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Makeup is so much a part of our lives in the 21st Century, with most adult women wearing it day to day in one form or another. In recent years, it’s also becoming more and more popular amongst men as the gender gaps are getting much closer. But did you know that prior to the mid-1800s, makeup was just as commonplace for men as it was for women?

Have you ever wondered about the origin of makeup? The purpose it was originally created for and where it all began? Well, you’re not alone, because we certainly have. It’s something so ingrained in our day-to-day lives and easily accessible in our culture, but where did it all begin? Let’s dive in and discover the history of makeup.


It might not be a surprise that the first documented use of makeup was during Egyptian times around 6,000 years ago. We’re all familiar with Cleopatra and her distinctive winged eyeliner, but it wasn’t just Cleopatra; it was common for both men and women in Ancient Egypt to wear makeup as a symbol of wealth and to present themselves to the gods. Although eyeliner is the makeup most associated with the Egyptians, there’s evidence they also used rouge, eye shadows made of malachite (which is a green colour used to represent the gods Horus and Re), and white powders to lighten skin tone.

There are other great examples of makeup through the ages, from men wearing rouge in Ancient Rome, as well as painting their nails red with pig fat and blood to extremely white, powdered faces in Elizabethan times. In addition, it was commonly used for men and women throughout centuries for actors on stage and on screen.



It wasn’t until Queen Victoria I took to the throne, marking the Victorian times, that makeup became seen as an abomination. She deemed cosmetics as vulgar, views that are also communicated in the bible as wearing makeup was seen as vanity and “the Devil’s work”. As religion was widely popular throughout the world at this time, there was a general disdain towards cosmetics, with several passages in the Bible exemplifying the use of makeup with wickedness or vanity. That being said, many women continued to wear makeup in secret, hoping their “no makeup makeup” looks could be believed as natural beauty, enhancing their features rather than adapting their face. Generally, makeup use during this time was commonly associated with sex workers and therefore shamelessness. This was the most notable period where makeup become unpopular, and it never became popular amongst men again until recently.


This pattern of embracing and rejecting makeup in the Western world continued until around the 1920s, when notable makeup such as red lipstick and dark eyeliner re-entered the mainstream. It was during this time that cosmetics industry gained a financial foothold with makeup began to be advertised and prioritised, drastically redetermining what it means to wear makeup from frowned upon and shameful to symbolising wealth and status; the narrative around these products changing from vulgar and wicked to necessary and aspirational.


Although it’s clear that makeup was considered normal to men and women alike across many time periods including Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, since Queen Victoria I’s reign discarded these cosmetics and drew negative connotations to their uses, the popularity of these products among men never really recovered until now. There have been suggestions, especially through the 90s and 00s, that having feminine qualities was undesirable and men are made to think they should be macho and manly to be desirable. There have been some notable figures that have certainly stood up to these supposed ideals – David Bowie, Prince, Boy George, to name just a few – but it’s clear these stereotypes are certainly changing along with the spectrum of masculinity.

The early 2000s were distinctively associated with punk and emo rock, characterised by thick black eyeliner, dubbed “guyliner”. This was a widely popular movement for celebrities and their fans alike, with many experimenting with these looks. Black nail polish also became a trend on the back of this era.

Today, it’s commonplace to see men experimenting with makeup more and more, especially with social media being a prevalent platform to inspire people to be more creative, as well as to influence. The lines between genders is more blurred than ever and the acceptance and general idea to be your most authentic self is becoming more commonplace, especially among Millennials and Gen Z. Even heterosexual men are more inclined than ever to look after their appearance, through manicures, grooming, tanning and even makeup, from concealer on one end of the spectrum to bronzer and eyebrow makeup to full-face makeup on the other end.

In a way, the use of makeup has come full circle. Here at Emolyne, we have created our makeup for everybody. No matter your gender, age, shape, size or skin colour, we hope that everyone can find something that makes them feel like the best version of themselves.