Stone scene depicts a wealthy lady seated in a round backed wicker chair with her feet resting on a footstool. Her four slave girls are busy around her: one holds a perfume flask, a second poses a mirror, a third waits with a small pitcher, and arranging her hair is the ornatrix an important member of the slave household who also saw to the rouge, lipstick and eyeshadow. Dated 1st Century B.C. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)
Who says ancient women couldn’t rock a face of makeup? As toxic and dangerous as their products may have been, previous centuries witnessed some makeup trends — some toxic, some long withstanding. And recently, the grave of a young Roman woman showed just how much some ancient ladies valued their cosmetics.
Makeup essentials through the centuries
In the 21st century, options for cosmetics to splurge on seem nearly endless. But while they may not have had the luxurious products we have today, ladies in ancient times weren’t half-bad with a makeup brush!
Women in ancient Rome also used cosmetics to enhance their looks. Roman women had their own forms of lifpgloss, eyeshadow, and foundation that would make any present-day makeup artist envious. Their dedication to their cosmetics went far beyond the material world.
The literal toxicity of artificial beauty
Unfortunately, the Romans didn’t have an organization like the FDA to approve their products. This meant that not only was their makeup not vegan or hypoallergenic —it was also toxic. Some Romans’ most popular face powders could be deadly. Anything for beauty, baby.
Ingredients such as lead (which we now know to be poisonous) were used as cosmetics in their purest forms. To make things worse, Roman people couldn’t exactly list all the poisonous chemical ingredients in the products they were putting on their faces. This may be what led to the premature death of one beauty queen.
Death by makeup
Normally, people who buried inside of sarcophaguses took their most treasured possessions into the afterlife with them. Many would demand they be locked up with all of their riches and most expensive items. However, one young Roman woman was buried with a rather unconventional set of treasures.
Archaeologists recently dug up a 3rd-century sarcophagus with a 25 to 30-year-old woman inside. Inside, they found a large collection of cosmetic items buried with her. As if they had dug up an ancient Kardashian, the young girl had been buried with her beauty products. She made sure to bring along her makeup, jewelry, mirror and some other sweet accessories for her travels to the other side. It goes to show that when it comes to cosmetics — even in the afterlife — you can never be too prepared.