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Visit these other humorous sites by Marjorie Dorfman:

Eat, Drink and
Really Be Merry


Home Is Where
the Dirt Is


Middle Age
and Other Mistakes

Don't Tech Me In

What's New, Emu?

Laughing Matters Ink

I Was Absent

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modern womanMascara For The Gods: The History of Make-up
Part Two: The Modern World
by Marjorie Dorfman

The art of makeup progresses from the ancient world into the modern age. How did it develop and what changes did it bring that are still in use today? Read on for some answers whether your lipstick blots or not.


It may be a matter of contention as to exactly when the modern world began, but it is known that the people of the Middle Ages learned nothing about cleanliness and godliness from the Egyptians of the ancient world. Even royalty rarely bathed, too busy seeking salvation and divine right in the smelly, dark and unresolved corners of their souls. It was not a period known for great advances in or consumption of cosmetics either. (With people rarely bathing, make-up could only have been considered superfluous to the concept of physical attraction). In those days, prostitutes wore blush, even though there was little to actually blush about. Still, it was not until the advent of the sixteenth century and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that natural beauty preparations came back into vogue.

Elizabeth 1Elizabeth I became one of Britain’s most celebrated users of cosmetics. During her reign (1558-1603) women used a white lead face paint and mercury sulfide for rouge, but the lead was mixed with vinegar to create a paste called "ceruse." The mixture caused hair to fall out and its extensive use throughout the Elizabethan era explains the fashion for high foreheads, as hairlines began to recede. (And when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when life gives you lemons, as the sayings go.) At this time, lipsticks were made from a mixture of cochineal and beeswax and occasionally a stain rendered from dark red plant dyes. That was at least one step up from the carmine beetles and ant eggs of Cleopatra’s time, wouldn’t you say?)

Coupled with white powdered wigs, this "ceruse" look became the height of fashion during the 16th century. Pale skin was a sign of nobility, wealth and delicacy. In an age when skin problems and the pox were commonplace and treatments for such out of reach for all but the wealthy, smooth, unblemished and pale skin was a rarity. The ceruse mixture was applied to the neck and bosom as well as the face. The first record of its use was in 1521, and by the time Elizabeth’s reign was fully established, it was considered an essential item for the fashionable woman of the day. Of course this was only for the ladies of the court. The lower and middle classes did not have the time or resources to devote to serious makeup. The wives of young merchants were notorious for their fancy dress and makeup, but otherwise cosmetics rarely touched the face of the average Elizabethan housewife.

Spreading lead on one’s skin caused a variety of problems and some authors of the time warned against it, describing how it made the skin "grey and shriveled" and suggesting other mixtures such as a paste of alum and tin ash, sulfur and a variety of other foundations utilizing boiled white egg and talc as a base. Uncooked egg white was also suggested for use as a "glaze" for the complexion. It created a smooth shell and helped to hide wrinkles. (Hell, if that didn’t work, there was always the egg white omelet alternative.)
cosmetic cream
Not much is heard about wearing makeup in Europe until after the French Revolution, when the act of doing so was considered extravagant, brazen and uncouth. Perhaps this attitude was the result of so many formidable citizens losing their heads during the Reign of Terror, rendering makeup unnecessary, to say the very least. A revival (of makeup, not heads) occurred during the 1800s before which the use of any form of blusher, powder and lipstick had virtually disappeared in Europe and was permitted only on the stage. The ideology was that lipstick and blusher created a false image and an attempt to recapture youth. In 1770 a British law was proposed to Parliament granting grounds for annulment in the case of any marriage that was entered into with a woman who used cosmetics prior to the wedding day. In 1792 an English Gentleman’s magazine claimed that "women with wooly white hair and fiery red faces resembled skinned sheep."

In the 1870s in Poland, a man named Max Faktor was born. He would become the father of modern makeup. One of ten children, at the tender age of eight, Max was placed in apprenticeship with a dentist/pharmacist. Years of mixing potions turned into a small business, his own shop, where he sold hand-made rouges, creams, fragrances and wigs. His big break came when a traveling theater troupe wore his makeup while performing for Russian nobility. He became the official cosmetic expert for the royal family and the Imperial Russian Grand Opera.

cosmetic brushIn 1904, Faktor and his family immigrated to America. At the World’s Fair held that same year in St. Louis, he sold his rouges and creams under the name given to him at Ellis Island, Max Factor. In 1908, he moved his family to Los Angeles and in 1914 created a makeup for movie actors. Unlike the theatrical makeup in vogue at the time, his would not crack or cake. This "flexible greasepaint" became very popular with movie stars, and producers often sought to rent his human hair wigs. He allowed the wigs to be rented to the producers of the old westerns on the condition that his sons were given parts as extras. The boys would keep an eye on the expensive wigs in between avoiding bullets and arrows from all the cowboys and Indians. Factor introduced his line of cosmetics to the public in the 1920s, insisting that every girl could look like a movie star by using his makeup.


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Don't miss this excellent book:

Making Faces

by Kevyn Aucoin

Making Faces

For more than a decade, Kevyn Aucoin has been the makeup artist of choice for fashion and entertainment royalty. But Kevyn believes that makeup gives everyone the power to transform themselves and try out new personas. He starts with unbeatable tips on the basics of makeup application and technique. Then he shows you how to use these fundamentals in all kinds of interesting and unconventional ways, with step-by-step directions.


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