Since the beginning of time, women have primped and pampered themselves to feel attractive, healthy, poised and confident — all in the name of beauty. But the word’s very definition is one that’s constantly changing, as much as the cultures that define it and are defined by it.
Enjoy a bit of time travel as we recount some of history’s most important beauty moments and trends, from 4,000 B.C. to today.
1. 4,000 B.C.
Cleopatra’s makeup was more than just a fashion statement. According to National Geographic, her heavily lined lids actually protected against infection. The low dose of lead salt in kohl, a mixture of animal fat and lead, increased the body’s production of nitric oxide, which stimulated the immune system and helped fight disease-causing bacteria.
The first “modern” perfume was made for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. The scent, known as Hungary Water, was made of scented oils in an alcohol solution.
Another queen, this time Queen Elizabeth I — you know that Queen Elizabeth — popularized the use of makeup. She used white lead and vinegar to create a ghostly white countenance and then tinted her lips crimson with beeswax and plant-based dyes.
Queen Victoria denounced the use makeup. She thought it vulgar!
It’s been said that false eyelashes were invented by American director David W. Griffith to widen the expressive eyes of the actresses in his silent films. But a patent was actually granted to a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor in 1911. False eyelashes wouldn’t become popular with mainstream women until the ‘40s.
Activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman who walked in the New York Suffragette Rally of 1912 wore vibrant red lipstick to signify both liberty and rebellion, proving once again that lip color can become a badge of female strength.
Avon launched its line of color cosmetics at a time that could have been potentially disastrous: during the Great Depression. However, the business thrived thanks to Representatives who could travel and meet face-to-face with customers, even in the most rural of settings. Some now call it “the lipstick effect” — studies show that in times of economic distress, many women turn to their favorite makeup item for a boost.
During WWII in Britain, all cosmetics were rationed except for lipstick, which was thought to have boosted morale. Female nurses in the armed forces were also stuck to the bright shade as lipstick was thought to have a calming effect on male soldiers.
Eva Perón was as not only a political activist and trail-blazing First Lady of Argentina, but also a style icon. Her honey-blonde locks were always fashioned in a pristine, voluminous chignon — creating #hairenvy throughout the country and world, long before the advent of the hashtag.
The seventies were a big decade for the women’s liberation movement in the U.S. and beyond: Switzerland finally gave women main election voting rights in 1971, Oxford University opened their doors to women in1972, and the U.S. passed the Domestic Violence Act, making domestic violence no longer a “private matter” in 1976. It was also a year of change in the fashion and beauty industry. Beverly Johnson became the first black model to grace the cover of American Vogue.
Big hair and shoulder pads weren’t the only looks that defined this decade. With the launch of MTV in 1981, the fierce and fun beauty looks of pop princesses influenced women all over the U.S. Over-the-top eye shadow, thick liner, rosy cheeks, full lips and bushy brows — girls just wanna have fun a full face of makeup!
Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated many parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. Recognizing the power of a pick-me-up, Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro called for donations of beauty products with the goal of gifting them to teachers in the affected areas. Avon was honored to provide makeup kits, including tubes of brightly hued lipstick. “Avon feels very much humbled to be given this privilege, through our lipsticks, to have a role in these teachers’ heroism as they return to their teaching posts for the sake of the students whom they serve,” commented Faith Fernandez Aranton, Avon Philippines’ Head of PR and Communications.
Today the “power brow” is having a moment. Look to none other than mark. Ambassador Lucy Hale and her perfect arches for evidence. Women are using tweezers sparingly and filling in brows with pencils and powders to get strong, confident brows.
What will be the next big moment in beauty? Only time will tell.