We explain what cosmetics and makeup are, their history, types and how they are made. Also, what are natural cosmetics.

cosmetics makeup
From soap to makeup, cosmetics are at the service of beauty.

What are cosmetics?

Cosmetics (also called makeup) are a series of products related to personal hygiene or with the beautification, traditionally, of the female face.

Its use dates back to ancient times, as an ornament to distinguish successful warriors or hunters, or married women from unmarried women. They were also used to distinguish members of the royal class or aristocracy, or those citizens dedicated to the priesthood or initiated into some religious cult.

Indeed, The first evidence of the use of cosmetics dates back to Ancient Egypt, approximately 4,000 years before Christ. However, the term “cosmetic” was invented in the 17th century, when the first company was created to market personal hygiene products, such as lavender soaps or moisturizing creams, for consumption by the nobility.

the cosmetics, Currently, they are tied to aesthetic, hygienic and erotic norms. which are usually applied to the bodies of men and women, differently, to highlight certain desirable attributes and hide those that are not.

Today we consider cosmetics such as deodorants, shampoos, shower gels, skin creams and the various forms of makeup: paints, eyeshadows, dyes, lipsticks, perfumes, etc. We also use this name for substances used in theater, film and television, with which effects and conditions within the story are simulated (stage makeup).

See also: Colloid

How are cosmetics made?

Generally speaking, cosmetics are made up of three ingredients:

  • An active ingredient. One or more chemical substances intended to produce some superficial effect on the body.
  • A carrier or excipient. What is the solvent in which the chemical mixture of the active ingredient is usually contained and which is used for its application to the body.
  • Additives and brokers. That is, substances added to regulate, control or accelerate the effect of the active ingredient, or to give the mixture longevity.

Thus, the elaboration of cosmetics involves choosing, composing or mixing each of these ingredients in the proper proportions.

Generally, the chosen vehicles are derived from harmless natural or synthetic substances, such as beeswax, vegetable oils or silk, to which vitamins, antioxidants or ultraviolet protectors are added, in order to reduce their harmful effects on the skin.

The chemical composition of the active ingredient depends on the desired effect. For paints and blushes, for example, which are usually applied in powder form, carbon, titanium dioxide, iron oxide and other similar minerals are used to give a certain color to the face.

On the other hand, perfumes usually use some vegetable oil impregnated with the essence of fruits, flowers or other sources of pleasant aroma. The same happens with creams, usually composed of combinations of oils and plant extracts, whose purpose is to keep the skin lubricated and delay aging.

Finally, the additives and catalysts are of the chemical type, usually added to the mixture in the specialized laboratories of the pharmaceutical industry. In this way, it is guaranteed that the cosmetic survives its distribution, marketing and use in good conditions.

types of cosmetics

cosmetics makeup
Cosmetics for babies and children are less aggressive.

There are many ways to classify cosmetics, but probably the most comprehensive refers to the classification that distinguishes them according to their use. In this way, we would have:

  • Baby cosmetics. Such as moisturizing and diaper rash creams, colognes, neutral soaps and mildly aggressive cleaning products.
  • Face cosmetics. Like lipsticks, blushes, foundation powder, mascara, concealers, etc.
  • Skin cosmetics. Such as moisturizers, exfoliants, sunscreens, soaps, aftershave lotions, depilatory creams, etc.
  • Fragrant cosmetics. As deodorants, antiperspirants, perfumes, colognes, etc.
  • Nail cosmetics. Like nail paints, nail polishes, etc.
  • Oral hygiene cosmetics. Such as toothpastes, mouthwashes, etc.

natural cosmetics

Natural cosmetics or organic cosmetics are those that were made from natural products as little chemically treated as possible. This, in theory, makes them healthier products for the body, less endowed with risky substances, but at the same time of shorter duration and higher cost.

In some cases, these products aspire to pollute the ecosystem less, reducing the amount of chemicals that are dumped with the garbage. They are often animal-free, that is, they were produced without using live animals to test their possible negative effects on human health.

Continue with: Light Industry


  • “Cosmetic” on Wikipedia.
  • “Types of cosmetic products” on Portal Salud.
  • “Cosmetics” on Medline Plus in Spanish.
  • “Safe Use of Cosmetics” in S. Food & Drug Administration.
  • “Understanding: Manufacturing Makeup” (video) on TLC.