Unlike what many people may think, the beauty industry is not something recent and modern, but something that has existed for thousands of years, if not more. Makeup and beauty have always been a part of history. From the Ancient Greeks to women in the 1940s, the world has seen its fair share of wacky and wonderful makeup practices and beauty standards.

The historical evolution of beauty standards and practices spans across centuries and continents, reflecting the dynamic interplay of culture, tradition, and societal norms. In ancient civilisations such as Egypt and Greece, beauty standards were closely tied to health, symmetry and spiritual or divine attributes. With both men and women using ingredients to achieve this, natural substances such as oils, herbs and minerals were used to enhance their appearance and signify their social status. During the time of the Ancient Greeks, a unibrow was an undoubtedly desired feature - so much so to the point women would draw one on in order to meet the beauty standards!

During the Middle Ages, beauty had connotations of purity, modesty and influences from religious beliefs. The Renaissance period saw a revival of interest in many classical beauty ideals. Many of these were inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman aesthetics which are seen in the focusing on symmetry, proportion and balance. The ideal woman would be fair-skinned, rosy-cheek and have a plump figure amongst other desirable traits to European nobility. A plump figure was ideal during the Renaissance period because it displayed a woman could ford to buy food, hence reflecting health and leisure.

However, it could be said that some of the most significant changes in beauty standards were seen in the 18th and 19th centuries due to societal shifts and technological advancements. Pale complexion, delicate features, and corseted silhouettes were popularized during this period, reflecting romanticized notions of femininity and refinement. Furthermore, fashionable attire became more available to the middle class. 

Dramatic shifts in beauty standards were brought about by the 20th century and beyond, influenced by globalisation, media and more technological innovations. Iconic beauty icons such as Coco Chanel and Marilyn Monroe emerged in my 1900s, challenging conventional and traditional notions, defying societal norms and expressing individuality. Youth culture saw its rise particularly in the post-war era, resulting in media to have the chance to become even more profitable. This was particularly done through shaping beauty ideals around notions of youthfulness, vitality and glamour. 

In recent decades, there has been a growing emphasis on both diversity and inclusivity within the ever changing beauty industry, from movements advocating for representation across ethnicities and body types to gender identities. 


Throughout history, beauty standards and practices have been the result of cultural, social and economic influences. They display the values and aspirations of each era. Despite the forever changing ideals of beauty, the desire of self-care and personal transformation remains a universal aspect of human experience.