Shadow here, shadow there!
22 Jun 2017 by Nev Haynes
A brief history of makeup
When one gets lost in the great halls of the British Museum or walks through the corridors of the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, which although more modest, is more at hand, you can see many objects of incalculable historical value such as swords, codices, crockery, statues , Jewels, cameos, sarcophagi and an etcetera of samples of our ephemeral passage through this world, but we can also admire utensils, common to every age or civilization, which resemble much what we could find in any dresser today: bronze polished mirrors, small containers of blown glass, tweezers, spatulas and a paraphernalia designed to beautify the face and hair of women who throughout the centuries wanted to stand out among their peers.
But makeup is not exclusive use for women. Following the fashion of the time, the Central European nobility of the eighteenth century powdered their faces, painted their lips and wore headdresses and polka dots without distinguishing between men and women. In addition, makeup not only has an aesthetic purpose, but also has an artistic, warlike, magical, ritual, religious or medicinal one. Makeup infuses respect, elegance, an aura of majesty and mystery. The makeup enhances the individual’s features and conceals the defects or forms that one wants to hide.
Makeup not only has an aesthetic purpose, but also has an artistic, warlike, magical, ritual, religious or medicinal one
To make up we have used components that are easily found in Nature. Ocher, blue, white, black, yellow … the whole color palette comes from minerals, vegetables, even blood and animal juices. Are we rambling through the halls of a museum? No. Carminic acid (note the name), present in cactus cochineal, is used to create the red pigment used by most lipstick manufacturers.
At present, make-up, while still fulfilling the purpose of enhancing or disguising, decorating or for camouflage, also incorporates more complex functions such as moisturizing, protecting or healing. We also make-up depending on the time of year. In Summer, self-tanning creams save time to acquire that much appreciated tone among beach lovers. Asian women, on the other hand, protect themselves from the sun and make-up to look even paler, according to Oriental beauty standards.
The mascara of the ancient Egyptians and the shadows of the eyes of Arab women are already an intrinsic part of their imagery. The famous Masai warriors color their faces and their bodies to appear more beautiful and stiff, practicing in some cases scarification, the “permanent makeup” that, like the tattoo, is a perennial way of decorating, initiating adult life and gaining the respect of their community. Thus, the Maori are tattooed today with a permanent make-up on the body and face, following their most ancient tribal customs.
Scarification, the “permanent makeup” that, like the tattoo, is a perennial way of decorating, initiating adult life and gaining the respect of their community
The Indians, feathery or spotted, American or Asian, have worn and continue to apply makeup in their ceremonies, invoking the gods that their ancestral cultures portray and describe with such devotion and tradition. Some tribes of the Amazonia make up themselves to resemble animals like the jaguar and acquire their fierceness. On the other side of the globe, Australian aborigines or Papuanians also decorate their faces and hair with vivid colors and headdresses, embellishing themselves as the wildlife around them. Thus, imitating predators such as crocodiles or exotic species like the birds of paradise, for the same purpose, to infuse fear and respect among the ranks of their rivals and arouse admiration among the clan maidens.
The makeup of today is so important that its presence is very active among us, in many ways that we do not appreciate with the naked eye. The war colors of a Native American or a Pictish warrior from Scotland have evolved into the camouflage painting of a current infantryman. The rugby players painted stripes under their eyes to reduce the reflection of the grass, but also to infuse fear among their rivals. Even the initiatory makeup is still used today, as in the fire baptisms of hunters or fishermen, when they smear their faces with the blood of their first trophy.
The war colors of a Native American or a Pictish warrior from Scotland have evolved into the camouflage painting of a current infantryman
In classical theater, Japanese kabuki or circus, the makeup exaggerates the interpreter’s features. Has anyone seen how the members of the KISS rock and roll group make up? Even in the opera the makeup idealizes or debases the character, making it easier for the respectable, sitting in the peanut gallery, identify the characters and immerse themselves in the plot of the play.
In short, as if it were that famous Mecano song, the makeup is repeated over and over again, and its catchy chorus seems to sound every time a woman wears a lipstick, a television presenter hides those glitters that the studio lights cannot disguise or a western child paints his face to look like a Halloween character.