Many cosmetics survived the Middle Ages, and Crusaders brought back rare Eastern oils and perfumes. In the Renaissance, cosmetics, usually white-lead powder and vermilion, were used extravagantly. From the 17th cent. recipes and books on the toilette abounded. Professional cosmetologists began to appear, and luxurious prescriptions often included a bath in wine or milk. Reaching its height in 1760, the use of cosmetics virtually disappeared with the advent of the French Revolution.
The year 1900 saw a revival of their use, accompanied by the manufacture of beauty aids on a scientific basis in France. Since then the industry has grown to tremendous proportions with products manufactured for every conceivable use. In the United States, cosmetics intended for interstate commerce are controlled under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Spearheaded by companies founded by Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, Estée Lauder, and other women and by their male counterparts, e.g., Charles Revson, the cosmetics business flourished throughout the later 20th cent. By the beginning of the 21st cent. the cosmetics industry was mostly run by large corporations and had become a multibillion dollar enterprise.
See L. Woodhead, War Paint (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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