Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A History of Beauty

The beautiful and crazy Cersei Lannister!
I sometimes have nerdy tendencies.  These are often displayed by my love of history (it's what I have my degree in!), my proximity to uber-nerds (my husband and my sister), and pop culture choices.  This past Sunday, the second season of Game of Thrones picked up on HBO, and there was much happiness in my household.  New Game of ThronesHuzzah!  (Seriously, if you haven't read the mammoth George R.R. Martin books, do yourself a favor--pick them up!  They'll take awhile to read, but they're a lot of fun.)

Anyway, with GoT back in full swing on HBO, I get to geek out with an epic story coupled with pretty scenes and interesting costumes.  All of this had me thinking...what did women do to make themselves look a little more lovely throughout history?

Here are some of my favorite beauty habits throughout time:
  • Egyptian Eyes: the famous, heavy lined eye of the Egyptians was produced using Kohl, a mixture of lead, copper, burned almonds, soot, and other ingredients.  Everyone in Egypt wore eye makeup, and it was even thought that it could protect the wearer from evil spirits while producing better vision. 
  • China Glaze?: a mixture of beeswax and gelatin was used to produce a makeshift nail polish around 3000 BC in China. This practice was reserved for the upper classes, and nail color signified your position in culture.
  • Morality in Europe: In the European Middle Ages, wearing makeup the church considered sinful (most fun things were forbidden at this time in history!).  However, most women ignored fear-mongering and painted their faces regardless of an eternity of damnation.
  • Pale is the Rage: Societal stature has always been important in Europe. From the Renaissance on, people who had to labor often did so outdoors, resulting in tanned skin.  Super pale skin meant that a person did not have to toil and had more of a luxurious, pampered life.  To enhance paleness, women would bleed themselves or use a white face paint (that contained questionable ingredients!)
  • Through the centuries, cosmetics have included all sorts of scary and potentially deadly ingredients like mercury, arsenic, and lead.
  •  Belladonna was used to dialate pupils, something women used to like.  This would be fine, but belladonna has been know to cause minor visual distortions, inability to focus on near objects, and increased heart rate. Prolonged usage was reputed to cause blindness.
Interested in learning more about the use of cosmetics throughout history?  Click here!


socialitedreams said...

pretty cool stuff....i always enjoy these types of beauty throughout history type posts...wish that more african and middle eastern practices were usually featured, always european heavy in various articles. it's all so fascinating

Eye Makeup said...

This is a great post. I am thankful to you for the post. Hope to read more about beauty history.