History of Beauty

Former Clinical Assistant Professor, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA



History of beautyAncient cosmeticsAestheticsCosmeticsMakeup

1.1 History of Cosmetics

Men and women have been enhancing their appearance since 4000 BCE. Egyptian women used a mixture of oxidized copper, ash, lead, burnt almonds, sycamore or cedar sawdust, lizard or bat blood, and certain minerals including iron and lead to add color and definition to their faces (Council TPCP 2018; Murube 2013; Blanco-Davila 2000). The most frequently used substance was mesdemet, a black paste commonly used to accentuate the eyes. It consisted of plumbic sulfate or antimony sulfide (Murube 2013). This combination of substances was used on the eyes to give a defined and dramatic look by both men and women. Mesdemet was believed to provide protection from evil spirits and also used as a medical treatment for conjunctivitis (Murube 2013).

Fingernails became a popular cosmetic enhancement in early China, around 3000 BCE and Chinese royalty wore gold, silver, black, or red nail polish made of beeswax, gum arabic, and egg. Brightly colored nails were forbidden in lower classes (Council TPCP 2018). Similarly, women in Greece wore white lead face powder or paste, crushed berries for rouge on their faces, and some women used oxen hairs to enhance their eyebrows. Later, clay colored with red iron was used to color their lips. White powder made from rice to whiten the face was popular in Japan and China around 1500 BCE. Other popular cosmetic enhancements of that time included painted teeth, hair stained with henna, and shaved eyebrows (Council TPCP 2018; Murube 2013). Hair color became more popular in Rome around 100 AD. Men lightened their hair while Indians and North Africans used henna to color their hair (Council TPCP 2018). These different approaches to cosmetic enhancement of appearance reflected cultural views of what was beautiful.

People in ancient times enhanced their appearance using a variety of substances that we know today are not safe. They used compounds and minerals on their skin in attempt to create a uniform, smooth looking face. In 1400–1500 AD, arsenic was occasionally substituted for lead in facial powders.

Later, in the 1700s to 1800s, zinc oxide was used for facial whitening rather than dangerous ingredients of lead and copper. In Britain, laws were passed that expressly prohibited women from using makeup and Queen Victoria claimed makeup as improper and banned its use strictly to actors (Council TPCP 2018).

More recently, cosmetics have become safer and more extensively used, in part due to widespread acceptance by most cultures. The evolution of makeup is critical to contemporary views of aesthetics and forms the basis for the birth and widespread growth in the contemporary aesthetics industry. Chemical peels, permanent eyeliner, neurotoxin injections, dermal fillers, and aesthetic surgical procedures to enhance appearance continue to increase in popularity around the world (ASoPS 2017). And, new technologies and procedures emerge with remarkable frequency.

Imagination and perception play important roles in makeup and aesthetics (Meskin et al. 2017). For these reasons, it is important to set realistic expectations with patients. Generally, people have a vivid imagination and aesthetic patients often fantasize about how the result of their treatment would look. If the imagination or expectation differs too much from the actual outcome, disappointment prevails. Direct and open communication with patients regarding their individual facial shape, dimensions, and possible options are important to address during the consultation. Therefore, it is crucial that the patient understands the potential outcome of their treatment and expect realistic results.

Facial beauty is subjective and can be influenced by local culture as well as certain scientific phenomenon (Hagman 2002). For 3000 years, researchers have been trying to define beauty; is it a geometric equation or a symmetry value? Is it coloring or enhancement of certain features? Some researchers have suggested a specific formula equates to beauty only to have it rebutted in studies where other researchers attempt to define it as “pleasing” or “perfection” (Hagman 2002; Green 1995).

Regardless, theories on what constitutes beauty are wide ranging and difficult to measure. Even the famed Golden Section, a mathematical equation, has attempted to define beauty as a scientific calculation based on ratios and symmetry (Luttge and Souza 2018). The Golden Section formula is determined when “the ratios of larger distance to smaller distance equaling whole distance to larger distance are applied to the circumference and sections of a circle” (Luttge and Souza 2018).

Symmetry has been hypothesized to represent beauty but asymmetry has been described as charm. The difficulty in assigning a permanent label to the definition of beauty is difficult because beauty is illusive and transcendental (Luttge and Souza 2018). Beauty is impossible to define in the human face through using mathematical equations because of the psychology of perception, and even the Golden Section provides thin evidence of what constitutes beauty (Green 1995; Luttge and Souza 2018). Beauty is a subjective and psychological perception that is as individualized as each human being.

Conversely, beauty is also applied to the body. Variations of body types are considered beautiful in different cultures. For example, in some African countries, women with full, thick bodies are considered more attractive than thinner women because heaviness is associated with wealth (Toselli et al. 2016). In other countries, particularly Western countries, thin women are considered more attractive (Toselli et al. 2016; Schaefer et al. 2018). Unfortunately, the mismatch between body ideals and reality contribute to eating disorders and take a toll on the general health of people in many cultures (Schaefer et al. 2018; Cheng et al. 2019). However, a thorough discussion of eating disorders is outside the scope of this book.

1.2 Conclusion

The concept, definition, and perception of beauty are elusive and encompass not only the face, but the body as well. Beauty ideals plus cultural implications should be considered when treating the aesthetic patient. Consideration of many variables is important when attempting to define beauty and arrive at the mutually satisfying goal of improvement in appearance for the patient.

Current aesthetic treatments such as neurotoxins, dermal fillers, and lasers are some of the options to enhance appearance in addition to cosmetics and makeup. Thankfully researchers have made progress in providing data that has identified harmful cosmetic ingredients leading to safer cosmetics and aesthetic options (Salama 2015; Malten 1975; Hepp et al. 2009; Benson 2000). Global education and evidence show certain substances once used in cosmetics were toxic and are now no longer included in cosmetic formulations.

Apr 18, 2020 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on History of Beauty

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