, the label imposed questioning the morality in makeup use still has an impact. In fact, during this time, it has been associated with prostitutes and actresses. But it was also during this period when women let their voices be heard. In a 1913 protest march, women wore red lipstick to fight for equal recognition and right to vote–which eventually turned makeup into a symbol of empowerment.
  • 1920s – The popularity of makeup rose along with Hollywood film stars. Though many women were still not confident in using it publicly, it was during the 1920s when women copied the looks of the actresses they see on film, thus, makeup was already mass-produced and sold.

  • 1930s – This is the decade when makeup commercialization started. Many women experimented with makeup. These years were the heydays for pencil thin eyebrows and Hollywood glamour.
  • 1940s – World War didn’t prevent women from forgetting makeup. In fact, this was the time when portables or compacts emerged as the biggest seller of the decade. This reflects the desire for women to touch up and look good whatever the situation is.


Red lipsticks where officially considered as a part of the war effort in the United States. Women sent letters sealed with lipstick kisses to men at war to help boost their morale.  

  • 1950s – After the war has ended, makeup and cosmetics gained greater popularity. The ban in the production of cosmetics imposed during World War 2 has been lifted which led to the creation of new makeup tools like lash curlers and brow stencils. Winged eyeliner has also become a trend.
  • 1960s – Compared to the pink and feminine that were popularized in the previous decade, lipstick and eye makeup have been bold in the 1960s with use of mascarafalse eyelashes, and lip gloss setting the trend.

  • 1970s – Unlike the previous trends in makeup when fair skin has been given greater preference, this is the decade when tan skin has become in. Bronzed skin has become a top trend and makeup brands have released products that are especially intended for people with dark complexion.


Before the 70s, having a tan skin related to people doing hard work. But during this decade, a tanned complexion has been associated with people who have gone to a holiday destination.

  • 1980s – ‘Power Makeup’ has made its mark during this decade with stars like Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper taking the lead. Bright and striking makeup has empowered women to be in charge and feel beautiful during this era.
  • 1990s – Contrary to the striking makeup popularized in the previous decade, 90s has seen muted glamour with matte makeup and nudes in trend. While big makeup brands dominated the industry, makeup evolution has also shown the emergence of indie brands during this decade.
  • 2000s – This is an era when metallic and glittery makeup reigned supreme. Contouring proved to be a popular routine, too. Indeed, makeup has been more futuristic in the new millennium. YouTube has also set the trend among beauty vloggers with the rise of the Internet.

  • 2010s – Thick brows have become a thing during this decade with the likes of Cara Delevingne and Lily Collins setting the trend. Eyebrow makeup has gained great popularity with people leaning on brow gels and brow pencils to achieve the look.

ALSO READ: Eyebrow Tips and Tricks to Get the Perfect Brows

The evolution of makeup has revealed how men understood and appreciated the need for beauty products. You’ve seen the changes that occurred with time and how these products improved to become safer and more sophisticated.

With the rising popularity of natural and organic beauty products, there will be a greater need for makeup and cosmetics that can address the changing needs of people. Particularly those that can satisfy aesthetic benefits, as well as the demand for products that won’t compromise health and safety.

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Marine Krivenko

I'm Marine Krivenko, armed with an MBA and a deep passion for every aspect of the beauty industry. From the initial spark of a brand concept to the strategic intricacies of market positioning, my journey has been one of continuous exploration and achievement. I specialize in turning visionary ideas into reality, guiding brands to not only succeed but resonate deeply with their audience. My approach combines strategic thinking with a keen insight into the evolving beauty landscape, ensuring that every step we take is both innovative and impactful. In this ever-changing industry, I am committed to leading with excellence and inspiring others to discover the beauty in strategic innovation.

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