68 Glamorous Facts about Makeup and Cosmetics

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 30, 2016
  • Roman philosopher Plautus once quipped, “A woman without paint is like food without salt.”[3]
  • The word “cosmetic” is from the Greek word kosmos (related to cosmos), meaning to arrange, order, or adorn. The popular magazine Cosmopolitan is also derived from this root.[7]
  • In 1909, Eugène Schueller founded the French Harmless Hair Dye Company, which later became L’Oreal.[5]
  • The rivalry between Elizabeth Arden, who opened a beauty salon in 1910, and Helene Rubinstein, a Polish immigrant, helped move the cosmetic industry into the modern era.[7]
  • In the early 20th century, Elizabeth Arden and Helen Rubinstein along with Max Factor (who produced makeup for actresses) built the foundations of the modern cosmetic advertising industry. They used aggressive advertising tactics, such as celebrity endorsements and magazine advertisements.[11]
  • The global beauty industry is growing at up to 7% a year, more than twice the rate of the developed world’s GDP. The growth is being driven by aging baby boomers and an overall increased discretionary income in the West, as well as a growing middle class in developing countries.[11]
  • The ancient Egyptians regarded beauty as a sign of holiness
  • In ancient Egypt, cosmetics were an integral part of hygiene, health, and ritual. Pills and creams protected against the sun and dry winds, and oils were used in perfumes in religious rituals.[7]
  • Cosmetic, or plastic, surgery is a booming $20 billion business and continues to grow. The number of plastic surgeries in America has increased by over 220% since 1997.[11]
  • Brazil has more “Avon Ladies” (900,000) than it has men and women in its army and navy.[11]
  • Pantene is the world’s biggest hair care brand, largely in part because of its “pro-vitamin B” ingredient. But a report by Britain’s Which reveals that vitamins need to be ingested to work and that Pantene shampoo is no better than a supermarket brand it tested.[11]
  • Beauty firms spend just 2%–3% of their sales on research and development, compared with 15% by pharmaceutical companies. Beauty firms spend 20%–25% on advertising and promotion.[11]
  • The global beauty industry consists of skin care ($24 billion), makeup ($18 billion), hair care ($38 billion), and perfume ($15 billion).[11]
  • George Washington would sometimes wear lipstick, a powdered wig, and makeup.[2]
  • Medieval women would swallow arsenic and dab bat’s blood on their skin to improve their complexion.[3]
  • In his autobiography, Charles Darwin noted a “universal passion for adornment” that often involved “wonderfully great” suffering.[5]
  • The cosmetic industry is a $160 billion-a-year global industry, which includes makeup, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, and diet pills.[11]
  • Cosmetics are symbolic of a civilization’s practical concerns, such as class hierarchies and conventions of beauty.[10]
  • The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.

    - Yves Saint-Laurent

  • Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.[11]
  • In a study of mating preferences of more than 10,000 men across 37 cultures, female attractiveness came at the top or near the top on every man’s list.[11]
  • Lash Lure, a brand of mascara in the 1930s, painfully killed one woman and permanently blinded several others. It was made from a highly toxic substance called paraphenylenediamine, a chemical used for tinting leather and clothes.[6]
  • Roman women would use belladonna (“pretty lady”) drops to dilate their pupils in an attempt to make themselves appear more beautiful and sexually aroused. Unfortunately, the drops were poisonous, with such adverse effects as visual distortions, increased heart rate, inability to focus and, with prolonged use, death.[6]
  • In the 18th century, Americans used the warm urine of young boys in an attempt erase their freckles.[1]
  • Sometimes the medicine is definitely worse
  • The first patent for nail polish was in 1919, and the first color was a faint pink. A girl who wore anything darker than pink was deemed “immoral.”[10]
  • The first swivel-up lipstick in a tube appeared in 1923.[10]
  • In 1915, the Kansas legislature introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for a woman under age 44 to wear lipstick because it would “create a false impression.”[2]
  • Elizabeth Taylor forbade any women on her movie sets from wearing her shade of red lipstick.[2]
  • Lipstick first appeared approximately 4,000–5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia when women ground precious gems into dust to decorate their lips.[3]
  • One of the driving forces to modernize makeup and cosmetics was Hollywood movies.[7]
  • Eugène Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal, invented modern, synthetic hair dye in 1907.[5]
  • A woman in the early 20th century would apply mascara by dipping a tiny brush into hot water, rubbing the bristles on a cake containing soap and pigments, removing the extra mascara onto a blotting paper, and then applying the remaining mixture onto her lashes.[5]
  • During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church taught that makeup was sinful. By A.D. 1000, makeup and body paint fell out of favor in all Christian countries.[10]
  • Many Muslim brides cover their hands and feet with Henna patterns before their marriage for good luck in their marriages.[7]
  • Rat poison or hair dye?
  • In ancient Greece, women would lighten their hair using plant extracts or arsenic.[5]
  • In an effort to maintain a porcelain complexion, young women in 18th-century Spain would eat clay, even though it could lead to anemia or chlorosis (an iron deficiency that may cause a green tint to the skin).[5]
  • In 1952, Queen Elizabeth commissioned her own brand of lipstick to match her coronation robes. The hue was called “The Balmoral Lipstick,” after her Scottish country home.[2]
  • During the 1400s, a pale complexion was all the rage among women. To achieve this look, some women bled themselves, either by using leeches or slashing their veins in a method called “cupping.”[5]
  • In the 18th century, members of the French Court desired alabaster skin. To achieve this, they would wear thick layers of white powder, which was made from white lead, talc, and pulverized bone combined with wax, whale blubber, or oil.[5]
  • A study in 1991 revealed that female politicians who employed Hollywood makeup artists were 30% more likely to win elections.[6]
  • Because hands are washed more and exposed to UV light more than the face is, hands are often darker or redder than facial skin. This means testing a foundation on your hand in the store probably won’t give a good match for the face.[10]
  • To make eye color pop, makeup experts recommend contrasting your eye shadow, liner, and mascara color with your eye color. For example, brown eyes would contrast with deep blues and greens, blue eyes with natural browns or chocolate, green eyes with deep purples, and hazel eyes with rich greens.[10]
  • During the Roman era, lipstick was a social marker, and even men painted their lips to indicate their rank.[2]
  • Pumping a mascara brush into the tube forces in air, which can dry out mascara and cause flakes.[10]
  • Known as the “lipstick effect,” lipstick sales tend to increase during economic recessions—as well as on rainy days.[4]
  • Lipstick can be a girl's best friend
  • Fish scales (guanine) are often added to lipstick and eye shadow to make them glimmer.[6]
  • The average woman uses a dozen personal care products containing 168 chemical ingredients every day. Men use about 6 products a day, containing 85 chemicals.[6]
  • More than half of today’s cosmetic products contain chemicals that can act like estrogen and disrupt hormones in the body.[6]
  • Mum, the first modern deodorant, was invented in Philadelphia in 1889. The active ingredient was aluminum chlorohydrate.[6]
  • Inspired by the ballpoint pen, roll-on deodorant was introduced in 1952.[7]
  • China is considered the birthplace of nail polish. The Chinese developed nail lacquers from beeswax, egg whites, gum Arabic (acacia gum), and colored powder. The earliest traces of nail polish in China are dated to 3000 B.C.[3]
  • Throughout the 19th century, respectable men and women stopped wearing makeup and perfume, except faint flower scents and invisible skin cream. Colored lips and cheeks, dyed hair, and powered faces were signs of immorality.[7]
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's 1889 painting, Woman at her Toilette
  • During the 1400s, women would apply ceruse to their faces and bosoms to appear paler. Unfortunately, ceruse was made from not just vinegar but powdered lead, which rapidly ate away the skin and caused lead poisoning, hair loss, mental retardation, and even death.[5]
  • Coal tar was used as en eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and mascara during the Elizabethan era. Unfortunately, it not only smelled bad and was flammable, but it also caused blindness.[5]
  • Ancient Romans were fond of black hair dye. To make the dye, they fermented leeches in vinegar.[5]
  • Throughout the 20th century, mascara included thiomersal, which is made from mercury. Unfortunately, thiomersal has been known to cause mercury poisoning when used in mascara. It is also a controversial ingredient in vaccines.[5]
  • For $150, some spas provide a special “geisha” facial, which consists of nightingale excrement. The moistened feces are applied to the face and then allowed to dry.[1]
  • Crushed cochineal beetles are still used as a red-coloring agent in lipstick
  • The Aztecs would use dried beetles, or cochineal, to dye their lips and eyes red.[5]
  • Lanolin is a common ingredient in cosmetics such as shaving creams, lotions, skin creams, shampoo, makeup removers, and lipstick. Lanolin is basically grease from animal fur. This harvested animal grease is what makes lipstick greasy and sticky.[8]
  • A common ingredient in sunscreen, eye makeup, lipstick, and bath oils is squalene, the gooey oil squeezed from the liver of shark. Cosmetic companies used shark liver oil because it doesn’t leave a greasy residue and it combines well with other oils. Recently, companies have started using alternative sources, such as wheat germ oil.[6]
  • Whale vomit, or whale poo (a.k.a. ambergris), is often found in fancy perfumes because it helps other fragrances last longer. It costs as high as $200 per gram.[7]
  • In 1650, the British Parliament tried to ban lipstick, or what they called “the vice of painting.” The bill did not pass.[2]
  • Grecian women in 3000 B.C. would use oxen hair as fake eyebrows. In the 18th century, women would shave off their eyebrows and use gray mouse hair instead.[3]
  • An insect specialist in Britain noted that pubic lice is rapidly disappearing, thanks to the growing popularity of Brazilian and other wax jobs.[1]
  • A salon in Santa Monica, CA, will, upon request, mix a shot of bull-testicular broth into a hair mask in an attempt to create shiny, healthy hair.[1]
  • Face creams have been made from everything from caviar to snail slime, but a recent trend advertises a cream made from meteorites.[1]
  • A Thai beauty treatment includes a slap in the face as a way to combat wrinkles.[1]
  • Aerosol cans were initially developed for dispensing insecticides during World War II
  • The first mass-marketed hairspray was launched in 1960 by L’Oreal.[5]
  • A “vajacial” is what it sounds like: a facial for the vagina. The 50-minute procedure begins with a cleanse and antibacterial wash, a papaya enzyme mask, extraction of ingrown hairs and, finally, a wax.[1]
  • A recent, growing trend is the placenta facial. The mask uses stem cells from a sheep’s placenta, which is supposed to tighten skin and boost collagen. Other unusual anti-aging treatments include bee venom, a “vampire” face mask, leeches, sperm, cryotherapy, cactus, urine, and solid gold.[9]
References

119 Bizarre Beauty Trends.” MSN Living. 2014. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

29 Things You Didn’t Know about Lipstick.” Huffington Post. March 4, 2013. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

3A History of Cosmetics from Ancient Times.” Cosmetics Info. 2013. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

4Elliott, Larry. “Into the Red: ‘Lipstick Effect’ Reveals the True Face of the Recession.” The Guardian. December 21, 2008. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

5k Riordan, Teresa. Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that Have Made Us Beautiful. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2004.

6Malkan, Stacy. Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2007.

7McDonald, Fiona. Jewelry and Makeup through History. New York, NY: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2006.

8National Research Council, et al. Science, Medicine, and Animals. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.

9Placenta Face Mask Tops List of Anti-Aging Treatments for Women.” New York Daily News. July 5, 2013. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

10Pointer, Sally. The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfume and Cosmetics. Thrupp, UK: The History Press, 2005.

11The Beauty of Business: Pots of Promise.” The Economist. May 22, 2003. Accessed: May 29, 2014.

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