If you’re like me, you read labels in the grocery story. One piece of information that always gets my attention is the fat content. Have you ever wondered how much fat is in makeup? Me neither. However, when working on “Daughter of the King”, my co-author enlightened me on this topic.
Fat is what makes eye makeup creamy, allowing it to be smoothed (or smeared!) on. A modern cosmetics company teamed up with the Louvre to look into this burning issue. Lo and behold, there’s an optimum amount of fat for the right consistency—and the experts say it’s somewhere between 7% and 10%. The amazing factoid is that this is about the amount of fat found in samples of eye makeup used in ancient Egypt.
Before mechanized farming, people who tended crops spent their time out of doors, getting browned by the sun while they were working. So the fashion was to have pale skin to indicate membership in the higher classes, those who could stay indoors while everyone else grew food. We all want what we don’t have, right? So if you weren’t born with a light complexion, the next best thing would be to use makeup to appear paler. For a long time, women AND MEN used face powder that contained lead oxide. It did the job, at least until lead poisoning set in!
Using henna to dye or lighten hair can be traced to ancient Persia. It seems logical that the green-tinted, darkly-outlined eyes on the elite’s sarcophagus cases were copied from the way upper class Egyptians painted their faces in life. They apparently mixed red clay (i.e., dirt!) with water to make their lips and cheeks rosy. In other ancient societies, crushed red berries served this same purpose.
One of the most significant differences between ancient and contemporary makeup is its more prevalent use by women nowadays. Upper class Bronze Age men apparently made maximum use of makeup, perfume, lotions, and jewelry.
Author of “A Hero’s Homecoming” co-author “Daughter of the King”