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Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, on display in the Royal Ontario Museum

The term cosmetics (from the ancient Greek adjective κοσμετικός kosmetikós , from the verb κοσμέω kosméo “I organize”, “I decorate”, “I decorate”) denotes body and beauty care, or the maintenance, restoration or improvement (according to the respective ideal of beauty ) the external appearance of the human body. The substances used for this purpose are called cosmetics .


Originated in the 16th century from a modification of the Latin cosmeticus , in the course of the 18th century the term “cosmétique” (instead of décoration ) spread in France , and around 1850 the term cosmetics came from France to the German-speaking area, where it was generally used continue of beauty products or cation was talk while in medical parlance until the 18th century between cosmetic medicamenta ( "Schminck-Arzteneyen": original make-up as a cosmetic agent) and ars cosmetica ( "Modearzneyen") distinction was.


Cosmetics not only want to look after the body's appearance and have a beautifying effect, but also at least increase the feeling of life; possibly also express social prestige . Decorating and caring for the body is as old as mankind itself. The type and extent of cosmetics depends on the cultural understanding of the social group using it. Cosmetics can be divided into care cosmetics and decorative cosmetics; Care cosmetics are part of health care as body hygiene, while decorative cosmetics in the sense of decoration pick up on prevailing fashion trends.

Skin care products in skin care cosmetics clean, stabilize and protect the skin , hair and nails ; some also deodorize or perfume. Certain methods and exercises also have a cosmetic effect; Kneipp baths and saunas are probably the best known . The boundaries between hygienic measures, cosmetic treatment and wellness applications are fluid, while certain procedures are reserved for doctors only.

Many cosmetic products aim and have aimed at making the aging and limitation of the body less visible. In ancient Egypt during the time of the pharaohs, necro-cosmetics with embalming processes were developed to keep a corpse from decaying for a long time. In the early days of human development, fragrances and odorous substances had religious and medicinal roots. The invisible scent of plants and flowers, which was the invisible soul of the blossom, of the plant, brought the feelings for the beauty of nature and the sensations into harmony.

Blush, eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, brush - decorative cosmetics

Cosmetic products

Today's market for cosmetics (personal care products) can be described in 5 segments according to area of ​​use:

Cosmetic treatments

Activities carried out by beauticians are among others

  • the analysis of the skin or the skin type
  • skin care measures (e.g. deep cleansing, masks )
  • the treatment with apparatus, the procedures of which are based on original medical developments or medical technology and are offered in modified form, e.g. B. microdermabrasion , mesoporation, laser technology, ultrasound, microneedling , oxygen application , radio frequency and meso-pulse therapy.
  • creating make-up and applying decorative cosmetics
  • pigmenting or applying permanent make-up
  • removing unwanted facial or body hair


Prehistoric time

Finds in Alicante and Lascaux indicate that in prehistoric times women painted their faces with red paint. With the Indians and in many African peoples, face paintings were also common up to the most recent modern times.

Early civilizations

The Assyrians and Babylonians used aromatic fragrances from wood, plant flowers and resins in temples. In ancient Egypt, men and women made up their lips and cheeks with red pigments, their skin with Egyptian earth . The coloring of eyebrows, eyelids and hair (with henna , kohl or indigo ) was also common in Egypt.


Cosmetic box with two ointment vessels from Egypt, around 1400 BC Chr.

The highly developed beauty cult is famous in ancient Egypt , where make-up was already important 2000 years before the pyramids. Unlike in some later European epochs, the thought of physical cleanliness and hygiene was very important to the Egyptians, they knew purity regulations, steam cleaning and ritual chewing of herbs for mouth cleaning. Soap as a daily means of personal hygiene they knew not, they washed with sodahaltigem water, but they had a rich arsenal of equipment, oils, fats, ointments, perfumes, essences and make-up: mirror , make-up containers, combs , washing utensils, tweezers and blades for Removal of annoying hair with thread epilation , wigs , vermilion and red ocher for lips and cheeks, henna for skin, hair, toenails and fingernails, for the eyes green malachite or gray galena and kohl. In the medical papyri there are numerous recipes that not only serve to prevent or treat skin diseases, but also to reduce wrinkles. The Egyptians attached particular importance to making up the eyes, as this also had a medicinal effect: the black make-up with additives prevented eye diseases. For this reason, men were also made up. The typically Egyptian-looking eye determined the word for "beauty".

Greeks / Romans

Make-up, skin ointments and perfumed ointments were used in Athens . The elegant Greek woman made up her eyebrows and lips. The face and skin were sometimes painted with white make-up ( white lead ). The Greek author Theophrast names ingredients and numerous recipes for anointing oils.

Roman cosmetic accessories in the Musée d'Évreux

With the Romans , with increasing wealth, the way of life changed from simple to a luxurious one. In Rome there were imported fragrances from the Near East , hair wigs from Germanic slaves, lipsticks and other make-up. The soap was first imported from Gaul. Some Romans viewed the excessive use of cosmetics with great skepticism. In his “Ghost ComedyMostellaria , Plautus emphasizes that the best smell is someone who doesn't smell at all. Cosmetics were part of medicine in ancient times. The Roman doctor Galenus von Pergamon founded the scientific branch of the preparation of pharmaceutical preparations and cosmetics. This scientific branch is called galenics after his name. The cold cream from Galenus, made of rose water, olive oil and beeswax, also became famous. This cold cream was used on dry and wrinkled skin.

Early Christianity

In the New Testament (Mk. 14.3) Jesus is anointed in Bethany by a woman with precious nard oil from an alabaster vessel. At sacraments such as baptism , confirmation and anointing of the sick Salböle are required. For hygienic and medical purposes, the use of oils or ointments is accepted by early church writers. Oils are poured over relics and are said to have a miraculous potential through contact with the saint .

Early Christian writers generally had reservations about cosmetics. The woman should value inner values ​​more than outer beauty. In addition, Tertullian and Cyprian emphasize that cosmetics do not respect the divine act of creation. In a certain way, the cosmetic influence on the outside has been criticized as a personal exposure to other people and as a narcissistic attitude.

Early and High Middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages , the attitude of church writers may have contributed to a decline in the use of cosmetics that promote beauty. Expensive cosmetics were condemned as pagan. A woman who painted her face and lips could be suspected of being a whore. In the east of the Roman Empire, the tradition of using cosmetics did not end with the Islamic conquest. In Islam , in particular, scented and perfumed cosmetics were expanded. The largest rose-growing area in Europe in Bulgaria for the production of rose oil owes its origin to the Islamic love for beautiful fragrances. In the West, the fact that traditional raw materials (exotic fragrances) were no longer or only difficult to obtain may have contributed to a decline in cosmetics culture.


Cosmetics regained importance during the Renaissance. Wigs are worn, powder is used, and perfumes to mask body odor are becoming fashionable. In the 16th century, the range of cosmetics was expanded to include chemiatric preparations.


In the European Union, cosmetics are subject to Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products . As an EU regulation , it has been directly applicable across the EU since July 11, 2013. It replaces Directive 76/768 / EEC on cosmetic products and previously applicable national regulations. The German Cosmetics Ordinance has been adapted accordingly. In addition to the definition, the safety requirements for products and the requirements for labeling are uniformly regulated throughout the EU. An EU uniform and central registration obligation for all manufacturers, distributors, products and those responsible is also determined. Cosmetic products are defined by their intended purpose as substances or preparations made from substances that are exclusively or predominantly intended for external use on the human body or in the oral cavity for cleaning, protecting, maintaining a good condition, for perfuming, for changing the appearance or to be used to affect body odor.

Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products stipulates that the responsible manufacturer or importer determines the harmlessness of his products for health before marketing and expressly excludes the use of animal experiments to determine toxicological data. For this he needs a safety assessor who is personally responsible (this person can also be a legal person) that the cosmetic product can be used with low risk if used as intended and reasonably foreseeable. This regulation is an important instrument of preventive consumer health protection.

In addition, operators of cosmetic companies in Germany must comply with the hygiene regulations of the respective federal state. This applies to activities in which injuries to the body surface are carried out, provided that devices, tools or objects are used which, when used as intended, cause or inadvertently injure the skin or mucous membrane. The regulation is intended to prevent diseases such as hepatitis B and C or AIDS, which can be transmitted in particular through blood, from spreading. Examples of working under perfectly hygienic conditions are clean work rooms, the possibility of washing and disinfecting hands close to the workplace , the professional hygienic preparation of the instruments or skin disinfection using special alcoholic skin disinfectants (antisepsis).

An EU- wide ban on the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals has been in effect since March 11, 2013 . The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) campaigned to ban animal experiments in cosmetics and the importation of the tested products into European countries. Associations like the Ärzte gegen Tierversuche eV supported the goal of the organization. Cosmetics companies can still test raw materials that are also used as chemicals on animals and sell cosmetic products and ingredients in the EU.


In 2007, the following quantities of cosmetic products were manufactured in Germany:

product Amount t / year
Perfume 287
Scented waters 4309
Make-up (eyes) 1370
Make-up (lips) 3170
Hand care products 14106
Nail care products 2190
Foot care products 4483
Make-up (face) 6270
product Amount t / year
Sunscreen 11670
Liquid shampoos 135110
Hairsprays 35970
Hair dyes 55080
Dentifrices 73260
Shower rooms 99400
Bubble baths 42380

The Industrieverband Körperpflege und Waschmittel eV (IKW) represents the interests of around 400 companies (with around 45,000 employees) in these two industrial sectors.

The per capita expenditure on cosmetics in Germany was around € 153 per year. This puts Germany only in the middle of Western Europe. The most important economic sector, hair care products, achieved an annual turnover of over € 3 billion, closely followed by skin cosmetics.

Natural cosmetics

There is no uniform or even internationally accepted definition for natural cosmetics . Usually, it is understood to mean cosmetic products that, according to their claim, are made from "natural" (close to nature, nature-identical) or "ecologically" grown raw materials that are gentler on people and the environment. In the absence of a definition, there are various certifications, some of which have significantly different criteria. Examples are Natrue , BDIH , ICADA and ECOCERT .


INCI-compliant information on the ingredients of a cosmetic on the bottom of the back of the pack

The ingredients of cosmetic products are indicated on the respective packaging within the European Union. Starting with the note "Ingredients", the ingredients appear in descending order of their concentration. Raw materials with a share of less than 1 percent appear in disorder at the end. The ingredients of a product are not only listed in full, they also follow a uniform nomenclature (INCI = International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients ) and thus guarantee a high level of transparency for consumers, authorities, test institutes and other interested parties. In addition to the INCI names, the functions of the substances are also specified. A total of 63 different functions of cosmetic ingredients are described.

The ingredients permitted, restricted or prohibited in the EU are contained in the CosIng database .

Problem ingredients

Cosmetics sometimes contain substances that can have undesirable effects on the user (e.g. allergens such as fragrances, formaldehyde releasers ) or the environment (e.g. microplastics ) or whose effects on health and the environment have not yet been adequately investigated (e.g. B. Nanoparticles ).


According to the Food and Feed Code (LFGB), it is forbidden to “put cosmetic products on the market with misleading names, information or presentation or to advertise cosmetic products in general or in individual cases with misleading representations or other statements”. It is referred to as misleading if “a cosmetic product is assigned effects which, according to scientific knowledge, are not attributable to it or which are not sufficiently scientifically proven” or “the name, information, presentation, presentation or other statement falsely give the impression that success can be expected with certainty ”. In addition to this clear legal requirement, the competing companies also control each other. Companies that want to gain any competitive advantages through incorrect advertising must expect the backlash of their competitors and the legal consequences that this often entails. Despite these narrow limits, the cosmetics industry uses rich imagery in order to win over consumers for its products.

Most people show a clear tendency to mistake language for a representation of reality. They infer the existence of a corresponding state of affairs from the existence of a word. This gives rise to a form of language seduction called word or language realism. Cosmetic brand names therefore often contain more or less direct references to the properties and possible uses of the products. If consumers assume an actual connection between the name and the property of the product, they are subject to this influencing technique. Thus the term skin respiration suggests the possibility of a vital gas exchange through the pores of the epidermis, but this is a seduction of language through the word realism; because in humans the gas exchange through the skin is so low that it is of no importance for the body functions. If, for example, cosmetic items are labeled with expressions such as “building materials”, “cream bath”, “beauty conditioner” or “nourishing cream” and the consumer equates these product names with the product properties, this influencing technique is also present. Objectively, it is not possible to nourish the skin from the outside or the body superficially. The skin is supplied with nutrients from within, i.e. from the arterial blood via the tissue water flow .



Vocational training in the field of applied cosmetics began in Germany in 1912, when the physician Dr. Richter set up a course for cosmetic and medical assistants, which was discontinued at the beginning of the First World War . In the 1920s, companies (Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein) trained hairdressers and masseuses to become beauticians - Elisabeth von Lettow-Vorbeck, Charlotten Daniger and Isa Schreck von Rutkowski offered short courses in their schools. In the thirties, at the instigation of the "Specialist group for beauty care workers at the Reichsstand des Deutschen Handwerks", the responsible ministry issued training and examination regulations in 1939, which were no longer applicable because of the Second World War . In the 1950s, short courses in cosmetics, hand care and foot care were common. With the increase in the knowledge and skills required for professional practice in the 1960s, the training period was extended to six months and later one year courses. Purely in-company training was given up after a few years due to insufficient results. In the seventies and eighties, private one- and two-year vocational schools for cosmetics were officially recognized in the majority of the federal states. Against the resistance of the professional associations, the Federal Ministry of Economics issued an ordinance in 2003 that introduced the dual system in addition to full-time training .

Today there are four options for training to be a beautician:

  1. Cosmetic training in the dual system: This type of school has existed since 2003. This is a three-year training that is completed both in the company and in the vocational school. The basis is a training contract with a cosmetic institute. Vocational school lessons take place one to two days a week and training is carried out in the company for the rest of the time. The training is free and the trainee receives training allowance. The conclusion is an examination before the committees of the Chamber of Crafts or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
  2. Cosmetics training in private vocational schools: The training usually lasts between one and two years and is subject to a fee. Here, too, there is the possibility of obtaining a state-recognized qualification at some supplementary schools.
  3. Cosmetics training in the higher vocational college for cosmetics with technical college entrance qualification: This training, which has existed for about 10 years, takes place at a state or private vocational college (only in MV and NRW). This three-year, free training takes place in full-time school form, (i.e. both practical and theoretical training) at the vocational college. After successfully passing the final exams, this training leads to a double qualification: on the one hand, as a state-certified beautician and, on the other hand, you acquire the advanced technical college entrance qualification. Entrance requirement is the technical college entrance qualification (FOR), possibly with qualification.
  4. Studies at the University of Applied Sciences: Development and manufacture of cosmetics and detergents is offered as a bachelor's degree in Cosmetics and Detergent Technology (Bachelor of Science) at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences. Starting in the winter semester 2014/15, the University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern will be offering a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering , specializing in cosmetics . Study programs for research and teaching also use the designation cosmetology or cosmetic science .


The profession of beautician has existed in Austria since 1996 . The apprenticeship period is two years. Apprentices finish their training with the final apprenticeship examination . Numerous private institutions also offer training, mostly in the form of courses. Access to independent professional practice (regulated trade in cosmetics) is regulated by law and depends on training and professional experience.

The profession of beautician is a classic women's domain . In 2010, the proportion of women in training and professional practice in the DACH countries was between 95 and 100%.

See also


  • Paul Faure: The Magic of Fragrances : A Cultural History of Fragrances ; from the pharaohs to the Romans. dtv 30370, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-423-30370-0 . (Original title: Parfums et aromates de l'antiquité , translated by Barbara Brumm) (first edition by Artemis, Zurich / Munich 1990, ISBN 3-7608-1923-0 ).
  • Annabel A. Fendl: Technical terms cosmetics. Holland + Josenhans, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7782-5933-7 .
  • Franz Greiter: Modern cosmetics. a text and learning book for a contemporary preventive. Hüthig, Heidelberg 1985, ISBN 3-7785-0820-2 .
  • Emmerich Paszthory: Ointments, make-up and perfumes in ancient times . In: Zabern's illustrated books on archeology, Volume 4, von Zabern, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-8053-1417-5 .
  • Uta G. Poiger: In search of the true self. Feminism, beauty and the cosmetics industry in Germany since the 1970s. In: Zeithistorische Forschungen 14 (2017), pp. 286–310.
  • Karlheinz Schrader: Basics and recipes of cosmetics with the participation of HP Frosch, 2nd edition, Hüthig, Heidelberg 1989, ISBN 3-7785-1491-1 .
  • Edmund Schrümpf, Richard Trauner, Edith Lauda: Textbook of cosmetics. 3rd, revised edition. Maudrich, Vienna / Munich / Bern 1974, ISBN 3-85175-236-8 . (First edition 1957).
  • Wilfried Umbach: Cosmetics. Development, manufacture and use of cosmetic products. 2nd Edition. Thieme, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-13-712602-9 .
  • Wilfried Umbach (Ed.): Cosmetics and hygiene from head to toe. 3rd, completely revised and expanded edition. Wiley-CH, Weinheim 2004, ISBN 3-527-30996-9 .
  • Friedrich Vogel: Cosmetics from the chemist's point of view. In: Chemistry in Our Time. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim No. 5, 1986, ISSN  0009-2851
  • Friedrich Vogel: The experiment. Cosmetics - do it yourself. In: Chemistry in Our Time. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim No. 3 1987, ISSN  0009-2851

Web links

Wiktionary: Cosmetics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Cosmetics  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Perfumes, Soaps, and Cosmetics  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke : Cosmetics. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 784 f .; here: p. 785.
  2. Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland : Charitable essays for the promotion of health of wellbeing and reasonable medical education, Vol. 1, Leipzig 1794, pp. 107-116, which uses the term "fashion arzney" and equates it with "charlatanerie".
  3. Wolfgang Raab, Ursula Kindl: Care Cosmetics: A Guide. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2012, p. 46. ISBN 9783804727618
  4. Cosmetic products: Interesting facts about skin and body care. In:
  5. ^ Association Cosmetic Professional eV Accessed on December 13, 2019
  6. ^ Association Cosmetic Professional eV: Apparative Cosmetics. Retrieved December 13, 2019
  7. a b c Wilfried Umbach: Cosmetics - development, production and application of cosmetic products , 2nd edition. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 1995, p. 3 ff.
  8. Platus: Mostellaria. Scene 1.3 - Z 258–312: Because, with Castor, a woman smells right when she doesn't smell at all.
  9. Wilfried Umbach: Cosmetics - development, production and application of cosmetic products , 2nd edition. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 1995, p. 6 ff.
  10. Wilfried Umbach: Cosmetics - development, production and application of cosmetic products , 2nd edition. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 1995, p. 147 ff.
  11. G. Simon: Cosmetic preparations from the 16th to 19th centuries. Braunschweig 1983.
  12. Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council (PDF) (PDF)
  13. Hygiene regulation for cosmetics companies in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In:
  14. Ordinance on Cosmetic Products - Cosmetics Ordinance , German Cosmetics Ordinance on, accessed on January 19, 2018
  15. a b Cosmetics and animal experiments. Retrieved January 19, 2018 (German).
  16. Federal Statistical Office: Fachserie 4, Reihe 3.1, Produzierendes Gewerbe (2007), section chemical products, reporting no. 2452
  17. ^ IKW Business Press Conference 2008 , SÖFW-Journal 134, 12-2008, p. 53.
  18. Cosmetics: Ingredients, labeling and undesirable effects. Consumer Center NRW eV, as of 2018. Accessed on October 8, 2019.
  19. Microplastics and other plastics in cosmetics. Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND), as of 2019. Accessed on October 8, 2019.
  20. Charlotte Michel, Angelo Zehr: Switzerland - We smear liquid plastic on our skin. In: . October 18, 2016, accessed December 17, 2019 .
  21. Environmental sin ex works. In: . Retrieved December 17, 2019 .
  22. Kainz 1972, p. 43; Kroeber-Riel & Meyer-Hentschel 1982, p. 158.
  23. Kainz 1972, p. 44.
  24. Wolfgang Raab: Structure of the skin. In: Wolfgang Raab, Ursula Kindl: Care Cosmetics: A Guide. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2012, p. 7. ISBN 9783804727618
  25. Kroeber-Riel & Meyer-Hentschel 1982, p. 159.
  26. Wolfgang Raab: Structure of the skin. In: Wolfgang Raab, Ursula Kindl: Care Cosmetics: A Guide. Scientific publishing company, Stuttgart 2012, p. 16.
  27. Bachelor's degree in Cosmetics and Detergent Technology at the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences ( memento of the original from April 23, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  28. Bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences ( memento of the original from April 26, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  29. Teacher training at the University of Osnabrück
  30. Bachelor's and Master's degree at the University of Hamburg ( Memento of the original from April 29, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  31. Beautician training regulations ( Memento of the original from November 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 45 kB). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  32. Federal Law Gazette II No. 139/2003