The first evidence of makeup appeared in ancient Egypt in about 4,000 BC. Apparently Egyptian makeup served to protect against the weather and to better their looks. They used uguent to moisturize the skin and kohl to highlight their eye features. One can see from surviving paintings and busts that both men and women used makeup with special attention being paid to the eyes.
So important was makeup to the Egyptians that people were buried with their makeup equipment when they died. Excavations have revealed makeup kits stored in leather pouches, shells or jars in the tombs of rich and poor alike. Of course the latter had much simpler paraphernalia.
Materials Used in Egyptian Makeup
Two different kinds of material were used to make up the eyes: udje made from malachite and mesdemet of lead ore. These were powdered and then mixed with animal fat so it would hold to the skin. Egyptian makeup could not only improve one’s looks. They also had health benefits necessary for life in the harsh desert. Kohl or galena is a disinfectant and an insect repellant. Mesdemet on the other hand, was used to cure various eye problems.
Significance of Makeup
In ancient times plants, animals and minerals were connected with different gods. And this may have added to the importance of makeup. Green malachite, from which udje was made, was sacred to Hathor. Kohl was special to North Africian people and Moslems, who likened it to sacred black stone in Mecca.
Another reason why the Egyptians used eye makeup so much was they believed it had magical powers. Painting around the eyes was supposed to protect oneself from the “evil eye.”