Friday, August 26, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics

Ancient Egyptian cosmetics palette

The ancient Egyptians were big users of cosmetics. Men as well as women used black kohl, ground lapis lazuli, and ground malachite for eyeshadow. It is said that Cleopatra wore blue eyeshadow on her upper eyelids and painted her lower eyelids Nile green.

Both men and women wore yellow ocre on their skin for lightening purposes, but only women would wear orange pigment to darken their skin. A mixture of red ochre and fat was applied to the lips and cheeks. In Egyptian wall paintings, women can be seen wearing nail polish, which was actually a coloring agent made from an herb juice that stained their nails bright red.

Cosmetic ingredients were kept in linen bags, then were ground finely on a palette, and applied with a wet piece of wood, ivory, silver, glass, or bronze. Makeup kits containing cosmetic bags, palettes, and instruments of application were often found in the graves of Egyptian nobility to accompany them after death, dating as early as 4,000 BC.

James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. New York and London, 1995.

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