MAKE-UP AND THE NEW CONCEPT OF PERSONAL CARE
Women’s make-up, the products we use to define or alter our facial features, has been around since time immemorial. Women have always worn make-up, which had different emotional, psychological and social implications in different periods in history. Today the social significance of beauty is well-established and new needs and desires concerning not only our appearance but our physical and inner wellbeing are emerging. And Italy, the world-renowned symbol of style and elegance, is in a privileged position as regards the sector and its latest trends. It is no coincidence that the country that gave us “The Great Beauty” is the leading global manufacturer of cosmetics worn by women in the five continents. 65% of all make-up products sold throughout the world is made in Italy, which is itself ranked the fourth highest country in terms of make-up consumption in Europe (behind Germany, France and the United Kingdom). It is also a formidable trendsetter: if a new product is successful in Italy, the chances are that success will be replicated in the rest of the world. Last century, all the leading multinationals in the industry – in Europe, America and Japan – opened branches in Italy, making an important contribution to the economy and strengthening the reputation of excellence of Italian cosmetics. The make-up production chain in Italy is long and competitive and is in continuous and rapid evolution. Today, research and innovation are driving a profound shift towards cosmeceutics: this fusion of beauty and pharmaceutical treatments has resulted in a new category of cosmetics with functional and beneficial active ingredients. Blushers, mascaras and lipsticks are no longer merely expected to enhance a woman’s looks and counter the inevitable onslaught of the passing years, but they must help protect and keep the areas they are applied to looking good. The association beauty – health is back in vogue, an association which was at the heart of the culture of wellbeing embraced by ancient populations and documented throughout the history of make-up.
In ancient Egypt, where cosmetics were first used, different coloured creams were widely applied to lighten and even out the complexion, also acting as effective insect repellents. Make-up had different functions: religious (it was thought to please the gods and protect from evil), aesthetical and therapeutic. The eyes were the focus of this belief and kohl, used to draw the distinctive thick line so typical of the Egyptians, provided real protection against bacterial infections of the eye. A recent study by the French institute CNRS and the Louvre museum has shown that the first make-up canonized by history, actually contained lead salts which boost the body’s immune system to fight off bacteria. The Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with the beneficial properties of make-up, and scientific essays were often veritable beauty manuals. Closer to modern day, the 1900s heralded social transformations which introduced the use of make-up as we know it today. In the first ten years of the century, make-up became, for the first time, a source of personal pleasure and not just a way of correcting defects, thanks to the research of people like Helena Rubinstein, who famously said “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones”. The very first flesh-coloured face powder, which replaced white powder, was invented in 1906, while the first foundation, created for the film industry then widely used outside the studios in the Thirties, dates back to 1914. The real revolution however took place with the growth in popularity of the cinema and the explosion of models and icons that women wanted to emulate. A new professional figure emerged – the make-up artist – with Serge Lutens leading the field. Make-up had become an “accessory” that no woman could do without and it became more and more practical, long-lasting and waterproof. It was only with the advent of the twenty-first century that the concept of make-up that is good for us re-emerged, thanks to the “natural look” trend and the introduction of specific, hi-performance functional active ingredients like hyaluronic acid.
The latest therapeutic make-up trends come from Korea and feature moisturising and nourishing coloured creams, a multi-purpose concept following the letters of the alphabet which has been further studied and widened in Italy. If skin care and make-up are on the same plane, make-up is being increasingly analysed in relation to our psychological wellbeing. Just as today’s woman feels she has to develop her own personal idea of beauty and accept the way she is, learning to make the most of what she has. And celebrate herself. “Beauty is no other than the promise of happiness”, said Stendhal. Especially if it shows our personality, improves our self-confidence and restores faith in ourselves in moments of difficulty. “Make-up should be a way of expressing our creativity, of having fun and revealing our identity” claims Regina Harris, make-up artist and American style icon. In modern-day society, where we often lose control of the tools at our disposal, becoming dependent on them, women need to nurture their inner beauty. This has given rise to “look therapy” or “make-up therapy”: a new concept in make-up to help us refresh our outward appearance, overcome insecurities and acknowledge our inner resources, embracing a new dimension of wellbeing, even if you have a disability. This is the aim of “Make your smile Up”, a project launched by the Centro Documentazione Handicap in Bologna and the young pedagogist and make-up artist, Martina Tarlazzi, who has years of experience working with the disabled and people in difficulty, facing issues concerning their bodies and their identity. Her first workshop, “Ma come ti trucchi?!?” (“How not to do your make-up?!?), focused on how to look after your skin and the most suitable make-up to accentuate your natural beauty. “Beauty will save the world”, wrote Dostoyevsky. We would do well to believe in this concept, as we take a step back and rediscover the first dimension of beauty: original beauty.