History of Foundation

A brief history of foundation

It's all about the base...

It can be argued that all great make-up starts with a good foundation. Whether your chosen formula is liquid, powder or mousse, we bet that foundation is one of the first things you reach for when you begin your daily make-up routine. But how exactly did it become one of our favourite products in our make-up bag?

Whether your weapon of choice is Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay in Place Makeup, £30, fabled.com, or you’re more the kind of girl who goes for NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, £32, fabled.com, the origins of the best foundation remain the same.

So sit back, relax, and let us take you on foundation’s journey through history.

The first foundations

As with most of the make-up we use today, foundation has its roots in Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians are widely thought of as the first generation who created and used foundation. Later on, the Ancient Greeks used white powder, often made from chalk or lead, as it was fashionable for women to be pale faced at the time. However, the use of toxic lead on the face would quite often result in fatal poisoning. Yikes.

Nowadays when it comes to powder foundation, we love Benefit Hello Flawless Powder Foundation, £25.50, fabled.com.

The middle ages

It was still considered fashionable for women to have pale skin in the middle ages, as tanned skin was associated with working outdoors, and therefore the poorer working class. Some women would even make themselves bleed in an attempt to have paler skin, bringing a totally different meaning to suffering for beauty.

Make-up in the 17th century

During the reign of Charles II in the 17th century, women would use darker make-up to counter the effects of constantly staying indoors to avoid catching the plague – ‘deathly pale’ was not the desired look. Women also wore ceruse, which was a highly toxic mixture of white lead and vinegar, and would apply egg whites to their faces for a glowy complexion.

The Victorian Era

Queen Victoria did not approve of women wearing make-up, and thought that it was suitable only for prostitutes or women of loose morals. Therefore, during her reign women wore little to no make-up at all. Women would still go to extreme lengths to keep their skin fair, with methods ranging from simply staying out of the sun to consuming chalk or iodine.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that women finally took a step back from bleaching their skin. Nowadays, if you are naturally pale, then we recommend the best foundation for pale skin.

Max Factor and the release of ‘pancake make-up’

In 1935, Max Factor completely revolutionised the concept of foundation with the first commercial foundation, ‘Pan-Cake’. Initially developed for on-screen actresses, it became so popular because it was a foundation and powder all in one. Pan-Cake was made with talc, rather than an oil base, and was applied to the skin using a damp sponge. Pan-Cake soon evolved into the ‘Pan Stik’ in 1947 – a Max Factor foundation that is still available today (£7.99, Boots).

The nineties and stick foundation

After taking the world by storm with her lipsticks, in 1992, Bobbi Brown released her iconic Skin Foundation Stick in unique yellow-toned shades. Prior to this, foundation had only really been available in warmer, pink-based shades. Almost 25 years later, the Skin Foundation Stick, £29.50, fabled.com, is still one of the world’s most popular foundations, thanks to its huge range of shades and buildable coverage.

Foundation today

Today there are hundreds of different foundations at your fingertips, and although some women now prefer to use BB cream, a lighter option, it still remains to be one of the biggest beauty products in the world. There’s also a much wider choice of formula now, with cushion foundations, such as Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Cushion, £30, fabled.com, becoming ever more popular.

Who knew foundation had been on such a long journey?

Shop the full range of foundations over at Fabled by Marie Claire, now.

Reading now

Popular beauty stories