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Throughout the history of makeup, you will find a variety of reasons why different cultures painted their face with powders, paste, nature, and even lead. From the English’ Royalty fetishizing paste-white skin, to the Native Americans celebration of life through color, makeup has a history all its own.
Throughout the history of makeup, you will find a consistent trend revolving around the royal class and their obsession with their appearance. In England, during The Age of Enlightenment, the upper class unknowingly gave themselves Lead Poisoning (I do believe this is where the word irony originated – joke). The common canon that they aimed to portray had white skin, red cheeks, and was near identical to the picture above. They achieved this look (well tried to achieve it) by using Venetian ceruse, which is a solution of vinegar and lead. Consistent contact with lead can cause symptoms ranging from Pain in joints in muscles, to difficulties with memory or concentration. But hey, you know the saying, Beauty is the pain.
Egyptians, with one of the most beautiful, advanced cultures and histories of our time had a beautiful relationship with the simplicities of makeup. Whether it be enhancing the elegance of their eyes or the fullness of their lips, they were good friends with makeup and played a role in the development and history of. The Egyptians used makeup to protect their eyes from the sun and to celebrate the Gods (Create a Godlike appearance). Commonly Kohl was used on the eyes as protection from the sun, and protection from infections. Lo and behold, Kohl used as eye makeup helped produce high amounts of nitric oxide which created stronger immunity to diseases. Unfortunately, Kohl contained lead and may have been one of the reasons for their shortened lifespan (Averaging 30 years). Unlike the English, makeup as a commodity was not limited to the upper class, you would find people of different castes adorning their face with beautiful feline-like eye makeup or even green eyeshadow.
Although Disney’s Pocahontas depiction of Native Americans portrays an incorrect window into the otherwise tragic tale of Native Americans history, one thing is true, they ran with the colors of the wind. Their culture, from the way they treated each other, the world, and animals, they created beauty all their own. One way that they expressed themselves was through – Makeup. Makeup was very symbolic in their culture, the wore it to war, and even for magical purposes, or to worship the Gods(Similarly to the Egyptians). Every color had a different meaning, such as Red being the color of aggression, white the color of peace, and Black being the color of the living. Though one thing to consider is that the colors of one tribe, might mean something else to another, just like symbols and language. The Native American’s makeup was created from their surroundings, including but not limited to, berries, bark, and colored clay.
Although the uses of makeup have changed over the years, now mostly used to enhance beauty. It is important to remember where it started, and how far it has come. Although Makeup no longer contains lead, and no longer is used for battle we still see it on football players using it to protect their eyes like the Egyptians of yore, we see people using concealers, but for less racist reasons than the English, and still today we see the Native American people wearing makeup to keep their culture alive. We can learn a lot from the history of makeup, and most importantly we can enjoy it
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