You have the ancient Egyptians to thank for your trusted Kohl eyeliner pen. More than 5,000 years ago, this civilization’s brightest minds filtered lead just enough so that it was safe for the skin without stripping all of the metallic elements — they actually kept the wearer’s eyes safe from the hot Egyptian sun. It’s these types of beauty modifications that paved the way for everything from contouring, to waxing, to spray tanning, to ombré highlights. Below, we highlight some of the most important modifications, not including another contribution from the eyeliner-wearing Egyptians: cat-eye. Now, let’s see who else made their mark on modern beauty back in the day.
Go For the Glow: 69-30 BCThere’s no specific timestamp on this beauty modification, since there’s no official birthdate. Instead, we chose to place its popularity somewhere within Cleopatra’s birth and death dates since she was a huge fan of saffron. This golden spice was used to add glow to the cheeks, and it can be used in the same way still. Simply mix a pinch of saffron to heated coconut oil, stir, and let sit. Then, add the coconut oil-based result to your daily face-washing routine to reap the benefits regularly.
Keep It Light: 1500s-1875No member of the old British monarchy is known for his or her golden skin. Instead, the empire’s iconic rulers come with the palest of complexions. They worked hard to maintain skin as white as possible, as completely pristine, porcelain skin signified that its owner spent little time outside and working. To match the likes of Queen Elizabeth’s pearly glow, some people would draw blood in order to keep themselves looking as pale as possible. Those with more money would brush on a mixture of white lead and vinegar, which, we now know is not safe. This trend continued well into the 1800s, when French retailers sold, among other pro-pale products, an overnight mask meant to lighten the skin while its wearer slept.
Fake It Since You Can’t Make It: 1880sWith the invention of artificial lighting came a problem for actors in the 1880s: their faces looked different, hollow, discolored under the glow of overhead bulbs. Of course, actors are creative and came up with a solution to their problem by applying strategic make-up in order to appear filled in and fabulous on stage. At this time, the ancestor of contouring as we know it today was born.
Since then, it has been a trick for film stars in the early 1900s, a light slick of make-up on the cheek of Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s, and the reason why Kim Kardashian looks like a million bucks at all times today. Perhaps its staying power is proof that you, too, should try your hand at contouring.