Who Invented Makeup?

eye makeup

Makeup is a phenomenon that’s exceedingly popular in almost every community in the world. It would appear that we’ve been using makeup for an exceptionally long time. Linked to all kinds of spiritual and physical attributes, you might be surprised how long it has been around. 

No one person invented makeup, as it can be traced back to the First Dynasty of Ancient Egyptians, with the first instances of makeup recorded as early as 4000 BC. There are also some notable references in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, to the wearing of makeup. 

So, where did it all begin? In the rest of this article, I’ll delve into the details of the world of Ancient Egyptian makeup, how it all began in America, the very first makeup brand in the United States, and patenting options for those with a new cosmetic.

A Brief History of Makeup and When It Was First Used

First used by Ancient Egyptian men and women since 4,000 BC, makeup was used for all kinds of things. At first, these weren’t just products associated with beauty but also with spirituality, health, and social status. 

It’s widely acknowledged that Ancient Egyptian men and women were exceptionally innovative in their time. They experimented with all kinds of compounds to create makeup and body art. 

For example, using burnt matches was an inventive way to shape eyebrows. 

Unlike today’s paradigm of makeup-wearing aficionados, Egyptian men and women used red clay and ochre made from animal fats for their lips, kohl made of burnt almonds, copper ores, and lead for their eyes. There’s also evidence of prolific use of unguent, which was a material used for supple and wrinkle-free skin. 

At the time, those of royal status and the upper class, in general, tended to go to extremes when they wore makeup, using cosmetic treatments that today probably would have been deemed relatively unsafe. 

Makeup Meaning in Religion

However, using makeup was said to bring you closer to the Gods, with the eyes having the most importance. For example, using kohl around the eyes was said to protect from evil spirits, specifically the Evil Eye.

In particular, the size and shape of makeup palettes and mason jars were significant in Ancient Egypt. For example, fish-shaped containers were relatively meaningful for the Egyptians, as the fish was an important symbol of fertility

Health was also a significant part of using makeup. 

Since the Egyptians lived in a very hot, dry climate, they needed to protect their skin from the elements. Using creams and oils made from animal fats was one way to ensure that their skin didn’t dry out or crack in the heat.

Makeup in the Roman Era

The Romans followed in the footsteps of the Ancient Egyptians, and many, especially those in the upper classes, used colorful powders to create blush for their cheeks and painted their lips in a similar fashion. 

However, if you were living in the middle-to-late stages of the Roman Empire, it was widely accepted that colorful makeup was only for prostitutes or very low-class women. The typical Roman woman would use lightening powder on her face to achieve the traditional pale-skinned beauty that was so prevalent at that time. 

There was widespread disdain for such obvious beautification of the skin. 

makeup being used
Image by Lubov Lisitsa from Pixabay

Instead, more emphasis was placed on health and hygiene. Many people of that time used skincare products to enhance their natural beauty. 

Fun fact: The Romans used a concoction called belladonna drops, which would be used to make the pupils appear larger. Unfortunately, belladonna drops are poisonous to humans, so after a while, this practice ceased. 

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages was a time of significant change for the world of makeup. The beauty ideal for women became even paler. A more unnatural color was generally used by the upper classes and royal family members to achieve an utterly whitewashed face and neck.

They often used a cerulean and vinegar mixture to create this look, and it would act as a complete skin foundation. A typical example of this look is Elizabeth I of England, who used cerulean throughout her lifetime.

Once again, most women entirely rejected the concept of colorful makeup. 

Only very low-class women and prostitutes generally wore brighter makeup, with the occasional exception of rouge for the lips for the middle class. 

History of Makeup in America

Although eye makeup was used in abundance during the age of the Ancient Egyptians, the relative reserve of North Americans before 1900 stopped them short of using eye makeup. But how did makeup come to America?

Who Invented Makeup In America?

Although the concept of makeup was around for a long time in the United States, it was never formally an industry until Florence Graham (Elizabeth Arden) came on the scene. 

Elizabeth Arden introduced North Americans to the world of eye makeup. After moving to New York in 1910, Elizabeth Arden created her own makeup salon on Fifth Avenue, a salon that would become the very place from which the makeup industry would bloom.

Working alongside a professional chemist, she created a line of skin tonics, foundations, eye products, and softening creams that would eventually set the international standard for makeup going forward. 

eye makeup colors
Image by armennano from Pixabay

By 1966, she became the wealthiest entrepreneur ever to grace the scene of makeup, as well as being awarded an honorary doctorate and the French Legion of Honour. She certainly deserved it, considering the fact that she changed the face of makeup for women all over the world.

However, she wasn’t always so successful. Until she introduced the world to her makeup brands, she worked odd jobs and even worked as a nurse to support her family. 

1800–2021: A New Era of Makeup Trends

For women in the United States, eye makeup was rarely applied until the early 1900s. Most makeup was procured at home by individuals using magazines and recipes from friends and relatives, and natural looks were heralded as the custom at the time. 

This was mainly because women were seen to be demure and feminine, and their makeup generally had to mirror that image. 

From the 18th century to the early 1900s, both men and women used makeup in the upper classes. Over time, while visible and colorful makeup became relatively unpopular, skin lightening and the diminishing of skin blemishes became more prevalent

By the end of the 1800s, some women began producing and selling their homemade makeup products, typically using an agent system to sell their products to other women in broad distribution processes.

Of course, today, there are many different makeup trends all over the world, with the makeup industry forming one of the biggest industries we have today. 

Fun fact: In 2020, the makeup industry stood at just over $277 billion, which shows just how established the sector has become and how far it has come from the Ancient Egyptians.

Interesting Facts About Makeup

While this might seem rather peculiar, many women from the Ancient Egyptians, all the way to the Byzantines, crushed up beetles to make red lipstick. This was a practice widely used by upper-class women. And their makeup palettes would include a grinding device just for this purpose.

Another interesting fact is that the concept of red lipstick was initially seen as a symbol of freedom from repression. Used to manipulate men, women often wore lipstick as an act of subtle aggression. 

In fact, it has been said that the use of cosmetics, especially in the early days, helped feminism gain a stronger hold. 

What Was the First Makeup Brand Invented?

First introduced in Tokyo, Shiseido was the world’s first recognized makeup brand, set up in a pharmacy and dedicated to skincare for both men and women. Although makeup has been around for many centuries, this first recognized brand didn’t show up on the scene until 1888.

Interestingly, Shiseido also created Japan’s very first toothpaste. It’s now the fifth-largest cosmetics company worldwide and was even the first to make beauty tutorials a must-have on the makeup scene.

In the United States, the first recognized brand was undoubtedly Elizabeth Arden, established in 1910. Then came Estée Lauder, established in 1946, and La Mer in the 1950s. 

1920s lady makeup
Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

After the biggest makeup brands had been established, more and more brands came on the scene. Not just in the United States, but every country in the world wanted to jump on the makeup industry’s growing bandwagon. 

American women now spend more money on health and beauty than education. It’s so popular that skincare itself is now a $24 billion industry.

Can Cosmetics Be Patented in the US?

A patent is intellectual property protection that’s given to inventors to have the freedom to produce and sell a product with full rights to that product for a specified period of time.

Cosmetics can be patented in the US, and the usual period of time granted to an inventor is around 20 years from the time of the initial patent. Patents in the United States are procured and run by the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office). 

They even have an entire branch that’s dedicated to cosmetic patents.

If you want to patent a cosmetic in the US, you have to go through a system of complete transparency to receive that patent. By disclosing all the ingredients used, you’re also assuming that your invention is completely new and hasn’t been patented before, that it’s non-toxic, practical, and nonobvious.

While patents give you the legal right to bring a lawsuit to anyone who distributes, produces, or sells your invention without your permission, it must be said that this enforcement is up to you, not the patent office in USPTO itself. 

Requirements for Patenting a Cosmetic Formula

Protecting your idea is one of the priorities for many cosmetic inventors, so meeting all of the requirements for patenting is an absolute must.

There are several requirements that you must meet to patent your formula, these are:

  • It must contain at least two ingredients, as single-ingredient formulas won’t be accepted. 
  • The product must be completely new and not too similar to anything already in market circulation.
  • The product must have clear benefits, and any prominent toxic ingredients will immediately rule out any possibility of a patent.
  • You can’t patent a natural formula unless used in a wholly new and nonobvious way.

In this case, the most important thing is to find a patent attorney who can help you patent your creation in the most streamlined way possible. 

Who Benefits from Beauty Product Patents?

However, some suggest that patenting a cosmetic formula isn’t entirely necessary. 

Unfortunately, owning a patent for a particular product doesn’t prevent people from copying your idea. Additionally, having a patent doesn’t assume that your product will be a success. Whether or not your new cosmetic product will be successful relies on its formula, your marketing strategy, and the user experience. 

Unless you have a huge brand name and are known internationally, patenting your cosmetics won’t make or break your product.

Final Thoughts

Makeup has come a long way and has existed for over 7,000 years. We have completely changed the face of makeup, and brands are continually evolving over time.

From the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans, through the Persians and the Byzantines, all the way to Florence Graham and the birth of North American makeup branding, makeup has been a substantial part of human existence through every era.