Blush. Blusher. Rouge. Whatever you may call it, it still serves the same purpose; to provide a healthy flush of color to the cheeks. Blush has always been worn to give a youthful and radiant appearance, but it’s actually one of the more controversial forms of makeup in history.
Rouge, as it was called, became popular in ancient Egypt, where both men and women wore it. In addition to heavy black makeup on their eyes, many ancient Egyptians wore rouge on cheeks and lips to add the pop of red.
Rouge originated as a thick paste, and was made from a range of things: from strawberries, to red fruits and vegetable juices, to the powder of finely crushed ochre. It became popular in ancient Greece for women to whiten their complexion with chalk or lead face powder, and then paint their cheeks with a paste made from crushed seeds and berries. This look was a sign of the wealthy elite, but let i be known – the lead wasalso extremely deadly!
During ancient times, the rise of Christianity resulted in the decline of rouge. The new stricter dress codes and norms caused people to frown upon artificial cosmetics, and it was seen as too flashy or better yet – promiscuous. Interestingly enough, there was a fine line drawn where acceptable rouge was concerned. It was most common among upper class women and prostitutes, and was often seen as immoral.
As soon as Queen Elizabeth embraced makeup in the early 1660s, it became more acceptable. Many women wore lead paints mixed with vinegar to create a past called cerise for whitened skin, and mercury sulfide for rouge. This combination is the reason why high foreheads were in fashion, because the chemicals caused hair to fall out! AKA: receding hairlines for women. Lead and cerise were later discovered to cause major health issues for women, including facial tremors, paralysis, and even death.
Through the years, there were many attempts to ban makeup: whether it was for moral or religious beliefs, or simply so that women wouldn’t be able to “fool” men with a false beauty (Clement of Alexandria of Greece and a Greek Historian from the 4th Century believed that women were deceiving men, tricking them into marriage with makeup.). Even as recent as 1770, a law was put forth to the British parliament, suggesting that a marriage could be annulled if the bride used cosmetics before the wedding day.
After a long, and ever changing ride, rouge has evolved into today’s blush: an item essential to any woman’s makeup bag. Thanks to modern science and technology, blushes aren’t just more affordable today, but they’re completely safe. And luckily, using it no longer makes you appear promiscuous or improper!