The concept of enhancing your natural beauty has been around for thousands and thousands of years, and it’s pretty safe to say makeup has come a long way. But without our modern-day foundation formulas and mascara wands, what ingredients did ancient beauty gurus use to make up their skin? Well, let’s just say it was some pretty weird stuff. Below, we’ve rounded up four strange makeup ingredients that will have you thanking the makeup gods (a.k.a. cosmetic chemists) for revolutionizing products.


Stones and kohls (similar to charcoal) were perhaps one of the most important beauty products back in the day. Ancient Egyptians used kohl powders to line their upper or lower lash lines – other stone pastes like malachite (a green stone) were used as colorful pigments on the face.


In addition to colorful stones, ancient beauty communities ground up various colorful insects and beetles (yes, gagging) to create pigments for their eye makeup. Legend has it that Cleopatra used crushed carmine beetles as her signature deep red lipstick.

White Lead

White lead and rice powders were perhaps the most universal makeup products centuries ago – used as face makeup to make skin appear lighter. And you know what’s even worse? During the Renaissance, people used arsenic as a dupe for white lead. Not only was it dangerous, but the obsession with “whitening” makeup makes us queasy.


Before cream blush and matte liquid lipsticks existed, ancient people had to use alternative red pigment to create a flushed glow. Naturally, the blood of small animals was their go-to (insert emoji eye-roll face). Applied on the apples of the cheek and tapped on the lips, blood apparently created a really rosy finish. And while it probably pleased beauty gurus back in the day, it sounds pretty nauseating to us.


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