Ancient Egyptian Makeup and Beauty

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 film

When I think of ancient Egyptian makeup the first thing that comes to mind is Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.  She’s shown wearing heavy black eyeliner all the way around her eyes, with lines coming out at the corners to create a cat eye.  She’s also wearing heavy blue eye shadow over all of the eye lids all the way up to heavily darkened eye brows.  Her lips are neutral as well as her face makeup.  While some of what Liz’s Cleopatra is wearing is historically accurate- its not totally correct.  Today I’ll show what would have been more standard in ancient Egypt.  Hollywood has to take poetic license to ensure it’s stars still look beautiful according to modern times.  Beauty is a concept that changes with time; what was considered beautiful in ancient Egypt isn’t necessarily the standard today.

The ancient Egyptian culture is really old.  It’s beginnings can be traced back to 3150 B.C. (that’s over 5,000 years ago!).  Over the next 3,000 years the Egyptians ruled the Nile River Valley (with a few years in there were foreign invaders were in control).

timeline of ancient egypt













Just like in modern times trends changed over time, but the overall style of ancient Egypt remained the same with slight variations in makeup style and clothing style.


An Egyptian lady would have had a low chest or box in which she kept all of her beauty tools.  In the chest she would have kept combs, tweezers (I’ve seen a pair in a museum in Dublin).  Her makeup consisted of kohl (black eye liner) and rouge.  These were kept in little jars or pots.  Kohl, which was made of malachite or galena, was applied around the eyes and over the eye brows.  In the Old Kingdom eyeliner went around the eye.  Green eye shadow was a favorite applied all of the eye lid- extending from the lash line all the way up to the brow.  Later, in the New Kingdom it went around the eye and extended out to the temple from the outer corner (what we would call a cat eye today).  Rouge, made of red ochre, was applied to her lips.  They used little brushes or scoops made of bone or wood to apply the makeup to their faces.  The richer the woman the more decorative her little cosmetic jars or pots would have been.  I like to think of these makeup boxes like Egyptian kaboodles!  (Come on I know you remember kaboodles!)  I’d like to add that men wore makeup as well.  They are often depicted in paintings from the time wearing kohl around their eyes just like the women.  For example, King Tut’s sarcophagus (decorated coffin in his image) shows him wearing kohl around his eyes and extending from the corners out to his temples.  Egyptian men and women also would’ve used scented oils both for perfume and moisturize (after all the climate is very dry).  Their oils were made from myrrh oil and flower oils.  One that we know of in particular was called perfume of lily.  Sounds lovely!

Here I am wearing an Ancient Egyptian inspired makeup look.  This look is perfect for a night out, or even daytime with a toned down, more neutral lip.

Ancient Egyptian Look

Learn how to do it here: Egyptian Nighttime Look

makeup used:

Master Kajal in Onyx Rush by Maybelline

Lip Pallet in Ruby by Loreal










Face Paint by Lisa Eldridge

Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barabara Mertz