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A Brief Glance at the History of Gender and Makeup

Pride month may be over, but it's never to late to explore concepts of gender and identity, particularly in the beauty world. The history of Gender and Makeup is forever growing, and the relationship began centuries ago.

As Pride Month comes to a close, it’s crucial that we continue to uplift queer voices and ensure that everyone has the right to self-expression and human dignity. Therefore, this is a reminder that makeup has no gender and everyone is welcome in the Boafo Beauty community!

Today's Social Climate

As new generations discard traditional gender roles and express a greater interest in makeup that caters to all genders, social media continues to redefine beauty for people of all backgrounds. From international stars like Bretman Rock to Nikki de Jager, there has never been a greater number of role models for youth struggling with sexuality and identity.

Social media has also dismantled the antiquated perception that cosmetics are only for women; male K-pop stars and influencers alike communicate that makeup is truly a form of self-expression for all. In fact, recent studies from Allied Market Research indicate that male personal care is expected to reach $166B in value by the end of 2022.

Why did Makeup Become Gendered in the First Place?

Although makeup was previously considered “feminine”, it’s important to remember that makeup has existed for thousands of years and was not always assigned to a certain gender. The history of makeup is nothing short of fascinating and even traces back to 50,000 years ago when neanderthals displayed some of the first signs of advanced cognition by using seashells as vessels to mix cosmetic pigments. According to the University of Bristol, this indication of symbolic thinking and the use of makeup to convey one's identity revealed an important milestone for humanity as a social species.

King Tutankhamun

In ancient Egypt, scented oils were thought to provide protection from the sun and were often worn by men. Galena cosmetics, originating from ancient Egypt, were used to adorn the eyes in addition to other materials such as green malachite. Commonly known as Kohl, both men, women, and children have lined their eyes with this black cosmetic across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia for centuries. Although Kohl has cosmetic purposes, it was also worn to protect the eyes from the sun and has historically been made with galena, stibnite, and charred frankincense.

Queen Victoria

Within Ancient Rome, both men and women were encouraged to use hygienic products like soap, but men who were associated with makeup were labeled with shamelessness and immorality due to an association between sex work and makeup, along with a perception that makeup defied values of chasity, and encouraged deceit. The Byzantine Empire eventually became known for its "vanity," due to the widespread use of makeup.

In the Western world, lead makeup was worn in the eighteenth century by men and women to lighten the face and convey social status through a pale complexion. Both men and women sported grandiose styles, such as powdered wigs and heavily drawn in brows. However, makeup was declared “vulgar” by Queen Victoria during the mid-eighteenth century; this was a time when the Church of England wielded powerful influence over the British monarchy and perpetuated the idea that makeup equated to self-conceit, a view often supported by Biblical stories involving Jezebel and other figures. Thus began the decline of dramatic makeup and the perception that women should instead don a more natural, dainty look. It wasn’t until the 1920s when obvious makeup looks like red lipstick regained popularity and became mass marketed towards women.

Remember: Makeup is for Everyone!

To this day, the perception that makeup equates to femininity and vanity persists despite the fact that makeup can be used for the same reasons across all genders—to enhance one’s natural features, cover blemishes, or be used as a tool to explore one’s own sense of identity. Makeup has always served a historical purpose greater than catering to a single gender, but rather provided all humans with a tool to communicate social status, protect or cleanse the body, or alter appearance. However, modern, harmful narratives still claim that makeup is worn to "deceive" or provide a mask for women to hide their true selves. While there has been great progress to expand the makeup industry and provide greater inclusivity, there is still much work to be done if we are to truly dismantle toxic ideas revolving around masculinity and promote the idea that makeup can empower and build confidence for those who choose to wear it.

Here at Boafo Beauty, we believe that makeup should be bold and unapologetic, just as we should live boldly and fearlessly in our own lives. Create a dramatic look with our Ohemaas Eyeshadow Palette or Colorful Lash Collection!

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