This is going to be the final article in the history of makeup series mainly as it’s the only other product that can be traced back more than a few decades from what I could find in my research. The rosy cheeks can be traced back like most makeup mentioned in this series to ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians used red ochre mixed with fat to create a red tint that would be smeared onto their lips and cheeks. Both men and women wore these products. Though they were not using the products on the cheeks for any protection, they did it to resemble the gods and for rituals. Years later Romans used red vermillion while Greeks used crushed mulberries. Sort of as a symbol of status and it constrasted from their whiten faces.
But in the Middle Ages, the use of cosmetics dropped and was more reserved for the higher class. I spoke about the pale faces in The History of Foundation, but brief overview is they wanted to be separated from the working class who would have red skin from working outside all day. So they used lead foundation and leeches to remove the redness from the skin. Another reason why this was so important was that heavily rouged cheeks were associated with prostitutes. It wasn’t until Elizabeth I endorsed the use of blush again that it came back into fashion and daily use. Blush however in 1500s to 1700s were extremely toxic with a lot of chemicals unlike the Ancient Egyptians who used red ochre.
Then Queen Victoria came into power and made the use of almost all cosmetics as impolite or associated with prostitution. However, most of the population still used some form of cosmetics. Including biting their lips to make them pinker and using crushed beets for blush for a youthful glow.
Starting in the 1900s, America became industrialized and we saw the rise of cosmetics brands that could mass produce products. American government also created laws to ban the use of toxic ingredients. And has remained in style ever since coming in a variety of hues from red to peach to pink. And it’s all thanks to the lengthy history with a lot of toxic products for us to get the products we have today. For the next mini series on cosmetics we’re going to be focusing on and doing a deep dive into common ingredients used in today’s products.
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