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LifestyleA Brief History Of The Cosmetics Industry - Harley Ultrasound

November 5, 2018by holly

We tend to think of cosmetics as make-up and treatments that have become popular over the last few decades. However, this is not the case at all. Cosmetics can be traced as far back as Egyptian civilisations which were present over three thousand years ago. We have done some research regarding cosmetics of the past in order for us all to understand how we got to the cosmetics industry that we know today.

Cosmetics Industry History

Ancient Cosmetics

When examining the ancient roots of cosmetics, the most prominent image that appears is that of Egyptian figures in tombs or on sarcophagi wearing heavy make-up around their eyes. This has been referred to as ‘kohl’ and is very similar to modern-day eyeliner. Kohl is created from Galena, an ore that is also used to make lead. Yet, this wasn’t the only cosmetic product that the Egyptians manufactured. They wore paint on their eyes made from green malachite and made make-up brushes out of local trees. The elite were believed to have worn chalky powders as pale skin was a sign of nobility.


These could perhaps be the first recorded signs of the existence of cosmetics, dating back as far as 5000BC with the discovery of palettes on which cosmetic products were made. Ancient Romans also used cosmetics, although these extended to other parts of the body such as the nails and teeth. Similarly to the Egyptians, women had to wear make-up to be beautiful. In both cultures, cosmetics were also part of religious practices. Furthermore, both Egyptians and Romans created compounds to put on skin blemishes such as spots.

Elizabethan Cosmetics

This era is famous for glorifying the pale pallor of skin. If you had pale skin, then this was a sign of nobility and superiority. Rich people used a compound called Ceruse made from white lead and vinegar, which was actually poisonous. Queen Elizabeth, I was well-known for wearing this. In addition to Ceruse, women often applied makeup to their cheeks to show they were healthy. All of this make-up took its toll on the women that wore it, resulting in spots and wrinkles, as well as scarring and even death from lead poisoning.

Queen Elizabeth

Other methods of avoiding the darkening of the skin included wearing leather masks on the face when outside in the sun. People in Elizabethan times also applied raw egg to their faces to appear paler and hide wrinkles. This obsession with pale skin continued for a few centuries after this era. However, wearing too much make-up soon became associated with prostitutes, so wealthy women began to wear less and more subtle cosmetic products.

Around the time of the Elizabethan era, there are records of cosmetic surgeries. These include skin grafts that fixed the nose, although this was reserved for facial deformities.

19th And 20th Century Cosmetics

Around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, cosmetic surgeries were more widely used because of the invention of anaesthesia and the focus on safe and hygienic surgery. There were also advertisements in magazines for products that were marketed to improve your appearance. One example of this is a chin strap that supposedly reduced double chins. It was also not uncommon to advertise breast reducers, as women were frequently made to feel insecure about the size of their bust.

Later in the 20th century, plastic surgeons started to use silicone in procedures, for example using it as breast implants. Cosmetic surgery grew more popular and became a much safer industry.

Modern Treatments


The 21st century has seen a rise in non-invasive procedures that yield the same results as surgery but without any of the complications. We are lucky enough to have developed technology that carries out cosmetic treatments in a quick and comfortable manner. Many of these treatments don’t even require anaesthetic, which goes to show how far the cosmetic industry has come. There are hundreds of clinics offering cosmetic treatments, and even more companies creating different types of make-up.

At Harley Ultrasound, we keep up-to-date with developments in cosmetics, incorporating the most advanced and effective machinery into our treatments. We are proud to be part of the continuous progression of the cosmetic industry, and offer the newest treatments to ensure customer safety and satisfaction. This includes our HIFU Face Lift, which uses ultrasound to reactivate collagen in the skin to make it tighter and healthier.