“A woman without paint is like food without salt.”
- Roman philosopher, Plautus
As this is my first ever blog post, it seems fit to chat about where our fun make-up products of today originate from.
I admit I like nothing better than to pop down to the shops to buy a new lip gloss for a party, and of course I am completely seduced by the cleverly marketed “must have” products from cosmetic houses, not to mention that I am always on the hunt for the best new mascara!
In fact, ready-made formulas only became available around the 1920’s after Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden started to make consumable products as we know them today. But painting the face goes way back to the beginning of time. Amazingly, make-up use has actually been recorded since 4000 BC, which is quite something really.
Both sexes in these ancient times smeared themselves with homemade concoctions of natural earths, minerals and ash which they ground and mixed with waxes and oils. Eyes were rimmed in black kohl as a way of warding away evil spirits. In Asia, Chinese ladies used rice powder to whiten the skin and colour signified your social standing – gold and silver on the face were strictly for royalty only! Geisha make-up was a highly prized part of their persona and necks were, and still are considered an erotic area which they enhance with v” shapes. Henna has also transcended the ages and remains popular for Indian brides today.
In the 16th Century, Lead was used to whiten the face. Queen Elizabeth was a well known user and she created a look known as “the Mask of Youth.” However when Queen Victoria took the throne, she thought make-up vulgar, and it somewhat went out of fashion. However, Coco Chanel completely turned the tables on this trend and in the 1920’s a tan and red lips became “tres chic.” During World War 2 the make do and mend philosophy also applied to cosmetics. Products were in short supply and could sell out from chemists within the hour, whilst munitions workers were actually encouraged to wear make-up as a protective barrier against the chemicals they worked with!
At this point I have to say that I love, love, love the current trend for 1940’s style matte red lips and am noticing lots of my private clients are really keen to find the perfect wearable red lipstick (Hmmm…lipstick – now there’s a blogpost in itself!)
The 1960’s and 1970’s can’t be mentioned without Biba, and I actually have some of their vintage makeup in my collection. Obviously I don’t use it on clients (for safety reasons), but as a professional make-up artist it is really interesting to play with, as the textures and pigments are much denser than today’s products. I also have an early “bullet” lipstick from Max Factor which just looks so elegant in its simple packaging. The modern (or vintage) girl of today is thoroughly spoilt with so much choice – perhaps too much – it even confuses me and I use a LOT of products from different brands.
So today it’s all about getting us to buy more of the stuff: did you know that cosmetics are the highest profit making product on the market? That’s why the cosmetics hall is always on the ground floor of a department store… However, I defy you to buy a new lipstick and not feel happy.
As for the future, I think the innovations being made are not necessarily in colours – as we already have every hue imaginable – but in textures, application and skin enhancing/long-lasting ingredients. Watch this space: there is plenty more playing to be done with make-up!