ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on January 1, 2010
Photo by Piotr Bizior
Photo by Piotr Bizior

Cosmetics are preparations used to beautify and cleanse the human body. Cosmetics have been used by men and women throughout the world for thousands of years.

The use of cosmetics differs from one culture to another and from century to century. At various times in history, cosmetics have been associated with magical or religious ceremonies, and their application has been considered an art. The attitude toward cosmetics often depends on the outlook of a particular society. For example, during the American colonial period the strict moral code of the Puritans condemned their use. As a result, cosmetics were not popular in the New England colonies, but in the less restrictive social environment of the Southern colonies the use of cosmetics was widespread.

Photo by Piotr Bizior
Photo by Piotr Bizior

History of Cosmetics

Although cosmetics probably originated in the Orient, the earliest and most abundant evidences of their existence are found in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used cosmetics for religious ceremonies and for personal adornment.

Cosmetics were applied by the ancient Hebrews for religious and public ceremonies, such as the crowning of kings, and for personal adornment. Among other ancient peoples, such as the Babylonians, Persians, and Scythians, cosmetics were used by men and women for religious and personal purposes. In ancient Greece, women dyed their hair and used powder and rouge on their faces. The Romans and Carthaginians were highly advanced in the use of cosmetics, and their array of beauty aids included such presently used types as hair bleach, eye shadow, lip and cheek rouge, and face powder.

In the Middle Ages many Oriental cosmetics were brought to Europe by soldiers returning from the Crusades. During the Renaissance, cosmetics were used lavishly at most European courts and were especially popular in Spain, Italy, and France. In England, cosmetic boxes called sweet coffers became standard furniture in ladies' bedrooms. Women also took baths in milk to improve their complexions. Queen Mary of Scotland is said to have bathed in wine for this purpose.

By the 17th century, cosmetics were being used by members of the lower classes as well as the aristocracy. Poorer people often made their own preparations. They used beet juice as a coloring for their lips and cheeks, and they applied flour as a powder to the face and body.

The manufacture of cosmetics is now a flourishing industry. In most countries the manufacture of cosmetics is controlled by the government. In the United States the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, passed by Congress in 1938, gives the federal government the power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cosmetics. It also requires that no harmful ingredient be put in a cosmetic formula and that all cosmetics be labeled accurately.

Hair Cosmetics

Among cosmetics for the hair are shampoo, hair spray, wave set, tint, bleach, and dye. Shampoo is soap dissolved in water and oil, with perfume added. Wave set and hair spray contain a gum in water that, upon drying, becomes stiff and keeps hair in place. The color changes brought about by bleaches, tints, and dyes are the result either of a chemical reaction between the hair and the coloring agent or of the absorption of the coloring agent by the hair.

Hand Cosmetics

Hand cosmetics include nail polish, polish remover, cuticle remover, nail hardeners, and hand lotions and creams. Nail polish is composed of nitrocellulose, gum, resins, solvent, dye, and a plasticizer. The many creams and lotions that smooth and protect the hands are made of water, perfume, a water-repelling agent, and a lubricator such as lanolin.

Face Cosmetics

Cosmetics for the face, also called makeup, include lipstick, eyebrow pencil, mascara, eye shadow, rouge, face powder, and liquid, cream, or cake foundation. Various creams, lotions, and packs are also considered face cosmetics. Lipstick, one of the most popular cosmetics, is made by mixing oils and waxes with red coloring matter. Stick mascara is essentially the same, but contains black, brown, or blue pigment instead of red. Face powder, also in common use, contains various powders, mostly talc, plus perfume and coloring matter. Makeup can be removed from the face with cold cream, a cleanser made of oils, wax, borax, and perfume.

Bath Cosmetics

Bath cosmetics are designed to give the bather a feeling of luxuriousness. Aside from soap, which is not considered a cosmetic, the most popular products used in bathing are bath salts and bath oils. Bubble bath, which contains a chemical that reduces the surface tension of the water and produces foam, is also used. After bathing, some persons use a bath powder, consisting primarily of perfumed talc.

Mouth Cosmetics

Mouth cosmetics are generally cleansing preparations, the most important heing toothpaste. It is usually made of chalk, gum, water, alcohol, and glycerol, and it is often flavored with peppermint oils and saccharin. Other mouth cosmetics include mouthwashes and sprays.

Body Cosmetics

Body cosmetics serve several purposes. Deodorants are made to prevent the odor that results from the effects of bacteria on perspiration. When they are designed to prevent perspiration itself, they are also called antiperspirants. Deodorants are prepared in liquid, cream, paste, powder, and stick forms. Oils, such as suntan oil, have a protective function and are usually made of mineral oil. Baby oil has an antiseptic added. Other body cosmetics include various lotions, as for the hands or face, petroleum jellies, and hair removers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)