Classic Beauty: The History of Makeup – Gabriela Hernandez

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Classic Beauty takes a historical look at makeup styles and trends, starting at 3300 BC Egypt, Persia and Greece, to current day Europe and America. It examines the political, religious and social conditions and how those elements affected the way women look.

Did you know that many perfumes were toxic in the eighteenth century? Also that George Washington’s dentures were made of animal teeth and ivory? How about the fact that lipstick played an important role in WWII? Have you ever heard of a “moon manicure”? There are a lot of interesting tidbits in this book.

We learn about the modern day cosmetics industry through gorgeous pictures and actual twentieth and twenty first century ads. I also found the product development timelines informative. Did you know that Maybelline started before 1916?

The history of skincare is also explored, as the 1920s marked the beginning of our quest for youth and its association with beauty.

Starting with that decade, the book shows highlights and what facial features were accentuated, popular color palettes and styles for contours, eyes and lips.

The major flaw of this book is that there is little information on makeup trends for women of color. Style for Asian women is ignored except for cosmetic contributions in the early civilizations. Though there is a bit on Josephine Baker, and a line on Grace Jones, trends for black women are omitted. Could this be because the industry caters to Caucasians?

I personally found Classic Beauty fascinating. It would make a nice coffee-table book or a great gift for someone interested in the history of cosmetics and makeup trends. I just wish it displayed trends for women of all races.

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