What Was Makeup Made Out of in Ancient Greece?

Makeup has been a part of human culture since ancient times. People in various cultures have used makeup for different purposes, such as enhancing their beauty, protecting their skin from the sun, or even to ward off evil spirits.

In ancient Greece, makeup was an essential part of daily life for both men and women. Let’s explore what ancient Greeks used to make their makeup.

The ingredients

The ancient Greeks used a variety of natural ingredients to make their cosmetics. Some of the most commonly used ingredients were:

  • Lead: Lead was used to make white lead powder, which was applied to the face to create a pale complexion.
  • Vermilion: Vermilion was a red pigment made from cinnabar and was used as a lip color.
  • Crocodile excrement: Crocodile excrement was burnt and ground into a fine powder to create kohl eyeliner.
  • Honey: Honey was added to various cosmetics as a natural preservative.

The application process

The application process for ancient Greek makeup varied depending on the product being used. For example:


To create a pale complexion, the ancient Greeks applied white lead powder mixed with water or oil onto their faces. The mixture was then left on the skin until it dried.


Vermilion was mixed with beeswax or other natural oils and then applied to the lips using a brush.


Crocodile excrement powder (kohl) was mixed with oil or water and then applied around the eyes using a small stick or brush.

The dangers of ancient Greek makeup

While ancient Greek makeup was used to enhance beauty, it also came with risks. The use of lead in cosmetics could cause lead poisoning, which could lead to serious health problems such as headaches, cramps, and even death. Additionally, the use of crocodile excrement powder for eyeliner could cause eye infections and blindness.


In conclusion, ancient Greek makeup was made from a variety of natural ingredients that were readily available at the time. While it was an essential part of daily life for the ancient Greeks, it also came with risks.

Today, we have access to safer alternatives that do not pose health hazards. However, we can still appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient Greeks when it comes to makeup.