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The Testimony of the Bible and History on Cosmetics

 

Biblical Evidence

Presuppositions:

1.) Scripture is sufficient for teaching us how to live:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Scripture can make us “perfect.”  Every word of “all scripture” is profitable for teaching us.  The profitability of Scripture includes the large portions of the Bible that are not direct commands or didactic statements, but narratives and examples.  We are to get teaching from the examples of Scripture: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4); cf. Romans 4:23; 1 Corinthians 9:10.

2.) Scripture also has only one correct interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).  We cannot allow our interpretation of verses to be determined by what we want, by our culture or pressure from the world-system (1 John 2:15-17), by “majority rule” (Prov 14:12; 16:25; 30:12), or by fear of what people will think (Prov 29:25).  We must, believing that God is a good God, without any prejudice whatever come to Scripture, passionately wishing to completely follow God in whatever He says.  When we repented and were born again, we gave up our life to live the the way that Christ wants (Luke 9:24), and we are to continue in that attitude, out of love for our Savior.  James 3:17 states that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”  The word “easy to be intreated” (eujpeiqh/ß) is defined as “pertaining to being easily persuaded, with the implication of being open to reason or willing to listen — ‘one who is easily persuaded, open to reason’”[i] and thus one who is “compliant [and] obedient.”[ii]  If we have true wisdom, we will be willing and wanting to be persuaded by whatever God has revealed on this subject, and will immediately, fully, and wholeheartedly obey the Scriptures.  We must not have the attitude of someone who must be forced to believe the truth.  This attitude towards the holy Word of God, in the area of cosmetics or any other area, is the “wisdom [that] descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:15).  Therefore, desiring only the glory of God and passionately wishing to obey to the fullest extent every tittle of the Bible out of love for our Savior, let us examine the teaching of Scripture on this subject.

The Passages Which Mention Cosmetics:

Passages where cosmetics are condemned:

1.) And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. (2 Kings 9:30)

“This casts light enough on Jezebel’s painting, &c., and shows sufficiently with what design she did it, to conquer and disarm Jehu, and induce him to take her for wife, as Jarchi supposes” (Adam Clarke).

“Jezebel painted her face . . . according to a custom . . . of staining the eyelids with a black powder made of pulverized antimony, or lead ore mixed with oil, and applied with a small brush on the border, so that by this dark ligament on the edge, the largeness as well as the luster of the eye itself was thought to be increased.” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

Note that Revelation 2:20 indicates that Jezebel wanted “to teach and to seduce [God’s] servants to commit fornication.”  Jezebel, a primary model for the ungodly, “cursed woman” (2 Kings 9:34; cf. Revelation 2:20),  painted her face for the purpose of seduction.  Scripture records no other purpose for cosmetics than this.[iii]

2.) And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life. (Jeremiah 4:30)

“Though thou rentest thy face with painting”: “Reference is here particularly made to the practice of harlots to allure men.” (Adam Clarke)

“Rentest thy face”: Judah is here compared to a harlot, who, in her eagerness to apply the paint, tears or furrows the lids. (Family Bible Notes, Justin Edwards).

The desperate condition of Israel is finally pictured under the figure of a harlot who even in her desperate hour still tries to allure the enemy by her wiles (v.30). Her “lovers” (lit., “paramours”) will be unimpressed and will despise her. . . . The courtesan will be murdered by her lovers . . . In order to allure her enemies (former paramours) from their murderous intentions, Judah seeks to improve her appearance by well-known coquettish devices. One of these is enlarging the eyes with paint. . . . This was done by the use of black mineral powder (antimony, stibium), as the Egyptian women did in ancient days and as Arab women—and many women in the western world—do today. . . . The word translated “lovers” is not the usual Hebrew one for illicit lovers. It is the masculine plural participle of . . . agab , “to have inordinate affection, lust”; BDB, s.v.). This unusual verb is used only here and in Ezek 23:5, 7, 9, 12, 16, 20, where Samaria and Jerusalem are personified as harlots. The lovers here are not idols but foreign nations. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

“Now here he compares her to a harlot abandoned by all the lewd ones that used to make court to her. . . .  She rents her face with painting, puts the best colours she can upon her present distresses and does her utmost to palliate and extenuate her losses, sets a good face upon them. But this painting, though it beautifies the face for the present, really rends it; the frequent use of paint spoils the skin, cracks it, and makes it rough; so the case which by false colours has been made to appear better than really it was, when truth comes to light, will look so much the worse.

“And, after all, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair;

all thy neighbours are sensible how low thou art brought;

the Chaldeans will strip thee of thy crimson and

ornaments, and then thy confederates will not only

slight thee and refuse to give thee any succour, but

they will join with those that seek thy life, that

they may come in for a share in the prey of so rich

a country.”

Here seems to be an allusion to the story of Jezebel, who thought, by making herself look fair and fine, to outface her doom, but in vain, 2Ki 9:30, 33. See what creatures prove when we confide in them, how treacherous they are; instead of saving the life, they seek the life; they often change, so that they will sooner do us an ill turn than any service. And see to how little purpose it is for those that have by sin deformed themselves in God’s eyes to think by any arts they can use to beautify themselves in the eye of the world. (Matthew Henry)

Here again, cosmetics are condemned.  Scripture associates them again with the appearance of a harlot.  No exception is made for “moderate” use, whatever that is supposed to be.

Consider also that this is the only verse in Scripture where a woman seeks to “make [herself] fair” (Hithpael [reflexive action] of yafah, to be beautiful).  God says that godly women are beautiful (Ezekiel 16:13—without cosmetics godly Israel was “exceedingly beautiful,” [Qal [basic tense form] of yafah, to be beautiful + m’od, “exceedingly”;  Song 4:10, the spouse was very “fair” (Qal of yafah);  she was “beautiful” (Qal of yafah, Song 7:1), so that her husband asked, “How fair [Qal of yafah] and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!” (Song 7:6).  We see that godly women are beautiful—in the eyes of God (Song 4:10; 7:1, 6; Ezekiel 16:13), their husband (Song 4:10; 7:1, 6), and simply as a fact (Ezekiel 16:13), and thus to all who agree with reality as God declares it, and thus in the eyes of all godly people—without trying to make themselves so with cosmetics, while ungodly women try to make themselves beautiful with them, but they fail—their attempt to make themselves beautiful is “in vain” (Jeremiah 4:30).

3.) And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments (Ezekiel 23:40)

This verse pictures Samaria and Jerusalem as women who are involved in “adulteries . . . [and] whoredoms” (v. 43), who are “lewd women” and “harlot[s]” (v. 44).  The prophet, under inspiration, deliberately includes a mention of cosmetics on these harlot-women.  Ezekiel—and the Spirit who inspired his canonical book—considers this use of paint is an ungodly characteristic of prostitutes which contributes to the picture of these women as loose, lustful, and sinful.  When God clothes Israel, and makes her “exceeding beautiful,” He puts no cosmetics on her (Ezekiel 16:13);  when she rebels and goes her own way, she puts cosmetics on (Ezekiel 23:40).  There is a definite and deliberate contrast between the godly absence of cosmetics and the ungodly appropriation of them.

Selected Commentaries on Ezekiel 23:40:

“Paintedst.” Kachalt aineych, rendered by the LXX. estibizou touv ofyalmouv sou; “thou didst paint thine eyes with stibium,” and Vulgate circumlinisti stibio oculos tuos, “thou didst paint round thine eyes with stibium,” or lead ore; whence it is called in Arabic kochl, and in Syriac kecholo, and koochlo. (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge)

“Thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments.” This is exactly the way in which a loose female in Bengal adorns herself to receive guests. She first bathes, then rubs black paint around her eyes, and then covers her body with ornaments.-WARD’S Customs. (Adam Clarke)

“for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments;” just as harlots do to make themselves agreeable to their lovers; who use washes and paint, as Jezebel did, and dress themselves in their best clothes, and adorn themselves in the best manner they can. Harlots had their particular attire, by which they were known, Pr 7:10 and they not only used bagnios or baths, but washes for their face, to make them look beautiful; and particularly painted their eyes, to make them look larger; for large eyes in women, in some nations, were reckoned very handsome, particularly among the Greeks: hence Juno, in Homer {d}, is called bowpivthe ox eyed, as some translate it; or rather the large eyed Juno: and the Grecian women, in order to make their eyes large, made use of a powder mixed with their washes, which shrunk their eyebrows, and caused their eyes to stand out, and look fuller and larger; and such was the paint which Pliny, {e} calls stibium, and says, it was by some named “platyophthalmon”, because in the beautiful eyebrows of women it dilated the eyes; and it seems that painting with something of this nature was used by the Jewish women, in imitation of the Heathens, for the same purpose, especially by harlots; hence the phrase of rending the face, or rather the eyes, with paint, Jer 4:30, so the Moorish women now, as Dr. Shaw {f} relates, to add a gracefulness to their complexions, tinge their eye lids with “alkahol,” the powder of lead ore; and this is performed by first dipping into this powder a small wooden bodkin, of the thickness of a quill, and then drawing it afterwards through the eyelids, over the ball of the eye; and which is properly a rending the eyes indeed, as the prophet calls it, with powder of “pouk,” or lead ore.” (John Gill)

Black paint was spread on the eyelids of beauties to make the white of the eye more attractive by the contrast, so Judah left no seductive art untried. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown)

These two cities seduced foreign nations as a harlot would lure lovers with her cosmetics and clothing, even offering them a feast in which they used the incense and oil of the Lord’s sanctuary (vv.40-41). All sorts of sordid “men” responded to the wooing, even drunkards from the desert—most likely a reference to the Arabians, Moabites, Edomites or Sabeans (cf. note at v.42). These “lovers” gave Judah the hire of harlots—bracelets, crowns, etc. (v.42). (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

Summary of the three definite passages:

In each one of these passages, cosmetics are associated with harlots, fornication, and ungodly, wicked women.  One verse should suffice for us, but how can we say that God does not condemn cosmetics when we have “two or three witnesses” establishing this teaching (2 Corinthians 13:1)?  The passages do not say that only “excessive” use or putting on “too much” is condemned.  The item itself is viewed negatively. How is a woman who wants to follow Scripture to know that a certain amount is “moderate” and a certain amount is “excessive” and so is then sinful?  How can one know, remembering that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), that a given amount is not enough to bring Scriptural condemnation, when the Bible never hints that a little bit is OK, but simply condemns the item itself?  Furthermore, God, and godly people in Scripture, say that godly women are beautiful—and since God says so, it is objectively true that they are indeed so—without putting any cosmetics on.  In deliberate contrast, ungodly women try to “make themselves fair” with cosmetics, but “in vain.”  God’s way of adorning a holy woman and making her beautiful includes no cosmetics (Ezekiel 16:13);  in contrast, unholy women use cosmetics (Ezekiel 23:40). If we go by Scripture alone, would we not conclude that cosmetics actually make a woman look ungodly—and ugly?

Two further possible references:

Isaiah 3:16:

Is. 3:16 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:

Here, the word “wanton” comes from the Hebrew saqar (rqc), which may refer to cosmetics.  K-B reads, “the cognate languages offer two possibilities: —a. MHeb. rqs qal to look at, nif. to be looked at; JArm. råqVs to look; Syr. s´qar to observe, regard with an oblique, squinting look (Gesenius-B. following Payne Smith 2721); —b. MHeb. råqDs to colour red, pi. to paint one’s face; JArm. sbst.a∂rVqIs red colour of facial make-up; Syr. s´qar to make red, sbst. s´qaœrtaœ red colour; cf. Arb . . . pi. (Jenni Pi{el 245): pt. pl. fem. twør;VqAcVm (var. iAvVm): with MˆyÅnyEo Is 3:16: several possibilities emerge which are suggested by the cognate languages, on which see Gradwohl Farben 84: —a. following the versions, to make seductive glances, ogle, blink, wink Gesenius-B.; KBL; Zorell Lex.; König Wb. 470a; —b. to paint the eyes with a red colour, use facial make-up, on which see Gradwohl Farben 84 and also p. 22, rqc by metathesis < *qrc ˘ *qOrDc; on these alternatives see also Wildberger BK 10:138; [note that qrc also seems to mean (from cognates) “to colour something red . . . to put on make-up, . . . red colour, make-up; . . . to put on make-up, rub, paint . . . red coloured make-up”]—c. with respect to the versions the first suggestion is preferable.”

The Jewish Targum on Isaiah 3:16 reads, “they walk with their eyes painted” (John Gill, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, on Isaiah 3:16).

Thus, while it is not certain, Isaiah 3:16 could well refer to cosmetics as well.

On Proverbs 6:25, “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids,” commentators state: “One of the cautions of this instruction [is to] avoid alluring beauty. . . . eyelids—By painting the lashes, women enhanced beauty” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary). “[T]o paint the eye-lids [is here spoken of]. I have many Asiatic drawings in which this is expressed. They have a method of polishing the eyes with a preparation of antimony, so that they appear with an indescribable lustre; or, as one who mentions the fact from observation, ‘Their eyes appear to be swimming in bliss’” (Adam Clarke).  Even apart from this specific verse, the association of the strange woman with harlotry, and the connection of harlotry with cosmetics in the verses where it is definitely mentioned specifically, make it more likely than not that the strange woman is presented with paint on.

It is possible that these two verses further increase the number of negative references to cosmetics in Scripture (and others could be added, such as Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not . . . print any marks upon you”).  Indeed, if these two verses are references to cosmetics, there are no descriptive passages concerning ungodly women[iv] in the Bible where cosmetics are not mentioned—the exact reverse of the situation with godly women, where in tremendous numbers of descriptive passages cosmetics are never mentioned!  However, even without these, the three plain texts are more than sufficient.  No godly women adorned themselves with cosmetics in Scripture, but when Scripture describes the adorning of ungodly women, it records that they either very frequently or always wore cosmetics.

There are no passages in the Bible where godly women wore cosmetics.  There are a large number of descriptions of godly women, and of female beauty, in Scripture;  the Song of Solomon praises in detail many aspects of a godly woman’s anatomy, clothing, perfumes, etc., but no reference in the entire book is made to her wearing cosmetics.  Ezekiel 16:6ff describes the beauty of Israel as Jehovah clothes her, mentioning jewels, bracelets, beautiful clothing, and other items that made her “exceeding beautiful” (v. 13), but no reference is made to cosmetics.  Cosmetics are entirely absent in the descriptions of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, Israel as Jehovah’s bride, the church as the bride of Christ, Mary (both the Lord’s mother and Martha’s sister), the Shunnamite in the Song of Solomon (and she who gave hospitality to Elisha), Sarah, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Priscilla, Deborah, Leah, Dorcas, Jochebed, Phoebe, Miriam, Joanna, Rachel, Hannah, Anna, Salome, Esther, Martha, Abigail, Ruth, and all other godly women in Scripture. We have chapter upon chapter about the appearance of godly women, but not a hint of cosmetics on them anywhere.  We have far fewer names of ungodly women in Scripture than we do godly ones, but we have cosmetics specifically mentioned on them, while the godly ones wear none.  Indeed, it is very possible that there are no passages where the appearance of ungodly women is described where cosmetics are not mentioned!  This lack of cosmetics did not prevent the godly women from having the Lord Himself describe them as “beautiful and well favoured” (Genesis 29:17), “of a beautiful countenance” (1 Samuel 25:3), “very beautiful to look upon” (2 Samuel 11:2), “fair and beautiful” (Esther 2:7), “exceeding beautiful” (Ezekiel 16:13), “beautiful . . . as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners” (Song 6:4), etc.  Even apart from the fact that “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30), Jehovah never states that a painted woman is beautiful in Scripture—such are universally the objects of His judgment in the Bible.  In contrast, the Lord says many times that women without cosmetics are beautiful, indeed, “exceeding beautiful.”  Women who want to be beautiful to the Lord should follow the Biblical pattern and refrain from the use of cosmetics.

A related issue is the dying of hair.  Scripture states that the gray hair of the saint is worthy of “honor” (Leviticus 19:32) and is a “beauty” (Proverbs 20:29) and is “a crown of glory” (Proverbs 16:31).  Just as a woman’s long hair is her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15), so is gray hair for men and women.  It is not Biblical to try to get rid of the glory of gray hair any more than it is for a woman to get rid of the glory of her long hair.  If anyone were going to try to argue from Scripture for the dying of hair, it would be easier to argue that young people should die their hair gray (compare the old practice of judges wearing gray wigs) than it would be for older people to dye it other colors.

Questions:

Introductory note:  Some of the questions below, especially the ones from Scripture, came from the author’s definite desire to find a justification for cosmetics in the Bible.  The conclusion reached through this study, that they should not be used, was not the one that was originally desired;  but “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:40), so we must say, “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches” (Psalm 119:14).  In Christ we have rest for our souls, and His yoke is easy, and His burden light, Matthew 11:28-30.  Therefore, by God’s grace, the author is now glad that the Bible teaches that they should not be used.  This is, like everything else in Scripture, a teaching to rejoice in, as much as in all riches.

1.) What about the “powders” of Song 3:6?

A.) They are on the man, not the woman.

B.) The parallel with myrrh and frankincense shows that they are scents, not (male) cosmetics.

C.) The word (h∂qDbSa, ‘avaqah) means “scent-powders” (K-B).

D.) The LXX translates the word with mureyouv, from mureyo÷ß, meaning “perfumer.”

What this passage justifies is deodorant or cologne.  It does not justify face paint on men—nor, certainly, on women. This text refers to “scent” or perfume-type material, not face paint.  The verse justifies male deodorant, not female makeup.

2.) Does Song 4:3, “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,” refer to lipstick?

No reference to lipstick is found in Song 4:3.  A.) The passage does not say that her lips are like a thread of scarlet when she puts on lipstick. It simply describes her lips. B.) Her lips “are” like a thread of scarlet—they are not only this way when she applies paint to them.  C.) All the other parts of her description in 4:1-5 are things that pertain to the woman herself naturally, not things that pertain to her part-time when she “does herself up.” She is always fair; always has dove’s eyes; always has beautiful hair; always has nice teeth; always has a pleasant voice; always has beautiful temples; always has a beautiful neck; and always has great breasts (v. 1-5). None of these things are features that are “added on” when she “puts on her face.”  The context shows no reference to lipstick is found in Song 4:3.  This is good, since if lipstick was in view in Song 4:3, in light of the amount of kissing going on in the Song of Solomon, the woman’s husband and beloved would soon have to make the very unromantic declaration, “thy lips used to be like scarlet, but now they are not—the lipstick rubbed off!”

3.) Job 42:14: “Karen-happuch.”  Certain commentators say this name may refer to “a jar (horn) of eye paint” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).  Karen means “horn” and the question is about the significance of happuch, which is a word found only here in the Hebrew Bible. Commentators are far from unanimous that a reference is here made to cosmetics:  others suggest that the name means “the inverted or flowing horn, cornucopiae, the horn of plenty” (Adam Clarke)  or “Plenty restored” (Matthew Henry, John Wesley).  Gill mentions that “Kerenhappuch [may mean] . . . the horn turned, as Peritsol interprets it, it may have respect to the strange and sudden turn of Job’s affairs . . . [or] her beauty was as bright and dazzling as a precious stone.”  He also indicates that, if cosmetics are in view here in her name, it would indicate that she was “so beautiful that she needed no paint to set her off, but was beauty and paint herself.”  However, since ancient versions such as the LXX (which renders her name as ∆Amalqei÷aß ke÷raß, “horn of plenty”) and other ancient witnesses like the Talmud give no support for the allegation that cosmetics are here in view, it would be unwise to conclude anything in their favor from this passage.  If ever the hermeneutical principle of interpreting the less clear in light of the clear applies, it certainly does in this passage.

4.) “Maybe only eye-paint is forbidden—but all the other stuff is fine!”

This argument is based on the assumption that the KJV mistranslated ayin as “face” in the passages on cosmetics;  it supposedly should have rendered it as eyes instead.  It then takes a “between the lines” approach, the kind that is used to justify smoking (and could be used to justify heroin or cocaine), where one looks for reasons to do whatever Scripture does not say instead of trying to stick as closely as possible to what it does say.  It is true that the Hebrew word ayin is often translated as eyes, but the translation face is correct in the texts in question.  Consider: Exodus  10:5, ayin translated “face”; also in LXX translated “face.”;  Exodus 10:15, likewise;  Numbers 14:14, “face to face” is ayin to ayin; Numbers 22:5, “face” is ayin; Numbers 22:11, “face” is ayin; In 1 Kings 20:38; “ashes upon his face” is a disguise; “face” is ayin. How well can one disguise oneself if ashes are just on the eyes? This reference is directly related to the issue of makeup; the idea is to change the facial appearance from what it is naturally.  Ayin here is indeed the “face,” as the KJV says, not just the eyes; 1 Kings 20:41, “ashes . . . face” is also ayin; 2 Kings 9:30; “painted her face” has “face” as ayin; Jeremiah 4:30, “rentest thy face” is ayin;  Jeremiah 16:17 places “face” pene and “eyes” ayin in parallelism.

To argue that eye-paint only is forbidden may sound good for a woman who just wants to think of an excuse to keep doing what she is already doing, but it would not convince the Spirit-filled saint who wants more than anything else to be absolutely sure God is being honored.

5.) Esther 2:12, in the NIV, states that “Before a girl’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.”  This is supposed to prove that face paint is fine.  However, “cosmetics” is not a rendering in the KJV.[v]  The Authorized Version correctly renders the Hebrew word here “things for the purifying [of the women].”[vi] Even if one could prove that substances similar to modern cosmetics were really in view, it would not help the case of women who wanted to wear them, for the requirements of Esther 2:12 came from a wicked, incredibly promiscuous pagan king totally absorbed with gratifying his flesh, not a godly man, and Esther, who “obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her,” used “nothing” (v. 15) of the sort[vii] when she was not under compulsion!  Even if one could prove that cosmetics were genuinely in view, the passage would more reasonably be an argument against Christian use of cosmetics than a text in favor of the practice.

6.) Weren’t oils, like camphire, Song 4:13, and myrrh, Song 3:6; 4:6, used as cosmetics in the Bible?  Ruth anointed herself with oil, Ruth 3:3, cf. 2 Samuel 14:2.  Oil is to “make [one’s] face to shine,” (Psalm 104:15), so face painting is Biblical!

Camphire was used Scripturally as a perfume, a “spice” (Song 4:13-14).  The word “spice” (MRcO;b, bosem) means “perfume”, and is related to the verb Mcb, basam, which signifies “to scent” and is related to words for “sweet, fragrant . . . sweet-smelling” (K-B). The context also shows that camphire oil was used as a perfume, not as face paint (Song 4:16).[viii]  The same is true for myrrh;  one was “perfumed” (Song 3:6) with myrrh;  it was used as one would use frankincense (Song 4:6).[ix]

Ruth certainly did anoint herself with oil in Ruth 3:3.  The same word for “anoint” (Kws) is found in 2 Samuel 12:20: “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.”  The phraseology in 2 Samuel 12:20, “David . . . washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel,” is very similar to that in Ruth 3:3, “Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee.”[x]  Note also Daniel 10:3:  “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”  If Ruth’s anointing herself proves she put face paint on, do these verses prove that king David and Daniel used put on base layers, lipstick, eye shadow, or some other sort of cosmetic?  If so, does 2 Chronicles 28:15 also mean that their captors clothed the prisoners of war and put cosmetics on them when they “anointed them”?  Obviously not, no more than any painting was involved when the Lord Jesus had His head anointed with oil (Luke 7:46), or when His feet were anointed (Luke 7:38).

A good illustration of what anointing with oil really involved is seen in John 12:3:  “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard [mu/ron, “a strongly aromatic and expensive ointment — ‘perfume, perfumed oil’”[xi]], very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” Mary was not changing the color of the Lord’s feet when she anointed them. Aromatic oils and perfumes are Scripturally countenanced and ordained of God (since Mary did a “good work” in this),[xii] but changing the color of one’s face (which is what lipstick, eyeshadow, base layers, powders for the cheeks, etc. all do) is unrelated to this, and is always condemned.

The entire sentence that includes the clause about oil and shining faces[xiii] is Psalm 104:14-15:  “He [God] causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.”  As the commentary by Keil and Delitzsch explains, “Corn, wine, and oil are mentioned as the three chief products of the vegetable kingdom . . . with oil God makes the countenance shining, or bright and cheerful, not by means of anointing . . . but by the fact of its [the oil] increasing the savouriness and nutritiveness of the food.”  In the words of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary: “[God] supplies man’s needs indirectly through providing fodder for “the cattle” and directly through supplying him with “food” (v.14), i.e., “wine … oil … and bread” (v.15).”  God gives men healthy, shining countenances by supplying them with good, nutritious food, such as corn, wine, and oil.[xiv]  The verse has nothing whatever to do with face painting, or with God causing olive trees to grow so that men [note that the verse speaks of “man,” not of women only—so if the verse refers to cosmetics, then men are to wear the base layers, eye shadow, and lipstick] can put cosmetics on.

Godly spouses in Scripture could rejoice when they said to their beloved, “all thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia” (Psalm 45:8);  they believed it was right to be clean and smell good;  but no godly man or woman in Scripture used face paint.

7.) Don’t the passages of Scripture just forbid an excessive or extreme[xv] use of cosmetics, rather than all use of them?

God could very easily have said that Jezebel, or the other examples, all used cosmetics “excessively,” but He did not do so.[xvi]  Among the vast numbers of examples of godly women in the Bible, He could have, at least one time, mentioned “discreet” use of cosmetics or something similar, but He did not.  God was easily able to include at least one example of a godly woman using “moderate” makeup, but He never did so—instead, He included examples that condemn the substance without any mention of the amount.

8.) Why can’t we just not worry about it—it can’t be that big of a deal!  Why take the passages so seriously?

Answer: Are we not to do our best for the Lord?  Did not the Lord say, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) and “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19)?  The Holy One says, “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).  We need to take absolutely everything, every statement, every example, every verse, every word, every letter, every jot and tittle, in Scripture extremely, extremely seriously!  Besides—if it’s not that big of a deal, and in the Bible cosmetics are always associated with harlots, then why not NOT wear them? If using them is not a big deal, then not using them is also not a big deal, right?  Or do you really think it is a bigger deal than you will admit?

9.) I just would not feel right, as a woman, if I did not wear them!

We appear the way we do for God, first; then for others; and only lastly for ourselves.  Cosmetics are not necessary to make God think you are beautiful;  the imputed righteousness of Christ, and a holy walk, makes us beautiful to Him.  The Lord wants you to have the “beauty of holiness”  (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21;  Psalm 29:2; 96:9).  You don’t need to wear them to help others live a holy life;  wearing cosmetics may cause men to lust, but it will not make them more pure.  You don’t need them for yourself, because your sufficiency is in Christ:  “ye are complete in him” (Colossians 2:10).  You have a deeper spiritual problem if you really do not feel right without putting paint on your face.  Even if it were not unbiblical, if you did not feel right without having it on you would be better off getting rid of it until you had your priorities right and your trust in the Lord instead of in your body (Jeremiah 17:5).

10.) I only wear an unnoticeable amount.

If it is unnoticeable, then why does it matter if you don’t wear it?  Nobody would notice if you stopped, right?

11.) If it is wrong, why isn’t there a verse that says, “Thou shalt not wear cosmetics?”

The question should be, “Does Scripture provide any teaching on this?” rather than “Why didn’t God say it the way I would like?” “Who art thou, that repliest against God?” Keep in mind that there are no verses that say, “Thou shalt believe in the Old and New Testaments” or “Thou shalt not miss church” or “Thou shalt believe in the Trinity” or “Thou shalt read the Bible and pray every day” or even “Thou shalt not step on, throw dirt on, and burn the Word of God” or “Thou shalt not refuse to be born again,” or (to consider what Scripture associates cosmetics with) “Thou shalt not work in a house of prostitution,” or “Thou shalt not be a polygamist,” but all these things are certainly taught in Scripture.  The polygamy comparison is most apt, since polygamy is clearly condemned in Scripture, as something invented by the ungodly (Genesis 4:19) and something that leads to unhappy families in every example found in the Bible—but it is never forbidden with a “thou shalt not.”  Few women would be happy if the arguments used to justify cosmetics were used by their husbands to justify a second wife.  What if God wanted to forbid cosmetics, what is at issue in this study, but not prohibit reconstructive surgery, camouflage in warfare, and the like, so a verse that said “Thou shalt not paint thy face” would actually be a problem?  But besides this, it is not our business to tell God how He wants to teach something.  We are just to study, yea, to pour over every word, every jot, and every tittle of Scripture, tremble before it, and wholeheartedly and immediately put it fully into practice.

12.) Don’t look at the verses—an old-time fundamentalist preacher said that if the barn door needs painting, paint it!

Answer: Who cares?

The View of the Old Testament People of God

Smith’s Bible Dictionary:

PAINT

(as a cosmetic). The use of cosmetic dyes has prevailed in all ages in eastern countries. We have abundant evidence of the practice of painting the eyes both in ancient Egypt (Wilkinson, ii. 342) and in Assyria (Layard’s Nineveh, ii. 328); and in modern times no usage is more general. It does not appear, however, to have been by any means universal among the Hebrews. The notices of it are few; and in each instance it seems to have been used as a meretricious art, unworthy of a woman of high character. Thus Jezebel “put her eyes in painting” (2Ki 9:30), margin; Jeremiah says of the harlot city, “Though thou rentest thy eyes with painting” (Jer 4:30); and Ezekiel again makes it a characteristic of a harlot (Eze 23:40); comp. Joseph. B. J. iv. 9, 10. The expressions used in these passages are worthy of observation, as referring to the mode in which the process was effected. It is thus described by Chandler (Travels, ii. 140): “A girl, closing one of her eyes, took the two lashes between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, pulled them forward, and then thrusting in at the external corner a bodkin which had been immersed in the soot, and extracting it again, the particles before adhering to it remained within, and were presently ranged round the organ.” The eyes were thus literally “put in paint,” and were “rent” open in the process. A broad line was also drawn round the eye, as represented in the accompanying cut. The effect was an apparent enlargement of the eye; and the expression in Jer 4:30 has been by some understood in this sense (Ges. Thes. p. 1239), which is without doubt admissible, and would harmonize with the observations of other writers (Juv. ii. 94, “obliquâ producit acu;” Plin. Ep. vi. 2). The term used for the application of the dye was kâchal, {a} “to smear;” and Rabbinical writers described the paint itself under a cognate term (Mishn. Shabb. 8, 3). These words still survive in kohl, {b} the modern oriental name for the powder used. The Bible gives no indication of the substance out of which the dye was formed. If any conclusion were deducible from the evident affinity between the Hebrew pûk, {c} the Greek, fukov, and the Latin fucus, it would be to the effect that the dye was of a vegetable kind. Such a dye is at the present day produced from the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis), and is extensively applied to the hands and the hair (Russell’s Aleppo, i. 109, 110). But the old versions (the LXX., Chaldee, Syriac, etc.) agree in pronouncing the dye to have been produced from antimony, the very name of which stibi, stibium probably owed its currency in the ancient world to this circumstance, the name itself and the application of the substance having both emanated from Egypt. {d} Antimony is still used for the purpose in Arabia (Burckhardt’s Travels, i. 376), and in Persia (Morier’s Second Journey, p. 61), though lead is also used in the latter country (Russell, i. 366): but in Egypt the kohl is a soot produced by burning either a kind of frankincense or the shells of almonds (Lane, i. 61) . . . In addition to the passages referring to eye-paint already quoted from the Bible, we may notice probable allusions to the practice in Pr 6:25, Sir 26:9, and Isa 3:16, the term rendered “wanton” in the last passage bearing the radical sense of painted. . . . Whether the custom of staining the hands and feet, particularly the nails, now so prevalent in the East, was known to the Hebrews, is doubtful.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

PAINT

pant (from Old French peinctre, frequentative of peindre, Latin pingo, “to paint”):

(1) From Hebrew verb mashach, “to smear,” “to anoint,” “to paint,” describing the painting of interiors with vermilion, perhaps resembling lacquer: “ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion” (Jer 22:14). The shields of the Ninevite soldiers were red, presumably painted (Na 2:3).

(2) From noun pukh, “paint,” “antimon,” “stibium,” “black mineral powder” used as a cosmetic, to lend artificial size and fancied beauty to the eye, always spoken of as a meretricious device, indicating light or unworthy character. Jezebel “painted her eyes, and attired her head” (2Ki 9:30, literally, “put pukh into her eyes”). To the harlot city Jerusalem, Jeremiah (4:30) says, “deckest thee …., enlargest thine eyes with paint” (pukh). the King James Version renders “rentest thy face,” as if the stain were a cut, or the enlarging done by violence.

(3) From verb kachal, “to smear,” “to paint.” Ezekiel says to Oholah-Oholibah (Judah-Israel), “didst wash thyself, paint (kachal) thine eyes,” as the adulteress prepares herself for her paramour (Eze 23:40). The antimony, in an extremely fine powder (Arabic kuchl, from kachal), is placed in the eye by means of a very fine rod, bodkin, or probe, drawn between the edges of the eyelids. This distends the eye, and also increases its apparent size, the effect being increased by a line of stain drawn from the corner, and by a similar line prolonging the eyebrow.

We can see from this that the custom of employing cosmetics was current in the heathen nations surrounding Israel, and was known among God’s people as well, but the godly people rejected it.  In Israel, cosmetics were worn by harlots, for the purpose of seduction, and were rejected by godly people.

The View of Cosmetics (and some related issues) in Early Christiandom—thoughts from the first 300 years.

Note that there is no mention of “moderate” or “discreet” use of cosmetics.  The wearing of them as such is condemned, just like it is in the Bible.

He [God] takes away anxious care for clothes, food, and all luxuries as being unnecessary. What are we to imagine, then, should be said about love of embellishments, the dyeing of wool, and the variety of colors? What should be said about the love of gems, exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls? Furthermore, what should be said about staining the eyes, plucking out hairs, painting with rouge and white lead, dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.264.

Those women who wear gold imitate the Egyptians. They occupy themselves with curling their locks. They are busy anointing their cheeks, painting their eyes, dyeing their hair, and practicing the other pernicious arts of luxury. The truth is that they deck the covering of their flesh in order to attract their infatuated lovers. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.272.

What does God think of spurious beauty, rejecting utterly as He does all falsehood? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.274.

Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

No wife is ugly to her own husband. She pleased him enough when she was selected [to be his wife]. Let none of you think that, if she abstains from beautifying herself, she will incur the hatred and aversion of her husband. Every husband is the exacter of chastity. But a believing husband does not require beauty. For we are not captivated by the same graces that the Gentiles think are graces. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

These suggestions [against cosmetics] are not made to you, of course, to be developed into an entire crudity and wildness of appearance. Nor am I seeking to persuade you that squalor and slovenliness are good. Rather, I am seeking to persuade you of the limit, norm, and just measure of cultivation of the person. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

For those women sin against God when they rub their skin with ointments, stain their cheeks with rouge, and make their eyes prominent with antimony. To them, I suppose, the artistic skill of God is displeasing! Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

Whatever is born is the work of God. So whatever is plastered on, is the devil’s work…. How unworthy of the Christian name it is to wear a fictitious face — you on whom simplicity in every form is enjoined!  You, to whom lying with the tongue is not lawful, are lying in appearance. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.

What purpose, again, does all the labor spent in arranging the hair render to salvation?  Why is no rest allowed to your hair?  First, it must be bound, then loosed, then cultivated, then thinned out? Some are anxious to force their hair into curls. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.

I will then see whether you will rise [at the resurrection] with your ceruse and rouge and saffron — and in all that parade of headgear. I will then see whether it will be women thus decked out whom the angels carry up to meet Christ in the air!  If these things are now good, and of God, they will then also present themselves to the rising bodies. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

By no means are women to be allowed to uncover and exhibit any part of their bodies, lest both fall — the men by being incited to look, and the women by attracting to themselves the eyes of the men. Clement of Alexandria (circa. 195 AD), 2.246.

Neither are we to provide for ourselves costly clothing. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.263.

I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defense against excess of cold and intensity, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the purpose of clothing, see that one kind is not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. . . . And if some accommodation is to be made, women may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they avoid fabrics that are foolishly thin and of curious texture in weaving. They should also bid farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.

Luxurious clothing that cannot conceal the shape of the body is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily. Clinging to the body as though it were the flesh, it receives its shape and outlines the woman’s figure. As a result, the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, although they cannot see the body itself.  Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.

Neither is it seemly for the clothes to be above the knee. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.266.

Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.267.

Those who glory in their looks — not in their hearts — dress to please others. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.273.

Let a woman wear a plain and becoming dress, but softer than what is suitable for a man. “Yet, it should not be immodest or entirely steeped in luxury. And let the garments be suited to age, person, figure, nature, and pursuits. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.285.

Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence. . .. Let the woman observe this, further: Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is serious and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty and her veil. Nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.290.

What reason is there in the Law’s prohibition against a man wearing woman’s clothing? Is it not that it would have us to be masculine and not to be effeminate in either person or actions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.365.

Concerning modesty of dress and embellishments, indeed, the commandment of Peter is likewise plain, restraining as he does with the same mouth . . . the glory of garments, the pride of gold, and the showy elaboration of the hair. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 3.687.

First, then, blessed sisters, take heed that you do not admit to your use flashy and sluttish garbs and clothing. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

The dress of a modest woman should be modest. Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.

But self-control and modesty do not consist only in purity of the flesh, but also in seemliness and in modesty of dress and adornment. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.431; extended discussion: 5.430-5.436.

Let the head of men be clipped, unless they have curly hair. But let the chin have the hair. … Cutting is to be used, not for the sake of elegance, but on account of the necessity of the case … so that it may not grow so long as to come down and interfere with the eyes. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

It is enough for women to protect their locks, and bind up their hair simply along the neck with a plain hair-pin, nourishing chaste locks with simple care to true beauty. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

This [male] sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own. I am referring to things such as . . . arranging the hair, and disguising its hoariness by dyes. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

A woman should not be adorned in a worldly fashion. . .. “Let your women be such as adorn themselves with shamefacedness and modesty, not with twisted hair, nor with gold, nor with pearls, or precious garments.” Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.544.

[Instructions to Christian Servants of Caesar:] All of you should also be elegant and tidy in person and dress. At the same time, your dress should not in any way attract attention because of extravagance or artificiality. Otherwise, Christian modesty may be scandalized. Theonas of Alexandria (circa 300 AD ), 6.160.

Though in the form of men, they . . . curl their hair with curling pins, make the skin of the body smooth, and they walk with bare knees. In every other type of wantonness, they lay aside the strength of their masculinity and grow effeminate in women’s habits and luxury. Arnobius (circa 305 AD), 6.450.

[To the men…] Do not adorn yourself in such a manner that you might entice another woman to you…. Do not further enhance the beauty that God and nature has bestowed on you. Rather, modestly diminish it before others. Therefore, do not permit the hair of your head to grow too long. Rather, cut it short…. Do not wear overly fine garments, either…. Nor should you put a gold ring on your fingers. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.392.

If you desire to be one of the faithful and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add adornments to your beauty, in order to please other men. Do not wear fine embroidery, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. It may be that you do not do these wicked things for the purpose of sinning yourself — but only for the sake of adornment and beauty. Nevertheless, you still will not escape future punishment for having compelled another to look so close at you as to lust after you. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa. 390, AD), 7.395.

It was the fact that Tamar had painted out and adorned herself that led Judah to regard her as harlot. Tertuttian (circa 198 AD), 4.24.

Draw your whiteness from simplicity, your ruddy hue from modesty. Paint your eyes with bashfulness, and your mouth with silence. Implant in your ears the words of God and place around your necks the yoke of Christ. Tertulliann (circa 198 AD), 4.25.

What will I say of the fact that these [young women] of ours confess their change of age even by their garb! As soon as they have understood themselves to be women,… they lay aside their former selves. They change their hair and fasten their hair with more wanton pins, professing obvious womanhood with their hair parted from the front. The next thing, they consult the mirror to aid their beauty. They thin down their over-exacting face with washing. Perhaps they even dress it up with cosmetics. They toss their mantle about them with an air, fit tightly into the multiform shoe, and carry down more ample appliances to the baths. Tertullian (circa 207 AD), 4.35.

“Now Susannah was a very delicate woman.” This does not mean that she had flashy adornments on herself or eyes painted with various colors — as Jezebel had. Rather, it means she had the adornment of faith, chastity, and sanctity. Hippolytus (circa 205 AD), 5.193.

She is not a modest woman who strives to stir up the fancy of another — even though her physical chastity is preserved. Away with those who do not really adorn their beauty, but prostitute it instead.  For anxiety about beauty is not only the wisdom of an evil mind, but belongs to deformity. . . . Why is the color of hair changed?  Why are the edges of the eyes darkened?  Why is the face molded by art into a different form Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.

You wish, O Christian woman, that the matrons should be as the ladies of the world. You surround yourself with gold, or with the modest silken garment. . . . You affect vanity with all the pomp of the devil. You are adorned at the mirror, with your curled hair turned back from your brow.  Moreover, with evil purpose, you put on false cosmetics.  You put antimony on your pure eyes, with painted beauty. Or you dye your hair, so that it will always be black. . . . But these things are not necessary for modest women. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.214.

To a wife approved by her husband, let it suffice that she is so, not by her dress, but by her good disposition. . . . O good matrons, flee from the adornment of vanity. Such attire is fitting for women who haunt the brothels. Overcome the evil one, O modest women of Christ! Commodianus (circa. 240 AD), 4.214.

It is not right before God that a faithful Christian woman should be adorned…   God’s heralds. . .condemn as being unrighteous those women who adorn themselves in such a manner. You stain your hair. You paint the opening of your eyes with black. You lift up your hair, one by one, on your painted brow. You anoint your cheeks with some sort of reddish color laid on. … You are rejecting the law when you wish to please the world. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.215.

Both sexes alike should be admonished that the work of God and His fashioning and formation should in no manner be adulterated — either with the application of yellow color, black dust, rouge, or with any kind of cosmetic…. God says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” Does anyone dare to alter and change what God has made? Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.434.

In their manners, there was no discipline…. In women, their complexion was dyed. Their eyes were falsified from what God’s hand had made them. Their hair was stained with a falsehood. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.438.

Do not paint your face, which is God’s workmanship. For there is no part of you that lacks beauty. For God has made all things very good. But the wanton extra adorning of what is already good is an affront to the Creator’s workApostolic Consitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.395; extended discussion 5.432-5.436

We can see that cosmetics were universally rejected in early Christianity.  No one argued for “moderate” use of them.  They all said to not use them at all.  This opinion continued to exist in the Middle Ages.  (Later history, into modern times, is covered below.)  While opposition to cosmetics may be a minority viewpoint today, it was THE view of the first centuries of Christianity.  Who is more likely to be right—the first century churches started by the apostles and their immediate successors, or the majority of churches of two thousand years later, which seem to rarely carefully and prayerfully exegete Scripture for their view on this subject?

Historical Development of Cosmetics:  from Powder and Paint, Neville Williams, London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1957. (Note: some quotes are on other topics that were interesting and/or related to issues of godly appearance.)

From Chapter 1, the Englishwoman’s Toilet, 1558-1660

(pg. 1-2): “Powder and paint were clearly used by some women in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Babylon.  For the Greek world the evidence is more plentiful; Plato, for instance, passed not a few uncomplimentary remarks about ladies who painted themselves.  In the days of Imperial Rome when luxury reached new heights, cosmetics were used much more widely; and in the western world it was not until the Italian Renaissance that women began to beautify themselves to such a degree again. . . . it seems that Englishwomen remained ignorant of cosmetics throughout the Middle Ages. . . . It is not until the middle of the sixteenth century that we get more than a handful of references to cosmetics in England;  yet within a few years such references become abundant . . . There is . . . scarcely a sermon which does not condemn the vanity.”

Pg. 2: [In Italy] priests who preached that such decoration was the mark of the courtesan [prostitute] were fighting a losing battle.”

Pg 2-3: “Already the Puritan writer Philip Stubbes . . . In The Anatomie of the Abuses in England the follies of my lady’s toilet came in for much heavy bombardment. . . . the woman of that land ‘colour their faces with certain oyles, liquors, unguents and waters made to that end, whereby they think their beauties is greatly decored: but who seethe not that their soules are not thereby deformed. . . . Do they think thus to adulterate the Lord his workmanship and to be without offence?’”

Pg. 3-4. “the early Christian Fathers . . . support his argument that ‘no painting can make any to seem fairer, but fouler.’  St Ambrose is cited to show that from the colouring of the faces springs enticement to vice and the abandonment of chastity; and St. Cyprian to persuade his readers that ‘whosoever do colour their faces or their hair with any unnatural colour, they begin to prognosticate of what colour they shal be in hell.’ From theologians and religious leaders of his own century, like Calvin, Stubbes finds many examples of outright condemnation of ‘this whorish and brothelous painting and colouring.’ The ‘dishonesty’ of the fairer sex he found unpardonable.  If you are endowed with a pretty face why bother to try to make yourself more beautiful? And if you are not so endowed ‘why dost thou hypocritically desire to seem fair and art nothing less?’

Pg. 4:  There was not wanting a succession of divines and moralists down to the twentieth century to hold up a reprimanding finger to those ‘whom the devil (Pride’s father) doth persuade/ To paint your face and mende the worke God made.’  Their usual argument was that it was only by ‘the comeliness of the mind that the body is adorned.’

Pg. 6: The ladies of the brilliant courts of James I and Charles I . . . paid little heed to the stern rebukes of divines or the sniping shots of satirists.

Pg. 7-8 “to legislate about make-up . . . was reserved for the Puritans of the Long Parliament.”

Pg. 8:  “the poets . . . had much to say about cosmetics.  It was topical to mention the use of painting the face simply because it was a novelty, though one which had come to stay.”

Pg. 8:  Shakespeare . . . the use of cosmetics by men clearly disgusted him—he remarks on it in two of his sonnets . . . His rebuke of vanity in his greatest scene, the opening scene of the third act of Hamlet, is in the Puritan tradition.  The prince tells the fair Ophelia, ‘I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.’

Pg. 10-11: The beauty of fair ladies is one of the permanent themes of English lyric poetry; but it is only in the early seventeenth century that references to the aids to beauty adorn verses.  One example will suffice—Richard Crashaw’s Wishes to his Supposed Mistress.  Among the qualities he expects of his true love are these:

A Face, that’s best

By its own beauty drest,

And can alone commend the rest.

A face, made up

Out of no other shop

Than what Nature’s white hand sets ope.

A cheek, where youth

And blood, with pen of truth,

Write what the reader sweetly ru’th.

A cheek, where grows

More than a morning rose,

Which to no box his being owes.

Crashaw seems to be the first Englishman to use the phrase ‘made up’ to apply to cosmetics.  He expected his sweetheart to spend the minimum of time on her toilet; and that, as we shall now see, was most unfashionable.

The crusaders against vanity made the most of the time it took for a lady of fashion to complete her toilet.

Pg. 15: [Unrelated but interesting note]: “The handkerchief, which is as much an article of the toilet as an article of dress, was peculiarly an English fashion.  It was invented by the effeminate King Richard II; and before long others besides ladies of the court regularly carried handkerchiefs.”

Pg.16-17:  ‘Crayons’ or ‘pencils,’ as we must call them (for the word lipstick was not coined until the present century), were made in this period.”

Pg. 18: Richard Crashaw . . . had also had enough of smudged lips [from lipstick] when in Wishes to His Supposed Mistress he looked for “Lips, where all day/ A lover’s kiss may play/Yet carry nothing thence away.”

Pg. 21-22: Unmarried girls almost always wore their hair long [in the 16th century], hanging down their back, and for a further century it was the custom for brides to be married ‘in their hair.’  For those beyond their ’teens—for the average age of marriage was much lower than today—hair-styles were very sophisticated.

Pg. 24-25: “What must be considered the first English beauty book appeared in 1636. This was a translation by Wye Saltonstall of Ovid’s Heroicall Epistles which, like part of the Roman author’s Art of Love, dealt with the secrets of cosmetics. . . . It was the first of a long line of beauty books in the English language.

Pg. 25: The Puritan reformers were, indeed, as outspoken in their attacks on the use of cosmetics as were the priests of the Roman Church.

Pg. 31: [A man commenting on his wife running him said] “I blush at her boldness but more at my own Folly for suffering of her [wearing cosmetics], but you know she wears the Breeches and will doe what she list.”

Pg 31-32: By the mid-seventeenth century cosmetics of various kinds were being used by quite a number of English-women.  Ladies of noble birth, attendants at court, and well-bred daughters of the gentry who practiced these arts were quite impervious to the oft repeated statements that powder and paint were the badges of a harlot. [footnote: e. g. Dr. Thomas Hall, the Loathesomeness of Long Haire (1654)].

Pg. 32: During the Interregnum, when the court was in exile and Puritan simplicity was the keynote of fashion, the use of make-up was naturally frowned upon.  John Evelyn, entering in his diary anything which attracted his eagle eye, wrote under 11 May 1654: “I now observed how the women began to paint themselves, formerly a most ignominious thing and only used by prostitutes.”  . . .  By contrast with the modes of that vanished society [the sinful court of Charles I] the leading ladies of the Commonwealth, as wives and daughters of Roundheads, professed simplicity in their appearance.  Indeed, on 7 June 1650 Parliament had ordered “an Act against the Vice of Painting and wearing black Patches [another fashion of the day which died out in the 1800s] and immodest Dresses of Women to be read on Friday morning next.” . . . in the world of fashion a revival in the popularity of cosmetics [which began after the end of the Puritan period with the restoration of the monarchy and the worldliness of the court], like that in splendid dress and ornate furniture, heralded a new age—the age of extravagance, to which we must now turn.

From chapter 2, The Age of Extravagance, 1660-1714

Pg. 33: After the long night of Puritan rule the country let itself go—and never looked back.

Pg. 38-39: Painting the face was not nearly so common as patching until the end of the century; even in 1694 it was said to be ‘not much in use, being jostled out by washes and patches.’ Charles II’s exile had certainly given him a taste for beauty in the French style, but English society-women as a whole continued to lag a long way behind their French counterparts in their use of rouge. . . . (pg. 40-41) a [woman wearing paint] is obliged to keep [her lovers] at a certain distance; a sigh in a languishing lover, if fetched too near, would dissolve a feature; and a kiss snatched by a forward one might transform the complexion of the mistress to the admirer.’ It is perhaps this, more than anything else, which made the sticking of gaudy patches on the face for a while a more popular form of adornment than painting.

Pg. 39: James, Duke of York was somewhat disappointed with the austere toilet of his young bride.  When he married Mary of Modena, then a girl of fifteen, James compelled her to [wear cosmetics]. . . . As a result Mary put on rouge, bud daily repented of the vanity of it to her Italian confessor.  Many years later, as a widow in exile, she reflected “I have long ago renounced all vanities and worn nothing in the way of dress but what was absolutely necessary; and God knows that I have not put on decoration except in cases where I was compelled to do so, or in my early youth.”  There were some men, like Pepys, who, while they had a glad eye for all pretty women and made the most of every opportunity to steal kisses, loathed to see a painted lady.  His cousin, Mrs. Pierce, the wife of a surgeon, [said concerning] paint in 1667—‘still very pretty, but paints red on her face, which makes me hate her.’

Pg. 40-41: In his Youth’s Behaviour or Decency in Conversation Amongst Women, the standard guide to polite conduct, Robert Codrington reproves those of his readers who regularly dedicate the first hours of each day to pride and folly, ‘in using new washes and laying new complexions on their cheeks, in committing Idolatry on themselves by the flattering Reflexion of a glass, in composing an adulterate countenance to seduce the fancy of their beholders.”

Pg. 41-42. It is in 1660 that women’s stage make-up properly begins.

Though it would probably be wrong to assume that ladies in the largest provincial towns, like Norwich or Bristol, or residents in the fashionable watering-places, such as Bath or Tunbridge Wells, entirely forswore paint and patches these habits were essentially associated with London—the home of the court, the centre of fashion, the ever-buoyant, sophisticated capital.  It was only with the unification of the country in the nineteenth century through the development of the railways and the popular daily press, with its advertisements [note by me: see where the idea came from], that women in the provincial towns began to follow the lead of Londoners; and not until the twentieth century that powder and paint invaded rural England.  The country lasses’ ignorance of the ways of the fast women of the capital during Queen Anne’s reign is nicely shown by a ballad appropriately called ‘the innocent country maid’s delight; or a description of the lives of the lassies of London’:

Every lass she will paint her face

To seem with a comely grace,

And powder their hair

To make them look fair

That gallants may make them embrace.

The more to appear in Pride

They often in Coaches ride

Drest up in their knots

Their jewels and spots,

And twenty knick-knacks beside.

Pg. 42:  The trade in cosmetics coming into the country from the continent grew more extensive each year.

Pg. 48: one of Charles I’s physicials, attempted to introduce public baths into England on the German and Scandinavian lines, but failed miserably.  Both Parliament and the Royal College of Physicians had vehemently opposed his schemes, fearing that while people’s bodies might become a little cleaner their morals would most certainly become debauched.

Pg. 48: The increasing use of beauty aids in these years, particularly by the younger generation, came in for plenty of criticism. . . . In his Advice to a Daughter . . . Halifax cautioned her against the too-studied toilet of the really vain women . . . She doth not like herself as God Almighty made her, but will have some of her own workmanship, which is far from making her a better thing than a woman that it turneth her into a worse thing than a monkey.

Pg. 49:  Towards the end of the century the discussion of the moral questions involved in painting the face, which had for many years been troubling the conscience of a number of women, at length became articulate, and the great debate took up many columns in the Ladies’ Dictionary. . . . Many learned clerics direct their anathemas from their pulpits on those who stoop to beauty-aids, and well-meaning Christians of both sexes fill their thoughts and conversations with rigid censures that every touch of colouring added to the cheeks is a semblance of Hell Fire.  There are, too, various homespun persons that ‘can with less equal eyes behold any woman, though of never so great quality if they see or suspect her to be adorned.’

Pg. 49-50: The lady who is against the use of beauty-aids puts to her friend in turn thirteen objections . . . These objections include ‘Jezebel’s sad fate urged against all painting’; that it is against the seventh commandment;  that it is ‘very scandalous and so unlawful,’ and so on.

Pg. 50-51:  She attacks with great gusto those “very spruce and lady-like preachers” who love to wear powdered wigs or long hair, loose cuffs and large band-strings.

Pg. 52: In every decade since then there have been forthright criticisms of woman’s use of the beauty-box—principally in the 1860s and the 1920s.  [One Anglican clergyman argued for painting, though, in 1701, so the secular writer of the book says] no serious attack has ever again been sustained on biblical grounds.  [This is the secular author who wrote on page 1 that “one verse alone of the Old Testament tells us of the use of cosmetics by one woman—the notorious Queen Jezebel, who painted her face and tired her head.”  This “one verse” declaration shows us how shallow her knowledge of Scripture is.]  That line of argument, so reminiscent of the schoolmen of medieval times, was demolished once for all in 1701.

Pg. 52: Dyes were now in common use.

Pg 53-54:  Addison contributed to the Spectator in June 1711 . . . “I am not for adding to the beautiful edifice of nature, nor for raising any whimsical superstructure upon her plans . . . Nature has laid out all her art in beautifying the face, and seems to have designed the head as the cupola to the most glorious of her works.  When we load it with such a pile of supernumerary ornaments, we destroy the symmetry of the humanfigure, and foolishly contrive to call off the eye from great and real beauties, to childish gew-gaws, ribbons, and bone-lace.”

Pg. 54:  An essay from the Spectator at the end of Anne’s reign shows very clearly that the fashions in hair-styles, cosmetics, and everything else connected with the toilet described in this chapter were essentially London fashions, which permeated very slowly into the rest of the country.

From Chapter 3:  The Age of Urbanity, 1714-1837

Pg. 56:  Between the death of Queen Anne and the accession of Queen Victoria . . . by the 1750s it was again the height of fashion to use rouge profusely, to indulge in lavish head-dresses, and to run up sizable bills at the perfumers. . . . This was par excellence the age of powder and paint. . . . In France, 1789 effected a revolution in fashion . . . Simplicity, naturalness, and restraint were once more reflected in the Englishwoman’s dressing-mirror.  This does not mean that cosmetics were abandoned; but they were once again regarded as aids to beauty, to be used discreetly, whereas in the high eighteenth century paint had dominated the face in as blatant a manner as possible.

Pg. 57:  English ladies . . . not only used powders and creams of a variety of shades, but frequently stuck little black patches all over their painted faces.

But what surprises more than all the rest is what I have just now been credibly informed of by one of this country [the writer is pretending to be from China].  ‘Most ladies here,’ says he, ‘have two faces; one face to sleep in, and another to show in company.  The first is generally reserved for the husband and family at home; the other put on to please strangers abroad:  the family face is often indifferent enough, but the out-door one looks something better:  this is always made at the toilet, where the looking-glass and toad-eater sit in council, and settle the complexion of the day.”

pg. 58-59:  As an exemplary wife and mother Queen Charlotte had little time or inclination for elaborate toilets.  We are told that so far from devoting hours to dress, she studied neatness and simplicity. ‘Her conduct resembled that of Cornelia, who being asked by a Roman lady of rank for a sight of her toilet, waived the subject till her children came from school, and then said, “These, madam, are my ornaments.”

Pg. 60: On her marriage Lady Coventry was forbidden by her husband to wear rouge or powder. . . . At a dinner party during their honeymoon in France Lord Coventry ‘coursed his wife round the table, on suspecting she had stolen on a little red, seized her, scrubbed it off by force with a napkin, and then told her that since she had deceived him and broke her promise he would carry her back direct to England.”  He did not keep his threat; nor did Lady Maria keep her promise to forswear powder and paint.  Her husband simply became accustomed to the arts of his lady’s toilet as countless other husbands before or since.

Pg. 60: [Lady Caroline Petersham] with her friend Elizabeth Ashe were “Both vain, both varnish’d, wanton both and warm. . . . they had just finished their last layer of red, and looked as handsome as crimson could make them.”  Thoughts of such evenings quite naturally expressed themselves in epigrams on Lady Caroline:

Her face has beauty, we must all confess,

But beauty on the brink of ugliness:

Her mouth’s a rabbit feeding on a rose;

With eyes—ten times too good for such a nose!

Her blooming cheeks—what paint could ever draw ’em?

That paint, for which no mortal ever saw ’em. . . .

What makes Clodio, who always was fond of new faces,

So notoriously constant to Fulvia’s embraces?

Ask Fulvia the cause—she can tell you the true one,

Who makes her old face every morning a new one.

Pg. 62-63:  Girls in their teens were by no means forbidden to share in the delights which a more puritanical generation would have denied them until they came of age.

Pg. 68-69: the use of beauty-aids containing noxious drugs and posions had not ceased by the end of the century. . . . the pretty Lady Fortrose “is at the point of death, killed, like Lady Coventry and others, by white lead, of which nothing could break her.”

Pg. 71-2: Some [men] still regarded a woman in all her finery, painted, powdered, curled, and patched, to be a veritable Circe; but the view was more common among women than men.  Girls too shy to follow the fashion themselves lifted a reproving finger at sisters or friends who had fallen for the temptations of the rouge-pot. . . . Mrs. Pendarves . . . told her sister Anne . . . she was shocked they were painting their faces.

Pg. 73:  Nail varnish . . appears to have been unknown in England . . . [as of] 1786. [But the heathen Moors were using it].

Pg. 74: By the beginning of the nineteenth century fashions had quieted down.  This is particularly noticeable with regard to hair-styles, as we shall shortly see, but it was the same with cosmetics.  Rouge was now used much more modestly and was even out of favour altogether in some circles. . . . Corise, the French wife of Lord Ossulton . . . recommended a friend to hide her pale cheeks behind a little rouge: ‘husbands never see those things; if Lord O. ever found out he would be furious with me.’

Pg. 74-75: It had become a sign of bad breeding to use cosmetics carelessly, or for a lady’s make-up to be really obvious.

Pg. 79: For a fresh and handsome girl to paint herself would be perfectly ridiculous, a wanton spoiling of the fairest gifts of nature.

Pg 85-86:  The French Revolution brought simplicity in hair-styles, as in clothes, for both sexes.  And France still managed to dictate fashion to those parts of Europe which were not under her political sway, so that gradually after 1789 Englishwomen began to wear their hair short.

Chapter 4: The Victorians and After, 1857-1920

Pg. 93:  To the outside observer, the England of 1837 seemed a remarkably sophisticated country.  The young visitor from across the Atlantic, like Miss Power, a niece of Lady Blessington, found herself in a different world.  “Imagine her,” thought a friend, “transported at once from polar twilight to the tropics, launched at a bound in the vivacity and splendour of our painted, artificial life, where everything is a contrast to her childhood and herself.”

Pg. 94: For the vast majority of nineteenth-century Englishwomen cleanliness was a virtue second only to godliness.  The first volume of the Lady’s Newspaper, which began circulation in 1847, aimed at a large circulation among middle-class ladies, included an article on cosmetics that went little beyond praising the efficacy of soap and water. . . . Forty years later a popular beauty book . . . concluded that soap was the most important cosmetic.  It would be quite wrong to assume from this, as some have done, that the Victorian woman’s toilet began and ended with soap and water, but the idea of personal cleanliness was elevated to a moral principle.

Pg. 106: In the 1840s it was thought that no ‘skin paints’ could be used without injuring the complexion, and that carmine, especially, imparted a sallowness to the skin.  The commonest kinds of rouge and blanc at that date were metallic compounds which were still capable of poisoning the user. [note by me:  There is still very little regulation on cosmetics, or studies of their effects on the health, from what I have investigated—which, however, is not much.]

Pg. 107: The Professional Beauty who shared these hints with her readers added, “for those who can possibly do without, I say, do not begin to paint the face: it never looks pretty, and always gives a hard, unnatural expression.” Nor was she the last with this advice.

Pg. 107-108: A society beauty in a series of interviews in 1902 with a lady of fashion to discuss The Art of Being Beautiful, attempted to fight a valiant rearguard action against the liberal use of cosmetics, but it was already a lost cause.  “We must make the best of a bad thing and put up with the artificial conditions of life and make them as natural as possible to us. . . . no woman while youth and health are hers should need to paint.

Pg. 108:  The code of Victorian polite society permitted married women to rouge their cheeks, as we have seen, but never their lips, which had to be left as nature made them, ‘tinted only with the hues of health.’  As one handbook to the toilet remarked in 1868, whereas the ladies of eastern countries quite commonly painted their lips the manners of western Europe were very different:  here the practice ‘is only adopted on the stage and occasionally by courtesans and ladies of the demi-monde.’

Pg. 108-109:  But for a girl still in her teens to monkey about with her complexion at all was considered unpardonable.  At first mother was made to bear all the blame.  “Is it possible,” asked a contributor to the Athenaeum in November 1865, “that any woman can be silly enough to paint her children’s faces with the pigments that were bought to make her own face beautiful for ever? Our eyes seem to report the disgusting fact.  What are we coming to?”

Pg. 109: But the habit of rouging the cheeks suddenly became infectious among the young ladies from the best families up and down the land who had come to London for the season, though none dared to appear with paint at the Palace presentation party.  This attempt of the young to rock the foundations of Victorian morality called forth a terrific onslaught in the Saturday Review. In its columns on 14 March 1868 appeared Mrs. Lynn Linton’s indictment of the rising generation in an article entitled ‘The Girl of the Period.’ As a novelist and journalist of some standing her attack at once divided the fairer sex into two camps—those, and they were the majority, who wholeheartedly supported her plea for a return to the time when English girls were content to be what God and nature had made them, and those who vigorously opposed her views as those of a maiden aunt, hopelessly out of touch with modern life.  Her essay, which was reprinted many times during the following twenty years, increased her fame beyond measure.

Pg. 110: ‘The modern girl’ . . . imitated the queens of the demi-monde with her make-up, but she simply could not be made to see ‘that modesty of appearance and virtue ought to be inseparable, and that no good girl can afford to appear bad.’

Pg. 110-111:  It is clear that Mrs. Lynn Linton’s outspoken criticisms seriously retarded a more general use of cosmetics by younger women.  As a result of her articles a great many mothers forbade their daughters to use [any cosmetics].

Pg. 111:  So shy had the majority of young ladies become of using cosmetics since that season, that by 1878 another noted authoress [noted it].

Pg. 112: [A pro-cosmetic writer commented], Possibly because paint is considered to be a characteristic of a certain showy vulgarity which we cannot wish to imitate, an unnecessary amount of contempt and contumely has been cast on cosmetics.

Pg. 112:  Girls . . . have been educated in a righteous horror of paint, and are apt to talk with a flourish about the superiority of honesty, as they call it. . . . [in] modern middle-class society . . . if an honest girl is known to use a soupcon of colour or tinted powder, she is sneered at and laughed at by her virtuous female friends.

Pg. 113: [A pro-cosmetic voice, says the author of the book] came as a breath of fresh air in the stifling atmosphere of mid-Victorian prudery, though the revolution in the attitude to beauty-aids which she preached was not to be effected overnight. [so see here that the normal people were still opposed to cosmetic use in the late 1800s.]

Pg. 114: Meanwhile, if rouge was definitely ‘out’ for debutantes until the ’nineties, there were other girls, some quite young, in those years who threw parental caution to the winds, once they had been captivated by the desire for a sophisticated appearance.

Pg. 114:  The eighteen-nineties saw a great advance in the popularity of cosmetics among women of all ages. . . . one writer . . . [said] ‘the use of rouge and pearl powder seems to have become more fashionable now than it has been for many years.’  The gentility of the Victorian Age proper, with its overriding maxim that woman’s place was in the home, was crumbling; and the visible signs of woman’s emancipation were painted faces and rational clothes.  Make-up was, indeed, one of the most striking expressions of Fin de Siécle. The new woman had arrived.

Pg 115: The women bent on emphasizing their very femininity by their use of powder and paint were just as characteristic of the ’nineties as the tomboys who took to the roads on their new safety-bicicles in knickerbockers suits, or those who preached the cause of woman’s rights from soap-boxes.  For a young woman the delights of the cosmetics counter were part and parcel of the new spirit, the quest for a new mode of life and the determination to taste new sensations.

Pg. 115: By January 1895 the editor of London Journal of Fashions thought it was time to have a fireside chat with readers about cosmetics. “The prevailing craze for . . . cosmetics . . . is not a modern disease.  It is nothing but the reappearance of an epidemic which has, at various periods of the world’s history, taken possession of the gentler sex.”

Pg. 115:  [It was reported in the same journal in February 1895 that] the entirely unaided face is becoming more and more rare.

Pg. 115-116: The lipstick proper had made its debút in polite society [at this time].  Each number of the Journal during 1895 remarked how increasingly out of hand the fashionable toilet was becoming and maintained a sincere hope that restraint and simplicity would return.

Pg. 116: [The] June . . . Journal of Fashions . . . [remarked that] for the young, however, to paint and powder indicates singular weakness of mind.  That the rouge-pot and powder-puff will continue to play important parts in many toilettes there can be, unfortunately, no doubt; but we may hope that it will be confined to those on whom years have left ungentle marks.

Pg. 116-117: In the first number of The Yellow Book, published in April 1894, appeared ‘A Defence of Cosmetics’ by a Mr. Max Beerbohm. [He wrote], Nay, but it is useless to protest.  Artifice must queen it once more in the town, and so, if there be any hearts chafe at her return, let them not say, ‘We have come into evil times’ and be all for resistance, reformation, or angry caviling. . . . The Bivtorian era comes to its end and the day of sancta simplicitas is quite ended.  The old signs are here and the portents to warn the seer of life that we are ripe for a new epoch of artifice. [His defence was] tongue in cheek far more than reviewers realized.

Pg. 117: within the last five years the trade of the makers of cosmetics has increased immoderately—twenty-fold, so one of these makers has said to me. . . . We men, who from Juvenal down to that discourteous painter of whom Lord Chesterfield tells us, have especially shown a dislike of cosmetics, are quite yielding; and there are, I fancy, many such husbands as he who, suddenly realizing that his wife was painted, bade her sternly, ‘Go up and take it all off,’ and, on her reappearance, bade her with increasing sternness, ‘Go up and put it all on again.’

Pg. 118: Fashion has made Jezebel surrender her monopoly on the rouge-pot.

Pg. 118: [The topic of cosmetics] was never mentioned in Victorian literature . . . in its advertisements the daily press had hitherto drawn the line at soaps and perfumes. . . . The heroine of a Victorian novel was never described as appearing ‘with carmine glowing in her cheeks’ let alone pictured at her dressing-table making the most of her looks.

Pg. 119: It was left to Oscar Wilde in the ’nineties to startle public taste by making the loss and discovery of a woman’s lipstick an important incident in the plot of a play. . . . The historians of the age naturally felt the need for reticence on the subject of the female toilet. . . . [but now] a new age had begun.

As the twentieth century dawned, the old restraints on woman were being broken down on every side [so cosmetics revived].

Pg. 120: “My father . . . disapproved of women painting their faces [but now it is done anyway.]”

Pg. 120: Girls still in their teens were not expected to ape the great hostesses, and were certainly forbidden to acquire that feminine quality of the stage world that was for the first time being called ‘glamour.’

Pg. 120: Each year as the twentieth century grew older the cosmetics industry made great strides in perfecting the quality and increasing the range of its products.

Pg. 121: One feature of the years immediately preceding the 1914-18 War that deserves emphasis was the growing use of eye-makeup for evening wear.

Pg. 122: [Around the time of the 1914-1918 War] certain suffragettes and ‘intellectuals’ had already started bobbing their hair, but these were now joined by a large number of women on war work who found shorter hair a great convenience.  Cutting off one’s hair became almost synonymous with working in an ordnance factory; and by 1918 the joke about the young women whose sole contribution to the war effort consisted in cutting off their hair was too stale for most comedians to risk.  However, far closer crops were yet to come, and the expident of wartime was small beer compared with the widespread bobbing of hair in the early twenties throughout Europe and America.

Pg. 126: After the war the craze for short hair never permitted the trade in human hair to recover.

Pg. 126: Despite the disapproval shown in certain quarters whenever the topic of dyeing the hair was mentioned, there is ample evidence to prove that the practice of dyeing increased tremendously during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century.

Pg. 127: It is strange that having one’s hair dyed, whether to banish greyness or to acquire the fashionable tint (often quite undetectable), should have earned a greater stigma than wearing false locks (which were generally quite obvious).

Pg. 129: Nessler . . . escaped to America where he quickly amassed a great fortune.  His legacy of the “perm” did not immediately dominate English hairdressing.  It was only in 1916 that the use of his methods started to be a commercial proposition.  Not until the early ’twenties, when short hair really took England by storm, did the permanent wave become a feature of the Englishwoman’s toilet; it was to prove a notable factor in the “feminine revolution.”

Pg. 129-130: Conditions in England during the first World War accelerated the changes that had already begun to take place in the woman’s world.  The entry of women to professional and commercial life and their progress towards equality of status with men were responsible for a much more widespread use of cosmetics.  No less important was the more silent revolution during the war years in which the barriers between classes were being broken down.  By 1920 it was no longer possible to tell a woman’s social position from her appearance;  even the most cynical of critics could no longer maintain that ladies with lipstick must belong to high society, to the stage, or to the demi-monde [Note by me: demi-monde means immoral women].  Like wearing short hair, smoking cigarettes, or dancing to ragtime, wearing lipstick and rouge had become classless.

Pg. 130: The twentieth-century girl did not want to be told that “The greatest aid to good looks is a lively, even temperament, a sunny disposition, cheerfulness and sweetness of temper.”

Pg. 130: A Victorian gentleman of the old school, who had outlived his days, noted with some vehemence in 1920 that although female emancipation was an accomplished fact, ‘woman, far from having risen above spending her time and money in tricking herself out in pretty frivolities, now spends far more time and far greater sums of money than she ever did before, not only upon mere clothes to cover her body but upon numberless unnecessary trifles merely connected with an inordinate personal vanity.” The “feminine revolution” had begun.

Chapter 5: The Feminine Revolution, 1920-1957

Pg. 131: In 1920 the Englishwoman stood on the threshold of a new age.  She had gained the vote; she was entering many walks of life hitherto closed to her; she had acquired a new independence and an entirely novel outlook on life . . . the use of make-up was coming to be regarded as a legitimate art.

Pg. 132: Never before had so much emphasis been laid on the importance of physical attraction and the probability—rather than possibility—of acquiring it through cosmetics.

Pg. 132-133: A more convincing argument when dealing with the middle-aged woman was for beauty-counsellors to emphasize the high quality and harmlessness of modern cosmetics, which brought ‘the perfection of naturalness,’ so that the use of make-up need not be obvious, in contrast with many of the preparations on the market [for] their youth.

Pg. 133: Once Englishwomen had forsaken any pretence to naturalness, research chemists vied with each other to provide her with the richest of colours.

Pg. 134: In [1924] the habit of rougeing the lips had become ‘deplorably obvious.’

Pg. 134: Today it is only the girl in her ’teens who is beginning to use cosmetics for the first time, but in the ’twenties and early ’thirties Englishwomen of all ages were experimenting with the newly-discovered delights of the beauty box.

Pg. 134-135: Menfolk had to accustom themselves to a different kind of beauty. . . . To-day very few Englishmen are kept guessing whether or not their womenfolk’s complexions are natural. They have grown accustomed to a type of beauty in which cosmetics play a vital part.

Without the invention of the moving picture the revolution in the use of cosmetics would have proceeded at a very much slower pace.  In the late ’twenties and throughout the ’thirties millions of English girls modeled their appearance as far as they could on America’s untitled aristocracy—the stars of Hollywood.

Pg. 137: On any estimate the cinema and television wield a tremendous influence in England to-day on changing fashions in beauty.

Pg. 137 the Court, too, has played an important role . . . Once the royal family had given its warrant to cosmetics, the question of the “respectability” of using make-up, which had lingered in many minds, became settled once for all.

Pg. 138-139: In the early ‘thirties, when the feminine revolution was in full swing, sermons once again warned against the moral dangers to which the use of cosmetics might lead. Jezebel became a familiar topic for preachers . . . In some few Anglican churches to-day [1957!] ladies intending to communicate are requested not to wear lipstick, though the notices make a point of stating that this is in the interests of hygiene.

Pg. 139: It was during this period of the feminine revolution that cosmetics, hitherto an expression of the sophistication of urban life, for the first time invaded rural England.

Pg. 140: the development of cosmetics in the countryside was hastened by the War, with the great shifting of the population on the home-front.  Both evacuation from the cities to the countryside and the call-up of women played their parts in spreading the habit of make-up.

Pg. 140: In the early stages of the feminine revolution life was particularly trying for the young girl . . . having . . . bought her first lipstick . . . it was rather disconcerting when Daddy said, ‘Go upstairs and take all that stuff off your face; I won’t have a daughter of mine making a fool of herself.’ And then, after tears and tempers had intervened, perhaps he relented a bit—‘at any rate not until you’re eighteen.’ . . . Very gradually the storms abated.

Pg. 141: The revolution gathered pace, though speedier in London and suburbia than in the towns; and even in suburbia there were plenty of puritan strongholds, like the Surbiton household where a girl of eighteen was forbidden to use powder.

Pg. 142: The daring of the Bright Young Things of the gay, irresponsible ’twenties, who refused to be bullied into surrendering one jot of their newly won independence, gave tremendous momentum to the cosmetic revolution.

Pg. 142: By 1930 mothers were being warned against checking their daughters’ natural inclinations to beautify themselves.

Pg. 142: Standards have changed in what is necessary to beauty or good looks and, besides that, the old-fashioned ban on the use of make-up has been definitely withdrawn.  Standards had changed not merely as to what constituted good looks but also as to what could be done to attain them.  As the years went by the age at which a daughter should be told that ‘to be young is not enough’ crept down.  Were girls maturing more quickly? Or was it, rather, that public opinion was changing?

Pg. 143: A recurrent problem in these years was the position of the girl at High School, for whom even a powdered nose was regarded with severity, while girls of her own age, earning their livings, were making the most of their independence.  In the early ’thirties Speech Day addresses began to include an exhortation to schoolgirls to throw away any lipsticks or powder which might be given them.

Pg. 143-4: Certain professions remained behind the times.  Until the War, matrons of most hospitals forbade their staff to wear lipstick on duty;  and some held out longer . . . In March 1933 a girl of eighteen went to one of the London hospitals for an interview with the matron with a view to becoming a probationer.  She was told she would not be allowed to use rouge, lipstick, or powder, that she could not pluck her eyebrows, and that matron disliked waved hair. . . . The War was largely responsible for a general relaxation of the rules about cosmetics for nurses on duty.

Pg. 144: Nail varnish presents one of the most striking aspects of the cosmetic revolution.  Victorial ladies polished their finger-nails, as we have noted, with beeswax or simple preparations, to give them a pinkish transparent shine; and until 1930 the modern woman remained content with the palest of pink tones—in fact more ‘colourless’ polish was sold than of the three shades of pink that made up the manicurist’s palette.  Even the pink shades of varnish were suspect, suggesting that their users were ‘rather fast.’ Two popular beauty books of the ’twenties both insisted that nail polish was an essential of good grooming, provided it was the colourless variety: ‘Too highly-polished nails are bad taste,’ pronounced one, while the other, written by a man, considered ‘nails look more attractive with their natural pinkish hue.’ In the late ’twenties the English-born Princess de Faucigny Lucinge, always an exotic figure, startled Paris by growing her nails very long and enamelling them a deep crimson; but very few even among Frenchwomen dared to copy her at the time.

Pg. 144-145: In the spring of 1930 Paris still ‘decreed the pink-tipped hand,’ and the polish was applied only to the pink part of the nail, leaving the tip and the half-moon unpolished; but during the summer a handful of film stars and society beauties who were sunning themselves in the South of France suddenly realized that pale rose nails looked rather anaemic with sun-tanned fingers: so they discovered ‘blood-red’ nail varnish, which both pleased their artistic sense and gave them the satisfaction of knowing they were causing a sensation.  The press soon heard about it and photographs of well-known women basking in the sun with bright finger nails and toe nails appeared in the papers.  The vogue spread like wildfire to other continental resorts, and holiday-makers returned to England via Paris, still wearing their sun tan, found that the smartest stores had stocked up with a wonderfully rich range of coloured nail varnishes.  And then Hollywood heard about it.  Soon every ardent film fan found her screen idol in the glossy magazines complete with gaudy nails; and English girls began to follow suit. By the autumn manufacturers in this country had added to their creams and pinks such shades as Cardinal, Garnet, and Coral.  It was soon clear that there would be no limit to the possible colours.  In 1932 the fashion for black finger nails was introduced from America for a brief heyday, and before long varnish could be bought in blue, green, mauve, gold, silver, mother of pearl and every shade of red. . . .

To wear bright colours was thought to be rather ‘fast’ until perhaps 1936.  The average business girl in 1932 used colourless nail varnish for the office, but graduated to pink for evening dates—‘a colour not at all suited for office hours.’

Pg. 145-146: By 1938 more women than ever before sported painted toe nails on the beach . . . the current advice [was] that their choice of colour should depend on how much attention they wanted to draw to their feet.  With the coming of dancing sandals that exposed the toes in good measure, the varnishing of the nails was no longer a seasonal habit.  Since the War coloured nails have become very general among English-women: a great many girls would to-day consider themselves half-dressed if they appeared with plain finger nails. . . . Manufacturers continue to delight their customers each year with new shades, with lipsticks to match.

Pg. 146: To tint the eyelids and touch up the lashes was thought the height of sophistication in the ’twenties and, by nearly all who indulged in it, was reserved exclusively for gala evenings. The only treatment one beauty-manual of those years prescribed was . . . to make them grow: two other popular beauty books ignored completely any preparations for the lashes and the eyelids. . . . Mascara (or ‘water cosmetique’) and eye-shadow became more fashionable in the ’thirties for evening wear, but never for day-time.

Pg. 147: Only since the war have mascara and eye-shadow come to appear in Englishwomen’s day-time make-up. . . . Doretta Morrow, the star of Kismet, is noted for using plenty of eye make-up off the stage in day-time: ‘I feel unfinished without it,’ she remarks—a feeling shared by not a few Englishwomen in 1957 [when this book was published, i. e., “today.”].

Pg. 147: One effect of cosmetics becoming the possessions of every woman was the growth of the habit of making-up in public.  The mysteries of the toilet were no longer performed in the privacy of boudoirs. . . . Man was horrified. ‘Never take out lip-salve, mirror and powder puff at the dinner table,’ counseled a popular guide to etiquette in the ’twenties.  Not only was it vulgar; ‘The man you are dining with probably thinks your complexion is real! Why undeceive him?’

Pg. 149: In April 1930 Women and Beauty was founded . . . it . . . deliberately set out to instruct women of all ages how to make the most of their beauty with all the aids that the modern beauty-box afforded.  Who wants to be beautiful? Who wants to follow the modern Pied Piper? The editor asked on the first page of the first issue.

Pg. 150: By the autumn of 1955 The Times at last began to print an occasional article on beauty treatment in its recently introduced women’s features.

Pg. 150: As the ’thirties dawned, cosmetics advertising reached unprecedented peaks.

Pg. 151: The power of advertising has been considerable in popularizing the use of cosmetics. . . . But Hollywood has played its part . . . the technique of advertising cosmetics has hinged during the last quarter of a century on sex appeal.  In 1930 women were told that ‘the secret of IT’ was only created in a certain hairdressing salon; and makers of lipstick have exploited the theme from promising to produce ‘Lips that make a man say “I will,”’ to announcing that a new shade of red ‘brings out the wolves.’

Pg. 152: The average city typist of to-day appears to spend three times as much on cosmetics as her mother did.

Pg. 158: Outline pencils for the lips did not come in until about 1938.  The post-war years have seen a host of preparations in new forms: rouge in the form of a cheek-stick, softer eyebrow make-up for those disliking a hard pencil, lipsticks of varying degrees of indelibility, and lipsticks made for application with a camel-hair brush.

Pg. 159: Mud packs or masks were introduced to the beauty parlour in the early ’twenties.

Pg. 161: Women with facial disfigurements—and long enough purses—began in the nineteen-twenties to look to plastic surgery for renovations. . . . Plastic surgeons were kept busy throughout the ’twenties removing wrinkles, dealing with flabbiness and sagging flesh, and, above all, with face-lifting.

Pg. 162: A new epoch opened for the hairdresser with the wholesale bobbing of hair in the early ’twenties: all over England women flocked for the shearing.  The kaleidoscope of fashion has produced since then a myriad of contrasting styles, but long hair has never returned; every coiffeur, declares one of them, should add in his prayers, ‘May women never discover that long hair means bankruptcy for the hairdresser.’ . . .

A vivid account of the craze for bobbing . . . ‘All of the young women at the office were having their hair cut short. . . . We were not sure whether we liked it but we knew that our turn would come.  My mother kept on saying: “It’s really too great a shame!” . . . On the next Saturday . . . we sat at the end of a long queue of women who, like us, were patiently waiting to let down their beautiful long hair and have it murderously cut off with a few snips of the scissors.  When it was my turn my mother lost heart.  She raised her voice, spoke with unaccustomed loudness, and kept on opening her bag to look inside, as if wishing to remain blind to the crime.  An hour later, with hats far too large for diminished heads, feeling very self-conscious, anxious to be home where we could make a minute, pitiless examination of our changed appearance, we emerged as new women.’

In the winter of 1924 the closer-cropped shingle succeeded the bob, and it was but a short step from this to the severely masculine Eton crop which came into vogue two years later.  Woman’s emancipation in political and social life affected hair-styles no less than dress.  Like the very short skirt, the Eton crop was an expression of her desire to look as much like a man as possible.  The Eton crop was a style in itself, but, on the other hand, bobs and shingles provided basic styles which could be adapted in a variety of ways, notably through permanent waving.  By 1922 the ‘perm’ was reported to have ‘captured all America in an incredible manner’; and within two years it had become ‘almost a universal habit with English-women to get their hair waved, although there are some who still go about with it in a frowsy, untidy condition.’

Pg. 164: ‘Machineless’ waving began to be advertised in 1935.

Pg. 164: A fundamental change did not occur until 1953, when the younger women took to the gamin cut, first popularized by the film actress Audrey Hepburn.

Pg. 164: In the past, dyes had been chiefly used by the would-be redhead.  When the bright young things of the ’twenties had convinced themselves that ‘gentlemen prefer blondes,’ the laboratory provided them with a new range of dyes and bleaches. . . . To-day all manner of safe colour-rinses are available for use at home.

Pg. 166: It is easier to describe the various aspects of the ‘feminine revolution’ than to ascribe causes to it.  We are, in fact [in 1957], too near the extraordinary development in the use of cosmetics to regard it with sufficient detachment; and we must leave to another generation the task of making a definitive interpretation of this chapter in social history.  About the revolutionary changes themselves, however, there can be little doubt.  The Englishwoman of the nineteen-twenties, entering on her long-awaited independence, chose to make the most of the new, hygienic preparations which the scientist had devised for her.  To use powder and paint quite openly at last became ‘permissible.’ Approved by the Court, acknowledged by the Church [which, keep in mind, was going into utter apostasy at this time], the habit spread rapidly through every grade of society, through every corner of England, through every age-group.  Under the stimulus of the cinema, the press, and the advertisement hoarding, a new type of beauty was born to which Englishmen of all ages and all walks of life gradually became accustomed.

Pg. 166: What of the future? . . . To such a question the historian can offer no hint of an answer.  Woman is too fickle a creature for us to hazard a guess at what might be considered the standard of loveliness in twenty years’ time.

Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist pastor often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers,” ministered in England from the latter part of the nineteenth century to almost the dawn of the twentieth century.  Thousands were converted under his ministry.  His sermons were printed in the daily newspaper.  His views on cosmetics should be considered typical of those of Baptists of his day.  The quotations below come from an examination of the 429 appearances of the word “paint” in his complete works from the Charles Spurgeon Collection, Christian Library Series #6, AGES Library, Rio WI: 2006.  They demonstrate that, not only did Spurgeon never approve of “moderate” use of cosmetics, or face paint of any sort, in a positive way, but he regularly, pointedly, and powerfully preached against the use of cosmetics by Christians.  The quotations below could be increased in number beyond what they already are, but the following selection should more than amply prove the point.

“‘Beware of the paint,’ whether on walls or on women.  Mrs. Partington was right when she would have nothing to do with Beautifiers of the complexion. ‘Well,’ said she, ‘they may get up ever so many of their rostrums, but, depend upon it, the less people have to do with bottles for it the better. My neighbor, Mrs. Blotch, has been using a bottle a good many years for her complexion, and her nose looks like a ruption of Mount Vociferous,—with the burning lather running all over the contagious territory.’ Beware of such paint, whether it be for external or internal application!”  (Spurgeon, The Salt-Sellers, vol. 1, A-L, pg. 100).

“Don’t color your nose with publican’s paint” (Spurgeon, The Salt-Sellers, vol. 1, A-L, pg. 148).

“Fair faces need no paint.  Leave that to Jezebel.” (Spurgeon, The Salt-Sellers, vol. 1, A-L pg. 193)

“If you are a beauty, do without paint.” (Spurgeon, The Salt-Sellers, vol. 1, A-L pg. 300)

“Eat one plum from the devil’s trees, and you must eat a bushel. . . . Paint the face, and it must be painted. The same is true of other vicious habits.” (The Sword and Trowel, vol. 3, pg. 71)

“Remember that there is an absolute necessity that a Christian should possess thoroughbred sincerity, and intense, downright reality.  The child of God may have spots on his countenance, but he must not paint his face.  It is the hypocrite that paints.  There may be a speck here and a speck there upon the countenance of the true believer, but he is sorry that it should be so, and he tries to wash off all such stains; but he never uses the color-box.  In this he is the reverse of the world’s religious professors. Oh the hypocrites that rouge themselves up to their eyes!  They are such beauties as Jezebel made herself.  You would suppose that they possessed the beauty of holiness;  but see them when the paint is off.” (Nathanael: Or, The Man Needed For the Day,” #2068, Lord’s Day Evening, February 3, 1889).

“Go now, and paint if you will, and seek a beauty that the worm will loathe.” (“The First Resurrection,” Sermon #391, May 5, 1861, Sunday morning)

“Ah, souls!  Ye may paint yourselves as ye will, but unless ye have the genuine matter, ye will never be able to pass the judgment-seat of God.  Ye may gild and varnish, but he will say, “take it away,” and like the painted face of Jezebel, which the dogs did eat, despite the paint, so shall you yourselves be utterly devoured, despite the fair picture that you made.” (“The Weeding of the Garden,” #423, December 8, 1861, Sun. Morning)

“Like Jezebel with her paint, which made her all the uglier, they would seem what they are not.”  (“Nothing But Leaves,” #555, February 21, 1864, Sunday morning)

“The fair maid of truth does not paint her cheeks and tire her head like Jezebel, following every new philosophic fashion; she is content with her own native beauty.” (“Forward,” the address delivered by C. H. Spurgeon at the College Conference, Tuesday Morning, April 14, 1874)

“Ye fair and lovely ones, will your fine appearance serve you when you must undress to die?  Though you paint an inch thick, to the complexion of the worm-eaten skull you all must come at last.”  (“A Sermon on Clapham Common,” Delivered on the Lord’s Day Afternoon, July 10, 1859)

“Ah! Fine lady, thou who takest care of thy goodly fashioned face, remember what was said by one of old when he held up the skull: ‘Tell her, though she paint herself an inch thick/To this complexion she must come at last.’ And something more than that: that fair face shall be scarred with the claws of fiends, and that fine body shall be only the medium for torment.” (“The Resurrection of the Dead,” #66-67, Sunday morning, February 17, 1856)

“Depend upon it, though it come to you in the garb of earnestness, and paint its cheeks, and look fair enough to you, it is the harlot of Popery in another dress.”  (“High Doctrine,” #318, Sunday Morning, June 3, 1860)

“Will you make your bed in hell, will you abide with everlasting burnings?  I pray you be not foolhardly, there are other ways of being a fool besides damning your soul.  Come dress in motley attire, paint your face and play the clown if you must be a fool, but damn not your soul to prove yourself full of folly.”  (“Tender Words of Terrible Apprehension,” #344, Sunday morning, November 4, 1860)

“There is a watch, a painted harlot, who wears the richest gems in her ears and a necklace of precious things about her neck.  She is an old deceiver.  She was old and shrivelled in the days of Bunyan;  she painted herself then, she paints now, and paint she will as long as the world endureth.  And she gaddeth forth, and men think her young and fair and lovely, and desirable: her name is Madam Wanton.”  (“The Bed and its Covering,”  #244, Sunday evening,  January 9, 1859).

“That which looketh fair is but as paint upon the harlot’s face, beneath there is loathsomeness and disease.  There may be a greenness and a verdure upon the mound, but within there lies the rotting carcass, the loathsomeness of corruption.”  (“The Chaff Driven Away,” #280, Sunday morning, October 23, 1859)

“The children are apt to try the same plan as their fathers, and mingle a little religion with a great deal of worldliness.  They are just as keen and sharp as their worldly sire, and they see on which side their bread is buttered, and therefore they keep up the reputation of religion.  A little gilt and paint go a long way, and so they lay it on.  They fly the flag of Christ, at any rate, even through the vessel does not belong to his dominion, and is not bound for the port of glory.” (“Mongrel Religion, #1622, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, on 2 Kings 17:41)

“She may paint her face and tire her head, but she is a Jezebel for all that.” (“A Wilderness Cry, #1427, Lord’s Day morning, August 4, 1878)

“Therefore, do not set up your lying pretences; do not paint yourself up, like Jezebel, for you cannot in that way make yourself beautiful in the sight of God.” (“A Singular Plea in Prayer, #2533, Lord’s Day Evening, September 29, 1897).

“Truth wears no paint upon her cheek; she is most adorned when unadorned the most; varnish and tinsel she disdains; her glory is herself, her beauty is her own perfection; she needs no meretricious charms: but Popery, like Jezebel, must paint her face and tire her head, for she is haggard and uncomely, therefore is she well pictured in the Revelation as a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls.”  (The Sword and Trowel, vol. 1, pg. 118).

“How you will blush when the paint is washed from off your cheek—when you stand before God naked to your own shame, a hypocrite, unclean, diseased, covered up before with the gew-gaws and the trickery of pretended formality in religion, but now standing there, base, vile, and hideous!” (“God, the All-Seeing One,” #177,  Lord’s Day Morning, February 14, 1858)

“There are some professors of religion who, when the Lord comes, will certainly meet with a very fearful end—I mean such of you as profess to be the Lord’s people, and yet can secretly indulge in the sins of the flesh . . . Oh, may God undeceive many of you who may be in such a plight! May he pull your vizards and your masks from your faces, wash the paint from your cheeks, and make you to be in your own sight what you are in his sight.” (“Sin Condemned and Executed by Christ Jesus, #699, Lord’s Day morning, July 8, 1866)

“‘Lord, take from me all the gilt, leave me nothing but the gold; take from me all the paint, the gaining and the varnish, and leave me nothing but what is veritable and bona fide.’ It is a prayer–for every Christian to offer.” (“Winnowing-Time,” #862, Thursday Evening, January 17, 1867)

“The Lord never misrepresents, nor has fellowship with misrepresentation.  We are for ever hurrying about with our paint and varnish and tinsel, laboring to make the meaner thing appear equal to the more precious, and spending our skill in making the sham seem as brilliant as the reality, but all this is contrary to the way of the Lord.”  (“Honest Dealing with God,” #1241, Lord’s Day Morning, June 20, 1875.)

“Do not try to put one touch of paint on those cheeks of yours, nor imitate the flush of health . . . come honestly as you are.” (“Honest Dealing with God,” #1241, Lord’s Day Morning, June 20, 1875.)

“The fair maid of truth does not paint her cheeks and tire her head like Jezebel, following every new philosophic fashion; she is content with her own native beauty, and in her aspect she is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”  (The Sword and Trowel, vol. 4, pg. 91)

“Your gilt, your varnish, your paint, your hypocrisy, soon wear off, while the reality is at no expense for beautifying.” (“The Two Builders and their Houses,” #918, Lord’s Day Morning, February 27, 1870)

“To paint, to dye, to display a ribbon, to dispose a pin, is this the pursuit of an immortal? . . . Take up yonder skull, just upturned by the sexton’s careless spade, ‘and get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, though she paint an inch thick, to this complexion she must come at last,’ all her dressing shall end in a shroud, and all her washings and her dainty ornaments shall only make her but the sweeter morsel for the worm.  There is no promise of the life to come to these frivolities; wherefore then waste ye your time and degrade your souls with them?” (“The Profit of Godliness in the Life to Come,” #946, Lord’s Day Evening, June 19, 1870).

“Oh harlot world, it were a sad dishonor to be thy favorite.  Tire thy head and paint thy face, thou Jezebel, but thou art no friend of ours, nor will we desire thy hollow love.”  (“Citizenship in Heaven, #476, Lord’s Day Evening, October 122, 1862).

“Like Jezebel, they paint their eyebrows, and tire their heads, till they think themselves beautiful.  It is ours, like Jehu, to cry, ‘Throw her down.’ What have they to do with peace who are the servants of sin?  How dare they pretend to comeliness whose hearts are not right with God?” (“Washed to Greater Foulness,” #1908, A Sermon Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Job 9:30-31)

“It were infinitely better that you were doing something else than dress and paint and put on ornaments to go before God who sees you in your spiritual death to be nothing but naked corruption.  May God grant that we may never play the fool in this way; for playing the fool it is, to hope to appear otherwise before him than what we really are deep down in our hearts.  Nor is it only useless: it is hilarious.” (“Truthfulness, #1585, preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, on Jeremiah 5:3)

“Mind the paint! Keep clear of the face that wears it. What good can you get from a picture painted on flesh? Paint is the outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual deceit.  When a woman is painted up to the eyes/She’s a Jezebel even the dogs will despise.”  (The Salt Sellers, vol. 2, M-Z, pg. 24)

Miscellaneous other quotations:

Ver. 13-14. “What, do you think that God doth not remember our sins which we do not regard? For while we sin the score runs on, and the Judge setteth down all in the table of remembrance, and his scroll reacheth up to heaven.  Item, for lending to usury; item, for racking of rents; item, for starching thy ruffs; item, for curling thy hair; item, for painting thy face; item, for selling of benefices; item, for starving of souls; item, for playing at cards; item, for sleeping in the church; item, for profaning the Sabbath day, with a number more hath God to call to account, for every one must answer for himself. The fornicator, for taking of filthy pleasure; the careless prelate, for murdering so many thousand souls; the landlord, for getting money from his poor tenants by racking of his rents; see the rest, all they shall come like very sheep when the trumpet shall sound and the heaven and the earth shall come to judgment against them; when the heavens shall vanish like a scroll, and the earth shall consume like fire, and all the creatures standing against them; the rocks shall cleave asunder, and the mountains shake, and the foundation of the earth shall tremble, and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, fall upon us, and hide us from the presence of his anger and wrath whom we have not cared to offend.  But they shall not be covered and hid; but then shall they go the back way, to the snakes and serpents, to be tormented of devils for ever.” (Henry Smith, cited in the Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon, comment on Psalm 10:13)

Conclusions Drawn from this Historical Analysis

1.) In keeping with the testimony of the Scriptures, the great majority of those who believed in the Bible throughout history rejected the use of cosmetics by women.  The wide-spread “acceptability” of cosmetics today developed historically in connection with the ungodly woman’s liberation movement and the rejection of Biblically patriarchal culture, at the same time as Christendom was falling into the awful apostasy of modernism.  2.) The spirit of the world, as spewed out from Hollywood, advertisements, and other sources Satan uses to control the unregenerate, was the impetus to the employment of cosmetics, which are advertised for the purpose of increasing the sexual appeal of women.  Godly Bible-believing Baptist churches, preachers, and saints were not leading the way, but were against their use as ungodly and worldly. This was the case because of the Scriptural evidence presented in the first part of this analysis.  Both Scripture and history make it clear that godly women should not wear cosmetics.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17)

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2)

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. (2 Chronicles 20:21)


[i]           Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, ed. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida.  New York, NY:  United Bible Societies, 1989.

[ii]           A Greek – English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (BDAG) 3rd. ed., rev. & ed. Fredrick W. Danker.  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

[iii]          Jeremiah 4:30 records Israel, pictured as a harlot, using cosmetics to “make [herself] fair” for the purpose of seduction.

[iv]          This is not to say that there are no mentions of ungodly women where cosmetics are not mentioned;  for example, the women who worshipped Tammuz (Jeremiah 44:17ff) and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7ff.) are not connected with cosmetics—but nothing else about how they look is really mentioned at all, either.  If Isaiah 3:16 and Proverbs 6:25 refer to cosmetics, there are no descriptive passages of ungodly women in Scripture where painting is not mentioned.  One might allege that the whore of Babylon (Revelation 17-18) is an exception, since nothing about cosmetics is found in Revelation 17-18.  However, she is compared to Jezebel (Revelation 2:20-23; 17:2; 18:3, 9), and thus cosmetics are part of her description, in contrast with the pure bride and wife of Christ, who did not wear any (Revelation 21:2; Isaiah 61:10; 62:5; Revelation 19:7-8; 2 Corinthians 11:2; etc.).

[v]           Indeed, the NIV translators very likely used the word “cosmetic” in a looser sense than “face-paint,” to refer to purifying substances like soap or cleansing oils, that is, in the sense of the KJV’s “things for purifying,” so that the translation would refer to the same sort items as the Authorized Version, although in an inferior translation that could be easily misunderstood to include face-paint.  Some other Biblical reference tools (Cf. the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia—in the article, “Oil,” where scented oils used as perfumes and in relation to cleansing like that in bathing are called “cosmetic” uses.  The K-B lexicon, on the word MyIq…wrVm, meruqim, even speaks of “cosmetic treatment with massage”!  Some commentaries also define “cosmetic” broadly.) are likewise loose and general in their use of the word “cosmetic.”  If one defines “cosmetics” as cleansing oils and soap, this composition has no quarrel with them—painting the face (with items such as lipstick, eye shadow, blush, etc.) is the specific practice questioned Scripturally.  In any case, whether the NIV translators employed a loose sense of “cosmetic” or not, there is no reference to face paint in the Hebrew of this verse.

[vi]          This rare Hebrew word, q…wrVmA;t, tamruq, appears also in Esther 2:3, 9, where it is rendered “things for purification,” as it similarly is in 2:12.  Outside of Esther 2, the word appears only in Proverbs 20:30 (Qere, not Kethiv), where it is rendered “cleanseth,” or, as the KJV margin translates, “purging medicine.”  The Hebrew lexica demonstrate that it is some sort of cleansing oil, not face paint.  The LXX does not provide any reference to cosmetics in translating this word (as smhvgma, smegma, “soap, salve”; tamruq is also rendered this way in v. 9), which is translated “women’s purifications” in Brenton’s verse of the LXX.  (Compare the verb smh÷cw, smecho, “to cleanse,” in Josephus, War 2:123, etc; both smh÷cw (the lengthened form of sma÷w) and sma÷w relate to soap and cleansing, not to face paint; see H. G. Liddell & R. Scott, Greek English Lexicon.  Nor does the Latin Vulgate (aromatibus uterentur) provide any assistance to the cosmetics advocate.  Esther 2:12 has no reference at all to face paint.  Women are, however, strongly urged to follow Esther’s example and use soap.

[vii]         She used only what she had no unconstrained choice in, what was “appointed” (v. 15) for her to wear.

[viii]         Outside of Scripture, would could demonstrate that ungodly women in the cultures around Israel used camphire as a cosmetic paint as well.  However, no reference in Scripture substantiates this sort of use by godly women.  Furthermore, camphire, as paint, not spice, was used “to dye orange hair, nails, fingers and toes” (K-B Hebrew lexicon). How many God-fearing women want to dye their hair orange? Is that “moderate” and “unnoticeable”? If the Scripture did refer to camphire in connection with godly women as a paint rather than to a perfume (which it does not),  it would not support “unnoticeable” cosmetics, but wild and extravagant ones—ones that the pagans around Israel happily adopted.

[ix]          Myrrh comes “from [the] resin Commiphora abessinica.”  It smells strong, like ground spice  . . . Song 3:6 . . . [was] brought to Palestine by traders; women [wore] it in a perfume bag suspended between the breasts Song 1:13; used as a perfume: for oneself 3:6, for one’s clothes Ps 45:9, for one’s bed Pr 7:17 . . . the yellowish-brown to red lumps of resin are especially valuable” (K-B, røm).  Myrrh would make a wonderful perfume, but women would hardly apply yellowish-brown or red lumps to their faces.  Women do a lot to get rid of little lumps, now called zits, on their faces;  would they really add extra ones on?  Perhaps if they were “unnoticeable” yellowish-brown lumps.  Nor can one say that godly women in Scripture used myrrh in liquefied oils as a face paint;  in Scripture, such liquefied myrrh was used because it was “sweet smelling” (Song 5:5, 13), not because it changed one’s skin color.

[x]           The fact that the anointing with oil took place after the washing does not somehow establish that the oil was used for face painting.  Nobody puts on deodorant or perfume while still in the shower or the tub.

[xi]          Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Ed.; New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1989 (2nd ed.); subsequently Louw-Nida.

[xii]         Thus, there are certain situations in which it is actually sinful, not just uncouth, to be unwashed, smelly, and without deodorant.

[xiii]         It should be noted that one who employs the “oil is to make the face to shine, so cosmetics are justified Biblically” argument should not make the “only glistering cosmetics are condemned” argument discussed in footnote #12, since they are contradictory;  if cosmetics that make the face shining and glistening are condemned, based on 1 Chronicles 29:2, then Psalm 104:15 cannot ordain cosmetics to make shining, glistening faces.  However, the pro-cosmetic arguments based on both verses have severe problems independent of their contradictory nature.

[xiv]         The explanation given above is that of the plain sense of the English text.  It is also noteworthy that the KJV margin comments (in part) on v. 15, “oil…: Heb. to make his face shine . . . more than oil.”  This would indicate that the good food supplied by the Lord makes the man’s face more shiny than oil is shiny, and would also demonstrate that no reference whatever to cosmetics appears in the text.  Without advocating that the text is in error or the margin is superior, the marginal reading demonstrates that there are a number of ways that one could demonstrate that no reference at all to cosmetics is found in Psalm 104:15.

[xv]         One might also attempt to argue that JK…wÚp, puk, “paint” in 2 Kings 9:30; Jeremiah 4:30 refers only to “extreme” cosmetics because the word is rendered “glistering” with reference to stones in 1 Chronicles 29:2.  However, this assertion has many problems.  1.) It is possible (though not certain) that the word in 1 Chronicles has an entirely unrelated meaning, possibly even from a different root (The Koehler-Baumgartner (subsequently K-B) Hebrew lexicon suggests “hard mortar.”)  Even if it has the same root, it could have an entirely different idea;  this happens in Hebrew (cf. the verb llj, which can mean “be defiled,” “profaned,” or the apparently unrelated “to begin”).  What is certain is that 1 Chronicles 29:2 refers to stones, not faces.  2.) On the assumption that 1 Chronicles 29:2 does relate to the matter of “paint” as in 2 Kings 9:30; Jeremiah 4:30, the KJV likely did not render it “painted stones,” because its next clause says “of divers colours,” and it would be strange to say “colored/painted stones of divers colors.” 3.) If we want to argue that only “glistering” face paint is condemned, we are without warrant assuming from this one KJV usage on stones (where the Hebrew word simply means “paint”—in 1 Chronicles 29:2, for example, Keil and Delitzch’s commentary states that these are “stones of pigment”—for it is simply “paint,” not some special ultra-bright face cosmetic alone) that this is the only type of paint that is being condemned. This is a leap.  It assumes that Jezebel wore only an especially bright form of face paint.  It assumes that the other instances of the ungodly were also this especially bright form of paint.  It assumes that the reason the paint is condemned is that the paint was bright, rather than the substance itself being condemned.  It assumes that godly women wore non-brilliant cosmetics.  All these assumptions are unwarranted.  It would be like arguing, “Jezebel wore bright red lipstick, so light red, hot pink, blue, purple, yellow, green, black, etc. are all OK—in fact, even bright red is OK, as long as it is not exactly the same as what she wore—as long as we don’t have the exact color composition of Jezebel we are OK.”  4.) The word puk, in the only other reference besides the ones where it is rendered “paint” on women, and “glistering” (followed by “divers colours”) in 1 Chronicles 29:2, is Isaiah 54:11, where it is translated “fair colours” and speaks of stones. If a reference to “glistering” stones in 2 Chronicles 29:2 means that only “glistering” face paint is condemned, then the reference to stones of “fair colours” in Isaiah 54:11 means that pretty colors of cosmetics are condemned and women can only put on ugly colors of cosmetics. No “glistering” paint because of stones, 1 Chronicles 29:2; then no “fair colours” of paint because of stones, Isaiah 54:11. No red lipstick—only black or lurid green. No skin-tone cheek powder—only a color that looks like leprosy.  Indeed, the Hebrew structure of Isaiah 54:11 is identical to that of the “paint” verses 2 Kings 9:30 & Jeremiah 4:30 (JK…wÚpA;b), while 1 Chronicles has a different structure (JK…wÚp without A;b and in a construct state with NRbRa connected with maqquef), so the argument that “fair colours” of paint are forbidden is stronger than the argument that only “glistering” cosmetics are condemned.  5.) Ezekiel 23:40 condemns cosmetics with the verb ljk, “paint,” an entirely different word than puk. God thus uses a variety of language to condemn cosmetics; the case is not based upon the noun puk alone. So no condemnation of only “glistering” (or pleasant looking, “fair colours”) of cosmetics can be derived from a pro-cosmetic analysis of puk that stakes it all on “glistering” in 1 Chronicles 29:2.

[xvi]         Jeremiah 4:30, “rentest thy face with painting,” indicates the use of lots of cosmetics.  However, nothing of the sort is found in the other passages.  2 Kings 9:30 and Ezekiel 23:40 simply say “she painted her face” and “paintedst thy eyes,” with no hint of an undefined “excessive” use.  It is a purely gratuitous assumption that these simple statements are “excessive use” only;  it reads into the passages what simply is not there.  Furthermore, one would hardly argue in Ezekiel 23:40 that the woman’s other actions were “excessive.”  Who would read the verse’s declaration, “thou didst wash thyself” and conclude that this means that she “excessively” washed herself?  Nor can one conclude from “deckedst thyself with ornaments” that everything in the verses is “excessive” only, not “moderate,” since the same Hebrew verb “deckedst” in the same case (Qal) is used of something good that God does on a woman in Ezekiel 16:11, 13, and of something good a woman does on herself in Isaiah 61:10.  Unless one wants to accuse God of being “excessive,” there is absolutely nothing in Ezekiel 23:40 to indicate that the condemnation of cosmetics is only for using “too much,” or an “immoderate” amount.

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