Ancient Egyptian cosmetics
Makeup was once an important part of everyday life in Egypt – find out why now
In Ancient Egypt, the image of an individual often acted as a substitute for the body in the afterlife. Therefore, in funerary paintings, both males and females are shown in their best clothes, wigs and makeup.
In life, the Egyptians utilised a variety of pigments to adorn the face. The most predominant of these was kohl, which was used to line the eyes. Kohl came from two sources: a green eye paint made of mineral malachite and a black liner derived from galena, a form of lead ore. Women used red ochre to form a light blush for cheeks and lips, while henna was used to paint the nails and dye the hair. Cosmetics were also applied for practical reasons – the military wore it to protect their eyes from the intense glare of the African Sun. Moreover, it had a religious resonance – each day, in the holy sanctuary of the temple, the god was anointed with makeup as a symbol of celestial regeneration.
This article was originally published in How It Works issue 52
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