Women, and some men, have been using make-up and other cosmetics to define their facial features, especially the eyes, and to improve their appearance for thousands of years. Evidence of this comes from the Bible and from Egyptian burials as far back as 10,000 BC. Mineral eyeshadow is placed on the upper eyelid to provide both depth and color.
In Ancient Egypt as today, women have used a black powder known as kohl to outline their eyes, stave off eye infections, reduce glare and improve their eyesight. The kohl that they used then was a blend of burnt almonds, copper, malachite, antimony, ash and ochre.
Between 800 and 700 years BC, the Greeks had a substance called ‘fucus’, which they made from lapis luzuli and malachite, crushed and powdered to produce vivid blue and green eye shadows. This and other cosmetics at the time formed a significant part of the Greek economy.
As the Roman Empire grew, the Romans became acquainted with the Iranians. The Iranians made the same use as the Egyptians of kohl to ward off the evil eye. The wicked Romans took the oils that the Egyptians used for sacred purposes and used them instead in sexual practices. They learned of medicinal uses for the oils and also employed them to ward off evil spirits.
Bronze Age India left evidence that kohl was employed by people of all ages, including young infants, to repel not only the evil eye, but bacteria and glare as well. This practice spread to Morocco and all over Africa. The substance they used then was derived from antimony and lead. History does not record how many people went blind or died from the poisonous heavy metals, but today’s kohl is completely safe.
Modern mineral eyeshadow is available in every color imaginable to match hair color, outfit and mood. The sky is the limit in the cosmetic universe and there is almost nothing that can’t be powdered, pressed and used as makeup. Dry powder may be brushed on the lids, or it may be dampened with water for a more vibrant effect.