The history of cosmetics has always intrigued me, as a makeup lover, I had always assumed that makeup and cosmetics were a positive introduction and made a positive impact on the lives of women. I believe cosmetics are for everyone and way for the user to express themselves in whichever way they please. As I have researched into this topic further, I have discovered that this has not always been the case. The beauty industry notoriously market their products on the insecurities of the customer. Bad skin? There’s a cream for that. Short eyelashes? There’s a mascara that will fix that. Is it healthy to promote products in such a way? There is no answer, each to their own but these questions must be considered.
The cosmetics industry has close ties with that of the history of women’s rights, ‘survival of the fittest’ may be the basis for natural law but ‘survival of the prettiest’ seems to underlie most peoples judgement and those of the beauty industry. The definition of ‘pretty’ is subjective to the individual and so is the choice to wear makeup, but why is the link between ‘makeup’ and ‘pretty’ so close these days and what impact does that have on the lives of women? This is question I constantly ask myself, whether its during my morning makeup routine or in reference to advertising campaigns used by the big beauty brands (I loved the non-cliche and disruptive advert by Kenzo World), I feel it’s important to keep asking ourselves how these campaigns and products affect our lives.
The beauty industry is the second oldest industry, after the industry of sex and unsurprisingly, the two go hand in hand. But is this still the case, is the industry still geared towards sexualising women? That is a question I’d like to attempt to answer or at least provide some guidance for you to make up your own mind, alongside a historical account of products, people and phrases which got us to this point of smokey eyes and contouring.
I hope you join me on this make-up journey through the ages, and maybe, once this series has finished, you might apply your lipstick with a new sense of empowerment in the morning (they did in WW2!)
Image: Harper’s Bazaar