Discovering Make-up Through The Ages. Part Ii – Rome

May 18, 2011 by Magic Quill  
Published in Women


(images Wiki)

In Roman times it was wealthy classes who wore make-up, though cheaper products were available to the lower classes. Cosmetics on men were viewed as effeminate and inappropriate though sometimes worn by cross dressers and entertainers.

There was a general consensus to look as pure as possible. The use of copious amounts of make-up was associated with prostitutes. These women often used products which had foul odours and therefore they saturated themselves in perfume to compensate. Roman Christians abstained from any make up at all, preferring to praise God for what nature had given them.

Although the Romans seem to have been aware of the dangers of some of the ingredients they were using this did not stop them! Substances such as chalk, tin and lead were ground in stone pallets.

Household slaves were required to apply their mistress’s make up and they needed to work with skill and precision. Pale complexions were considered de rigeur and therefore foundations were created from starch, chalk and Orris root, combined with fat.

(Iris root was used in foundations.)

Kohl was applied to the eyes with a stick dipped in oil or water, rather like Watercolour Pencils! Green and blue eye shadows were made from ground Malachite and Azurite. Eyelids were painted brown with charred rose petals or date stones. There was a high fashion for long, dark eyebrows and these were coloured with soot etc.


Rouge for the cheeks gave the appearance of a healthy complexion. The Roman’s used rose petals, poppy petals, imported Ochre, or even crocodile dung. A cheap alternative to these was Mulberry juice, or even the dregs of red wine.

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3 Responses to “Discovering Make-up Through The Ages. Part Ii – Rome”
  1. CHIPMUNK Says:


  2. Steve Weitzner Says:

    I enjoyed reading this article.

  3. DR.VNS Says:

    good post.

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