The History of Cosmetics
by Leah K. Oxendine

With so many different kinds of cosmetics available to us, don't you wonder where they came from, where they originated?

There's mascara to make the eyelashes appear fuller. Lipstick to add color and shine to the lips. A foundation cream can cover spots or uneven skin coloration.

We can even boast of colored contact lenses and artificial hair colors and dyes!

In this modern age, women all over the world wear make-up. But this is no surprise, for make-up is not a new thing. Its origins date back centuries. The ancient Egyptian queens, including Nefertiti and Nefertari, applied their own concoctions of cosmetics to try and beautify themselves further.

And even men wear make-up.
Let's travel back five thousand years. Sitting upon a cushioned sofa, a wealthy Roman lady tries to relax as her personal servants smear a pale, white paste into their mistress' face.

Some say that the first make-up originated in Rome, although it was also used quite early on by the Egyptians. No matter where it started, the use of cosmetics was a part of everyday life for women in Rome, mainly among the wealthy and the prostitutes. This should tell us a bit about what make-up really is!

Remember Ahab and Jezebel from 2 Kings? Jezebel painted her eyelids and applied her own make-up to appear attractive to General Jehu. Vanity again! Our goals should not be to try and grab the attention of the other gender!

Roman beauty included pure white skin as the most important feature. But native Roman women weren't naturally fair-skinned, and spent their time outside with oils on their faces. This proves to be a problem, when one desires to be as pale as possible!

Working-class ladies could afford the cheaper varieties of cosmetics, but applying the make-up was such a time-consuming task, many ladies did not have the time (nor slaves!) needed to do it, for cosmetics in that era needed to be re-applied several times daily because of weather conditions and poor composition. The production of cosmetics during ancient Rome was usually done by female slaves called Cosmetae.

Women would often prepare their faces with beauty masks prior to applying makeup. But what was the make-up composed of?

One recipe called for the application of sweat from sheep's wool to the face before bedtime. Other ingredients included juice, seeds, horns, excrement, honey, plants, placenta, marrow, vinegar, bile, animal urine, sulfur, vinegar, eggs, myrrh, incense, frankincense, ground oyster shells, onions with poultry fat, white lead, and barley. There was even the idea of bathing in asses' milk, which was an expensive treatment used by wealthy women such as Cleopatra VII and Poppaea Sabina.

Women have used burnt matches to darken their eyes, berries to stain their lips and human urine to fade their freckles. They have even swallowed ox blood in some misguided attempt to improve their complexions. Little did these women know, the pastes and concoctions they were putting on themselves had quite dangerous properties. Why do women put their bodies at risk this way?

All because of vanity, these women put their health severely at risk. Those poor Roman, Greek and Egyptian ladies would use make-up made with mercury, copper, arsenic and white lead. Even leeches were used to give a pale complexion. Some of the results in using toxic chemicals as did the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were deformities, blindness, even death through the ages. These are only a few sad examples.

We move on to the middle Ages. (The 5th to 15th centuries) Although its use was frowned upon by church leaders, many women still wore cosmetics. A popular trend for women during this time was to have a pale-skinned complexion, which was achieved through either applying pastes of lead, chalk, flour or bloodletting. You know there is far too much emphasis on appearance when a person will do harm to herself all for the sake of being beautiful in the eyes of the people around her.

Cosmetic use was frowned upon at
many points further on in Western history. For example, in the 1800s, make-up was used primarily by prostitutes.

Queen Victoria publicly declared make-up "improper, vulgar, and acceptable only for use by actors and actresses." Apparently she didn't believe it to be vulgar and improper for them! Adolf Hitler told women that face painting was for clowns and not for the women of the master race.

And by the middle of the 20th century, cosmetics were in widespread use by women nearly all over the world.

Now, the Spiritual question: Is make-up something that we as Followers of the Messiah should use? Does make-up bring glory to God? Are we taking care of the bodies He's given us when we apply cosmetics? Does that make Him look good, are we representing His Name worthily when wearing make-up?

Once again, I will not tell you what you ought to be doing. I am not saying that wearing make-up is a sin. What I am trying to get across is the importance of pondering whether what you're doing is honoring to God or not. The Scriptures say in so many places that we are to give Him the glory in all that we do.

Also, we are to be good stewards of our bodies. Have you ever seen some young woman with make-up inches thick pasted on her face? Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration.  My point is, have you ever seen a girl with so much eyeliner, eye shadow, blush, lipstick and mascara that she is no longer the girl you saw the other day? Maybe she dropped by for a visit briefly when she had not "gotten all fixed up," and you thought she looked quite lovely just natural.
But that's the problem. No matter how much you try to convince her of her natural beauty, she refuses to accept your compliments and insists that she looks horrid, and "in much need of her make-up."

Many girls and women do not realize the natural beauty that God has given them. Each person is made with ever so much care and created in the image of God, Himself! How special does that make you? VERY special. While a little bit of foundation or lip-liner can bring out your natural beauty even more, too much can distort it and cause you to look like a whole different person! It can be like wearing a mask.

Here are some things to consider. If you use make-up(or even if you don't. Try finding pictures of people with make-up on and then some pictures of people without it) take a picture of yourself with the cosmetics and then a picture of you without them. Compare them.

Ask yourself these questions as you compare. Do I look seductive? Does the make-up seem to change the attitude I portray in the picture? Do I look joyful or pouty? In the beginning you may like the way you look with make-up on better than natural. But always remember... you are representing Christ so make sure you are 100 percent certain about what you think He wants you to do.

Maybe you feel you ought to wear a little bit of make-up. That can be fine, what's more important is the attitude behind it. Are you ungrateful for the way He made you? Or do you just want to bring out the natural beauty a bit more vivid?

It sounds like it's time to do some pondering! May you be blessed as you pursue what convictions God has placed upon your heart.

Leah is a homeschooled 15-year-old, who writes poetry, fiction, non fiction and articles-- Currently writing a historical fiction novel. She lives for her Saviour and True Love, Jesus Christ, and is trying to give her all to Him in everything she does.

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