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History of Cosmetics

The first archaeological evidence of cosmetics usage was found in Egypt around 3500 BC during the Old Kingdom. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics.

The Romans and Ancient Egyptians used cosmetics containing poisonous mercury and often lead. The ancient kingdom of Israel was influenced by cosmetics as recorded in the Old Testament�2 Kings 9:30 where Jezebel painted her eyelids�approximately 840 BC. The Biblical book of Esther describes various beauty treatments as well.

In the Middle Ages, although its use was frowned upon by Church leaders, many women still wore cosmetics. A popular fad for women during the Middle Ages was to have a pale-skinned complexion, which was achieved through either applying pastes of lead, chalk, or flour, or by bloodletting. Women would also put white lead pigment that was known as "ceruse" on their faces to appear to have pale skin.

Cosmetic use was frowned upon at many points in Western history. For example, in the 19th century, Queen Victoria publicly declared makeup improper, vulgar, and acceptable only for use by actors.

Women in the 19th century liked to be thought of as fragile ladies. They compared themselves to delicate flowers and emphasized their delicacy and femininity. They aimed always to look pale and interesting. Sometimes ladies discreetly used a little rouge on the cheeks, and used "belladonna" to dilate their eyes to make their eyes stand out more. Make-up was frowned upon in general especially during the 1870s when social etiquette became more rigid.

Actresses however were allowed to use make up and famous beauties such as Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry could be powdered. Most cosmetic products available were still either chemically dubious, or found in the kitchen amid food colorings, berries and beetroot.

By the middle of the 20th century, cosmetics were in widespread use by women in nearly all industrial societies around the world.

Cosmetics have been in use for thousands of years. The absence of regulation of the manufacture and use of cosmetics has led to negative side effects, deformities, blindness, and even death through the ages. Examples of this were the prevalent use of ceruse (white lead), to cover the face during the Renaissance, and blindness caused by the mascara Lash Lure during the early 20th century.

The worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics today is estimated at $19 billion. Of the major firms, the largest is L'Or�al, which was founded by Eugene Schueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company (now owned by Liliane Bettencourt 26% and Nestl� 28%; the remaining 46% is traded publicly). The market was developed in the USA during the 1910s by Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Max Factor. These firms were joined by Revlon just before World War II and Est�e Lauder just after.

Beauty products are now widely available from dedicated internet-only retailers, who have more recently been joined online by established outlets, including the major department stores and traditional bricks and mortar beauty retailers.

Like most industries, cosmetic companies resist regulation by government agencies like the FDA, and have lobbied against this throughout the years. The FDA does not have to approve or review the cosmetics, or what goes in them before they are sold to the consumers. The FDA only regulates against the colors that can be used in the cosmetics and hair dyes. The cosmetic companies do not have to report any injuries from the products; they also only have voluntary recalls on products.

Though modern make-up has been used mainly by women traditionally, gradually an increasing number of males are using cosmetics usually associated to women to enhance or cover their own facial features. Concealer is commonly used by cosmetic-conscious men. Cosmetics brands are releasing cosmetic products especially tailored for men, and men are using such products increasily more commonly. 

There is some controversy over this, however, as many feel that men who wear make-up are neglecting traditional gender roles, and do not view men wearing cosmetics in a positive light. Others, however, view this as a sign of ongoing gender equality and feel that men also have rights to enhance their facial features with cosmetics if women could.