A natural youthful glow of rosy cheeks and a flush face is something we have strived to achieve for many centuries. Fortunately, the process has been less messy than mascara but some formulas have been just as dangerous, leading to unfortunate fashion trends and death.
Again the trendsetter is Ancient Egypt, they first applied rouge of a reddish brown paste made out of ground ochre, here it had a dual purpose and was also used on the lips. This was a great contrast to their dark kohl lined eyes. This process was then passed onto Greece who modified the formula and used crushed mulberries, red beets, strawberries and red amaranth. Noble Romains caught onto the trend next but this time created a toxic formula that would whiten the skin first then the skin was topped with powdered red vermilion used by both men and women.
With the rise of Christianity, we saw a fall in make-up. The Church began to lay down heavy restrictions as to how followers could dress and so any artificial make-up was seen to be immoral and a lie.
Moving into the Middle Ages, pale faces with a hint of blush began to rise in attractiveness as it was a sign of wealth in higher classes. Lords and ladies could hide away in their homes all day avoiding the sun as peasants would tan managing the fields all day. Some lords and ladies would go as far as undergoing a bloodletting procedures to achieve an optimal ghoulish glow. * Oh the things we do for beauty….
The era of Queen Elizabeth I of England, was in favour of face paint but still in the pale variety with subtle pink cheeks. Many experimental and poisonous concoctions were being created, some made of lead paint and vinegar which seldom washed off and resulted in an oxygen deprived grey skin. These face paints also lead to the trend of the high forehead, the chemicals used on the faces caused receding hairlines for women! Sadly this reaction did not stop the call for pale faces as diseases spread quickly in Europe during the 17th and 18th century and unsightly scars and blemishes needed to be covered to show signs of strong health. Another option was to swallow an arsenic chip to slow the movement of blood in your body to give the pale look, also known now as death.
With highs, comes lows. During the French Revolution make-up was seen as extravagant again, visible rouge was a sign of low morals, women who wore it were seen as fake: trying to capture lost youth. So women who wanted a touch of color would simply pinch their cheeks.
Transitioning over to American, Southern bells abandoned the ultra-pale look for the rosy glow that comes with good health. They went back to natural products, safe for the skin options such as safflower, red sandalwood, Brazil wood and carmine.
Back across the pond, during Queen Victoria’s reign, she declared during a public decree that cosmetics were indecent, disapproving the application of heavy makeup. Those who donned this were either prostitutes or actors of with neither profession being held in high regard at the time. Still, in private, women would pinch their cheeks or add subtle natural color before leaving the house to meet a suitor.
Finally by the 20th-century rouge was socially acceptable like many makeup staples on the market.
Today we have many products on the market offering us a natural youthful glow. All products are safe for our skin, usually talcum based with a variety of minerals or oils to give us subtle colors of pinks and browns. These products also do not absorb into our skin but adheres to the top and won’t block our pores.
Anyone wearing the product can do so without the fear of appearing to be promiscuous or improper. Just remember make-up is to enhance our natural beauty, everyone should be comfortable in their own skin.
Thanks for reading. Next week the history of piercings.