In Ancient Egypt, the image of an individual often acted as a substitute for the body in the afterlife. Therefore, in funerary paintings, both males and females are shown in their best clothes, wigs and makeup. In life, the Egyptians utilised a variety of pigments to adorn the face. The most predominant of these was kohl, which was used to line the eyes. Kohl came from two sources: a green eye paint made of mineral malachite and a black liner derived from galena, a form of lead ore. Women used red ochre to form a light blush for cheeks and lips, while henna was used to paint the nails and dye the hair. Cosmetics were also applied for practical reasons – the military wore it to protect their eyes from the intense glare of the African Sun. Moreover, it had a religious resonance – each day, in the holy sanctuary of the temple, the god was anointed with makeup as a symbol of celestial regeneration.
Applicator – The applicator was used to add rouge to the lips. It was made of wood, ebony or ivory.
Wig – Because of lice infestations, Egyptians often shaved their head. They wore elaborate wigs of real human hair, which were adorned with flowers and braids.
Cosmetic spoons – These spoons are highly decorative – the one shown here is fashioned in the shape of a swimming girl.
Bronze mirror – The Egyptians used mirrors of polished bronze. The handle was often carved in the form of an Egyptian goddess.
Cosmetic jars – The Egyptians’ special oils and unguents were stored in containers made from glass, faience ceramic and stone.