While France is now world renowned as the home of high class cosmetics there are many places in the world that have a longer cosmetics history than France. As early as 4000 BC the affluent Egyptian women were wearing cosmetics made from copper minerals. They also painted their eyebrows and wore perfumed oils. Also, the ancient Chinese, Greeks and later the Romans had highly developed cosmetics industries leading Platus to say that a woman without paint is like food without salt.
However, it was really in the 15th and 16th centuries, when cosmetics started to be used by the European aristocracies, that France and also Italy began to make a name for themselves as leaders in cosmetics manufacture. Pretty soon France had distinguished itself as the leader in the cosmetic arts, and also in perfumes, by combining ingredients in the laborious processes that created the first modern cosmetics.
Before long, women of all classes were wearing rouge and lipstick to suggest health, wealth and happiness. The French really led the way, and started to replace the most poisonous and deadly ingredients such as lead, antimony sulfide, mercuric sulfide and belladonna with less harmful ingredients.
This history has continued into the present day and despite some important contributions to cosmetics from Americans such as Max Factor, and the influence of Hollywood on what people around the world regard as beautiful, France remains the spiritual home of beauty and cosmetics products. Even the briefest look at the names of the very best cosmetics companies and cosmetics products will show the influence of France. The names of the products are overwhelmingly French, suggesting their heritage and referring to the name of the place they were created or the person who created them.
While today’s cosmetics industry is dominated by four or five multinational corporations, France still plays a vital role in both creating their products and giving them the allure and prestige that is required by customers. If you are interested in how and where the cosmetics are created, then many French regions will still have operating manufacturers who will give you a tour of their premises. Perhaps a little more interesting and romantic would be to visit one of the many cosmetics museums located around the country.
Finally, if shopping is more your thing, then you really have to head for Paris where you can buy all of the world’s and particularly France’s best cosmetics, at a price.