Home » Egyptian History: The Origin of Dark Eye Makeup

Egyptian History: The Origin of Dark Eye Makeup

The next time you are staring into the mirror as you apply your favorite eyeliner, pause for a moment to thank the Egyptians for innovating the style.

In ancient Egypt, many things were considered holy and makeup was one of them, especially if you were a royal. Many Egyptians believed that eye makeup acted as a protection against evil, most notably the “Evil Eye.” By definition, Evil Eye is a malevolent look that many cultures believe able to cause injury or misfortune for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. For this, both male and female Egyptians believed the eyes to be in special need of protection and so developed black eyeliner they called Kohl or Galena, which would be used to shape the eye into a more almond-like oval.

Galena is a blue-grey natural mineral form of lead sulfide. Kohl is a mixture of soot and galena. The Egyptians were also able to create green eye makeup by using malachite, which is a copper ore, and a carbonate mineral, copper carbonate hydroxide, both of which have an intense vibrant green color.  As for eye make up, the Egyptians used a pigment that is made from naturally tinted clay, which is called red ochre. Another technique the Egyptians used to create make up was the use of henna, henna is a dye that is made from the leaves and shoots of the henna shrub. Henna was used from many purposes, and served as nail polish prior to mummification. As with most eras, the different type of makeup that one would wear showed what your social status was.

Once ingredients were gathered, a time-consuming preparation was needed to make them ready to apply. Minerals were ground into powder and then mixed with a carrier agent (often animal fat) in order to make it easy to apply and stay on the skin.

The Ancients  had another reason for using makeup, which was, to define the eye and give it a more cat-like appearance. Sound familiar?

You might have a quirky trick that makes your eyes pop, but you weren’t the first to do so – the Egyptians would also often highlight the eyeliner with a shade of green below to accentuate the size of their eyes and to protect them from disease.

Some say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and the Egyptians truly believed this. In some cultures today, many believe that the act of applying the perfect line around the eye as a holy experience. Not too far removed from the Egyptians, are we?

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