The History of Makeup Artists

Most of you are probably wondering when the first makeup artist ever painted on a person’s face. You might initially think it was in Paris in the 1800s when they held the first fashion shows. Or it might even dart further back to England in the 1500s, during the reign of Shakespeare over the Globe theatre. But, in truth, data suggests that makeup artists started their artistry as far back as 5000 years ago when servants adorn the rich Egyptian women’s features with oils and kohl.

Over hundreds of years to follow, makeup was a luxury only the rich and royal apply to accentuate their features. From Romans applying chalk to whitewash their faces to Victorian women using deadly, toxic nightshades to enlarge their eyes, the original makeup artists were the wealthy themselves, servants to the rich, or the theatre actors who did all their work makeup.

Makeup artists began to make leaps and bounds in the development of their artistry during the twentieth century, as well as the artistry’s reputation as a profession, which can be credited to several distinct areas that were also developed during the century like fashion, cinema, and most significantly, feminism. By the 1920s, cinema grew to become the trend, and film actresses needed makeup artists to paint their faces. Since then, with more financially independent women and a more prosperous middle class in America, makeup wasn’t just for the extremely rich. Numerous young women imitated the makeup they saw actresses wore; heavily kohled eyes and lips in the shape of cupid’s bow were their preferred look.

The 1920s was also the start of fashion shows becoming mainstream, and the industry kept hiring makeup artists to create fashion looks for models. Over the twentieth century, like fashion, film, and women’s part in professional settings improved and gained respect and popularity, so did the conventionally feminine role of a makeup artist. People started noticing how paramount makeup artists were to developing aesthetics and themes in visual arts. This was manifested on a grand scale when the first Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling was given in 1981. By the end of the twentieth century, makeup artistry became an established career track that numerous creatives fancied pursuing through schooling administered by the newly established makeup schools all over North America.

Makeup and cosmetics have been a huge factor in establishing a certain standard of beauty since the days of Cleopatra to the present’s multibillion-dollar beauty industry. Trends varied throughout history and fortunately, so did the progression of cosmetics. Makeup artistry has evolved from the typical use of lead, copper, or even the leftover smirch of a burnt match to produce “color” by someone of wealth and power to enhance their appearance to today’s products that have to undergo safety measure and rigorous testing to ascertain that the products artists use won’t be harmful to the skin. For example, instead of using blood to color the lips, makeup artists have thousands of lipstick shade options, or rather than using leeches to extract the color from the face, the artists can use a lighter foundation.

Now, several years into the twenty-first century, it’s either the worst or the best time to aspire to be a makeup artist. With the appearance of social media, such as Youtube and Instagram, the beauty and makeup community has exploded. Makeup artists such as Nikkie Tutorials and Jaclyn Hill, who established channels around 5-6 years ago with only a small number of followers, now influence and inspire millions of supporters. And for the first time, makeup artists aren’t just faceless figures in the media’s background but are stars themselves. These elite few popular makeup artists live very extravagant lifestyles, from going on vacations on the dollars of big makeup brands to hanging out with different celebrities and being given lots of makeup every month. In no other era have makeup artists been so valued.

The drawback of this time is that makeup artistry is quickly turning democratized. These few significant makeup artists educate millions of people, young and old, worldwide, the stuff that people once only got to know by paying to study in a makeup school. Now, there are 12 and 13-year old children who can slay a makeup routine better than some cosmetology teachers, all by avidly following their favorite social media makeup artists. Like the fashion industry, some debate that social media has catalyzed an abundance of aspiring makeup artists for whom there won’t eventually be enough jobs.

Although, this isn’t exactly detrimental for the makeup artistry industry. Makeup artists will still be as important as an author is to book writing or as a director is to film. Indeed, there will be a lot more people venturing into the makeup artistry field as a profession in the future, whether for fashion and cinema or to seek the extravagant lifestyles celebrity makeup artists have.