Face Paint: The Story of Makeup- Lisa Eldridge


My love affair with makeup is deep and long-lasting (although my essential ‘look’ of thick black eyeliner and minimal everything else has remained unchanged since I was a teenager.) This book is less a ‘how-to’ book- there are no tutorials, which in the age of vlogs seem redundant anyway- and more a ‘how we got here’, which is way more my thing.

Speaking of vlogs, Lisa Eldridge is a very well respected makeup artist, known for her online videos and partnerships with well-known makeup brands. If anyone knows how makeup works, it’s her.

The book itself is beautiful. It’s broken into sections, although not chronilogically. The history of makeup in different cultures is covered, through the focus of the main colours used throughout the ages: black (did you know that Japanese women used to paint their teeth black, as it was considered a sign of beauty? Me neither. Apparently it was brilliant at preventing tooth decay. I might mention it to my dentist next week.), red and white; there’s a section on how makeup developed, with special focus on the Hollywood effect; the key brands and players in the makeup industry; and how science and technology has developed the things we wear and what we expect. Seriously, I came away from the book full of interesting facts and my mind bursting with new information. Makeup, it seems, is not simple- for example, when I wear my eyeliner, I’m influenced by 1960s makeup, which was in turn inspired by a 1920s craze for all things Egyptian (thanks to Tutankhamun), which dated back thousands of years. When I wear blusher, I’m wearing the one makeup item that was deemed acceptable- if worn lightly- for Ancient Greek women and beyond.

My favourite parts, though, are the ‘Makeup Muses’ chosen by Eldridge as being significant contributors to the way we see and wear makeup. Alongside the usual suspects- Marilyn, Audrey, Liz- there are some that made the history buff in me squeal with delight- Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth Siddal are included, as is the much underrated and almost forgotten silent film star Anna May Wong.

This is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in what we put on our faces and why- and you might just learn a few things, too.

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