2 Dec /15


Cosmetics - Word of the day - EVS Translations
Cosmetics – Word of the day – EVS Translations

Cosmetics in various including lotions and pastes have been around for centuries and can be found in many different cultures from the Ancient Egyptians who used green eye paint and black kohl to the Geisha of Japan with their doll-like white faces and ruby red lips.

The word cosmetics derives from the Ancient Greek kosmētikós, “relating to adornment”, which itself derives from kósmos, which means ‘order’. Incidentally, kósmos is where our word for the universe comes from (ie. the Cosmos) since kosmos, more specifically means: “order, good order, orderly arrangement”. It appears in English print in 1650 in John Bulwer’s Anthropometamorphosis “Which damnable portion of cosmetique Art”, but the modern spelling doesn’t appear until 1755 in Don Quixote: “When her face is smoothed..by a thousand cosmetic slops and washes.” Not the most attractive description of cosmetics; then again, the history of comestics suggests an awful lot of slopping and washing with various concoctions of chemicals…

Elizabethan cosmetics

You only have to take one look at a picture of Elizabeth I to understand how vastly ‘different’ cosmetic trends were in comparison to those of today. To achieve Elizabeth’s look, you would need access to such chemicals as mercury and lead. Part of her look (the signature white face) could be attributed to her desire to cover small pox scars, but the common concern for antiaging is centuries old so women of the day used this white paste of lead and vinegar to achieve a pale, even tone.

Victorian cosmetics

By Queen Victoria’s reign, women were using beeswax for their eyelashes and women used natural face masks made of oatmeal, honey and egg yoke. Queen Victoria, herself, did not approve of the use of cosmetics and they were widely considered to be something appropriate only for actors and prostitutes. That said, there was nothing wrong about a little red beet juice to give the face a healthy appearance and using some rice powder to dust the nose with for an even complexion.

Modern cosmetics

So what is the main difference between the use of cosmetics centuries ago and today? These days, the ingredients of cosmetic products are carefully regulated. In the UK it is the EU Cosmetics Regulation that regulates cosmetics and in the USA, it is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Animal testing became standard for the industry in the modern era, but an EU law passed in March 2013 finally made it illegal to sell animal-tested cosmetics in Europe.