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The history of Chinese women’s makeup is very long. After the change of dynasty, traditional Chinese makeup changed with the times, reflecting the changing customs and thoughts of each era.

Ancient China traditional makeup

Throughout the ages, women have had various methods to beautify themselves.

Compared with modern, ancient women were more conservative and implicit, but they also had their own “secret weapon”.

In the early cultural remains unearthed in the Warring States period, it is apparent from them that at that time, women were in the habit of thrusting and using rouge.

That is, more than 2000 years ago in China, cosmetics appeared.

At that time, cosmetics were made of pure natural plant and animal oils, and some natural spices.

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The general production process includes boiling, fermentation, filtering, etc. Compared with modern cosmetic production process is still relatively simple.

Therefore compared to modern women, women in ancient times had fewer types of cosmetics. Even so, they did not extinguish their will to dress up.

Basic makeup

a. Lead powder

Since the Shang dynasty, to make their skin look white and smooth, people applied lead powder directly to their faces, and it was the most common way of applying makeup at that time. The “Sheng Nong Classic of Herbs” also mentions that women adorn themselves with lead and lead powder.

However, it must be known that lead is highly toxic and extremely harmful to the skin, which is why ancient poetry has always lamented it.

b. Rice powder

In fact, before lead powder, people still have basic makeup products that are relatively safe, the earliest use of rice flour was made from rice.

“Qi Min Yao Shu (齐民要术)” also records in detail how rice flour is made. The selection of rice is very special. It is not directly used after being ground into fine powder, but also processed, soaked in cold water, fermented and decomposed, then cleaned and drained, then dried in the sun, and finally used for makeup.

However, the adhesion of rice flour is not good, and it is easy to fall off when moving.

Color makeup

Compared to modern times, ancient makeup is not so complicated and much simpler. This can be generalized into three categories, which are, blush, eyebrows, and lipstick.

a. Blush

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Blush, in ancient times, was called Yanzhi (胭脂 ; yān zhī) or rouge. Yanzhi is a kind of cosmetic which is made from a kind of flower named “Hong Lan” as the main raw material after being mixed.

After the Hun was introduced to the Central Plains, the production of Yanzhi was not only limited to plants, but also added oil, animal bone marrow, and so on. To make the texture thicker, shape the state of the lipstick to adapt to different needs. Since then, the use of Yanzhi has become more abundant.

b. Lipstick

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Lipstick is a popular fashion product since the pre-Qin dynasty. But in ancient times it was called Chun Zhi (唇脂 ; chún zhī) or Kou Zhi (口脂 ; kǒu zhī).

In ancient times, the color of lipstick was mostly red, which made the lips more beautiful, making people look prettier, younger, and more energetic. Therefore, it is deeply loved by ancient women.

The methods of painting women’s lips in past dynasties were different, but they can’t be separated from the similar aesthetic, that is, the smaller the lips, the better.

c. Eyebrows

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Drawing eyebrows began in the Warring States period, but tools for painting eyebrows had not appeared at that time. Beauty-loving women use burnt willow branches as eyebrow pens.

Later, Dai (黛 ; dài) appeared. It is a kind of mineral with a dark blue color. Before use, Dai must be placed on an inkstone and ground into a powder. Then, add water to mix.

In the Han dynasty, decorating the eyebrows became more common and also resulted in a new aesthetic. More and more women are drawing eyebrows.

Ancient aesthetics and makeup were different from modern times, but even so, they still can’t change the human heart that pursues beauty.

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