Makeup 1800S

Makeup 1800S


The 19th century witnessed a remarkable evolution in the realm of makeup, as societal norms and cultural influences shaped the trends and practices of the time. In this article, we will explore the captivating world of makeup in the 1800s and delve into its significance within 19th century society.

A Dazzling Glimpse into the Past

As we embark on this historical journey, it is vital to grasp an understanding of the makeup trends and practices that prevailed during the 1800s. This era was defined by a dichotomy between natural beauty ideals and an increasing reliance on cosmetics to enhance one’s appearance.

The prevailing aesthetic favored a pale complexion, rosy cheeks, emphasized eyes, and delicate yet alluring lips. These features were achieved through various means that utilized an extensive repertoire of makeup products available at the time.

The Significance of Makeup in 19th Century Society

Makeup played a pivotal role in shaping societal perceptions of beauty throughout the 19th century. It served as both a form of self-expression for individuals and as a reflection of broader social norms and expectations placed upon women. In an era where marriageability held immense importance for women’s social standing, adhering to specific beauty standards was considered necessary.

The application of makeup became deeply intertwined with notions of femininity, desirability, and respectability within society. Moreover, cosmetics offered women a way to conform to societal ideals while discreetly challenging traditional gender roles.

By skillfully utilizing makeup techniques, women could subtly defy conventions and assert their individuality within established boundaries. Understanding the significance bestowed upon makeup during this period allows us to appreciate how it not only transformed external appearances but also empowered individuals by providing a means of self-expression and agency in an otherwise restrictive society.

Social and Cultural Influences on Makeup during the 1800s

Makeup trends in the 1800s were greatly influenced by the social and cultural context of the time. The Victorian era, spanning from 1837 to 1901, introduced a set of rigid values and expectations for women’s appearance. In this highly conservative period, women were expected to prioritize modesty, purity, and femininity.

As such, makeup became a tool for conforming to these societal ideals while also expressing individuality within those constraints. The influence of art movements like Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood further shaped makeup trends during this era.

Romanticism emphasized intense emotions, natural beauty, and a rejection of strict societal norms. This translated into a preference for soft, ethereal looks that aimed to mimic the delicate beauty often portrayed in paintings of that time.

Victorian Era Values and Expectations for Women’s Appearance

In the Victorian era, women were expected to embody an idealized image of femininity characterized by pale skin, rosy cheeks, delicate features, and a modest demeanor. This meant that makeup was used as a means to enhance natural beauty rather than create bold or striking looks. Pale skin was considered a sign of status and refinement since it suggested wealthier individuals who didn’t have to work outdoors under the sun’s rays.

To achieve this desired complexion, women used face powders containing lead or zinc oxide which provided an artificial paleness. Darker skin tones were associated with lower social classes or manual labor.

Rosy cheeks were also highly sought after during this period as they symbolized both youthfulness and good health. Women would use blush made from natural ingredients like beetroot or crushed berries to create a subtle flush on their cheeks without appearing too heavily made up.

Influence of Art Movements like Romanticism and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Romanticism movement, originating in the late 18th century, rebelled against the rationality and restraint of the Enlightenment period. It emphasized the individual’s emotional experience, nature’s beauty, and a celebration of personal freedom.

These ideas influenced makeup trends by promoting a softer and more natural aesthetic. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848, was a group of artists who rejected the industrialization and materialism of Victorian society.

They sought to return to pre-Renaissance art forms and embraced an appreciation for nature, medieval themes, and feminine beauty. Their paintings often featured women with radiant complexions, flushed cheeks, and expressive eyes—inspiring many to emulate these looks through makeup.

Overall, social norms and artistic movements played significant roles in shaping makeup trends during the 1800s. The Victorian era’s emphasis on femininity influenced women to strive for delicate features through pale skin and rosy cheeks.

Simultaneously, the Romanticism movement encouraged a more natural appearance that echoed the beauty found in nature. The influence of art movements like Romanticism and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood ultimately allowed women to express their individuality while adhering to societal expectations.

Face Makeup

Skin care routines and products used in the 1800s

In the 1800s, skincare routines were significantly different from what we practice today. Women of the era relied on a variety of products to maintain their complexion. However, it is essential to note that the safety and efficacy of these products were questionable by modern standards.

Cleansing was typically done using products such as rosewater or milk, applied with soft cotton pads. Additionally, some women utilized mixtures of almond oil and beeswax to remove makeup residue without stripping their delicate skin.

Extraordinary as it may seem today, toxic ingredients were prevalent in facial cosmetics during the 1800s. Lead-based compounds like ceruse (a mixture of lead carbonate and white vinegar) were frequently employed to achieve a pale complexion.

This dangerous practice often had severe health consequences; prolonged use could lead to lead poisoning symptoms such as hair loss and even death in extreme cases. Alongside lead, substances like mercury were occasionally added to creams for their supposed skin-lightening properties.

Role of face powders in achieving a pale complexion

One of the primary goals for women’s makeup during this period was attaining a porcelain-like complexion that symbolized status and femininity. Face powders played an integral role in this pursuit by helping achieve a pale look while reducing shine caused by natural skin oils. These powders contained various minerals such as talc or rice powder mixed with perfumed salts or herbal extracts for fragrance.

Foundation and complexion enhancers

Foundation products used in the 1800s aimed at creating an even-toned base for further makeup application—a stark contrast from today’s liquid foundations or BB creams. Women relied on white lead-based creams to achieve a flawless, pale complexion. These creams were applied generously to the face and neck, acting as both a foundation and skin lightener.

Though highly toxic, white lead-based creams persisted due to their ability to provide the sought-after “ideal” appearance of the time. Blushes were also widely used in this era, though they differed significantly from modern formulations.

Instead of manufactured blushes, women often turned to natural ingredients like beetroot, crushed berries, or even vegetable dyes. These items were processed into powders or pastes and delicately brushed or dabbed onto the cheeks for a rosy glow.

The shades varied depending on personal preference and fashion trends of the time. Creating a cosmetic routine focused on achieving desired aesthetics seemed paramount in the 1800s; however, this pursuit came at great expense to women’s health.

The use of toxic ingredients like lead and mercury posed significant risks that were not fully understood at the time. It is crucial to recognize how far we have come in terms of product safety and educate ourselves on healthier alternatives when it comes to our own skincare rituals today.

Eyebrows Shaping and Enhancement Techniques

During the 1800s, eyebrows played a significant role in defining one’s facial expression and beauty. Various techniques were employed to shape and enhance eyebrows, reflecting the changing trends of the era.

One common trend was the preference for thin, arched brows that imparted a delicate and refined look. Women would pluck their natural brows extensively to achieve a more defined shape, often using tweezers or even threads to meticulously remove unwanted hair.

However, not all women adhered to the thin brow trend. Some embraced a more natural appearance with bushy brows that exuded youthfulness and innocence.

To enhance this look, they employed techniques such as brushing their brows upward using small brushes to create volume and texture. The goal was to achieve an untamed yet elegant appearance.

Use of Soot or Charcoal for Darkening Eyebrows

In order to darken their eyebrows during the 1800s, women turned to unconventional methods due to limited cosmetic options available at that time. One popular technique involved utilizing soot or charcoal from burnt wood or candles as a makeshift eyebrow darkener. They would carefully apply these substances onto their brows using small brushes or applicators made from bone or wood.

This method allowed for customization in achieving the desired shade and intensity of darkening; however, it also posed certain challenges as soot or charcoal could smudge easily if not applied with precision. Nevertheless, women persevered in perfecting this artful application technique in order to attain elegant and well-defined eyebrows.

Eye Shadows and Liners

The use of eye shadows was prevalent during the 1800s as part of makeup routines aimed at enhancing one’s eyes’ beauty. Popular eye shadow colors included mesmerizing blues, delicate pinks, and vibrant greens.

These hues were derived from natural pigments such as crushed gemstones, flower petals, or even minerals found in nature. Application of eye shadow involved various techniques to achieve both subtle and dramatic effects.

Women would use small brushes or their fingertips to delicately apply the desired color onto their eyelids, extending the shade slightly beyond the natural crease for a more prominent effect. The result was an enhanced gaze that mesmerized all who beheld it.

To define their eyes further, women utilized kohl-based eyeliners during the 1800s. Kohl was a dark pigment derived from substances like antimony sulfide or lead sulfide.

These eyeliners were applied along the lash line to create depth and intensity. The process required steady hands and meticulous precision to ensure a symmetrical and flawless appearance.

Lip Makeup

In the fascinating world of 19th-century makeup, the lips held their own allure and played a significant role in enhancing a woman’s beauty. Delicate and captivating, lip makeup during the 1800s showcased a range of trends and colors that reflected the fashion sensibilities of the time.

During this era, lipsticks began to gain popularity as an essential cosmetic item. Women sought to achieve desirable lip colors that would complement their overall complexion.

The most sought-after shades were rich reds, vibrant pinks, and enchanting corals. Interestingly, these brilliant hues were achieved by employing natural dyes extracted from various sources.

Some common ingredients used in lipstick production included carmine (derived from crushed cochineal insects), beetroot juice, elderberry juice, or even crushed flowers such as roses or violets. These natural dyes provided the desired pigmentation while adding an element of elegance to women’s lips.

In this era of romantic allure and vivacity, red was undoubtedly one of the most favored lip colors among women. Deep rouge tones symbolized passion and femininity while exuding an air of sensuality.

Pinks were adored for their delicate charm and youthful appeal. Shades ranged from soft rose pinks to bright fuchsias that conveyed innocence with a touch of playfulness.

Corals were also highly sought after for their warm undertones that added freshness to one’s appearance. These shades had subtle orange hues mixed with pink undertones which accentuated a woman’s natural beauty.

Application Techniques Using Brushes or Finger Application

The application of lip color in the 1800s involved meticulous attention to detail, as women sought to achieve a flawless pout. Various techniques were employed, including the use of brushes or finger application. Brushes made from natural materials such as animal hair were used to apply lipstick evenly across the lips.

The bristles allowed for precise control over the shape and coverage, ensuring a polished and professional finish. Alternatively, some women preferred finger application, using their own dexterity to blend and distribute the color onto their lips.

This method allowed for a more natural and subtle appearance while maintaining a personal touch. Lip makeup in the 1800s was an art form that captivated society with its elegant shades and delicate application techniques.

Reds, pinks, and corals created from natural dyes adorned women’s lips with grace and charm. Whether applied with brushes or fingertips, lipsticks played a vital role in enhancing beauty during this remarkable era of refinement.

Cosmetic Tools & Accessories

Description of cosmetic tools used during this era

During the 1800s, a range of cosmetic tools and accessories were utilized to achieve the desired beauty standards of the time. These tools were essential for applying and enhancing makeup, accentuating facial features, and maintaining a polished appearance. One common tool used was the ivory or bone-handled mirrors, usually equipped with a stand for easy use.

These mirrors featured beautifully crafted frames and served as a focal point on vanity tables. In addition to mirrors, women also relied on various brushes made from natural materials like boar bristles or horsehair.

These brushes were used for applying powders, blushes, and even lipstick. Another important tool in makeup application was the powder puff.

Usually made from soft cotton fabric and filled with finely milled face powder or rice flour, powder puffs helped achieve a flawless complexion by evenly distributing the product onto the skin. To create precise lines and shapes around the eyes and lips, women used slender paintbrush-like applicators called liners.

These liners were dipped in pigments such as charcoal or kohl to define and enhance these features. For lip application, small lip brushes with soft bristles were employed to achieve an even distribution of lipstick colors.

To store their vast array of cosmetics securely, women utilized delicately designed vanity cases often made from intricately detailed metalwork or adorned with precious stones like mother-of-pearl. These portable cases offered compartments for storing different makeup items such as powders, blushes, eyeshadows, lipsticks along with brushes and other tools.


Exploring makeup practices during the 1800s reveals an intriguing blend of artistry and resourcefulness in achieving desired beauty standards. Despite limited access to modern materials we rely on today, individuals during that era exhibited great creativity in using natural ingredients and tools to create their desired looks. While some beauty practices of the 1800s may seem unconventional or even hazardous by today’s standards, it is important to appreciate the historical context and socio-cultural influences that shaped these trends.

Looking back at the makeup of the 1800s can serve as a reminder of human adaptability and ingenuity. It allows us to reflect on how far we have come in terms of cosmetics, skincare, and safety.

By understanding our beauty practices through history, we gain a deeper appreciation for the advancements made in modern times. Ultimately, it is fascinating to see how makeup has evolved over centuries, influenced by societal norms and cultural shifts.

Today, we have a wide range of safe and innovative products at our disposal that enable self-expression and enhance our natural beauty. Let this knowledge inspire us to embrace our own unique styles while appreciating the rich history behind our cosmetic rituals.


What types of makeup were popular in the 1800s?

Popular makeup in the 1800s included lead-based white foundations, rouge for cheeks, and lipstick made from berries or crushed flowers.

How did people apply makeup in the 1800s?

Makeup was applied using brushes, sponges, or fingers. It was often mixed with creams or oils for desired consistency and applied sparingly.

Were there any health risks associated with 1800s makeup?

Yes, many 1800s makeup products contained toxic ingredients like lead and arsenic, which could lead to skin damage and health issues.

What cultural influences shaped 1800s makeup trends?

Makeup trends in the 1800s were influenced by societal norms, fashion, and prominent figures like Queen Victoria, who favored a more natural look.

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