The Evolution of Beauty through history
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Coco Chanel quoted “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself” and Hume wrote “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty (Hume 1757,136)”
It is very interesting that in the 21st century, Beauty can be perceived as anything and the rules to conventional beauty does not apply anymore.
Beauty has evolved so much through the ages and what was taboo 80 years ago is now high fashion and on everyone’s Instagram and Snapchat feeds.
Let’s look at a few beauty “trends” and how it has evolved through the years and your perception of these trends as beautiful or a fad.
1. Pale Faces
During the 18th century, a pale face was very desirable. Woman would mix vinegar and white lead together and powder this over their faces. Other popular products were arsenic and white chalk that the ladies would eat to whiten their faces.
But eventually these whitening agents started to break down the skin, causing scarring and also illness. Many women lost their eyebrows as a result of using too much lead-based make-up and would glue on fake ones made from mouse pelts.
2. No hair, don’t care
In the middle ages the most attractive part of a woman’s face was her forehead and so woman plucked out their eyelashes and shaved off their eyebrows to accentuate this part of their face.
In the 20th century, X-rays where used to remove unwanted body hair. Women would be exposed to the deadly rays for up to 20 hours. I think I would rather live with my hairy legs than with skin cancer.
3. Eyes and Teeth
Poisonous plants like Belladonna, a hallucinogen and poisonous, were used to dilate women’s pupils and the leaves were rubbed on their cheeks for a flushed appearance.
Have you ever been in that embarrassing moment with spinach stuck between your teeth? In Japan during the 1400-1800 the practice of “Ohaguro” was a custom of dying one’s teeth black.
Iron filings were dissolved in vinegar and applied once a day to teeth. This practice wasn’t all that bad because it was found to prevent tooth decay. Black teeth were a symbol of Imperialism and Wealth during that time period.
Eyebrows are revolutionary and forever changing. From as early as 1920, we had women inspiring us in how we perceive our eyebrows. In 1920, thin eyebrows with a slight curve was popular and through 1930-1940 the more natural, softer eyebrow with a more defined arch was seen on Grace Kelly and Kathrine Hepburn.
In the 50’s and 80’s the full, bold and thick brows became very popular. All natural with very little grooming. The women that inspired this look were Marilyn Monroe, Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford.
In the 90’s eyebrows went back to the 60’s and we saw very thin eyebrows in fashion again. The “skinny brow” was trending.
Going into the year 2000 and a new millennium gave birth to a new species called Millennials. They took beauty and fashion and combined the two together and broke all the rules.
In 2014 we saw “Accessorized Arches”. Models on runways were wearing faux eyebrow rings that set the trend for other brow accessories.
In 2015 the Instagram Brow revolution with #OnFleek took the industry by storm with every young girl wanting Kylie Jenner eyebrows.
Then eyebrows got weird in 2017-2018. Here are a few examples of edgy, out of this world brow looks:
Skincare and Facial treatments
Over the decades we have seen many skincare treatments, starting with Cleopatra with her milk and honey treatments all the way to the 21st century where skincare is more sophisticated and modernized.
An interesting treatment that is becoming more popular is the Diamond Facial. Trace elements of diamonds are incorporated into various skincare products from facial cleansers, scrubs and moisturizers. The effects are great for cell renewal, hydration and youthfulness.
The 24K Gold Facial is a big craze in Hollywood and the rest of the world, but has actually been around since the Roman and Egyptian times. Gold sheets are placed on your skin like a mask and your skin is brighter, rejuvenated and hydrated afterwards.
The “Glass skin” trend from Korea has also grown in popularity and has become quite an obsession. What is it? Basically, you moisturize, moisturize and moisturize some more. When your complexion becomes super moisturized and saturated with humectants it starts to look like glass.
Now we know where beauty has been and where beauty is going but are we really any better or more evolved than the ancient Greeks or medieval Europeans?
Maybe one day our great-great-granddaughters will look back at our fashion and beauty trends and say “what were they thinking?”
As educators in Beauty Therapy, we commit to keeping up with the latest trends and needs of the industry and consumer. We want to bring our clients what they need, which is variety with phenomenal results. We are committed to introducing newer and the latest and greatest trends to our course training offerings.
For further information on the Beauty Therapy Institute group of training colleges and the various courses we offer, please contact:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website: www.beautytherapyinstitute.co.za
Blog written by: Rozanne van der Merwe, Beauty Therapy Institute Durban.
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