Makeup: How to Transform Into an Egyptian Goddess

   Eyes are the Window to the Soul…

and therefore require special attention.  The Ancient Egyptians agreed, and devised a calculated, specific method for application adopted by men and women of all ages and social classes. Among all of the makeup and beauty rituals the Ancient Egyptians developed, nothing epitomizes their ingenuity and creativity quite like their dramatic eye makeup look.  Not only did eye makeup improve the appearance, make the wearer seem more mysterious, bring out the whites of the eyes and make him or her appear more doe-eyed, but the practice had practical, medicinal and spiritual benefits as well.

Black eyeliner and applicator- integral products to the eye makeup look (Products Pictured: Maybelline New York eye studio gel eyeliner in black, Mac 266 angled eyeliner brush)

Dark lines drawn on the eyes helped minimize the glare from the sun, an important task since Egyptians spent so much time working outside.  Powder eyeshadow also supposedly had the ability to improve eye sight, although there is little evidence to support this.  Eyeshadow powders contained small amounts of lead compounds.  When put in contact with the skin, these compounds boosted the Egyptian’s immune systems by 240%, protecting them from eye infections and bacteria causing diseases.  Apparently, the eye makeup was also a natural disinfectant and helped block insects from entering the eye.  Although this all could be coincidental, the Egyptians most likely knew about the crazy health benefits from their eye makeup.  Medical books from the times show the powder mesdemet, which was used for eye makeup, as a remedy for medical complaints about the eye.  In terms of spiritual benefits, green eye powder was associated with the Gods Ra and Horus and eye makeup was associated with protection from both.  Overall, eye makeup was also seen as a way to ward off the evil eye.

Classic Egpytian eye makeup look (see similar picture at left for product details)

To get the classic look, mix dark powder shadow with animal fat, water or gum until the mixture becomes a paste.  Then apply shadow all over the lid and up to the brow bone, extending the look past the outer corner of the eye.  Next, line the entire rim of the eye (upper and lower lash lines) heavily with black liner, extending the line on the upper lash line until the end is even to the end of the eyebrow.  From here, draw a rectangle and connect the bottom of the rectangle with the liner on the bottom lash line.

Eyeliner and eyebrow look in the classic Egyptian style (Products used: L’oreal Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner, L’oreal Paris Carbon Black Telescopic Liquid Eye liner, Maybelline New York Eye Studio Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black, Mac 266 angled eyeliner brush, Benefit They’re Real! Mascara) 

If you are going to spend all that time perfecting your eye makeup, you should also think about beautifying the area around your eye, namely the eyebrow.  The Egyptians felt the same way, deeming their look incomplete without a thickly painted on, black eyebrow    to match their bold eye makeup.  Their eyebrow trick not only balanced the intense, dark eyeshadow and liner duo but also drew more attention to the eyes, aiding to the cosmetic appeal of the makeup.  For this reason, the trend spanned the ages, ranging from the time of the Old Kingdom through the era of the New Kingdom.  To achieve this classic style, use galena mixed with water or animal fat and paint on brow.  Start by forming a straight line at the beginning of the brow towards the inner corner.  Next, over exaggerate the natural shape of your brow by raising and dramatizing the arch. Elongate the end until the hairs form a point.

Times are Changing 

Green eye shadow, in the older style, swatched next to black eye shadow in the modern style (Products used: Two faced eye shadow in lucky charm (green), Urban Decay eye shadow in creep, (black))

Although the basic shape of the Egyptian cat eye withstood the test of time, slight variations marked the change in kingdoms, as technology improved the application process and trends changed.  If you want to achieve the look popularized during the Old Kingdom, use your finger to apply your base of green powder shadow made from malachite, an oxide of copper, called Unga.  Then line the upper and lower lash with galena as normal.  If the style of the Middle Kingdom is more your speed, apply Unga on just the inner tear duct of the eye and outer corner of the eye, as well as the eyebrow bone (the section of skin right below the arch of the eyebrow).  During this time, the kohl pencil was introduced and adopted.  This new technology allowed the wearer more control and precision when drawing the line.  These kohl pencils consisted of a slender stick with one circular end made of wood, glass, obsidian or bronze.  To use, dip the stick in water and then into the powder so it mixes on the brush.  From here, apply line as normal.  If modernity and “coolness” appeals to you, copy the look of the New Kingdom which ditched the green powder, and replaced it with a dark grey shadow.  Apply this all over the lid and then line eye as normal with a kohl pencil.


Did you Know…

Two of the most popular and classic eye makeup looks worn today are modeled off of Egyptian trends?  Thank you Ancient Egyptians!  While the looks have certainly been modernized, the cat eye and smokey eye seem to be standards in the makeup game.

The cat eye stems from the original use of eyeliner extending the eye shape and giving the eye a more almond, doe-like appearance.  While the liner look in ancient times was rectangular and extended straight outward, the cat eye look sported today is pointier and drags upward towards the brow bone.


Modern Day Cat Eye Look

(Products used: Benefit Gimme Brow! Volumizing Fiber Gel in Deep Brown, Mac Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Vintage Selection, Urban Decay powder eyeshadows from Naked 1 Palette in Virgin (all over lid, inner corner), Naked and Buck (crease), Mac 217 Eyeshadow Brush, L’oreal Carbon Black Telescopic Liquid Eyeliner, Benefit They’re Real Mascara) 

While we no longer wear eye makeup for medicinal purposes, we still follow the trend of packing dark shadow all over the lid like the Egyptians once did.  The Egyptians saw the allure and mystery associated with this trend, as the dark shadows masked the eye slightly.  Today, women still use this tactic when they model the “smokey eye”- a bold trend that exemplifies confidence, sexiness and intrigue.


A modern day smokey eye look

(Products used: Benefit Gimme Brow! Volumizing Fiber Gel in Deep Brown, Kiko Cream Crush Lasting Colour Eyeshadow in 05, Urban Decay powder eye shadows from Naked 1 palette in Creep (all over the lid), Naked (crease), Virgin  (inner corner), Gunmetal (patted on eye), L’oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner in Black, Mac 217 Eyeshadow Brush, Urban Decay Eyeshadow Brush, L’oreal Telescopic Carbon Black Mascara, Benefit They’re Real! Mascara

Red, the Color of Life

Two-in-One, blush and lipstick (Pictured: Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks in Pale Pink)

Although eye makeup was the main component of the Egyptian face, wealthy women often wore blush and lipstick to complete their looks.  These items were not as integral to the Egyptian beauty routine and were rarely seen on men or lower class individuals.  Upper-class women combined red ochre pigments with fat, water or gum resin until the mixture became solid enough to stick to their face.  Sticks or brushes were used to apply the cosmetic to their lips, and a pad was utilized to place the concoction on the cheeks.  The cosmetic was even applied to mummies’ cheeks and lips upon burial in order to make the body seem more lively and prepared for the afterlife (Strouhal 88).  Red lips are also often painted onto Egyptian statues and portraits, although this was not a particularly common practice.


Here’s a step-by-step tutorial showing you how you can achieve the classic Egyptian makeup look detailed above


To learn more about Egyptian beauty in a more general sense, click here.  For information about skincare and personal hygiene, click here and here.