Did the Romans use makeup? Ancient cosmetics

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A stone finger and palette for crushing cosmetics into powder before putting them on your face (St. Germain en Laye, France)

Roman makeup: A stone finger and palette for crushing cosmetics into powder before putting them on your face (St. Germain en Laye, France)

Men and women

Both men and women used beauty products in ancient Rome. People used these products to make themselves seem healthier and more beautiful, but also to show that they were rich, or that they were from a certain province, or that they did a certain kind of work.

Whitening skin

Rich women had whiter skin than poor women, because they stayed inside instead of working in the fields as farmers. So women used whitening creams to make themselves look paler, and therefore richer. One Roman whitening cream from London in the 100s AD was made of cow or sheep fat, starch, and tin oxide. Other whitening creams used lead, even though lead was poisonous.

Bibliography and further reading about Etruscan and Roman clothing:

Greek and Roman Fashions, by Tom Tierney (2001). Coloring book for kids.

Clothes and Crafts in Roman Times, by Philip Steele (2000). Easy reading.

Costumes of the Greeks and Romans, by Thomas Hope (19th century, reprinted 1986). More advanced illustrations, for teachers and professional costumers.

Etruscan Dress, by Larissa Bonfante

The World of Roman Costume, edited by J.L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante (1994). A more culturally oriented study of not only what the Romans wore, but why they wore it. By specialists, but accessible to adults.

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By |2018-04-25T09:03:14+00:00August 31st, 2017|Clothing, Romans|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Did the Romans use makeup? Ancient cosmetics. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 31, 2017. Web. November 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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