Did Ancient Greece Have Makeup?

Ancient Greece, known for its rich cultural heritage and contributions to art, philosophy, and politics, also had a keen interest in beauty and aesthetics. But did they have makeup? Let’s dive into the world of ancient Greek beauty and find out.

The Ideal of Beauty in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, beauty was highly valued and considered an essential part of a person’s identity. Both men and women strived to achieve physical perfection through various means.

Athleticism played a significant role in defining beauty standards for men. The ideal male body was muscular, toned, and well-proportioned. Men would engage in vigorous physical activities like sports and exercises to attain this ideal physique.

For women, a slim figure with a small waist and ample bosom was considered attractive. However, the emphasis on physical appearance was not limited to just the body; facial features were equally important.

Skincare in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks believed that healthy skin was the foundation of beauty. To maintain their complexion, both men and women followed skincare rituals using natural ingredients.

Olive oil was a staple in ancient Greek skincare routines. It was used as a moisturizer to keep the skin soft and supple. Olive oil also provided protection against harsh weather conditions.

Honey was another popular ingredient used for its antibacterial properties. It was applied as a face mask to cleanse the skin and keep it free from impurities.

Did They Use Makeup?

While ancient Greeks did not have makeup as we know it today, they did enhance their natural features using certain techniques.

Face Powder

  • Ochre: Ancient Greeks would apply ochre powder to their faces to achieve a pale complexion. The powder was made from ground clay and mixed with water or olive oil.
  • White Lead: Women also used white lead powder to lighten their skin tone. However, this practice was hazardous, as lead is toxic.

Eyebrows and Eyes

Ancient Greek women focused on enhancing their eyes, considering them the most captivating facial feature. They used various methods to define and darken their eyebrows and eyelashes.

  • Charcoal: Women would use charcoal or soot from burnt olive pits to darken their eyebrows and create a more dramatic look.
  • Kohl: Kohl, a black powder made from antimony or lead sulfide, was applied around the eyes to create a smoky effect.

Lips and Cheeks

Ancient Greek women desired rosy cheeks and tinted lips. They achieved this by using natural ingredients such as fruits and flowers.

  • Berry Stains: Crushed berries were applied to the cheeks and lips to add color.
  • Rouge: A mixture of crushed petals, berries, or vegetable dyes was used as a blush for the cheeks.

The Significance of Makeup in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, makeup had both aesthetic and symbolic value. It was seen as a form of self-expression, enhancing one’s natural beauty while also representing social status.

Makeup was often associated with prostitutes in ancient Greek society. However, respectable women also used makeup discreetly to enhance their features for special occasions like festivals or weddings.

It’s important to note that makeup was primarily worn by women, as beauty standards for men centered around physical fitness and athleticism.


While ancient Greece did not have makeup in the modern sense, they did employ various techniques to enhance their natural features. Skincare rituals and the use of face powders, eyebrow darkening methods, and lip and cheek stains were all part of the ancient Greek beauty regimen. These practices not only aimed for aesthetic appeal but also held cultural significance.

Ancient Greek beauty ideals continue to inspire us today, reminding us that the pursuit of beauty is a timeless human endeavor.