Thursday, November 22, 2012

Woman Applying Eye Makeup with a Kohl Stick

Makeup has its beginnings in magic and cult practices with evidence suggesting a start circa 3,500 BC. In antiquity, healers and religious/spiritual leaders applied creams and color to the faces on their statues in order to give them life. Eventually, this practice translated itself to the living of both sexes, with the earliest evidence attributed to ancient Egypt where kohl sticks - a stick made of bone used to apply kohl (eye paint) - and other cosmetic materials were well-preserved. 

Rack your brain. A common depiction of an ancient Egyptian involves someone wearing a gold loin cloth, a head ornament, and dark, black around their eyes. In addition to having an aesthetic appeal, this form of makeup served a practical purpose to Ancient Egypt's citizens as it discouraged small, eye-infection-causing flies from a person's eyes and also kept the eyes from drying out in the relentless desert sun. 

Besides the heavy eyeliner, women used rouge made of red and yellow ochre mixed with vegetable oil or animal fat,
creams to soften and protect the face and to keep skin soft made from vegetable oil and infused with beeswax or fragrant resin, similar to how perfumes and scented oils were made. These pricy, hot commodities were packaged in unique glass or bone vessels and sold at market.

Ceramic Bowl for Mixing Cosmetics 
In his article, "Face Care and Makeup in Antiquity, Alegre Saverigo writes, "In the Bible the use of makeup is mentioned disparagingly. Jeremiah, wanting to compare Jerusalem to a prostitute wishing to make herself pretty, talks about eye makeup and uses the expression 'you enlarge your eyes with paint[ (Jeremiah 4:30)." Despite the Bible's lack of attention to makeup except in the context of whoring, archaeologists have uncovered sufficient evidence to suggest that wearing makeup was a widely practiced occurrence during this time in both Ancient Egypt, Israel, and in ancient India, where both sexes used eye makeup made from coal and vermillion to cover their cheeks and where henna was regularly practiced. 

Glass Kohl Vessel
In Greece and Rome, the use of makeup was even more highly developed. Women bought skin-enhancing face creams that also white-washed their faces and wore lipstick and rouge brightly colored from an essence of floral and algae as well as black eye and eyebrow liner colored from soot or antimony. The clay containers - pyxides - these products were kept in detail the use of makeup during this period. Many of the recipes for ancient Roman and Egyptian makeup still baffle archaeologists and scientists who have worked diligently to replicate the depictions they've seen by use of uncovered mineral evidence to some - but not ideal - avail. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Make Up

We're women and we buy it all: concealer, mascara, eye shadow, eye pencils, eye liner, eye zing, blush, rouge, lipstick, lipgloss, lip liner, chapstick, and foundation. Vanity Fair suggests that the American consumers spend upwards of $17 billion annually. And most of it goes to waste. According to fellow blogger Fabulously Broke, the average American woman owns: 
    • 7 Lipsticks but use only 2.6 of them on rotation
    • 12 Eyeshadows but only use 5 of them on rotation <– the biggest category!
    • 2-3 Mascaras but only uses 1 daily
    • 3 forms of blush in various shades but only uses 1 daily
    • 2 foundations and they use one or both daily
I, too, am guilty of the shop-and-drop relationship with makeup. In my makeup box, there are:
    • 1 Lipstick
    • 58 Shades of Eyeshadow (17 different cases)
    • 5 Mascaras
    • 3 Blushes
    • 3 Foundations
    • Concealer
    • 4 Eye Pencils
    • 1 Liquid Liner
    • 1 Bronzer
At some point or another I have used all of these accessories, but I regularly use: 
    • Burt's Bees Chapstick
    • 5 or 6 Shades of Eyeshadow
    • 2 Mascaras
    • 2 Blushes OR Bronzer
    • 1 Eye Pencil
What in the world have we come to, and, more importantly, how the hell did we get here? How did we, as American women, become so dependent on cosmetic touch-ups to make us feel beautiful and desirable. And why is it that, when I look in there mirror and see the paleness of my face, the droopy exhaustion in my tired, un-made-up eyes, and the summer's fading freckles all I can think is: Holy Hell who is this chick?

My next series of blogs will be on the history of make-up and our current dependence on the stuff. Be prepared!