Was There Makeup in Ancient Times?

Makeup has become a staple in our daily lives, with countless brands and products available to help us achieve the perfect look. But have you ever wondered if makeup was used in ancient times? The answer might surprise you.

Ancient Egypt

One of the earliest civilizations known for their use of makeup is Ancient Egypt. Both men and women wore makeup, with the belief that it had magical properties.

Eye makeup was particularly popular, with kohl used to line the eyes and create a dramatic effect. Women also applied red ochre to their cheeks and lips for a pop of color.

Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, makeup was primarily used by actors in theater performances. White lead was used to create a pale complexion, while black lead was used for eyeliner. It was also common for women to apply a mixture of honey and olive oil to their skin for a glowing complexion.


Like the Greeks, makeup was also popular in Ancient Rome’s theater scene. However, it wasn’t just actors who wore it – women would often use lead-based cosmetics to lighten their skin tone and enhance their features. Unfortunately, this led to health complications such as hair loss and even death.


In China, makeup had both practical and symbolic purposes. Women would apply rice powder to their faces as a way of protecting themselves from the sun’s rays. Red lipstick made from crushed vermillion symbolized happiness and good luck.


Indian women have been using henna for centuries as a natural hair dye and temporary tattoo ink. They also use kajal or kohl eyeliner made from soot or lampblack for its cooling effect on the eyes.

  • The Middle Ages
  • The Middle Ages saw little use of makeup outside of the royal courts. Women preferred to have a pale complexion, achieved through the use of lead-based cosmetics.

    Rouge, a red powder, was used on cheeks and lips.

  • The Renaissance
  • The Renaissance saw a revival of interest in Ancient Greek and Roman ideals, including makeup. Women used white lead powder on their faces to achieve a pale complexion, while vermilion was used for lips and cheeks.


Makeup has been around for thousands of years, with each culture having its own unique take on it. While some of the ingredients used in ancient times are now known to be harmful, it’s interesting to see how our fascination with beauty and cosmetics has remained constant throughout history.