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50 Fun Facts About Makeup History and Cosmetics • 2023 Version

Bored? Let’s talk fun facts about makeup!

… because who doesn’t love makeup? For centuries, women have used cosmetics to enhance and transform their features into something more… visually attractive. From eyeliner-wearing mummies in ancient Egypt to the modern-day trends taking TikTok by storm, makeup is an evergreen source of joy for us all.

Whether you’re a novice or professional when it comes to beauty products, there’s always something to be learned about the world of cosmetics and makeup artistry.

Read on for some super fun, super interesting facts about makeup and cosmetics… they just might surprise you!

💡TIP: Pin this article to your Makeup board on Pinterest so you can always come back when you need to! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

The makeup industry is constantly evolving... but how much do you really know about it? These 50 facts about makeup will blow your mind...

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50 Fun Facts About Makeup

1. Makeup is regulated by the FDA along with food, over-the-counter drugs, and medical devices. They could stop the sale of any cosmetic product if they find it unsafe.

2. The word, cosmetic, comes from the Latinized form of Greek kosmetike, which means “the art of dress and ornament.”

3. Testing makeup on the back of your hand doesn’t work well since your face gets more sun exposure and you likely wash your hands more. Celebrity makeup artists suggest testing on your jawline for the best match.

4. Women have been pinching their cheeks for centuries for a natural rosy hue. However, blush has been around since the days of ancient Egypt.

5. Ground-up fish scales (aka guanine crystals) are often used to add shimmer to lipstick, eyeshadow, lotion and nail polish.

6. The history of cosmetics spans at least 7,000 years and is present in almost every society on earth.

7. Mesdemet, one of the earliest cosmetics used by Egyptians, was made with copper and lead and used to line the eyes.

8. The Vikings wore eye makeup into battle as a sign of ferocity and to frighten enemies.

9. The founder of Maybelline, Thomas Lyle Willaims, named the company after his sister Mabel, who inspired him to create makeup products by coating her lashes with a mixture of Vaseline and coal dust.

10. “Hypoallergenic” means that the manufacturer feels the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction but is not a term that is regulated by the FDA.

11. The term “natural ingredients” means that they were extracted from plants, animals or minerals.

12. Nestlé owns 20.1% of L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetic company.

13. In ancient Egypt, the beauty regime was very complicated. It began with a walk and applying incense pellets to their underarms as a form of deodorant. Then, while sitting at a mirror, servants brought grinders and applets used for daily makeup. The servants mixed malachite with oil derived from animal fat to create eyeshadow. The servant applied the eyeshadow with a small ivory stick carved on one end and then lined the eyes with black kohl. Red ochre was used as lipstick.

14. It is estimated that roughly 66% of women in the United States use makeup on a daily basis.

15. Roughly 49.2 billion dollars is spent on cosmetics in the United States each year… and the cosmetic industry is growing by 3.8% per year.

16. The ancient Romans used swan fat and donkey milk (which are both rich in fatty acids, similar to the wrinkle creams we use today) to reduce fine lines and soften wrinkles.

17. They also used the ashes of snails to supposedly remove freckles, as pure white skin was a sign of high status.

18. Egyptians used henna to dye their nails yellow and orange before nail polish was invented. This also kept their nails healthy.

19. The first nail polish comes from China circa 3000 BC; it was made by mixing egg whites, beeswax, gum, and colored powder.

20. During the European Rennaissance, women applied leaches to their ears (or sometimes other parts of their body) to make their face appear paler.

21. The most common makeup injury is caused by scratching the eye with a mascara wand.

22. Bizarre beauty trends from history include using burnt matches to darken eyes, applying boy urine to fade freckles, using berries to stain lips and drinking ox blood to improve complexion.

23. Elizabethan-era women lined their eyes with coal tar, which is flammable, smells terrible, and can cause blindness.

24. In the Victorian era, upper-class women typically avoided makeup as it was mostly reserved for stage actresses, working-class women, and prostitutes.

25. In the 1950’s, Radium was often used in cosmetics to “energize the skin.” These radioactive products were known to cause sickness, including cancer.

26. Nightingale feces (aka uguisu no fun) has been used in Japanese facials throughout history to whiten skin and balance skin tone.

27. The most toxic makeup to ever be widely used is known as “Venetian ceruse,” made from vinegar and white lead. Although it did whiten the skin, it typically caused lead poisoning and sometimes even death.

28. Mum was the first commercial deodorant, developed in 1888 Philadelphia. The main ingredient was zinc oxide, and it was applied as a cream with the fingertips.

29. In 1952, Helen Barnet invented roll-on deodorant, which was inspired by the ball-point pen.

30. Ancient Romans rinsed their mouths with imported urine to disinfect and whiten their teeth. It remained a popular mouthwash ingredient until the 18th century.

31. When waterproof mascara entered the beauty industry in 1938, it was made of 50% turpentine.

32. Around the same time, “Lash Lure” was sold in the U.S. as permanent mascara. It blinded more than a dozen women and killed one.

33. Coco Chanel started the trend to be tan after she tanned herself on a cruise.

34. After Coco Chanel popularized tanning, fake tan started to flood the market. However, in the Asian region, skin-whitening products were more popular since Asians preferred pale skin.

35. MAC stands for “Makeup Art Cosmetics.”

36. Underarm hair was first said to be unfeminine by the Wilkenson Sword razor company in 1915 after a woman appeared on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine without any.

37. Natives of New Zealand tattoo their faces with swirls called “Moko.”  This beauty ritual is considered sacred and dates back hundreds of years.

38. Cochineal is a red dye made of ground up beetles and was used in ancient Incan and Aztec civilizations to color lips and nails red.

39. In the 17th and 18th century, women dilated their eyes with drops from a plant called Belladonna, as it was considered attractive. Long-term use damaged the eyes and led to blindness.

40. The first lipstick comes from Mesopotamia, 5000 years ago. It was made applying crushed up gems to the lips.

41. In Morrisville, PA, a woman must have a permit before she can wear makeup.

42. In ancient Rome, “cosmetae” (where the word cosmetologist came from) were female servants who applied cosmetics to wealthy Roman women and bathed them in perfume. It is also said that cosmetae dissolved various cosmetic ingredients in their own saliva.

43. Dying your hair black in ancient Rome involved feeding leeches, putting them in vinegar, leaving the substance to ferment for two months and thicken into a paste, then applying the mixture to the hair and allowing it to dry for a day.

44. In Vietnam, women and men take part in the ritual of “teeth blackening” to enhance sex appeal, maintain healthy teeth, and not be mistaken for an evil spirit.

45. A popular technique called “urine therapy” is used by many celebrities to stay healthy and beautiful. This includes rubbing your first urine of the day on your face, and/or drinking a few drops :-/

46. Except for color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.

47. Acne and burn patients in the U.K. may be treated with “Vavelta,” a clear liquid that contains skin cells that rejuvenate and revitalize damaged skin from the inside out. These skin cells, called fibroblasts, are isolated from foreskins donated by mothers of circumcised baby boys.

48. Known as the “lipstick effect,” lipstick sales tend to increase during economic recessions—as well as on rainy days.

49. “Dermatologist tested” does not mean “dermatologist approved.”

50. Cleopatra was known to soak her ship’s purple sails in her personalized perfume so that Marc Antony would smell it before she arrived.

Final Thoughts

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From its ancient beginnings to the modern day, cosmetic makeup has truly come a long way. With today’s wide variety of colors, textures, and styles to choose from – there’s definitely something for everyone. And with new products being released all the time, the possibilities are endless.

Hope you learned something new, my friend!

Until next time,


▶︎ YOUR TURN: Are there any other fun makeup facts I missed? What’s your favorite type of makeup?Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼


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